When quarterback Ryan Hilinski gets to South Carolina, he’ll be in line to face some tough schedules in the SEC.
Turns out, he’s getting an early taste of facing a murderer’s row and a lot blue chip talent.
Hilinski’s Orange Lutheran team last season went 6-6, but didn’t win a game in conference. This is because that league, the Trinity League in Southern California, is on the short list of best high school conferences in the country.
Then, whoever made the Lancers’ schedule aimed to turn up the heat even more. All told, four of 10 games are against national powerhouses, nine teams that went .500 or better, and the only opponent with a losing record is two years and a coaching change removed from being a perennial power.
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Here’s a taste of the gauntlet South Carolina’s next QB will go through this fall.
Unless otherwise specified, rankings are the MaxPreps computer rankings
In-conference heavies (2017 record):
This would be your 2017 high school football national champion, a team that beat the previous year’s champs by two touchdowns and had an average margin of victory of 33 points. Mater Dei has six consecutive top-35 national finishes by MaxPreps. The team has 10 four- or five-star upperclassmen. Last season against Mater Dei, Hilinski had 273 yards and three scores in a loss.
The second-place team in the league, this squad finished in the top 10 nationally last season and won 12 games in each of the past five years, including a 2013 national title. The team has five-star QB DJ Uiagalelei, the No. 4 player in the 2020 class who has a Gamecocks offer, DJ Uiagalelei, and six four-star recruits, including former South Carolina target Chris Steele.
Prime-time nonconference games:
That would be the Southern California powerhouse that has produced at least eight NFL players since 2002, including Mark Sanchez. The Diablos haven’t lost more than two games in a season since 2007, and they’re coming off a top-20 national finish (they went undefeated in 2015).
This team has won between 10 and 15 games each of the past 12 seasons (and won 22 combined the two years before that). The Huskies posted a No. 12 national finish last season, and should return a pair of running backs who combined for 1,870 yards and 38 touchdowns.
This team misses out on the top group only because the schedules it faces aren’t as beastly. That said, it’s a program that hasn’t done worse than 11-2 since the 2009 season. The Patriots return a lot of pieces from a defense that allowed 17.3 points per game last season, but Hilinski put up 301 yards and four touchdowns last year in a 34-21 win.
J Serra Catholic (7-4, conference opponent)
The Lions are coming off a season in which they ranked No. 88 in the county. Their top two receivers are four-star Tarik Luckett and Southern Cal commit Munir McClain, while junior tailback Chris Street claims offers from Florida and Oregon.
Santa Margarita (7-4, conference opponent)
A team that had to rebuild in the past few seasons, the Eagles are coming off a solid season that had them ranked No. 10 in California and No. 49 in the country. The school’s 2011 team earned a final No. 23 national ranking in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25. Also the alma mater of former Heisman winner Carson Palmer.
Servite (6-5, conference opponent)
A conference opponent whose records are often depressed by strong competition. The Friars have been top-50 and often top-30 teams in the state of California in the MaxPreps rankings for the past five years, getting as high as No. 18 in 2013.
San Juan Hills (6-6)
Arguably one of the weaker teams on Orange Lutheran’s schedule, the Stallions still won a playoff game last season. They also boast four-star offensive lineman Sean Rhyan. The team had won 15 combined games in 2015 and 2016.
Vista Murrieta (4-7)
Last year was a struggle, and it meant a new coach will take the reins. But this is a program that went 132-25 under former coach Coley Candaele, who stepped down after 2015. The team is two years removed from playing for seven consecutive sectional titles.