It was 40 years ago (1975) when the very first Cal-Hi Sports state football rankings were compiled during a season. We start 2015 with the state’s top 50 preseason teams. This first group includes De La Salle of Concord at the top (already basically announced) followed by Corona Centennial, St. John Bosco, Bishop Amat, and Folsom. Go inside to see which others are in the top 10.
For Preseason State Top 50 (Part 2), CLICK HERE.
For Preseason State Top 50 (Part 3), CLICK HERE.
For Preseason All-State Team, CLICK HERE.
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1. De La Salle (Concord)
2014 Record: 14-0
Outlook: More than one longtime DLS observer has told us over the past few months that this year’s team has a chance to be the best the legendary program has ever had. We’ll go more in-depth on some of those teams later, but thinking even close to that at De La Salle is saying a lot. The Spartans are coming off of a season in which their offense scored more points than any other team in school history and rushed for the most yards. And most of the time due to injuries it was No. 2 QB Chris Vanderklugt running the plays and not No. 1 QB Anthony Sweeney. Both are back this year and with Sweeney the offense shows even more breakaway potential on option plays. Leading running backs Antoine Custer (1,949 yds, 24 TDs) and Andrew Hernandez (1,804 yds, 30 TDs) also return along with speedy wideout Jonathan Harvey. Drew Sullivan, now at Cal, will be missed up front but both tight end Devin Asiasi (6-5, 265) and two-way lineman Boss Tagaloa (6-2, 295) are big-time college recruits. The defense last year on the other hand was not among the school’s best and there are holes to fill in the secondary and at linebacker. In addition to Tagaloa, two other defensive standouts returning are Damon Wiley (6-0, 235) at defensive end and Joe Vranish (6-1, 195) at linebacker.
First Game/Schedule: Whether this year’s Spartans want to even get into the argument about being best-ever at their school basically requires them to win all of their games, including the first one on Saturday, Aug. 29 at Newsom Stadium in Mansfield, Texas against Texas powerhouse Trinity of Euless. This year’s schedule also features more CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division opponents than ever – Servite, Orange Lutheran and Long Beach Poly.
2. Centennial (Corona)
2014 Record: 12-3
Outlook: As obvious as De La Salle is to start out No. 1, the Huskies are just as obvious for No. 2. They were tied with the Spartans, after all, at 42-42 in the CIF Open Division bowl game before being doomed by a couple of turnovers and they have just as much returning firepower. Seven starters are back on offense with six on defense. Anthony Catalano was a rotating QB last season, but should be the main guy this year and is especially adept in the read option. WR Javon McKinley (the state junior of the year) and RB J.J. Taylor also could both put up ridiculous season totals. The offensive line will be led by Daniel Juarez (6-5, 285), who has committed to Cal. On defense, head coach Matt Logan just loves the secondary and why not? Three of the starters back there – Chacho Ulloa, Camryn Bynum and Kentrell Love – could all be Pac-12 recruits and Bynum already is committed to Cal. LB Desmond Williams is committed to Boise State, but the defense’s top tackler from last year, LB Zach Brumbaugh (5-11, 215), also returns. Logan also says to watch out for WR Sammonte Bonner (the one who played well as a running back last season when Taylor was injured) and he has a solid kicking game with three-year starters Jake Perez (PK) and Ian Lauvai (long-snapper).
First Game/Schedule: There is no Long Beach Poly or Mater Dei on the regular season slate this year so it’s not quite as tough as usual. It all begins on Aug. 28 at home with an interstate interlude against East of Salt Lake City. A matchup at the Honor Bowl in Oceanside on Sept. 5 against preseason state No. 7 Serra of Gardena follows.
3. St. John Bosco (Bellflower)
2014 Record: 12-2
Outlook: Although QB Josh Rosen is now at UCLA and in the mix to start as a true freshman, there were many in SoCal last season that were saying that the Braves might be even better this season. Three-year standout Sean McGrew returns at RB after going for 2,076 yards and 21 TDs as a sophomore and then 1,814 yards and 28 TDs as a junior. The offense also should feature WRs Ansalem Umeh and D.J. Morgan. On defense, 10 starters had to be replaced last season and most of those players are back, led by DBs Traveon Beck and Mykal Tolliver and junior DE Jacob Callier (6-2, 250). Class of 2017 major prospect Wyatt Davis (6-5, 295) also returns along the offensive line.
First Game/Schedule: Last year’s team went to Hawaii so this year the Braves are going thousands of miles in the opposite direction for a matchup on Sept. 26 against St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City, N.J. They also are traveling to the Portland area to meet Oregon powerhouse Central Catholic. The season opener comes on Friday, Aug. 28 against La Mirada.
4. Bishop Amat (La Puente)
2014 Record: 9-4
Outlook: A 47-20 win last season over Alemany of Mission Hills pushed the Lancers to another level, which is where they stayed even until a 38-37 loss to eventual CIF Open Division state runner up Corona Centennial in the CIFSS Pac-5 semifinals. Just about everybody is back, led by All-American candidates Tyler Vaughns and Trevon Sidney. Vaughns caught 83 passes for 1,183 yards and 12 TDs. He also had four interceptions on defense. Sidney also had four interceptions and nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards. Both QBs used by head coach Steve Hagerty in a rotating system also return. Damian Garcia passed for 2,027 yards and 21 TDs while Ryder Ruiz passed for 1,866 yards and 14 scores. Leading rusher Torreahno Sweet is back as well.
First Game/Schedule: Before going into the Mission League, the Lancers’ toughest non-league matchup probably is the very first one on Friday, Aug. 28 at the Santa Ana Bowl against preseason state No. 8 Mater Dei of Santa Ana. They also will face another Trinity League opponent, Servite of Anaheim, in the second game.
2014 Record: 16-0
Outlook: Despite graduating 19 of the 22 starters from last season’s 16-0 CIF Division I state championship team, the Bulldogs are still the team to beat in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section as Jake Jeffrey goes from catching 14 touchdowns last season from Mr. Football State Player of the Year Jake Browning into the quarterback position for his senior year. Returning along the offensive line is Alabama committed senior Jonah Williams and they return a pair of running backs who rushed for over 500 yards each last season with Tre Green and Roger Neal. Co-coach Kris Richardson told the Sacramento Bee, “Depth has absolutely been a huge part of our success. We played everybody last year, and they learned and we were able to evaluate. We’re really excited about what we can do this year. We’re not slowing down.”
First Game/Schedule: The season opener will be televised live on Comcast Hometown Network when Folsom hosts 2014 NorCal D2 champ Clayton Valley of Concord on August 28. Before league play, the Bulldogs will also go on the road to take on Clovis North and host Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove. During Sierra Foothill League play, the Bulldogs will get to play both Del Oro of Loomis and Rocklin at home on their blue turf.
6. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach)
2014 Record: 11-2
Outlook: There has been a lot of uncertainty regarding Poly in the early weeks of practice due to the possibility that QB Malik Henry (played last year at Westlake of Westlake Village) was going to be added to the mix. Turns out that Henry will be admitted to the school, although head coach Antonio Pierce told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that he hasn’t been given a playbook. The Henry family also told the newspaper that “nothing was confirmed” about where the QB would play. Even though this is the fourth school he’s attended in his prep career, there’s no doubt the Florida State-bound QB is one of the best in the nation. Pierce will be in his second season at Poly and would have a top-tier club in the CIF Southern Section even without Henry. Losing All-American DB Iman Marshall to graduation will hurt, but WR/DB Jackie Jones showed over the summer he’ll be a big-time performer and is well-known nationally. Also back is all-state underclass DT Emmanuel Fesili (6-3, 265). A key transfer is WR Davir Hamilton, who also has had a number of sacks on defense. Hamilton played last year at Verbum Dei of Los Angeles.
First Game/Schedule: The Jackrabbits actually are getting a head start on everyone when they open on Friday this week (Aug. 21) at Centennial of Peoria, Ariz. They’ll take the next week off and then will meet preseason state No. 10 Narbonne and national powerhouse Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in back-to-back weeks. Poly also is traveling up north in October to play No. 1 De La Salle.
7. Serra (Gardena)
2014 Record: 8-3
Outlook: The Cavs lose big-time LB John Houston and WR/DB Stanley Norman among others, but there’s still eight starters back on defense with five more on offense. Since one of the offensive returnees is QB Kahlil Tate (he was averaging more than 500 yards per game once he took over the starting job) and since Serra only lost by 68-64 to Corona Centennial in the 2014 CIFSS Pac-5 playoffs, putting the Cavs in the top 10 or higher makes sense. Three other big-time D1 college targets are DE Olowale Betiku (6-4, 240), WR/DB Brandon Burton and DB C.J. Pollard.
First Game/Schedule: Before getting into the Mission League schedule, the games that stand out for the Cavs are Sept. 5 vs. preseason state No. 2 Corona Centennial at the Honor Bowl in Oceanside and then a matchup two weeks later vs. preseason state No. 10 Narbonne of Harbor City. Serra’s first game is Friday, Aug. 28 at Lakewood.
8. Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
2014 Record: 9-3
Outlook: The major question surrounding the Monarchs at the start of the season centers at quarterback where highly touted incoming freshman J.T. Daniels could end up as the starter. Other aspects of the squad appear more solid with Stanford-bound LB Curtis Robinson and all-state sophomore DB Jalen Cole among those back on defense. Head coach Bruce Rollinson also can count on USC-bound tackle Frank Martin (6-6, 300) to lead the offensive line. The receiving corps on offense looks great too with Servite transfer Osiris St. Brown joining a group that also includes D1 recruit Andre Collins.
First Game/Schedule: If the Monarchs find a way to get past preseason No. 4 Bishop Amat in their season opener on Aug. 28 at the Santa Ana Bowl, there’s a good chance they can be 5-0 and nationally ranked heading into the Trinity League portion of their schedule. They are probably playing their second toughest non-league opponent – Edison of Huntington Beach – at home as well.
9. Grant (Sacramento)
2014 Record: 14-1
Outlook: While Folsom still gets the nod as the top team in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and basically will be in that spot until there’s a loss, the Pacers could be a closer No. 2 this season and it wouldn’t be a shock to see a rematch of last season’s CIF NorCal Division I championship game that saw the Bulldogs hand the Pacers their only loss on the year. Opponents should be prepared for some smash mouth football when they play Grant. There are two returning running backs who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season — senior Mike Green, who rushed for 1,280 yards and 17 touchdowns, and senior Deshawn Collins, who led the way with 2,321 yards and 27 rushing scores. Helping to create those holes for the rushing attack will be Orlando Umana (6-5, 310), who was ranked at No. 55 in our Class of ’17 state player rankings and Soape Tupou (6-3, 320), who was ranked at No. 47 in our Class of ’16 state player rankings. While the Pacers lose six of their leading eight tacklers from last season on defense, they do have preseason section first teamer David Moala (LB) and Elijah Orr (DB) back for their senior seasons and should lead the defense after recording over 130 tackles each last season.
First Game/Schedule: With the Delta League taking up most of their regular season schedule, the Pacers will open the season at home against Burbank of Sacramento before going on the road to Fresno and playing two CIF Central Section teams — Central of Fresno and Bullard of Fresno.
10. Narbonne (Harbor City)
2014 Record: 10-4
Outlook: NFL superstar J.J. Watt visited the Gauchos recently and we assume part of the reason is that they’re going to be loaded. Ten starters are back on both sides of the ball plus head coach Manuel Douglas has a 10-0 incoming JV squad. Repeating as the L.A. City Section champions seems like a good bet, but winning a CIF state title (probably would be in one of the new divisions) is another legitimate goal. Top rusher Sean Riley is among the returnees along with senior OL/DT Alex Akingbulu and senior WR/DB Devaughn Cooper.
First Game/Schedule: We’ll find out about the Gauchos as a state contender right away since their first game on Thursday, Sept. 3 will be against preseason state No. 6 Long Beach Poly. They also face No. 7 Serra and No. 43 Los Alamitos before settling into league and L.A. City Section competition. Even if they were to lose all three of those games, they’d still be the L.A. City favorites.
Thanks a ton to Paul Muyskens, Harold Abend & Ronnie Flores for contributions to this post. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports