Hart of Newhall from the new CIFSS West Valley Division tops this group of teams. It’s also a group that includes several squads who should be guaranteed to be stronger this season, such as Valley Christian of San Jose, JSerra of San Juan Capistrano and Chaparral of Temecula.
Note: Check below for writeups and analysis of the teams ranked from No. 16 to No. 30 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
16. HART (NEWHALL)
2013 Record: 12-3
Outlook: One year after the Indians played and lost to Chaminade in the CIF SoCal D2 bowl game, they will have to “play up” this season since the Foothill League will be part of the new CIFSS West Valley Division, a lineup of probable teams that should include Vista Murrieta and Mission Viejo. That’s definitely a tougher group than the previous CIFSS Northern Division. Hart does have 12 returning starters to try to make the jump and of course has the state’s most prolific pass-catch combo with Arizona State commit Brady White (4,535 yds, 41 TDs) throwing to Trent Irwin (76 catches, 1,456 yds and 19 TDs).
First Game/Schedule: Chino Hills will be Hart’s first foe in a matchup on Aug. 29 in the Inland Empire. Other highlights of the early portion of the schedule include playing at preseason No. 10 Chaminade and against preseason No. 44 Santiago of Corona.
17. CLOVIS NORTH (FRESNO)
2013 Record: 11-2
Outlook: Former head coach Tim Simons is back and will be starting his 29th season. The 72-year-old, who is more known for all of the great teams he had at Clovis, began the Clovis North program in 2009. The Broncos aren’t exactly rebuilding their talent too much, either. RB Bolu Olurunfunmi (UCLA) and DL Jacob Daniel (USC) are the headline players but also returning is 2,000-yard QB Austin Autry, two-way all-league standout Hayden Haupt (DE/TE) and DB Naruwa Obanor.
First Game/Schedule: A trip to Del Oro of Loomis on Saturday, Aug. 30 to play Reed of Reno will open the season for the Broncos and Cal-Hi Sports will be there to check them out. A tougher game then takes place the following week against preseason No. 5 Folsom.
18. ST. BONAVENTURE (VENTURA)
2013 Record: 8-4
Outlook: If the Seraphs didn’t have to find so many new starters on defense, they’d probably be much higher in our Preseason 50. There’s only two back on that side of the ball. The offense, on the other hand, could be spectacular with 10 returning starters, led by USC commit Ricky Town at QB. Town, who also is one of the nation’s top-ranked recruits, will be joined by RB Marcus Chambers, WR Lavon Alston and all-state underclass OL Nick Capella (6-6, 265, Sr.).
First Game/Schedule: The Seraphs have another very challenging series of early games, beginning on Aug. 30 against preseason No. 22 Helix of La Mesa. They also get Redlands East Valley, preseason No. 26 JSerra of San Juan Capistrano and preseason No. 23 Upland.
19. SERRA (SAN MATEO)
2013 Record: 11-3
Outlook: We could have put Valley Christian of San Jose as the top preseason team from the CIF Central Coast Section but Serra does have some solid returnees and its first game is against preseason No. 2 De La Salle. The defending CCS Open Division champs have RB Kava Cassidy (1,455 yds, 16 TDs), OT Jack Dreyer (Stanford commit) and jr. WR Brandon Monroe (35.2 yds per catch) back on offense with LB James Outman (Sacramento State commit) and jr. DB Kelepi Lataimua (all-league) among those with experience and talent on defense.
First Game/Schedule: The Padres had De La Salle on the ropes last year before falling 21-14 and will open against the Spartans once again, this time in Concord. They also will play perennial SoCal power Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.
20. MISSION VIEJO
2013 Record: 11-1
Outlook: It’s going to be even more of a Johnson family affair for the Diablos this season as Brock Johnson, a junior and the grandson of head coach Bob Johnson, is going to be the new QB. Brock also is the son of offensive coordinator Bret Johnson and nephew of Rob Johnson, the former NFL QB who also is on the coaching staff. While the team may be a year away from being as strong as last season, the offensive line, led by all-state candidate Cole Smith (6-3, 270), should be effective. The Diablos also still should be among the favorites in the new CIFSS West Valley Division.
First Game/Schedule: Liberty of Bakersfield, who some believe is a top five team in the CIF Central Section, will be the opponents for the Diablos in their first game at home on Aug. 29, which is part of the Mission Viejo Classic. Preseason No. 21 Oceanside would then be up next.
2013 Record: 10-3
Outlook: It’s going to be another pressure cooker season for the Pirates, especially early in the schedule, and there’s certainly enough returning talent and new talent for the team to navigate it all quite successfully. A running back will need to step up, but the offense will feature improved QB Matthew Romero and a strong line led by Cedric Bigge-Duren and Christian Cronk. The defense loses some talent on the back end but DL Tommy Woo, DB Jordan Miller, DB Malavai Taylor and LB Sai PaoPao can all fly to the ball with intensity and purpose.
First Game/Schedule: The team’s season-opener on Aug. 29 is against St. Augustine, which will be another of the top five teams in the CIF San Diego Section, which will be followed by a matchup against preseason No. 20 Mission Viejo at the U-T Honor Bowl that Cal-Hi Sports will be covering in person.
22. HELIX (LA MESA)
2013 Record: 9-3
Outlook: The CIF San Diego Section trio of Mission Hills, Oceanside and Helix (and then even St. Augustine and Cathedral Catholic) all seem tightly bunched to us, so much so that a few plays here and there early in the season will determine more of a logical pecking order. Helix arguably has more returning talent than any of the top five, led by QB Michael Austin (6-1, 165, Jr.) on offense. Two-way lineman Jaylon Kuykendall (6-1, 295, Sr.) is another to watch and on defense will be joined by returning standouts such as DE Luke Holloway (6-4, 215, Sr.) and LB Jihad Woods (5-11, 200, Jr.).
First Game/Schedule: Coach Troy Starr’s squad, like many top San Diego teams, is playing an intriguing first few games. It begins on Aug. 30 against preseason No. 18 St. Bonaventure of Ventura, then continues at the U-T Honor Bowl the next week against preseason No. 35 Del Oro of Loomis (a rematch of the 2011 CIF D2 state bowl game) and then comes a game at Cathedral Catholic.
2013 Record: 9-4
Outlook: Returning QB Tyler Hilinski (Washington State) will have to find a new leading target as Trevor Wright and his 73 catches for 1,493 yards and 11 touchdowns is gone but there still should be plenty of options for him. Hilinski passed for more than 3,000 yards and 34 touchdowns last season while also rushing for almost 300 yards and four scores. Another player to watch on offense is sophomore RB Nathan Tilford, who would have been a candidate for State Freshman of the Year (if we chose one). All three of Upland’s leading tacklers from last season also return for their senior years — LB Jordan Morin, LB Troy Thomas and CB Kameron Powell – and they’ll be joined by UCLA-bound LB Josh Woods, who was not eligible last season.
First Game/Schedule: Opening the season at home, the Highlanders will face Knight of Palmdale on August 29. They will end their non-league portion of the schedule with back-to-back games against preseason No. 4 Mater Dei of Santa Ana and preseason No. 18 St. Bonaventure of Ventura.
24. VALLEY CHRISTIAN (SAN JOSE)
2013 Record: 8-4
Outlook: Based simply on returning players, the Warriors have the most back in the CCS. To be No. 1 in the CCS, however, we wanted to see what Serra did in its first game against De La Salle combined with how Valley Christian does in its early games. RB Kirk Johnson (Texas commit) and Jr. WR Collin Johnson (also Texas) are the most talented players on the team, but there’s fabulous depth throughout the lineup. Having a returning QB is always a plus as well and that’s what Valley Christian has with Michael Machado, son of head coach Mike Machado.
First Game/Schedule: Before the West Catholic Athletic League games begin with a matchup against Serra, Valley Christian plays Pioneer of San Jose, Oak Grove of San Jose and Milpitas. The opener against Pioneer is Sept. 5 at home.
25. GRANT (SACRAMENTO)
2013 Record: 9-3
Outlook: It has been three straight seasons that have seen the Pacers record no more than nine wins after double-digit wins in five of the previous six seasons. This should be the year they get back to being one of the dominant teams in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. On offense, head coach Mike Alberghini returns all of his key skill players, led by QB Donovan Brown (1,300 yards passing, 13 TDs); RB Deandre Whittington-Grays (1,214 yards, 15 TDs) and RB Mike Green (one of the best looking sophs we saw last season). The team’s highest rated player in our Class of ’15 Hot 100 is OL Darrin Paulo (6-6, 255), who is No. 40. Senior LB Chris Atteberry along with Whittington-Grays are the top veterans on defense. In all, Alberghini has 18 returning starters.
First Game/Schedule: Opening up the season on the road, the Pacers will face Burbank of Sacramento before home games against a pair of teams from Fresno — Central and Bullard. A big game early in their Delta Valley Conference play could be in the second week when Grant goes on the road to take on preseason No. 28 Elk Grove.
26. JSERRA (SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO)
2013 Record: 7-3
Outlook: With eight returning starters on both sides of the ball from a team that was good enough to beat Huntington Beach, Servite and Santa Margarita, that’s usually enough for a projected league title. The Lions, however, are in the Trinity League – home of preseason No. 1 St. John Bosco, No. 3 Servite and No. 4 Mater Dei. They’ll be closer to the teams they lost to last year but still will be fighting for a CIFSS Pac-Five Division playoff berth. QB Nick Robinson (6-2, 195, Sr.), who passed for 2,140 yards last season, headlines the offensive returnees while LB David Eugenio (5-9, 190, Sr.), the top tackler on the squad, is back on defense. Two-way standout Ethan Aguayo (6-1, 185, Sr.) and DB D.J. Bailey (6-2, 190, Sr.) are two others to watch.
First Game/Schedule: If head coach Jim Haritgan’s club and the Serra League is as loaded as we think it is, the team’s only major test of the preseason comes against preseason No. 18 St. Bonaventure. The first game will be Aug. 29 against Cabrillo of Long Beach.
27. CHAPARRAL (TEMECULA)
2013 Record: 8-4
Outlook: Head coach Ryan Tukua counts five players with D1 major college commitments, which makes the Pumas a major threat to preseason No. 13 Vista Murrieta in the Southwestern League plus a prime-time contender for the first CIFSS West Valley Division title. The five are OLs Mason Walter (6-6, 275, Sr.) with Arizona State, Kyle Hoppe (6-2, 285, Sr.) with San Jose State, DB Darrion Molton (5-10, 175, Sr.) with Washington State, LB Malik Lawal (6-1, 200, Sr.) with Arizona State and DT Bryson Bridges (6-3, 245, Sr.) with San Jose State.
First Game/Schedule: Getting the Pumas ready for a run at Vista Murrieta will be a slate of September matchups against Tesoro, Oceanside and Mission Viejo. They open on Aug. 29 at home against Victor Valley of Victorville.
28. ELK GROVE
2013 Record: 12-2
Outlook: Thundering their way to back-to-back CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship games, the Thundering Herd will look to try and get back for a third time and win this year with 13 total returning starters. With the offense having more then 75 percent of its yards come with the running game, they lose Wadus Parker (1,786 yards and 26 TDs) but they return senior Spencer Sheff, who was second on the team with 791 rushing yards and 11 scores while also leading the defense in tackles with 100. Also back is DB Shaunard Harts, OL/DL Sai Ta’amu and RB/LB Manny Scott-Anderson.
First Game/Schedule: Head coach Chris Nixon’s team will open the season at the Honor Bowl in Loomis on Aug. 29 in a game they should win against Damonte Ranch of Reno and a game that Cal-Hi Sports will be in attendance. Also facing Lincoln of Stockton and Yuba City also are on the non-league schedule.
29. TESORO (LAS FLORES)
2013 Record: 9-3
Outlook: Head coach Matt Poston welcomes back 13 starters from last season, which should help his team challenge preseason No. 20 Mission Viejo in the South Coast League although the Mustangs have to make up a 37-7 deficit. The offense should feature QB Devon Modster (6-3, 210, Jr.), one of the state’s top junior QB college prospects, along with WR Jake Smeltzer (6-3, 195, Sr.), who already has been named to the NUC All-American Game. Up front, four-year starter Zach Hickman (6-3, 255, Sr.) will lead the way.
First Game/Schedule: The Mustangs will face South OC rivals Corona del Mar and San Clemente to close out their pre-league slate, but before that will play Chaparral of Temecula and Upland. Their first game on Aug. 29 is against La Mirada.
30. BISHOP AMAT (LA PUENTE)
2013 Record: 6-4
Outlook: Although graduated QB Koa Haynes will need to be replaced, the Lancers have a lot back and will need it with Serra of Gardena and Chaminade of West Hills joining them in the new Mission League. Head coach Steve Hagerty has two of the state’s top juniors in DB Trevon Sidney (eight interceptions last year) and WR Tyler Vaughns, who both have multiple major D1 offers. Also back on offense is WR Brandon Arconado, who caught 47 passes for 680 yards and four TDs. On defense, LB Anthony Camargo (6-3, 215, Sr.) is back after leading the squad in tackles and has an offer from Washington.
First Game/Schedule: We’ll find out quickly if the Lancers have what it takes to challenge in the new Mission League. The first game on Aug. 29 is at preseason No. 45 Santa Margarita, which will be followed with a game against Aledo (Texas).