It shouldn’t be a surprise that St. John Bosco of Bellflower is No. 1 and De La Salle of Concord is No. 2 to start the 2014 season. The great news is that so many of the top-ranked teams are continuing to play each other early and often.
Note: Check below for writeups and analysis of the first 15 teams in the Cal-Hi Sports Preseason 50. During the season, all writeups and analysis will be part of our Gold Club coverage of California prep football. Nobody knows California prep football like Cal-Hi Sports, now in our 36th year. To check out your subscription today, CLICK HERE.
Contributing to these rankings and writeups: Ronnie Flores, Harold Abend, Paul Muyskens
1. ST. JOHN BOSCO (BELLFLOWER)
2013 Record: 16-0
Outlook: Just like last year when we basically refused to rank anyone ahead of De La Salle as a four-time defending CIF Open Division champion, the same rule applies this year to the Braves. Yes, they do lose some playmakers on offense and some solid players on defense. But with QB Josh Rosen (headed to UCLA and considered by some as the No. 1 QB in the nation), jr. RB Sean McGrew (Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year), another massive offensive line led by Matt Katnik (6-4, 295) and Zachary Robertson (6-5, 305) and with younger players seemingly ready to step up, there’s no reason to rank any other team in California higher to start the season or afterward until St. John Bosco loses.
First Game/Schedule: Now that the hurricanes have passed, a different storm will invade the Hawaiian Islands this weekend (Aug. 22) when the Braves open up against St. Louis of Honolulu. They also are playing Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in what could be a huge game on Sept. 26 on ESPN but Gorman may already have lost to Servite.
2. DE LA SALLE (CONCORD)
2013 Record: 14-1
Outlook: Once the excitement of the movie “When The Game Stands Tall” is over, the Spartans will really get down to business — not that they’ve ever done anything differently since new head coach Justin Alumbaugh took over for Bob Ladouceur. Despite the transfer loss of All-American DL Kahlil McKenzie to Clayton Valley, the DLS corps of linemen still looks imposing, especially if junior Boss Tagaloa (6-3, 285) is all healed up from a broken foot injury. The backfield of Antoine Custer and Ryan Fernandez should be another strength. The key will be how effective new QB Anthony Sweeney is at moving the offense. He’s not big, but gives Alumbaugh a lot of options in the veer run game.
First Game/Schedule: The Spartans open at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Aug. 29 against Jesuit of Carmichael, a bubble team for our Preseason 50 guided by former DLS player Marlon Blanton. Their biggest tests will be against state No. 3 Servite of Anaheim and Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) but both will be at home.
3. SERVITE (ANAHEIM)
2013 Record: 6-6
Outlook: Forget the record from last year because it was a young, talented team going up against big-time foes. On offense, Servite will be led by Elite 11 finals’ QB Travis Waller, who accounted for nearly 3,000 yards last season and 25 TDs. He’s going to Oregon and will be throwing to one of the top receivers in the state (Equanimeous St. Brown) with one of the top tackles (USC commit Clayton Johnston) blocking for him. There are some solid returnees on defense, too, especially Jack Savage at linebacker and Maurice Davison at corner with Long Beach Poly transfer Micah Crooms coming in as well. The main question we have is whether the Friars will be improved enough on defense to slow down teams like St. John Bosco and De La Salle.
First Game/Schedule: What stands out about the Friars, in addition to all their returning talent, is their schedule. If they were, for example, to finish unbeaten, they might have to beat both No. 1 St. John Bosco and No. 2 De La Salle not once but twice. The rest of the Trinity League is a strong opponent every week as well. And, oh by the way, the first game on Aug. 29 at Cerritos College is against Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, USA Today’s preseason No. 1 ranked team. If this schedule was a drink size at Seven 11, it would be the Super Duper Deluxe Big Gulp.
4. MATER DEI (SANTA ANA)
2013 Record: 11-3
Outlook: As we’ve hinted at earlier in the summer, seeing Monarchs’ incoming junior QB Jack Lowary light it up at an Elite 11 event answered a lot of questions. He and the offense should be fine, and that’s good news because there’s a lot back on defense, especially up front with returning Trinity League Defensive MVP Malik McMorris along with DL Rasheed Williams, LB Ben Humphreys and others. TE Kyle Penniston also is back on offense while Frank Martin is one of the nation’s top junior offensive linemen.
First Game/Schedule: If head coach Bruce Rollinson’s team gets by preseason No. 9 Centennial of Corona on Aug. 30 at the Mission Viejo Classic, there’s a good bet the boys will be 5-0 heading into a matchup on Oct. 10 against preseason No. 1 St. John Bosco. Upland (Sept. 19) and Westlake (Oct. 2) won’t be easy, either, but a win against Centennial would show a lot.
2013 Record: 14-1
Outlook: Much like De La Salle is easily the No. 1 team in Northern California, the Bulldogs are easily No. 2 as their only two losses in the last two seasons have both come against the Spartans in the CIF NorCal Open Division bowl game. The last team in the Sac-Joaquin Section to defeat the high-powered Bulldogs was another school with the same mascot when they lost to Vacaville in the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game. Looking to continue his assault on our Cal-Hi Sports state record book is senior QB Jake Browning, headed to Washington who already has passed for over 10,000 yards in his high school career. Folsom does lose some talent on both sides but has plenty returning with guys like OL Cody Creason, WR Josiah Deguara and LB Bailey Laolagi to go along with newcomers like OL/DL Jonah Williams. It should all set the stage for De La Salle vs. Folsom Part 3 with a trip to the Open Division state championship game on the line.
First Game/Schedule: Co-coaches Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor are working the players to open the season on Aug. 29 against Cathedral Catholic of San Diego at the Brother In Arms Classic. The Bulldogs will also face Clovis North of Fresno, Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove and Burbank of Sacramento before kicking off play in the newly reformed Sierra Foothill League.
6. LONG BEACH POLY (LONG BEACH)
2013 Record: 11-2
Outlook: It’s a new era for arguably the most famous high school sports program in America as former Paramount and NFL standout Antonio Pierce takes over for Raul Lara. Pierce doesn’t have coaching experience and he’s quickly going to find out the only thing bigger than athletics on the campus is the expectations, as Lara won five CIFSS Pac-Five titles in 13 seasons but could never win over the rabid fan base. Pierce is going to attempt to open up Poly’s offense and will use stars such as Iman Marshall (6-2 195, Sr.) both ways more than Lara did. Despite coaching changes, Poly’s defense should still rate as one of the state’s best with Marshall locking down top receivers and other stalwarts such s DE Joseph Wicker (6-4, 255, Sr.) and DB Justin Calhoun (5-10, 160, Sr.). Look for Calhoun at WR as well and also look for immediate impact from Diamond Bar transfer WR Kanya Bell.
First Game/Schedule: It may take time to adjust to the new offense, but with the experience QB Josh Love (5-10, 175, Sr.) brings to the table, Poly will be favorites to get by L.A. Crenshaw in the first game on Aug. 30 and preseason No. 41 Narbonne of Harbor City on Sept. 5. We’ll see what kind of team Pierce will have for a playoff run later on against Westlake and Corona Centennial.
7. SERRA (GARDENA)
2013 Record: 13-1
Outlook: The big question mark for the Cavaliers this season will be at the QB position as they lose dual threat signal caller Jalen Greene, who passed for over 2,500 yards and 33 touchdowns while also leading the team in rushing with over 1,200 yards and 14 scores. There are five returning starters on both sides of the ball, there’s also new talent from a JV team that went 9-1 and there are transfers, the best of which is big-time DB/Athlete Stanley Norman from Culver City. Norman also should ease the pain of losing Mr. Football State Player of the Year Adoree’ Jackson (now at USC). The key returner on offense at the skill positions will be RB Darrion Naylor, who rushed for 1,037 yards and eight scores, but speedy RB Malik Roberson should be ready to go as well after missing all of last year with a knee injury. On defense, Serra is more loaded due to the return of senior LB John Houston, who led the team with 137 tackles last season. Senior DL Rasheem Green also is back after leading the team with 14 sacks last year. Both Houston and Green are among the state’s highest-ranked college prospects.
First Game/Schedule: Opening the season on Aug. 29 at home, the Cavaliers will host Lakewood before an interesting neutral site game the following week against Bellevue of Washington. They will also play Carson and Narbonne of Harbor City before joining the new-look Mission League.
8. ALEMANY (MISSION HILLS)
2013 Record: 10-3
Outlook: Based on some summer competition, including a first-place showing at the Charter Oak 7-on-7 tournament, it looks like new QB Blake Green will be more than okay in replacing Alif Grayes in that key role for head coach Dean Herrington. The rest of the lineup simply returns plenty of firepower, led by USC-bound Desean Holmes, the state’s No. 1 wide receiver recruit. RB/DB Dominic Davis (10.47 in the 100 meters) also returns along with all-league performers Tyree Thompson (LB), Brandon Pierce (WR) and Sione Taufahema (OL).
First Game/Schedule: The Warriors, who have won or shared seven straight league titles, begin on Aug. 29 at home against Los Osos of Rancho Cucamonga. There is a strong possibility that they will be unbeaten heading into a showdown on Oct. 3 against preseason No. 10 Chaminade.
9. CENTENNIAL (CORONA)
2013 Record: 12-3
Outlook: It might be harder to light up the scoreboard like the Huskies did last season during a campaign that saw them reach the CIF SoCal Open Division championship game and average more than 53 points a game. Lost is a total of over 7,600 yards and 91 touchdowns with no Robert Webber or Tre Watson. Despite losing those two, head coach Matt Logan expects to be strong running the ball with five returnees on offense, including good size and strength up front. Also back is Cal-commit WR Greyson Bankhead while the defense returns six starters and seven of the top 10 tacklers from last season. Among those back on defense includes DBs Jihree Stewart and Koa Nomura, LB Zach Brumbaugh and DL Daniel Gonzalez.
First Game/Schedule: It will be no easy start to the season as the Huskies will open the season on Aug. 30 with a game against preseason No. 4 Mater Dei of Santa Ana as part of the Mission Viejo Classic. Before league play, Centennial will also play Orange Lutheran, Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and Long Beach Poly.
10. CHAMINADE (WEST HILLS)
2013 Record: 14-2
Outlook: The 2013 CIF Division II state bowl winners will need to replace graduated QB Brad Kaaya (now at Miami) but there’s still five players back with D1 offers, strong depth and a coaching staff led by Ed Croson that has had proven results. WR Brandyn Lee has committed to Wisconsin and should be joined as a major college recruit by OL Bar Milo (6-5, 305, all-state junior) and TE Chris Bounds (6-4, 250). Jr. WR Dymond Lee is a big-time talent as well and it’s been mentioned he could be used for option running packages since he’s a former QB. Another key player could be RB Okalani Langi as a powerful force in the run game.
First Game/Schedule: The Eagles travel to meet Venice on Aug. 29 for their opening game. The early schedule also includes games against Hart of Newhall and Valencia. The biggest change, of course, is new membership of the Mission League along with Serra of Gardena and that Chaminade (like Serra) is now going to have to win the CIFSS Pac-Five Division title to get eligible for another CIF state bowl game.
2013 Record: 10-3
Outlook: Other than a running back who will need to come through due to the graduation loss of Harris Ross (Oregon State), the Pirates figure to be one of the best teams in Northern California. The defense, with seven returning starters, could really be something. The top college prospect is junior DB Shurod Thompson (one of the top junior DBs in the nation) but leading tackler Noah Palega (LB) and DE David Lui (BYU commit) also are back. The secondary, led by Thompson and including junior Jordan Parker, senior Nick Moore and senior Deante Fortenberry, also happens to be one of the quickest and best in California.
First Game/Schedule: Coach Vic Galli’s team has a tough first game at preseason No. 42 California of San Ramon. The Pirates face two other East Bay Athletic League teams in the early going – San Ramon Valley of Danville and Monte Vista of Danville.
12. MISSION HILLS (SAN MARCOS)
2013 Record: 12-2
Outlook: There were several directions we could have gone for the first San Diego Section team in the Preseason 50. Helix probably has the most returning talent and Oceanside probably is playing the toughest schedule. The Grizzlies are the defending Open Division champs, though, and they do have a solid cast of returnees, led by All-American candidate DeChaun Holiday in the secondary. Big things also are expected from junior QB Dakota Miller as a replacement for the graduated Conner Wynn. DB Martel Holmes and DE Jared Cheatwood also are getting D1 college interest while DB Troy Warner is one of the state’s top juniors at his position.
First Game/Schedule: While Mission Hills isn’t playing an early schedule as tough as Oceanside’s, the first game on August 30 against Timpview of Provo, Utah, is going to be a challenge. Timpview was 13-1 last season and should be one of that state’s top teams. The Oceanside regular season game looms on Oct. 10. Mission Hills getting not one but two wins last season over the Pirates also is another reason to rank Mission Hills higher at least until Oceanside wins in a head-to-head matchup.
13. VISTA MURRIETA (MURRIETA)
2013 Record: 12-2
Outlook: Outlook: The Broncos return a solid amount of starters on both sides of the ball and will be a talented team but they will miss QB Coltin Gerhart, who led the team in rushing and combined for over 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns in his lone season at the school. They do return RB Tito Feliciano, who rushed for 1,077 yards and 11 touchdowns and TE Jamie Nunley, who is committed to Arizona. Senior SS Brandon Worthy and LB Shannon Walsh both return while the big man up front on the defensive side is DT Tevita Mounga, ready to show why he is considered a major college recruit by many. Like a lot of the top teams, the Vista Murrieta JVs had a great season last year, going 9-1, and should add some young talent to this year’s varsity.
First Game/Schedule: Getting started one week later than most, head coach Coley Candaele’s club will open on Sept. 5 on the road against Downey. The Broncos will also go on the road to take on Del Oro of Loomis before home games against Lakewood, Orange Lutheran and St. Augustine of San Diego lead into the start of Southwestern League play.
2013 Record: 13-2
Outlook: We actually had Clovis North penciled in to be the preseason No. 1 team for the CIF Central Section, but the local consensus so far among various prep writers in the section is that the Drillers should be in that position. They’ve been nasty the last few seasons and are coming off a 56-26 win over Del Oro in the CIF D1 state bowl game. It’s also not as if any other team in the section was close to the Drillers in last year’s section playoffs. Key returnees include RB-LB Marcus Bruce, DL Nigel Bruce and RB Lameshio Hill. The offensive line also should be outstanding with several returnees while new QB Keayr Gregg should be effective.
First Game/Schedule: A 50-49 loser in last year’s opener at Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, the Drillers hope to avenge that loss at home in this year’s first game on Aug. 29 at Griffith Stadium. A huge CIF Central Section showdown then looms in Week 2 against preseason No. 36 Edison of Fresno.
15. WESTLAKE (WESTLAKE VILLAGE)
2013 Record: 8-3
Outlook: Junior QB Malik Henry, who passed for 2,362 yards and 21 TDs, is one of 15 returning starters for the Warriors. For them to get past the first round in the CIFSS Pac-Five Division, however, will require other players to improve as well. Also back is leading tackler Reno Debreuil, top receivers Andre Baccellia and Nick Rodriguez, leading rusher Chase Jasmin and DB Jesse Cuccia (five interceptions). Another strength is the return of kicker Kevin Robledo, who had 20 field goals as a sophomore in 2012.
First Game/Schedule: Coach Jim Benkert’s team has definitely strengthened its non-league schedule with matchups against preseason No. 4 Mater Dei and preseason No. 6 Long Beach Poly. The season-opener on Aug. 29 is at Canyon of Canyon Country.