The Mission Prep football team had a lot to live up to this year.
In 2008, the Royals had a landmark season. Playing an entire slate of games on their own field for the first time at the 11-man level, they went 9-2, reaching the semifinals of the CIF-Central Section Division V playoffs. This from a program that played at the 8-man level only five years ago.
And at the center of all that success was second-team all-San Luis Obispo County senior quarterback Dylan Morrow (now a baseball player at San Jose State), who accounted for 53 total touchdowns.
“Everyone wants to make their own mark,” second-year Royals coach Brady Lock said. “When a team loses a high-profile player like Dylan Morrow, people might say, ‘He’s gone; they’re going to struggle,’ but that wasn’t the case.”
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The Royals (7-3), who went 5-0 in earning the East Sierra League championship outright and the division’s eighth playoff seed, will be the only county football team opening the postseason at home. They’ll host ninth-seeded Bakersfield Christian (3-7, 1-4 South Sequoia League) at 7 p.m. Friday.
In Morrow’s place, senior quarterback and defensive back Kevin Laird — an all-county receiver in 2008 — has emerged as a leader on both sides of the ball.
After taking over signal-calling duties mid-season, the 6-foot-3, 183-pound Laird has gone 47-of-95 passing for 740 yards and six touchdowns with seven interceptions, and has rushed for 950 yards and 12 scores on 119 carries. He also has 17 catches for 196 yards and — even now as a quarterback — a team-best four touchdowns.
Even more noteworthy, though, is his play as a safety, where he has intercepted 10 passes, which leads the entire Central Section.
On the year, he has accounted for 29 total touchdowns — 23 of which he scored himself.“He’s been extraordinary,” Lock said. “He’s really grown into himself as a football player, and he’s got a lot of skills. He can turn a broken play into a big play.”
Mission Prep has yielded just 7.8 points per game over its past five contests. Other defensive leaders have been inside linebackers Clay Mead and Sean Robinson, who have 128 and 117 tackles, respectively, outside linebackers Matt Howell and John Sansone, nose tackle Joey Miller and defensive back Patrick Foran.
The Royals got off to a 2-3 start, struggling to find an offensive rhythm while falling to Rio Hondo Prep, Linfield Christian and Chadwick — all top-five teams in the Southern Section’s Northeast Division.
“I’ve always been an offensive guy,” said Lock, who led St. Margaret’s Episcopal of San Juan Capistrano to a divisional championship in 1989. “But (after the first five games) we’ve tried to be more conservative, play for field position and wait for things to happen, and it’s worked.”
Sullivan to golf for Cal State FullertonFormer Arroyo Grande golfer Samantha Sullivan has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Cal State Fullerton. After lettering for the Eagles under Claudia Souder for three years, Sullivan, who has a 270-yard drive, transferred to Dana Hills prior to her senior year and began attending David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Irvine.
The Titans, coached by longtime LPGA member Pearl Sinn-Bonanni, resumed play in the Big West Conference prior to the start of this season after a hiatus that spanned two decades.
Smyth signs with Seattle UniversitySan Luis Obispo utility player Karina Smyth has signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball at Seattle University.
As a junior last year, Smyth hit .299 in 26 games for the Tigers, posting team highs in runs (23), doubles (7) and walks drawn (11) en route to all-county first-team honors.