Farrel South knows how to light up a scoreboard.
Last year, he had 113 goals for the Newport Harbor High boys' water polo team, easily a team-best. He was first-team All-Sunset League and All-CIF Southern Section Division I.
This year, South has 31 goals in the Tars' first nine games, double that of any teammate.
The Newport Harbor High senior said these statistics don't matter, not as long as the team is winning. There's still one thing that changed from junior to senior year.
Now he's a team captain.
"Since I'm captain, I feel like I need to perform higher than anyone," said South, the Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week. "I'm pretty excited about the role. [Former coach Jason] Lynch and the captains from the team last year kept talking to me, saying that I needed to build up my leadership role last year. It didn't really happen. I just kind of stayed where I was, which I was fine with and they were fine with.
"We had three captains last year [goalie Chris Whitelegge, Andrew Duhoux and Davey Jorth], and it was their time to shine. I thought they all did super-well last year."
Now South knows it's his time to shine. He did plenty of that last weekend at the South Coast Tournament, helping Newport Harbor finish second.
He missed nearly half of the semifinal game against Loyola with foul trouble, yet still found a way to make an impact. He scored three straight goals early in the fourth quarter, single-handedly rallying the Sailors from a 7-5 deficit. They went on to win, 10-7.
A couple of hours later Saturday, South was again on fire in the final against top-ranked Mater Dei. He kept Newport close in the opening quarter, scoring three of his team-high four goals, before Mater Dei pulled away and won, 16-7.
The three-year varsity starter is blessed with a super-hard shot. Watch South for a full game, and there's a good chance at least one of the goals will be of the "Oh my God, did I just see that?" variety.
"He definitely is ahead of the game when it comes to shooting," Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn said. "He does have the top shot, one of them, in high school. [He's] at least in the top three or four. The potential with the arm is limitless. I think a lot of colleges should be interested in him and his offensive prowess."
College is also a different animal. Lynn, the co-head coach of the U.S. men's junior national team and an assistant with the senior national team, said he's been working with South on his complete game. In that first quarter against Mater Dei, not only did South score three times but he poked the ball away for a steal guarding set. South also helped account for the other first-quarter goal, drawing an exclusion that led to teammate Preston Lee scoring on a six-on-five.
Everything appears effortless, but actually South has been battling injury for the past year. He said he developed tendinitis in his shoulders and elbows, and it caused him to miss most of the swim season last spring. He continues to go to physical therapy two or three times a week, driving south to see Chrissie Morgan in San Clemente. South said it's the same physical therapist that Lynn, a 2000 U.S. Olympian, used in his playing days.
"I'm not in that much pain," South said. "It's there, but it's not as bad as it was when I was in swim season. When I was in swim season, it hurt to do any motion with my shoulders or my elbows. Writing with a pencil or scrolling with a mouse just was really painful."
The injury led to a bit more pain for South over the summer, when he was not selected to the U.S. junior national team that played in Greece. South said he still went to some of the training sessions at Long Beach State and UC Irvine, watching but not participating.
He said he knew in his heart that he wasn't going to make the team, because of the injury. Team USA ended up ninth at the FINA Junior World Championships that concluded Sept. 4; the next week Lynn was back at Newport Harbor for the high school season.
"Once the team left [for Greece] I kind of got over it," South said. "I talked to Robert and he said not to worry about it. [He told me] I'm young, and I still have a ton more trips to go on, a lot more years playing on the national level to be able to do these sorts of trips. That kind of brought my spirits back up."
If South keeps working hard, Lynn definitely sees the potential.
"Maybe even national team one day," Lynn said. "If he was in shape from day one, he probably could have made that [Greece] team. He would have been right there … It wasn't his time."