Now that our preseason state football rankings have been released, it’s time to sulk it all in and dig a bit deeper for what it all means. For the most part, preseason positioning in a combination of recent success, returning personnel, and early games on the docket.
The last factor has become a bigger one since the advent of the CIF bowl games in 2006 because top teams now understand they have to beat other good teams in order to get a favorable review from the CIF commissioners come selection Sunday following the last slate of section title games. There are also more big non-league games and pre-league events with multiple games at one venue. Two decades ago, we could literally count the huge intersectional games per season on one hand. That’s not the case anymore.
The first thing that jumps out is there is still a big gap between De La Salle of Concord and the rest of the state despite the “retirement” of coach Bob Ladouceur. As associate editor Harold Abend observed at De La Salle’s scrimmage on Friday night, Ladouceur is still a huge part of the equation.
Since we went to the Overall Top 20/25 rankings format (instead of rankings by class format) beginning with the 1991 season, De La Salle dropped out of the weekly rankings once — between October 26, 2004 after a tie with Clayton Valley left them at 2-3-2 and November 9, 2004 — when they went back in at No. 17 following a 35-14 win over previous No. 5 and unbeaten Pittsburg.
Other Rankings Observations
Team With Most To Prove: That’s an easy call — No. 3 St. John Bosco. The Braves have to prove they are the best team in their own backyard — much less one of the top teams in the nation. Bosco has the talent to do it, but it seems every year national media-types — many who really don’t know the SoCal football scene very well — fall in love with a Southern Section team with a lot of D1 recruits. Last year, it was Santa Margarita with a healthy Johnny Stanton. In almost all instances, that team isn’t quite that good and certainly not No. 1 in the state good. Watch to see if Bosco and Long Beach Poly are bracketed on the same side in the CIFSS Pac-Five Division playoffs because that’s the team Bosco needs to prove it can beat before its fans can even think about a dream match up with De La Salle.
Team That Could Slip: No. 13 St. Bonaventure. It doesn’t have to do with its players, but more so with what Todd Therrien brought to the table as a head coach. He’s what the football community call a player’s coach — young, full of energy, and able to relate to today’s players well and use momentum to quickly make game personnel decisions. Despite the returning talent, if the players don’t get over the shock of Therrien not being on the sidelines or are not all in for the new coach, the Seraphs could get off to a slow start. It doesn’t help that he was a former player at the school and by all accounts had players that enjoyed competing for him. Watch what develops here because if St. Bonaventure does slip it will be interesting to see if African-American players from the Ventura County region continue to enroll there. As former coach Jon Mack stated, 2002 grad Lorenzo Booker made it “cool” for black players to attend St. Bonaventure.
Team That Could Rise: No. 30 Mission Hills. Coach Chris Hauser talked highly about this group in the preseason and off the bat it will get tested against Desert Vista of Arizona. Even if Mission Hills loses that game, it will be a great warm up for Oceanside on September 27. Additionally, Desert Vista could go on to have a great season, which wouldn’t hurt Mission Hills much in the rankings if that were to happen. A win over Desert Vista and the Grizzlies have to like their chances against Oceanside at home. With a 5-0 record and a win over the Pirates, Mission Hills would likely crack the top 10.