DANA POINT— There were smiles around the Dana Hills football stadium at the start of practice on Tuesday afternoon.
And why shouldn’t there be?
The Dolphins have been playing their best football.
Over the last few weeks, they made quick work of their Irvine city opponents outscoring a combined Woodbridge, University, Beckman and Northwood, 175-36.
The closest game was a 34-6 win over Woodbridge roughly a month ago.
“We are playing hard and that is half the battle,” Dana Hills coach Tony Henney said. “We have also been able to throw the ball around.”
Dolphins senior quarterback Bo Kelly entered the season as a player to watch in the Pacific Hills League and hasn’t disappointed.
He enters Friday’s PHL opener leading all of Orange County with 2,173 passing yards, 26 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
“It’s one of those things where hard work pays off, but I wouldn’t be there without the way my o-line is playing and the receivers we have,” Kelly said.
Now, Kelly takes the offense into the depths the Pacific Hills League where there has been only two losses combined between the four teams, Dana Hills, Irvine, Laguna Hills and Portola.
“I think it’s awesome,” Henney said of PHL’s strong 26-2 non-league record. “I think it showed everyone where they are supposed to be. You will probably have to play your best game every week.”
The Dolphins start their Pacific Hills gauntlet against an undefeated Irvine Vaqueros team who has not allowed a single point since Senora scored a touchdown on them in the fourth quarter back on Sept. 10.
The defense is led by senior middle linebacker Tate Zimmerman with 71 total tackles. Junior defensive back Ian Hew also leads the team with three interceptions.
“The defense does a great job getting to the ball,” Henney said. “They play at an elite level as far as effort is concerned and they are fun to watch on film. I think it’s going to be a really tough test for us and the best team we have played since Trabuco (Hills) or Aliso (Niguel).”
Dana Hills knew the Pacific Hills League was going to be a dogfight coming into the season. Last spring Dana Hills, Laguna Hills and Portola shared the league title but with some key non-league matchups against Sea View League opponents earlier this year, the players quickly learned that they can’t take any team for granted.
“This week we are coming in with the proper mentality and get that win,” Dolphins wide receiver Broghan Daley said. “We have blown out some teams and that really boosted our confidence. We feel like we are the best team in Orange County every single week.”
Dana Hills has just one win against Irvine in their last three tries but the players are entering this week with more than just eyeing a Pacific Hills League title. They want respect.
“Irvine is good,” Kelly said. “We need to come out, be physical and show them that we aren’t that soft Dana Hills like everybody thinks we are.”
Irvine’s defense has allowed just 30 combined points all season and is off to its best start since 2000 when the Vaqueros finished 14-0. While the defense has received most of the attention, senior running back Cameron Good has 868 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns.
Portola is the other undefeated team in the Pacific Hills League. The Bulldogs doesn’t like to run the ball, they love to run the ball. Senior running back Nova Kebeli leads all of Orange County with 1,300 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. He is coming off one of his best games where he scored five touchdowns against University.
Laguna Hills (6-1)
Laguna Hills is still without last season’s Pacific Hills League MVP Troy Leigber after he suffered a shoulder injury on Sept. 16 against Northwood. Junior Nick Ferlauto has taken over and rushed for 394 yards and four touchdowns since Leigber went down with an injury.