- Erik McKinney, ESPN Staff Writer
After an important win against Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei last Friday, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco is the talk of the Trinity League, as the Braves are 3-0 in league play with big games against Anaheim (Calif.) Servite and Santa Margarita (Calif.) remaining. And much of the talk surrounding Bosco has been about the incredibly young but very impressive defense, where nine of 11 starters are juniors. That number is led by a group of 2014 prospects, including cornerback Naijiel Hale, who transferred from Lakewood (Calif.) during the offseason.
Hale was a standout for the Lancers last season, leading the Moore League with seven interceptions as a sophomore. He immediately stepped into a starting role with the Braves in 2012 and is a fixture at cornerback as St. John Bosco rolls into the playoffs.
College coaches have taken note of Hale's play, as one program sits comfortably atop his list.
Hale's mother's family is from Portland, Ore., and a trip to an Oregon football game during a visit there as a young child had him hooked on the Ducks.
"I just loved the visit," he said. "Ever since then, I've been watching Oregon."
As it happens, Oregon has shown the most interest early in the process, as Hale receives a constant stream of letters from the Ducks.
"Their linebacker coach [Don Pellum] came to the school last weekend and said their defensive backs coach will be at practices in the offseason," Hale said.
He added that he'd be interested in hearing from any Pac-12 program, and UCLA has expressed interest during his trips to the Bruins' home games. But there is a strong connection with the Ducks.
"I played in the Snoop League and De'Anthony [Thomas] was in the Snoop League too," Hale said. "We have a close relationship and we talk all the time."
Interest in Hale is likely to increase the farther Bosco travels in the playoffs. His friend and teammate, safety Jaleel Wadood -- a fellow Lakewood transfer -- comprise a formidable duo when they line up on the same side of the field and have a tendency to take a serious bite out of any opposing passing game.
"We've been playing together since we were about 10," Hale said. "I trust in him because I've known him for so long. We play so well together."