Super 55 All-Time Great FB Teams

This is the cover illustration from the seventh edition of the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book. All 50 teams selected among greatest in state history have previously been chronicled within our comprehensive all-time state lists.

This is the cover illustration from the seventh edition of the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book. All 50 football teams selected among greatest in state history have previously been chronicled within our comprehensive all-time state lists.



This massive package was first done one year ago with 50 teams. We have now updated it with teams from the 2015 season and 2016 but didn’t cut any teams out. Since Corona Centennial and St. John Bosco played in one of the most historic CIF Southern Section finals ever in 2015, last year’s teams will be higher in the all-time rankings than this year (at least for now). Go inside here for intro/criteria and links to all five Gold Club posts for writeups celebrating each of these all-time great teams.

Note: All of the writeups, grid logs, photos and more for all of these teams are for our Gold Club members only. If you’ve thought about joining, just going through this attempt at ranking the greatest football teams in state history may be worth it just by itself. For details, CLICK HERE.

FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 1 TO NO. 10 (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.

FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 11 TO NO. 20 (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.

FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 21 TO NO. 30 (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.

FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 31 TO NO. 40 (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.

FOR TEAMS RANKED FROM NO. 41 TO NO. 55 (GOLD CLUB), CLICK HERE.

Before beginning to go through these 55 trips down memory lane, this is not a ranking of the 55 “best” teams in state history because obviously many teams from 50, 60, 90 years ago wouldn’t be able to step on the same field with some of the super-fast, super-sized squads of modern times.

Greatness is about historical context, it’s about being that much better than one’s contemporary competition and it’s about being No. 1 in the state and No. 1 in the nation, which in most years in California was mythical and not determined on the field. It’s still purely mythical nationally.

Jon Mack was the head coach for St. Bonaventure in 2005, which has now been added to all-time rankings.

Jon Mack was the head coach for St. Bonaventure in 2005, which has now been added to all-time rankings.


Arguing about which teams deserve to be ranked higher and which teams have been missed is the point of such a task. It’s expected and kind of fun.

For these all-time state rankings, which also have previously been done in baseball, we are not going to go against our own published state rankings for a given season. Other than one exception, if a team was not No. 1 in the final Cal-Hi Sports rankings it wasn’t going to be ranked in this package in front of the team that was ranked higher for that season.

Secondly, finishing No. 1 in a credible national ranking also was used as a barometer to measure a team’s greatness. We also were looking for historical achievements plus we received input from several individuals, particularly managing editor Ronnie Flores, who previously compiled an all-time ranking of top teams for the L.A. City Section, along with Bob Barnett (CIF Central Section historian), Bruce McIntosh (legendary football scores compiler) and the duo of Steve Brand and Rick Smith of San Diego. Bruce’s scores of each team also was available to us for usage and we decided to include them all.

After initially doing this feature before the 2015 CIF state championships, we have updated it again after the 2016 CIF state championships. We did move a few teams around as well, but no new teams in the top 25. The trickiest part is how to handle all of the teams from Concord De La Salle. This year’s team that went 11-2 and lost to St. John Bosco 55-33 in the CIF Open Division state final doesn’t make it, but last year’s team that knocked off a 14-0 Corona Centennial team 28-21 in the same game certainly does.

In expanding the list to 55, that also made it possible not to cut any teams from last year’s package while adding both this year’s team at St. John Bosco and the team that the Braves beat in the CIFSS D1 final from Mater Dei of Santa Ana into the mix.

In addition, Ronnie was invaluable for providing some of the writeups and was consulted several times as the actual rankings were being done. We also spoke to several De La Salle Athletic Hall of Fame board members about that school’s teams that should be highest in these rankings.

We didn’t speak to them but found work from the following to be very helpful in this endeavor: Doug Huff (founder National Prep Poll and Student Sports/ESPN FAB 50), Mike Guardabascio (Long Beach Press-Telegram), Eric Sondheimer (L.A. Times), Joe Davidson (Sacramento Bee) and Pat Jacobs (Los Angeles Loyola).

Finally, of course, nothing we’ve ever done, including this project and the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book & Almanac, would be possible without all the research that was done for so many years by our founder, the late Nelson Tennis (1936-2004).

Here is an alphabetical list of the 55 teams we’ve decided to include in this feature:
CIF logo 216
Anaheim 1956
Bakersfield 1927
Banning (Wilmington) 1980
Bellarmine (San Jose) 1965
Bellarmine (San Jose) 1981
Berkeley 1957
Bishop Amat (La Puente) 1971
Bishop Amat (La Puente) 1992
Bishop Amat (La Puente) 1994
Blair (Pasadena) 1969
Bonita (La Verne) 1942
Carson 1971
Centennial (Corona) 2008
Centennial (Corona) 2015
Cordova (Rancho Cordova) 1975
De La Salle (Concord) 1992
De La Salle (Concord) 1994
De La Salle (Concord) 1998
De La Salle (Concord) 1999
De La Salle (Concord) 2001
De La Salle (Concord) 2003
De La Salle (Concord) 2010
De La Salle (Concord) 2014
De La Salle (Concord) 2015
Downey 1956
Eisenhower (Rialto) 1993
Elk Grove 1998
El Rancho (Pico Rivera) 1966
El Toro (Lake Forest) 1986
Folsom 2014
Grant (Sacramento) 2008
Fontana 1987
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 1919
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 1959
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 2001
Loyola (Los Angeles) 1975
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 1998
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 1994
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 1996
Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 2016
Merced 1990
Mission Viejo 2004
Morse (San Diego) 1990
Mt. Whitney (Visalia) 1978
Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 2006
Piedmont 1940
San Fernando 1974
San Diego 1916
San Diego 1955
Servite (Anaheim) 1982
St. Bonaventure (Ventura) 2005
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 2013
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 2016
Vallejo 1954
Vista 1985

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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11 Comments

  1. james
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    what about folsom 2010…they were argueably as good or nearly as good as your DLS team that year…having avenged a loss to Grant which was state number 1 that year until that loss and crushed a very good Serra of Gardena that year in D2 state…additionally they were at least as strong as Grant 08

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted December 27, 2016 at 12:14 am | Permalink

      I’ll give you arguably as good at the end of the season. But the first Grant game was one-sided. DLS had no losses, took out a 14-0 team by a rout that won the best playoff division in the state and beat Gorman. Also was No. 1 the year before. In any ranking, no way Folsom 2010 can be higher. Grant 08 just gets extra points for the historical feat of beating LB Poly (the Pac-Five champ) in Open Division, a win that put Sac football on the map more than perhaps any other. As we said, this wasn’t an examination of position by position, which team was best, but which was greatest.

  2. james
    Posted December 29, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I agree that DLS was impressive in both its schedule and its D1 championship and nor did I even remotely indicate Folsom should be higher. I said that Folsom was as good or nearly as good as DLs, something you just affirmed above. In regards to the lopsided loss to Grant – 49 – 14, the revenge was nearly as lopsided at 42 – 20 and against state numbet 1 at the time. If Grant was ranked ahead of DLS (even by Cal Hi at the time and even with DLS’s win against Gorman) and Folsom beat them 42 – 20 in return and then Serra who was also an superb and I believe undefeated team that ye

  3. james
    Posted December 29, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    (didnt finish my comment)..team that year, maybe 1 loss, and you highly rank DLS that year, then it stands to reason they should be one of the greatest…not based about position but overall accomplishment…not by any means top 10 or even 25 but 55 I believe is justified

    also as a side comment, when you mention Grant in 08 being up there, I still dont umderstand the fact that you did not name them the state team of the year. You just stated above that Grant is in the top 55 because of putting Sac on the map…in addition

    Grant beat 2 state champions that year from Idaho and Utah
    They beat LBP, which no one expected, and was a team that was number 1 in ca and 3 or so nationally by several publications
    You have named every single Open winner the state team except for the one year Sacramento wins it
    You name Centennial the 08 team because they beat DLS which did not have the same strength Grant had and had a loss.
    In addion, the committee that Grant and LBP deserved the open game so hence the two best teams
    Grant put Sac on map
    You switch the names arouns and have DLS with Grants accomplishments that year and they would be state team

    This shows your DLS and So cal bias

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted December 30, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Centennial did not have a loss in 2008. They were 15-0 and it was quite a debate in SoCal which team that year was better — Centennial or LB Poly.
      You may look at national publications. We don’t. We talk to the reporters who actually see these teams play, not a computer or someone in New Jersey or Washington DC. And at the end of the season, not just me but others who contribute to our site, like Ronnie and Harold, we’ve all seen everybody play and most of us have seen the top teams more than once.
      We just all thought Centennial was better than Grant after that last game. And I think we were right. Vontaze Burfict is still a beast in the NFL. At least one or two others from that Centennial team are in the NFL too. It’s still Centennial’s greatest team, in many respects. We also have continued to honor what Grant did by ranking that team as one of the greatest in section history and on our other all-time lists.

  4. craig justice
    Posted December 31, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Allot of great teams – but Leave off Edison HB 1979 or 1980 team??

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted January 1, 2017 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      Wish Edison 79 didn’t have those two bad losses early in the season. By the end, were clearly one of the best in CIFSS history. The two early losses, though, in our rankings of greatest, does hurt how high we could put them.

      • Craig Justice
        Posted January 1, 2017 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Well if your list reflects the best – Great-teams they should be on it. They would have beat many teams on this list.

        I will make a pitch for the 1980 Edison team too 14-0 and won the BigV – Probably put them ahead of a few teams on the list too.

        One of these teams belong on the list.

        • Mark Tennis
          Posted January 2, 2017 at 12:09 am | Permalink

          I’m sure a lot of teams not on the list would beat many of the old-time teams that are on it, which is why it’s different than just who would beat who. Edison’s two losses weren’t like this year’s at St. John Bosco. More costly in our view from a “greatest” ever criteria.

          • Craig
            Posted January 2, 2017 at 8:09 am | Permalink

            Fun chatting about it. Thx

            Ok- but they won a cahampionsip- one of the best of their era. Before the Catholic schools had professional programs like now so not sure of the SJB comparison.

            See that you listed MD 2106 and they lost in Semis? Seems like All-time best should win championships. Or the is this a best record listing…

          • Mark Tennis
            Posted January 2, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

            Maybe MD 2016 shouldn’t be that high, but was chatting with several longtime OC followers BEFORE the loss to Bosco at Anaheim who said that this year’s team was better than either of the two that were USA Today No. 1 teams. They lost in semis in a sense that it wasn’t the state final, but loss was to team they beat before and we all know that MD, Bosco and Centennial this year were much better than another team in state. The real argument may be whether Centennial should have been higher than MD in final rankings based on the scores of games vs. Bosco in playoffs.

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