The CIF Southern Section boys water polo rankings have the usual suspects.

JSerra, a CIF-SS Open Division playoff team last year, is No. 1 in Division 1 and 2021 Open Division semifinalist Mater Dei is No. 2. Last year’s Open Division champion, Newport Harbor, is No. 3 in Division 1.

San Clemente is on top of the Division 2 top 10. Irvine, a Division 2 playoff team last season, is Division 3’s No. 1 team. Crean Lutheran, last year’s Division 6 champion, is No. 1 in Division 4.

The No. 1 team in Division 5 is an outlier: Buena Park. The Coyotes were 9-17 last season and finished last in the Freeway League. This season, Buena Park is 11-1 after beating Sonora 13-12 in a Freeway League opener Wednesday.

Buena Park is not a program comprised of club players. Not only are Buena Park freshmen new to the sport of water polo, many of them are new to swimming.

“When I joined the team,” said Coyotes senior goaltender Gabriel Zamora, “that’s when I learned how to swim.”

Buena Park water polo coach Shane LaFortune teaches physical education at the school, his alma mater. He recruits many first-time swimmers from his freshman P.E. class.

LaFortune shared Orange County girls water polo coach of the year honors with co-coach Ted Clark in 2019 when they led Buena Park to a CIF-SS championship. He acknowledges that a great part of having so many novice swimmers is that it’s like a painter having a blank canvas.

“Since I’m teaching them how to swim,” he said, “I’m also teaching them every position. So we’re constantly moving guys around.”

Among the top contributors are attackers Adrian Angulo, Felix Cruz and Michael Rousselo and hole guard Elijah Trinidad.

Zamora is the team leader. He was the tournament MVP earlier this month when the Coytoes won the championship of the Thrills of the Hills tournament at Chino Hills High School. Zamora made 59 saves over four games in that tournament.

“Gabriel has put in so much work, oh man,” LaFortune said. “He’s a 6-foot-1 kid with a 6-3 wingspan.”

Zamora enjoys playing goaltender.

“I like how I can constantly get better at it,” he said. “And there’s not a lot of swimming.”


The JSerra and Mater Dei  boys water polo teams are ranked 1-2, respectively, in the Orange County rankings and in the CIF-SS Division 1 top 10. They play each other Thursday, Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. at JSerra. …

Mater Dei has not announced its ticket distribution plan for its football game against St. John Bosco on Oct. 7 at Santa Ana Stadium. Expect details within the next few days. …

If the CIF-SS football playoffs were to begin this week and CIF-SS Division 1 is again an eight-team bracket, the division’s first-round games would be (upper-seeded team listed first) Mater Dei vs. Edison, St. John Bosco vs. Bishop Amat. Corona Centennial vs. Los Alamitos, and Long Beach Poly vs. Mission Viejo. Divisional placement and seedings are going to be based on’s ratings. Mater Dei has a rating of 103.1, Edison is at 53.5, and no other division’s first-round matchup would have a points gap as wide as Mater Dei vs. Edison.

The Dana Hills Cross Country Invitational is Saturday. The San Clemente boys team, last year’s Boys Seniors/Invitational champion, has a good chance to repeat. Senior Juan Chantaca will lead the Tritons against a good field that includes Dana Hills, Tesoro and Trabuco Hills. The girls field includes JSerra, which is No. 1 in the CIF-SS Division 4 rankings, and Dana Hills (Division 3 No. 1) and Corona Santiago (Division 1 No. 3). …

JSerra has 15 baseball players that have committed to NCAA baseball programs. The Lions were last season’s CIF-SS Division 1 champion. …

Villa Park senior Gavin Grahovac was a key player for the Team USA baseball team that won the World Baseball Softball Confederation U18 Baseball World Cup in Florida Sunday with a 5-1 win over Chinese Taipei. Grahovac, the Orange County player of the year this past spring, drove in Team USA’s first run in the championship game. …

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They would not be inexpensive projects for the city of Anaheim and for the Anaheim Union High School District. But for the benefit of the athletes and for long-term water savings, it’s necessary for artificial turf to be installed on the football fields at Glover Stadium at La Palma Park and Handel Stadium at Western High. …

Most student-athlete transfer difficulties would not occur if the student’s parents called the CIF State or CIF-SS office to ask about what to do and not to do.