More State Schools of the Year

Junior Antoine Custer was the leading rusher for Concord De La Salle's football team while senior Alexa Dreyer was one of the top players for Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in girls volleyball. Photos: Josh Barber/ &

Junior Antoine Custer was the leading rusher for Concord De La Salle’s football team while senior Alexa Dreyer was one of the top players for Archbishop Mitty of San Jose in girls volleyball. Photos: Josh Barber/ &

Football leads the way for another boys sports honor for De La Salle while it’s the same for volleyball and another girls selection for Archbishop Mitty. Other schools collecting overall sports excellence accolades include La Costa Canyon (D2), Campolindo of Moraga (D3), Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton (D4) and Capital Christian of Sacramento (D5). Ten more schools also gain special mention for overall athletic excellence.

For announcement of overall State School of the Year, CLICK HERE.

For honorable mention State Schools of the Year, CLICK HERE.

Note: We still have an inside look at this year’s all-state softball and baseball teams coming up plus some great historical features, including updated all-time team rankings for baseball teams and first-ever all-time team rankings for football. Those posts are for Gold Club members only. To join our team today, CLICK HERE.

Congratulations to the following schools for collecting a statewide all-sports honor for the 2014-15 school year (please note that for our criteria we are going to favor schools that have been in our state rankings for football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball & softball plus schools that have won CIF state titles or have placed high in CIF state meets):
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Boys Sports Only:
De La Salle (Concord)

It’s almost impossible to be a record-breaking team in the annals of De La Salle football, but the Spartans of last fall were exactly that as they set scoring and rushing records in their march to their fifth CIF Open Division title in six years. De La Salle’s 63-42 win over Corona Centennial in the final also closed another unbeaten season and with top rushers Antoine Custer and Andrew Hernandez both back it’s safe to say the team will start No. 1 in the state this fall as well.

In addition to football, De La Salle also did well this year in CIF state events in swimming (fourth) and wrestling (sixth). In addition, the Spartans were 10th in the CIF D1 boys cross country race, finished 10th overall in the final state baseball rankings (losing in the CIF North Coast Section D1 final to state No. 1 College Park), made it to the CIF NorCal golf finals and were in the CIF NorCal boys basketball D1 semifinals.

This is De La Salle’s sixth boys sports State School of the Year honor since the category was created in 1985, including a back-to-back sweep for 2011 and 2012.

Girls Sports Only:
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)

For the second year in a row, and third in the last four years, America’s best all-time girls athletic program takes home this honor after capturing eight league championships and two CIF state championships.

Leading the way to this honor was the volleyball and basketball teams after both had outstanding seasons in capturing WCAL championships on their way to the CIF Division II state championship. In volleyball, however, Mitty was considered by some to be the top team in the nation. Coached by Bret Almazan-Cezar, the Monarchs lost just three times all season as UCLA-bound Alexa Dreyer led the attack on the court. Led by sophomores Heleyna Hill and Madeline Holland, coach Sue Phillips’ basketball team defeated Keppel of Alhambra 53-31 for the state title after losing in the state finals to Chaminade of West Hills the year before.

More league titles this season for the Mitty girls came in field hockey, cross country, tennis, soccer, softball and the swimming and diving team. In total. the girls won five CCS championships, three Nor-Cal titles and the two state crowns. It’s also now up to 11 times since 1985 that the Mitty girls have been selected No. 1 overall in California.
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Division II:
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad)

With Torrey Pines designated as Division I for school of the year consideration, local rival La Costa Canyon can be the pick for D2.

The Mavericks were very close and it could be argued by some superior to Torrey Pines. It was just more difficult to find a No. 1 team – girls lacrosse was perhaps the closest at 20-3 with a fourth straight section title – or as many teams that were in the top two like the Falcons had.

Still, in winning a second D2 State School of the Year honor (the first came in 2012), it was a very strong collection of teams for this school.

La Costa Canyon could have perhaps gone over the top with a win in the San Diego Section Open Division baseball final, but lost to Rancho Bernardo. Led by one of the state’s top players, junior outfielder Mickey Moniak, the team still ended 26-7 and at No. 6 in the final state rankings.

The Mavericks also were 25-5 in softball, won the D2 section title and were in the final overall state top 20.

Other teams that shined were in girls soccer (beat Mater Dei of Santa Ana for SoCal D2 title and ended 19-4-3), boys soccer (lost to Sylmar in CIF SoCal D2 semis), boys volleyball (won section title), girls basketball (went to Open Division section semifinals), girls gymnastics (won Open Division section final), boys cross country (8th in CIF D2 state meet) and girls cross country (also 8th in CIF D2 state meet).

Division III:
Campolindo (Moraga)

Last winning this honor back in 2012, the Cougars had solid seasons throughout their athletic program, sparked by their football team that went 16-0 and captured the CIF Division III state championship. Jack Stephens passed for over 3,500 yards and 37 touchdowns while Nick Fadelli led the rushing attack with 1,870 yards and 32 touchdowns.

While they didn’t take home the championship, Campo’s boys basketball team reached the CIF Division III state championship game after an undefeated league season. Also on the boys side, their volleyball team rolled to its fifth straight NCS championship before taking home a third straight CIF NorCal Division II championship led by seniors Ryan First and Michael Standring. Boys cross country and boys swimming also had top 10 finishes in CIF state meets.

Leading the Campo girls program was the cross country team, which finished in second place at the CIF Division III state meet. Toni Finnane led the Cougars by finishing in second place overall. Like the boys, the girls swim team also placed in the top 10 in the first ever state swim meet when it finished in seventh place.

We couldn’t pick the Cougars last year in this division due to Chaminade of West Hills winning three CIF state titles, but they were a solid pick this time. They’ve also now been D3 State School of the Year four times since 2005.

Head coach Pete Lavorato has built hugely successful football program at Sacred Heart Prep. Photo: Eddie Garcia/Prep2Prep.

Head coach Pete Lavorato has built hugely successful football program at Sacred Heart Prep. Photo: Eddie Garcia/Prep2Prep.

Division IV:
Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton)

For the first time in school history, the Gators are named as our Division IV State School of the Year, which was highlighted by their football team going a perfect 13-0 and capturing its first-ever CIF CCS Open Division championship. On that team was Ben Burr-Kirven, who was a finalist for our Mr. Football State Player of the Year and was named as our small schools player of the year.

Other standout programs included the boys basketball team that went undefeated in league play and reached the semifinals of the CCS Open Division playoffs and the baseball team that won the CCS Division III championship.

Both of the SHP soccer teams also had successful seasons with the girls winning the CCS Division III championship while the boys soccer reached the section finals. On that championship girls soccer team, there were three players who scored over 20 goals this season, none of which were seniors, led by freshmen Mia Shenk, who scored 35 goals this season.

Sacred Heart Prep’s rival, Menlo School of Atherton, has been the D4 winner twice before but not since 1989.

Division V:
Capital Christian (Sacramento)

When you get to D5, it’s almost as tricky figuring out which schools can be D5 and which ones can’t. In the case of Capital Christian, it plays well above D5 in boys basketball but its enrollment is below 400 and it had a boys cross country team that was 10th in the D5 race.

It’s not the cross country team, of course, that did it for the Cougars. With State Grid-Hoop Player of the Year Justice Shelton-Mosley leading the way, Capital Christian went 13-1 in football and won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title before losing to Central Catholic of Modesto in the CIF NorCal Division IV bowl game. In basketball, Capital Christian went to the CIF D4 state final and lost in the closing seconds to Crespi of Encino. The year was then capped when the school’s baseball team finished 27-4 and won the SJS D5 championship.

This is the first time that Capital Christian has been honored as a state school of the year.

(Note: Schools of Distinction listed in alphabetical order)

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland)

One of just a handful of schools that tied for the lead this year with two CIF state titles, the Dragons won one of theirs in an Open Division. That would be the boys basketball team, of course, which edged Mater Dei of Santa Ana 66-65 in overtime in that state final on a free throw with 0.8 seconds showing on the clock by All-American Ivan Rabb. Bishop O’Dowd’s girls also won a CIF state title in D3 final earlier in the week. In addition, the school won a CIF North Coast Section crown in softball, placed fourth in the CIF D3 girls cross country race and had outstanding teams in boys cross country and girls volleyball.

Ross Dodds was one of the top baseball players for Buchanan of Clovis. Photo:

Ross Dodds was one of the top baseball players for Buchanan of Clovis. Photo:

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Buchanan (Clovis)

There’s almost always a Clovis Unified contender for Division I and overall school of the year and the Bears seem to be that school this time. Head coach Tom Donald’s baseball team capped a strong year by winning the CIF Central Section D1 title and finishing No. 3 overall in the state. In the spring, Buchanan also won the section crown in boys volleyball. While rival Clovis dominated at the CIF state wrestling meet with another team title, Buchanan was fourth. Mix all that with a fifth-place showing in the CIF state meet in girls track, semifinalist finishes in both the CIF SoCal D1 boys and girls soccer playoffs and more success in girls tennis and girls cross country and it was easy to include the Bears as one of the state’s best this year.

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)

This tends to be the school near the top of the CIF San Diego Section and alongside Campolindo of Moraga in Division III for overall brilliance. This year, the Dons won a CIF SoCal D2 regional title in girls soccer and also reached the D2 regional semis in boys soccer. Both of the cross country teams placed in the top 12 in D3 at the state meet while other teams that were state-ranked at times were in football, softball, baseball and boys volleyball.

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Great Oak (Temecula)

For what the boys and girls cross country teams did last November at Woodward Park (which was sweep state titles at the CIF state finals) would be enough to get on our State School of the Year board. The Wolf Pack did more than that, though. They also finished third in the CIF girls track state meet and had state-ranked teams in football (went 10-3 and knocked off Chino Hills in CIFSS West Valley Division playoffs) and boys basketball (26-5).

Top 10 School of Distinction:
JSerra (San Juan Capistrano)

If there was one league we had to pick as the state’s best for overall placings in combined sports, we’d pick the Trinity League with the Lions, Mater Dei, St. John Bosco, Santa Margarita, Servite and Orange Lutheran although the West Catholic Athletic League from up north was close. JSerra had a breakthrough year and would be in our top 10 with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco as well. The year was capped by the girls swimming team winning the first-ever CIF state meet title. The girls cross country team also was third in its division at the state meet while the football team and the baseball team both ended at No. 7 overall in the final state rankings. JSerra also showed depth with strong squads in girls basketball and boys cross country.

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)

A two-year reign as State School of the Year by the Monarchs has ended, but if you think about it the outcome could have been the same if not for a few key plays at the end of the CIF Open Division state finals in both the boys and girls contests. Instead of Mater Dei losing in close games, both teams easily could have won and the sweep combined with another boys water polo team that was among the best in the nation, a SoCal regional finalist in girls soccer and a SoCal regional semifinalist in girls volleyball might have been plenty for a three-peat.

Matt Katnik was a CIF state champ in track for St. John Bosco and was an all-state player at the school in football. Photo:

Matt Katnik was a CIF state champ in track for St. John Bosco and was an all-state player at the school in football. Photo:

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Redondo Union (Redondo Beach)

The Seahawks won the CIF Division I state title in girls volleyball just one week after the girls cross country team placed third in the CIF Division II state finals. Both of the school’s basketball teams also were among the state’s best with the boys going 25-8 and winning twice in the CIF D1 playoffs while the girls went 27-7 and made it to the CIF D2 SoCal regional final. The year ended with the baseball team blanking Walnut 10-0 to win the school’s first-ever CIFSS title in its 100-year history. That win came after Walnut had knocked off unbeaten San Dimas and ended San Dimas’ attempt at a perfect season and No. 1 state ranking.

Top 10 School of Distinction:
St. Francis (Mountain View)

Another West Catholic Athletic League school besides Mitty that we think ranked among the best in the state this year for overall excellence was the Lancers. They had a strong spring that included a NorCal D1 title in boys volleyball and a CIF Central Coast Section Open Division crown in baseball. Coach Mike Oakland’s nine also ended No. 2 in the final overall state rankings. St. Francis also was runner-up in the NorCal girls tennis playoffs, made it into the NorCal Open Division for boys basketball, competed in the NorCal girls golf championships and placed 10th in the first CIF boys swimming state meet.

Top 10 School of Distinction:
St. John Bosco (Bellflower)

One year after the Braves earned top honors for Division II, they were more than solid again. Highlights included a 13-1 football team that was nationally ranked and was No. 4 in the final state rankings, a second-place finish on the boys side in the CIF state track meet thanks to the efforts of football lineman and shot put/discus thrower Matt Katnik, a fifth-place showing in the state wrestling championships and a playoff run in boys basketball.

Top 10 School of Distinction:
Vista Murrieta (Murrieta)

After junior sprint superstar Michael Norman led the Broncos to the CIF boys track team title, we were anxious to check them out as a State School of the Year contender. They were strong, but league rival Great Oak of Temecula (see above) was able to steal some of their thunder. In addition to boys track, head coach Coley Candaele (who also will the school’s new athletic director starting next month) also guided the football team to a CIFSS title game in the new West Valley Division. Vista Murrieta also was seventh in the CIF D1 girls cross country race and was state-ranked in girls basketball.

Thanks to Stockton office assistant Paul Muyskens for great work on many of the blurbs. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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