More State Schools of the Year

Candice Denny (left) was a standout on San Jose Archbishop Mitty’s CIF Open Division title team in girls volleyball while Anthony Montalvo (right) was one of two individual CIF state champs for Buchanan of Clovis in wrestling, which won the state team title. Photos: SportStars &

Snakebit School of the Year had to be Mater Dei of Santa Ana because with just a couple of wins in big games at the end in a couple of sports and the Monarchs would have been tops in the overall quite easily. They’re still getting recognition as Division I State School of the Year. Buchanan of Clovis, meanwhile, repeats for boys sports while for the girls, it’s back to normal for Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. Other schools gaining overall statewide sports excellence accolades for 2016-17 include Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (D3), Selma (D4) and Flintridge Prep of La Canada (D5). Six more schools also are honored with special mentions and writeups to salute top players and coaches.

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

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


Congratulations to the following schools for collecting a statewide all-sports honor for the 2016-17 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)
(Thanks to Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens for contributions toward these writeups)

Boys Sports Only:
Buchanan (Clovis)

Despite the spring sports teams falling a bit short at the end, the Bears did enough in boys sports during the year to hold off all others and have repeated to get the top honor in this category.

Led by their wrestling team that captured their third CIF state title in program history, the Bears held off Clovis for the team title as they had three wrestlers reach the finals of their weight class. Junior Anthony Montalvo won at 182 pounds and Cade Belshay took the 220 pound state title.

While Buchanan didn’t win a state or section title or finish No. 1 in the state like it did last year, the baseball program was once again one of the best in the state and nation, ending 28-4 on the year and a No. 6 ranking in our final state rankings. The Bears reached the CIF Central Section Division I finals where they lost to a Clovis team they had defeated four times earlier this season. Carson Olson was a perfect 12-0 with a 1.46 ERA while Zach Presno drove in a team-best 27 runs.

Also taking home hardware was the Buchanan boys water polo team as it won the CIF Central Section Division I championship for the first time since 2013. During its 25-5 season the goalie was Kyle McKinney, who was a member of last season’s No. 1 baseball team. Volleyball also won a section title as it captured the CIF Central Section Division I title with a win over Clovis, which then won the Division II state title while the Bears were moved up to D1. Buchanan’s track and field team tied for 14th at the CIF state meet and the golf team finished in seventh place at the CIF SoCal regional finals.

Girls Sports Only:
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)

The nation’s best all-time school for girls sports was at it again during the 2016-17 school year and winds up with its fourth state girls sports school of the year selection in the last five years.

Winning the first-ever CIF Open Division state title in volleyball got the big year going. Facing Santa Margarita in the state championship, the Monarchs won in straight sets led by Arizona-bound Candice Denny, who had 17 kills. The title was their state leading 13th in program history and fifth in a row under head coach Bret Almazan-Cezar.

Not far off from having two state champions, the Mitty girls basketball team under longtime head coach Sue Phillips reached the CIF State Open Division finals and lost to Clovis West of Fresno 44-40 to end the year 28-3 and rank second in the state. Haley Jones was a Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year finalist and our State Sophomore of the Year.

Despite being just the No. 4 seed, the Mitty softball team knocked off top seed Carlmont of Belmont on the way to the CCS Open Division section title and a 22-6 record to wrap up the school year. Sophomores Hannah Edwards and Savanna Smith each had 11 wins in the circle while Edwards also drove in 22 runs. In addition, Mitty’s girls finished in 12th place at the CIF state meet while the soccer team was ranked 25th in the nation after going 17-3-3 and losing in the CIF CCS Open Division finals to Mountain View.

Junior big man Bol Bol dunks in one of his first games for Mater Dei’s basketball team. Photo:

Division I:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)

We’re going to list overall State School of the Year Cathedral Catholic as Division II, which created a spot for a different school to be listed in Division I. As stated in Cathedral Catholic’s writeup, Mater Dei would be the best if being in the most national rankings was the main barometer. We still wanted to do a breakout report of the Monarchs’ year and set the table for 2017-18, which could be one of their best years yet.

The only drawback for this year for Mater Dei is that there were no CIF state titles and not even a CIF Southern Section title we could find that could be added to all of the teams who were so powerful. In the years in which the Monarchs were State School of the Year (2013 and 2014 most recently) there were CIF state titles that were on the resume.

Many teams came close. In football, MD was No. 1 in the state and unbeaten until falling to St. John Bosco in a rematch game for the CIFSS D1 title. In boys hoops, MD lost to Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) in both section and SoCal Open Division finals. Both teams also ended No. 2 overall in the state behind the teams they lost to. We also had the girls volleyball team at No. 1 in the state for many weeks. The Monarchs ended up losing to league rival Santa Margarita in the D1 section final then were ousted by Santa Fe Christian in the SoCal Open Division. The girls soccer team also made it to the CIFSS final in D1 and lost in a shootout to league rival JSerra after battling to a 1-1 tie in regulation. Baseball and girls water polo teams went to the semifinals in their divisions while other teams to post strong records were in softball (22-9), boys volleyball (30-4) and boys water polo (23-9). Girls basketball also went 25-8 with a heartbreaking loss in the CIF D2 state final.

The good news for Monarchs’ fans is that the upcoming school year figures to be spectacular. Junior-to-be QB J.T. Daniels will be back to lead a football team that may be preseason No. 1 in the state while 7-foot-3 Bol Bol and point guard Spencer Freedman will be back to lead a boys hoops team that may do the same. Other teams at the school also will be bolstered with the return of several top players.

Division III:
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth)

With an undefeated football team and standout boys basketball team leading the way, the Trailblazers were the D4 State School of the Year for 2015-16 and were perhaps even better for 2016-17. We knew they’d be moving up in divisions this year, but decided not to move them up into D2 or D1.

In football, it was a game that will be remembered for quite some time when Sierra Canyon held on to defeat Serra of San Mateo 42-40 in the CIF Division II-A state title game as Bobby Cole rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns. It also was the second state championship in program history under head coach Jon Ellinghouse.

In boys hoops, led by State Junior of the Year and possible future No. 1 NBA Draft pick Marvin Bagley, the Trailblazers finished 27-3 on the season and had a win on ESPN over Oak Hill Academy of Virginia that likely cost that team from ending the season as the No. 1 team in the nation.

Also making a deep run in the playoffs was the girls basketball team that went 23-7 and twice lost in the postseason to a Windward of Los Angeles team that captured the Division I state title. Also having good seasons were the girls volleyball team that went 32-4 and won the CIFSS D4 title, the softball team that went 25-6-2 and reached the CIF-SS Division VI championship game and the girls soccer team that went 22-2-2 and won the CIFSS Division IV title and the Southern California Division IV regional final for the second time in three years.

If the Open Division trends continue, look for Sierra Canyon to be even higher than D3 for next year’s School of the Year tabulations.

Gracie Figueroa and Alleida Martinez both won their third CIF state individual titles for Selma’s state champion girls wrestling team. And by the way, both were juniors and will go for a 4-for-4 prep career next season. Photo:

Division IV:

While the Bears didn’t win two CIF state titles like St. Patrick-St. Vincent of Vallejo (football, boys hoops) or Foothill Tech of Ventura (both boys & girls cross country), they actually won this honor convincingly. It is just the second time in school history that Selma has been State School of the Year. The only other time is for 1964-65 (football, baseball).

Selma was a dominating winner at the CIF state girls wrestling championships (which doesn’t have divisions). With juniors Gracie Figueroa and Alleida Martinez both winning their third straight titles, the Bears crushed it with 111 team points. Corona of the CIFSS was a distant second at 82. The Selma boys also were impressive on the mat. They were fourth overall at the CIF state meet and if divisional crowns had been awarded they would have won it for small schools easily.

But there was more to the school year at Selma than just wrestling. The Bears went 13-1 in football, won the D4 section title and then lost by one point to Bakersfield Christian in the CIF D4-AA regional final. They also went 30-5 in boys hoops, winning the D4 section crown and then beating Van Nuys in the regional playoffs before taking a loss to Orange Glen of Escondido. And finally in softball, Selma upset Mission Oak of Tulare 2-0 in the D4 section final and was among the top 10 in the final D4 state rankings.

Division V:
Flintridge Prep (La Canada)

With last year’s winner, St. Joseph Notre Dame of Alameda, being moved up for D4 in state school of the year voting, that cleared the path for the Rebels to get it this year.

Running their way to this award, the Rebels had two great seasons during cross country as their boys team finished in second place while their girls won the CIF Division V state championship. Called the most dominant performance in Division V history, the Rebel girls captured their third straight state title and had all five of their runners place in the top 25 with junior Sophie Gitlin earning all-state honors with her 10th-place finish. Their performance set a record for the largest margin of victory by a girls’ team in any division at the state final.

Both teams on the basketball court also had great seasons as the girls went 24-3 and won their CIFSS divisional title while the boys were a runner-up in their division.

Other teams of note were the boys volleyball team that went 21-7, the baseball team (reached section semifinals) and the boys water polo team (also reached section semifinals). Flintridge Prep, which is the D5 top school for the first time, also was one of only three schools that was in the top 10 in the CIFSS Commissioner’s Cup standings. The other two were Great Oak and Mater Dei.

One Clovis baseball player gets caught leaping high after the final out was recorded in CIF Central Section D1 championship. Photo: Bobby Medellin/Clovis Roundup.

(Note: Schools of Distinction listed in alphabetical order)

School of Distinction:
Campolindo (Moraga)

This school has always been near the top for our D3 evaluations with arch-rival Miramonte along with Cathedral Catholic. For 2016-17, Campo remains among the best with a CIF D4AA state football title and a runner-up finish in the CIF D3 girls basketball state playoffs. The Cougars also were 30-11 in girls volleyball, reached the CIF NorCal D2 semifinals in boys volleyball, placed third and sixth respectively in the CIF D3 state cross country race and were runner-up to Miramonte in the CIF North Coast Section Division I boys water polo playoffs.

School of Distinction:

Buchanan being considered as the top school in the CIF Central Section was not an easy choice. The Cougars closed the gap by winning section titles on the last day of the school year in both baseball and softball. Clovis also went on to win the CIF D2 SoCal title in boys volleyball. The Cougars also were second in the CIF state boys wrestling meet behind Buchanan, went 24-4 in boys soccer with a section title, finished fourth in team scoring at the CIF state track meet and had runner-up section finishes in boys and girls water polo.

School of Distinction:
De La Salle (Concord)

It’s always a big deal whenever a school can pull off the football, boys basketball, baseball section triple and that’s what the Spartans did in the NCS in 2016-17. While they didn’t three-peat in the CIF Open Division in football, they did get back to the state final and lost to St. John Bosco 52-31. DLS also ended 28-6 on the court and 21-8 on the diamond with high state rankings in both. In addition, the Spartans placed eighth in the CIF state wrestling finals and were 18-4-5 in soccer.

Great Oak’s boys also finished sixth at Nike Nationals and had some fun showing their concentration in a mirror leading into the event. Photo:

School of Distinction:
Great Oak (Temecula)

If you were to combine all of the boys and girls team points in the annual CIFSS Commissioner’s Cup, the Wolves would be on top with 29 points. Great Oak, which was the Division I State School of Year for 2015-16, benefits greatly in these honors by its dominance in boys and girls distance running. Both of those teams swept the team titles in the CIF D1 state cross country finals and the boys track team also was 11th overall. The Wolves also won a CIFSS title in boys golf and were in the semifinals in their division in girls volleyball.

School of Distinction:
Loyola (Los Angeles)

It was another more than outstanding year for the Cubs, but they have had better and this time they couldn’t quite build up a resume to earn one of the school of the year honors. Still, Loyola won the CIFSS Commissioner’s Cup on the boys side for the eighth time. The highlight was in boys volleyball with a CIF SoCal D1 title and No. 3 final national ranking. The Cubs also were fifth in the CIF D1 state cross country race and won CIFSS titles in golf, soccer and swimming/diving.

School of Distinction:
Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)

The Eagles won the CIFSS Commissioner’s Cup on the girls side for the fifth time. They were runner-up in the CIF Open Division in girls volleyball and won their fifth CIFSS title in a row in girls swimming. Santa Margarita also finished ninth in the CIF state track meet in team scoring, went 21-9 in boys hoops, went 23-6 in softball and 7-5 with a CIFSS D1 playoff win in football.

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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