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    Fryer: Raul Lara trying to get plenty done in a short time as Mater Dei football coach
    • May 30, 2024

    Raul Lara accepted the offer to become Mater Dei’s football coach at a fairly late date.

    He got the very large job, the biggest head coaching job in Orange County sports outside of managing the Angels or coaching the Ducks, on April 25.

    Lara had to scramble to get himself and the Monarchs ready for spring football, including their spring game that was played Wednesday.

    One prominent and successful former county football head coach, when asked if he would take a run at becoming the Mater Dei coach, replied: “I’m not sure I want to try to ride on that dragon.”

    Lara is on the dragon and he’s ready to fly.

    “This is a great school and a great opportunity,” the 58-year-old Lara said Thursday. “It’s got a rich tradition and it’s a faith-based program. Why wouldn’t I want to do it?”

    Summer football is coming soon, with its passing leagues and tournaments and linemen competitions, although Mater Dei won’t participate in the best high school football event of the summer, the Battle at the Beach at Edison on July 13 because that’s when Mater Dei football will observe its two-week dead period mandated by CIF.

    The 2024 season opener is less than three months away, a home game at Santa Ana Stadium against Centennial of Corona on Aug. 23.

    Lara is getting his coaching staff assembled. Randy Wright, who was in charge of Monarchs football between the time Frank McManus was moved out as head coach and Lara was hired, remains as offensive coordinator. Former UCLA linebacker Robert Thomas, who has coached at Mater Dei and Mission Viejo, and Dominic Sesay, most recently coaching at Golden West College, will run the defense that will be led by linebacker Nasir Wyatt, the 2023 Orange County defensive player of the year who will be a senior in the fall.

    There is an opening on Mater Dei’s schedule the week after the Centennial game. Lara is trying to find an opponent willing to take on the challenge of playing the Monarchs.

    He recently got a scrimmage arranged, for mid-August, when Upland coach Darryl Thomas agreed to it. Leuzinger also is on board for the scrimmage, and Lara is asking around for a fourth team to join in.

    Lara has to decide upon the starting quarterback that will replace Elijah Brown,the 2023 Orange County offensive player of the year who led the Monarchs to CIF Southern Section and CIF State championships and now is at Stanford. Lara said Dash Beierly (6-1, 215), a senior who transferred from Chaparral of Temecula and is committed to Washington, is in the lead while competition for the starting slot continues.

    It’s going to be a busy and intense summer for Lara. He said it’s been a so-far-so-good spring.

    “The kids are grasping what they need to know,” he said. “This summer we’ll try to install as much as we can and be ready for our first game. The kids are responding, and we just need to make sure they’re ready to execute.

    “This is an amazing place. The administration and the teachers have been very supportive. I’m blessed to be here.”


    • The South beat the North 3-2 in the Orange County All-Star Baseball Game on Wednesday at Great Park in Irvine. Crean Lutheran’s Sho Garcia scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning of the game for graduating seniors. Carter Danz of Corona del Mar was the South team’s MVP, Justin Tillar of Cypress was the North MVP and Noah Neufeld of Laguna Beach won the game’s Hustle Award. …

    • Of all the Orange County athletes who performed well at the CIF State Track and Field Championships, among the more interesting was Aliso Niguel sophomore Jaslene Massey who finished third in the shot put with a throw of 44 feet, 7½ inches. What made it interesting is Massey’s athletic versatility: she also competes in the high jump and the long jump, and is the starting middle blocker on the Aliso Niguel volleyball team. …

    • Kaiden Bailey, All-Orange County first team boys basketball last season as a 6-1 sophomore guard at Crean Lutheran, has transferred to Calvary Chapel where his father James Bailey got the boys basketball head coaching position two months ago. Kaiden Bailey averaged 24 points a game last season and is getting plenty of college recruiting attention. …

    • Jon Hughes is the new boys basketball coach at St. Margaret’s where he replaces Chris Nordstrom who resigned and will continue teaching at the Episcopalian school in San Juan Capistrano. Hughes has been the girls basketball coach at Calvary Chapel in recent seasons and before that he coached the boys team. …

    • Michael Burns resigned as baseball coach at Trabuco Hill. He coached the Mustangs for 17 seasons. …

    • Beckman won the CIF Southern Section Division 3 baseball championship and then decided to not play in this week’s CIF Southern California Regional playoffs. After Corona beat Harvard-Westlake in the CIF-SS Division 1 championship game, both of those teams declined to play in the regional. Baseball is such a grind of a game and of a season that it is understandable why teams feel they are spent after the CIF-SS finals, just like it’s understandable why regional participants like Huntington Beach, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita wanted to extend their seasons for a chance at more glory. …

    • This was the second season of CIF-SS championships for beach volleyball, and Huntington Beach senior Haylee LaFontaine, who paired with fellow senior Dani Sparked on one of the county’s better teams, enjoyed it. “It’s so cool to play for my high school and it’s really cool how much beach volleyball is progressing,” LaFontaine said. …

    • Services for longtime Orange County sports referee “Speed” Castillo will be held at Christ Cathedral on June 27 at 11 a.m. A reception is to follow the Mass at Christ Cathedral. Castillo, one of the all-time great people in county athletics as a basketball and football official and also as an administrator in the Anaheim Union High School District, died at age 94 on May 18 in Anaheim of natural causes.

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    ​ Orange County Register