GITTELSON: Oaks Christian will find it tougher to rebound from loss

So now that the dust has settled after Oaks Christian's shocking football loss in the Northwest finals after everyone had already cleared space in the trophy case for another section and state title, let's see how theLions rebound from such a bad ending.

A move to a bigger league (Marmonte instead of Tri-Valley) and a bigger division (Northern instead of Northwest) will mean it will be a lot harder for the Lions to win another 34 in a row.

And losing Malcolm Jones will hurt because there isn't a big-name running back waiting in the wings.

There are also issues with offensive and defensive lines that need to be rebuilt, but Oaks Christian again should have lots of skill-position talent and figures to challenge for the league title.

A lot depends on the development of quarterback Trevor Gretzky, who completed 23of 41 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns in mop-up duty this past season. The upside for Gretzky is he's 6-foot-4 and has great bloodlines because he is the son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Plus, Oaks Christian will have a great receiving corps, led by returning starters Jordan Payton (45 receptions, 1,088 yards, 18touchdowns), Blair Holiday (48 receptions, eight touchdowns) and Trey Smith (23receptions, two touchdowns), along with Brett Medders, who took over when Smith got hurt, and top tight end Dillon van der Wal.

Payton and the 6-foot-7 van der Wal are also top defensive players, along with defensive back Brian Fafita and linebacker Carlos Mendoza.

Defensive back Jaloni Williams, who missed most of his junior year because an injury, could make an impact, too.

The most pressing issue is whether coach Bill Redell will return. Redell, who will turn 69 in April, is leaning toward retirement and is expected to make a decision soon. Whomever replaces Redell - whenever that might happen - figures to be a top coach because Oaks Christian is such a prestigious program.

• Best wishes and prayers to Erik Gould and his family. The Golden Valley High basketball senior was hospitalized late Friday after being involved in a car accident, and coach Chris Printz said Saturday that Gould was in intensive care but there were no details about the extent of Gould's injuries.

Earlier Friday, Gould came off the bench and made a key basket in the final minute of a 72-71 victory over Lancaster in a tournament game at Granada Hills, Printz said.

"It was a pretty serious accident," Printz said. "I can't even imagine what the family is going through. I have three kids of my own."

Gould, a 5-foot-9 guard, transferred from Canyon.

• Eric Harris resigned as head football coach at St. Genevieve in Panorama City, stepping down so he can pursue his master's degree in education, he said.

Harris, 28, was 31-21 in three seasons. He is a former Chatsworth running back who played with Matt Cassel, now an NFL quarterback.

• The 32-team San Fernando Valley Invitational basketball tournament concludes Wednesday, and it should prove interesting to see if a City Section team wins the championship for the third time in a row after Reseda won last year and Palisades the year before.

The City teams that won in the first round were Jordan of L.A., Verdugo Hills, El Camino Real of Woodland Hills and Granada Hills. Verdugo Hills’ victory over Palisades was a shocker. Palisades had won its first four games to start the season.

• It's official: Football standout Nick Isham of Westlake is the area's most accurate single-season passer of all time.

The junior completed 74.1 percent of his passes this past season - 137 of 185 - for 2,128 yards, 30 touchdowns and three INTs, as Westlake finished 14-0 and won the Northern championship.

The previous best was 72.4 by Samson Szakacsy of Camarillo in 2005.

• In other football news, Tyler Sulka, an offensive tackle for Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, committed to Arizona State.

 

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