Contact Form

    News Details

    Dana Hills football finding ways to win in quest for outright league title
    • October 17, 2023

    Support our high school sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber. Subscribe now

    Dana Hills football coach Tony Henney uses a colorful phrase to describe a momentum-shifting performance that succeeds despite slim chances.

    The veteran coach calls those moments “stealing a play,” and they’re pushing the Dolphins closer toward one of their biggest goals for the season.

    Dana Hills, for example, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns last week in a 21-20 victory against reigning state champion Laguna Hills in the teams’ Pacific Coast League opener.

    Henney doesn’t believe any of his former squads ever accomplished such a feat, and he guided Nordhoff and Trabuco Hills to CIF-SS championships before arriving at Dana Hills in 2021.

    The Dolphins also stopped a fourth-and-goal from their 3-yard line in the third quarter against Laguna Hills, which was riding a section-leading 15-game winning streak.

    “The kids are finding ways to win,” Henney said of Dana Hills, which is 6-2 overall. “We had to steal a few plays to win.”

    Senior Noah Kucera sparked the efforts against Laguna Hills by returning the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.

    Junior Owen Walz followed early in the second quarter by returning a kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.

    Henney credited Kucera and Walz for their speed and patience on the returns, along with the Dolphins’ blocking.

    “I think (Laguna Hills) is a good football team,” the coach said. “(Our) kids did their assignments.”

    Dana Hills also received an eye-opening performance from junior Grant Peters, who filled in for injured sophomore Charlie Eckl at outside linebacker.

    Peters contributed nine total tackles to support inside linebackers Cooper Walsh (12 tackles) and Dominic Barto (nine tackles).

    Dana Hills received similar step-up performances in a 14-7 victory against Irvine on Oct. 6.

    Walz, a transfer from San Clemente, shifted from running back to quarterback to fill in for sophomore starter Jace Lowe.

    Kucera, a wide receiver and safety, also sealed the victory with an interception with about 30 seconds left on another goal-line stand.

    The inspired play, along with the healthy return of wide receiver Chase Berry, has Dana Hills contending for its first outright league title in school history.

    The Dolphins play at Portola (4-4, 0-1) on Friday before playing host to Northwood (4-4, 1-0) — a state championship runner-up last season — in Week 10.

    “Our goal was to win our first outright league title and we’re on pace to that,” Henney said. “But it’s the old Kobe Bryant saying: job is not finished.”


    Former Servite head coach Troy Thomas is taking a major role guiding Edison’s defense.

    Last week in a 31-28 victory against Newport Harbor, Thomas led the defensive meeting at halftime on the field as the Chargers tried to cool off Sailors quarterback Jaden O’Neal.

    “I’ve learned so much from him and he’s progressed our defense tremendously,” senior defensive back Jared Schnoor said of Thomas, one of the assistants for Jeff Grady.

    “He’s very intense. He’s very disciplined as well. It’s pretty nerve-wracking when he’s talking to you. He wants to make you a better player, which is why he’s a real good coach.”

    Schnoor leads Edison with four interceptions.

    Thomas is coaching one of his former Servite players in Edison linebacker Hoi Hansen, a senior who leads Orange County with 114 tackles.


    Former Orange Lutheran coach Jim Kunau is serving as a consultant at Santa Margarita. …

    Los Alamitos junior Alonzo Esparza passed for 346 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for two scores in a 69-14 victory against Corona del Mar last week. …

    San Clemente posted its first victory at Mission Viejo since 1998 — the final season of Tritons coach Mark McElroy — with its 20-10 victory last week. In 1998, the Tritons rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 24-21 victory against the Diablos. …

    San Juan Hills (8-0) is off to the best start in school history. …

    Troy (5-3, 3-0) and Sonora (7-1, 3-0) meet Friday at La Habra High for sole possession of first place in the Freeway League. The Warriors, who have already defeated league juggernaut La Habra, are seeking their first outright league crown since 2006. The Raiders, who play La Habra in Week 10, have never won the Freeway League title and last won league in 1973 in the Orange League. …

    The CIF-SS Division 1 final will played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 24, the section announced Tuesday. Last season, the Division 1 championship game between Mater Dei and St. John Bosco was held at the Rose Bowl.

    Please send football news to Dan Albano at [email protected] or @ocvarsitguy on X or Instagram

    Related Articles

    High School Sports |

    Orange County boys athlete of the week: Ardwon Morris, Orange

    High School Sports |

    Albano’s Orange County football Top 35 rankings, Oct. 16

    High School Sports |

    Orange County football Top 25: Mater Dei remains No. 1, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita move up in Week 9

    High School Sports |

    High school football: Orange County schedule of games for Week 9, Oct. 19-21

    High School Sports |

    Huntley’s recap: The highs, lows and final word on football’s Week 8

    ​ Orange County Register