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Future looks bright for La Jolla High football despite CIF title game loss, coach says

La Jolla High junior Justin Scully carries the ball during the Vikings' CIF semifinal victory over Mira Mesa on Nov. 19.
La Jolla High junior Justin Scully carries the ball during the Vikings’ CIF semifinal victory over Mira Mesa on Nov. 19. He is one of the underclassmen who were “huge contributors” to the team this season, head coach Tyler Roach says.
(Courtesy of Stephanie Montion Marquez)

Though the La Jolla High School Vikings didn’t have the storybook ending they were hoping for this football season, head coach Tyler Roach says the future of the program is bright, based on the strong underclassmen who helped carry La Jolla to the CIF San Diego Section Division II championship game Nov. 26.

“Making it this far after we graduated 20 guys [in 2020] that were all studs was really validating,” Roach said. “We came into this fall with only a couple of returning starters on offense and defense. It took us time to gel as a team and come together … but we built a strong team. That’s a testament to our coaches, our players, our supporters and our community. With that, we’ll continue to put together a strong team.”

In the championship game, Scripps Ranch raced to a 42-0 win over La Jolla at Escondido High School. The Falcons’ victory turned the tables on the Vikings, who two years ago beat Scripps Ranch for the title, 17-10.

“They had a heck of a game plan,” Roach said of the Falcons. “And they played really well. Kudos to them. They were the better team.”

La Jolla’s Makai Smith (2) fights for yardage against Scripps Ranch during the Division II championship game.
La Jolla’s Makai Smith (2) fights for yardage against Scripps Ranch during the CIF San Diego Section Division II championship game Nov. 26 at Escondido High School.
(Thom Vollenweider)

Vikings quarterback Jackson Stratton, who was in and out of the lineup with injuries this season, played the first half and two plays in the second half before backup QB Kevin Steel played the rest of the way.

La Jolla finished the season with a 5-8 record overall. Scripps Ranch (11-1 overall) advanced to this week’s Southern California Regionals.

Roach said some of the Vikings’ “huge contributors” this season were underclassmen.

Junior Justin Scully, for example, “has been able to move positions … he was a quarterback and we moved him to running back and linebacker,” Roach said. “He never played defense but became the heart and soul of our defense. He stepped up this year.”

Freshman Wyatt Boczanowski was pulled up to varsity this season and “has done a great job for us as linebacker,” Roach said. “We have a strong nucleus in the defensive line with so many underclassmen.”

On offense, he said, the younger players have “put us in a good spot. … We can build around that core, and that’s always exciting.”

Freshman Jett Thomas, sophomore Logan Bonnett and junior Matthew Blackburn helped create “a strong offensive line and are returning,” Roach said.

La Jolla quarterback Jackson Stratton watches during the Vikings’ loss to Scripps Ranch in the Division II title game.
La Jolla senior quarterback Jackson Stratton watches from the sideline during the Vikings’ loss to Scripps Ranch in the Division II championship game.
(Thom Vollenweider)

The Vikings will be missing several of their stars next season, including Stratton, Steel and receivers Mason Powers and Makai Smith, all of whom are seniors set for graduation in June.

“We have a lot of work to do in the offseason, but it’s a good mix of guys right now. We’re lucky to have some killer underclassmen,” Roach said. “It’s been a long haul and I know everyone is ready for a break. [But] we enjoyed the moment.”

— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer John Maffei contributed to this report.