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USC’s past & future on display at CA high school playoff game

Friday, November 19, I was on the sideline for the California Pac-5 playoff opener between Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana, CA and Long Beach (CA) Polytechnic High School. The game was played at Long Beach Veterans Stadium.

Long Beach Poly has a long history of producing prominent talent on the athletic field and throughout other arenas of life. These names include: Snoop Dogg, Cameron Diaz, DeSean Jackson, Chase Utley, Tony Gwynn and Billie Jean King.  

The most famous Poly alum present at this opening round contest was retired NFL star Willie McGinest. The 1990 graduate went on to dominate the Pac-10, up the 110 freeway at USC, followed by an illustrious 15-year career with the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns. His years in New England included three Super Bowl championships and two Pro Bowl appearances.

On this night, the 6-5, 270 pound linebacker was all about his high school alma mater. McGinest spent the night cheering on his school and shaking hands with many of those taking in the game from a sideline perspective. I was impressed with McGinest’s passion and commitment to the team of his youth. Every player on that field would sign up today for the opportunity to have a football career on the level of Willie McGinest. 

Other Long Beach Poly alums that have suited up for USC include Hershel Dennis and Winston Justice, among numerous others.

The Trojan connection was on even greater display at the Mater Dei side of the field. Quarterback Max Wittek (pictured upper right) will be the latest Monarch signal caller to throw passes on the field of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Former Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and current USC QB Matt Barkley began the amazing QB pipeline created between these high profile high school and university programs, located 35 miles apart from one another.

Mater Dei’s USC connection also extends to their pass catchers, as standout WR Victor Blackwell will be accompanying Wittek to Heritage Hall. Blackwell was injured and did not play in this contest.

Mater Dei defeated Poly 26-10 on this night. While the hard hitting playoff game was the main event of the evening, it was also interesting to note the past and future associations between these two high schools and the most successful college football program in the region.

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Jon Rapoport has spent his career working on all sides of the media and sports industry. He began his career at ESPN in studio production at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. While there, he won an Emmy for his contribution to "SportsCenter." Following his tenure at ESPN, Jon relocated to Los Angeles, joining the staff of the “Best Damn Sports Show” on FOX Sports Net.

Upon leaving the show, Jon worked in Web site and sports radio show development/production, with Major League Baseball in media operation logistics for the World Baseball Classic and on behalf of Los Angeles’ effort to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics back to Southern California. Jon currently writes a political blog for the Los Angeles edition of Examiner.com.

Born and raised in Plymouth, Minnesota (just outside of Minneapolis), Jon is an avid sports fan, particularly for his beloved Minnesota teams. Jon graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned his BA in communication and interned for ABC’s “Good Morning America” in New York City and Washington D.C. He is married and resides in Los Angeles.  

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