We’re getting started with this two-day extravaganza of preseason state rankings with writeups of those slotted in the No. 31 position down to No. 50. There are more than 1,100 high schools that have football in California so any team in this honor roll is special. Additional teams on the bubble will be added once all top 50 teams have been written up and posted. This is the 38th consecutive year in which there has been weekly Cal-Hi Sports state football rankings in one form or another.
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(All teams listed with last year’s win-loss record)
(Thanks to Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens for contributions)
31. DEL ORO (LOOMIS) 13-3
Head Coach: Jeff Walters
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
This ranking may be too high, but we won’t have to wait long to find out with the first game at home against a team that went 15-0 last season and won the CIF D1-AA state title.
The Golden Eagles won a state title themselves in 2015 and lost in a close battle last year to San Clemente in the D1-A bracket. They have major rebuilding to do and a new head coach with Walters taking over for Casey Taylor, who is now at Capital Christian of Sacramento.
Since we provided the school with its game-by-game history two years ago, one constant over the years is that no matter who the head coach has been that the culture of Del Oro’s football program has been the same. Walters was previously at the school and comes in after a successful stint at Liberty of Brentwood. The winning culture and the Loomis/Roseville area kids isn’t going anywhere.
Besides, after St. Mary’s, Oak Ridge and Folsom, we also just didn’t see any other Sac-Joaquin teams that we wanted to start any higher. That could all be different after the first week, but to start not so much.
The Golden Eagles, who blasted CIF Central Sec D1 champion Bakersfield 57-16 in their NorCal D1-A bowl game, figure to be led by LB Andrew Birch (6-1, 215), who led last year’s team in tackles with 110 and also had five sacks. Junior RB/DB Dawson Hurst (6-0, 195), the latest in a threesome of Hurst brothers who have starred at the school, along with junior OL/LB Tatuo Martinson (6-2, 230) are other players to watch.
32. NORCO 7-5
Head Coach: Chuck Chastain
First Game: Friday, Aug. 25 at Servite (Anaheim)
Yes, the Cougars are still in the shadow of Corona Centennial, but they could be the San Clemente of this season. In other words, since they are now in D2 in the CIFSS and no longer D1 and no longer in the same section bracket as their Big VIII League rivals, a CIF state title in D1-A could be theirs.
There are 15 returning starters off a squad that won a game in the CIFSS D1 playoffs last season. Oregon-bound Travis Dye returns after rushing for 1,878 yards and scoring 15 TDs. Junior QB Nick Lasher trashed defenses for 2,789 yards passing and 33 TDs and leading the way up front is 6-foot-5, 290-pound Jarrett Bell, who tore up the summer and ended it with a big-time commitment to Alabama.
On defense, Norco should feature linebacker Randell Turner (6-3, 220), who had 92 tackles and two interceptions as a junior.
33. SERRA (SAN MATEO) 10-5
Head Coach: Patrick Walsh
First Game: Sat., Aug. 26 at St. Mary’s (Stockton).
Walsh will once again make sure his team is tested right away after a 2016 season that saw it open with a loss to St. Mary’s of Stockton and start the season 0-4 before winning 10 straight games and capturing the CIF CCS Division II Open championship. Then came a loss by two points in the CIF Division 2-A state championship to Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth.
The Padres will miss Sitaleki Nunn, who passed and rushed for over 1,000 yards but they do return junior Luke Bottari, who also passed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns. Two other dangerous offensive weapons include RB Isiah Kendrick, who rushed for 1,200 yards and 13 TDs, senior Shane Villaroman (63 catches, 1,055 yards, 13 TDs) and WR/RB Patrick Nunn, who has offers from Fresno State, Nevada, San Jose State and others. OL Antonio Mafi (6-3, 340) is another key returnee.
34. MANTECA 12-2
Head Coach: Eric Reis
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. No. 26 Valley Christian (San Jose).
Finishing in a tie for first place in the Valley Oak League last season with Central Catholic of Modesto and Oakdale, the Buffaloes will be looking to win a second straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship this season. Selected to our preseason section team was quarterback Gino Campiotti after he passed for over 2,100 yards and 24 scores while also rushing for a second-best 402 yards and eight touchdowns. While they have some question marks on offense other than the quarterback position, there are fewer question marks on defense as they return three of their top four tacklers from last season including LB Ferrin Manuleleua who led their defense with 116 total tackles. In the secondary, Manteca returns Vincent Ferro, who had six interceptions along with fellow
The team’s top recruit is DL Justin Kakala (6-4, 270), who had been a Cal commit until recently changing his mind and committing to Harvard.
35. LOMPOC 12-1
Head Coach: Andrew Jones
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Arroyo Grande.
The Braves lost their only game last year by one point in the CIFSS D4 playoffs to a Corona del Mar team that had a big-time D1 QB (Chase Garbers) now at Cal. They have to find a new QB as well, but other than that this year’s squad looks loaded and could be the team to beat among those classified as D3 in the section this season.
A player who could one day rank as among the greatest in school history and starting for the fourth year, Toa Taua, is the top returnee. Taua (5-10, 190) rushed for 1,777 yards and 11 TDs as a junior and also made plays at linebacker.
We saw DB/RB Dallas Canley (5-11, 185) at the NorCal Opening and he’s legit. Canley had four sacks and more than 600 yards rushing last season.
Also back are the team’s top two tacklers — Jelani Henderson (6-1, 205) and Ruben Gomez (5-11, 195) — plus WR Shemar Savage (6-0, 175), who caught 30 passes for 686 yards and 13 TDs and has at least one D1 offer.
36. MADISON (SAN DIEGO) 13-2
Head Coach: Rick Jackson
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Lakeside (Lake Elsinore).
With a CIF D2-AA state title from last year and with a coach with a pedigree like Jackson (who has two state titles and three state title game appearances on his resume), that makes it almost impossible to not rank the Warhawks in the preseason State Top 50.
To be fair, there are gigantic shoes to fill with the likes of LB Sampson Niu, QB Terrell Carter and RB Erick Buchanan all moving on to the next level. Still, we weren’t going to uplift a small school like Bishop’s that high and still want to wait to see how Mission Hills and Torrey Pines do early in the season before jumping either one of those San Diego area squads that high.
Madison does have a lot back on defense. Second-leading tackler Chris Fatilua (6-2, 220), who has D1 college offers, should be a leader at linebacker much like Niu last year. The team’s sack leader, Cesar Nillaga (6-3, 240), who got 14.5 of them, also is back. All-State sophomore Noah Saulo (6-0, 245) is another defender with star potential while the secondary has Donte Brown (5-7, 155) back with two interceptions from last season.
The top offensive returnees are RB Kenan Christon (830 yards rushing, nine TDs) and WR Daniel Stokes (30 catches, two TDs).
37. MILPITAS 10-4
Head Coach: Kelly King
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. American (Fremont).
Last season, the Trojans reached the CIF CCS Open Division I championship game where they lost to Menlo-Atherton of Atherton before losing by three points to the eventual Division 4-A state champions Pleasant Valley of Chico.
From a talent standpoint, Milpitas is tough to beat in the CCS. From a strength of schedule standpoint, however, it’s terrible. At least last year’s team got that win over Antioch early in the season. A 10-0 regular season looks likely, but it would be a largely untested 10-0.
Both of the Bracys will be back for their senior years. Tyree Bracy passed for 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns while Tariq Bracy led the rushing attack with 1,177 and 11 scores. On defense, Milpitas will also have plenty of key returning players with four who all recorded over 100 total tackles each, including LB Gabriel Erickson and junior DB Noah Rodriguez. Tariq Bracy also had five interceptions on defense, which was second best behind Tai Nguyen’s six interceptions (who also will return for his senior year). Up front, the Trojans look good, too. One of the state’s top junior OLs, Justin Scrempos (6-7, 300), is among that group.
38. FREEDOM (OAKLEY) 11-2
Head Coach: Kevin Hartwig
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Turlock.
Before running into De La Salle of Concord in the CIF NCS Open Division championship game, the Falcons won 11 straight games and won the BVAL title. While who will be taking snaps under center and be the go-to ball carrier remains to be seen, they do have their top two wideouts from last season back as senior Baylei Coston caught 63 passes for 1,337 yards and 15 touchdowns while junior Giles Jackson had 47 receptions for 842 yards and 13 scores.
Senior LB Richard Kabasinskas will be the team’s leading returning tackler while he and senior Tyler Dixon combined for 13.5 sacks. Jaelyn Thomas was tied for second on the team with four interceptions and he will also be a senior this season. Coston also plays in the secondary where he had three interceptions last year.
Freedom should take a step back from last year when it was in the top 10 of the state for several weeks, but at least to start the season we don’t think it’s so great of step back that the team should be forgotten about, either.
39. CENTRAL (FRESNO) 11-2
Head Coach: Kyle Biggs
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Bullard (Fresno).
With just one of their first four games on the road, the Grizzlies will have a chance to get off to a great start this season before their schedule gets more difficult. That stretch will then see them play three straight road games, starting with a non-league game at De La Salle of Concord. Any team taking on the Spartans has to have the confidence it will be competitive, which is another good sign for Central.
Last season’s team started the season with a loss and then won 11 games in a row before losing in the championship game of the CIF Central Section Division I playoffs to Bakersfield with a sophomore quarterback leading the way. Trent Tompkins passed for 3,118 yards and 36 touchdowns and is back for his junior season. The all-state sophomore also has leading target Jacob Torrez (52 catches for 871 yards and seven scores) returning. Clovis East transfer Marcus Washington is a running back to watch, but the top four backs based on yards also are all returning, led by senior Diotry Brewer (843 yards, 6 TDs).
Defensively, the Grizzlies have some question marks, but senior Jaden Williams returns after a second-best 76 total tackles last season.
40. LUTHERAN (ORANGE) 5-6
Head Coach: J.P. Presley
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at La Mirada.
You could make the argument that the Trinity League should have all six members permanently fixed into any State Top 50. We left two out from the start of the season, but those two (Servite and Santa Margarita) play teams early that would get them in with wins. A terrific junior class is what stands out at Orange Lutheran, which has a new head coach in J.P. Presley. He was the freshman coach, but has been a varsity assistant before and also was the school’s director of admisssions.
OLu’s juniors include four who seem on their way to being major D1 prospects: QB Ryan Hilinski (6-3, 215), WR Cameron Gardner (5-11, 170), WR/DB Kyle Ford (6-3, 195) and TE/DE Ethan Roe (6-5, 240).
The senior class is led by LB Talik Sekona (6-1, 220), who was one of the leading tacklers on last year’s team.
41. JESUIT (CARMICHAEL) 9-4
Head Coach: Marlon Blanton
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25, at Granite Bay.
Getting down into the 40s is where we start to put in some teams we have strong hunches about. Jesuit can be counted as one of those. Part of the reason is due to all the turmoil at league rival Elk Grove plus we like a few of the Marauders’ returnees just a touch more than those at other SJS schools we could have but didn’t put in the top 50 like Grant (Sacramento), Inkderkum (Sacramento) or Granite Bay.
Finishing in a tie for second place last season in the Delta League behind Elk Grove, the Marauders played a solid schedule that saw them eventually make the postseason and get D2 section playoff wins over Tracy and Central Catholic of Modesto before losing to Inderkum.
Ten starters return plus Coach Blanton has players coming up from a 9-1 JV team. The biggest news in the off-season was sprinter DB/RB Isaiah Rutherford, a junior, landing an offer from Alabama. LB/RB Lorenzo Burkes (6-1, 220) also is back with 1,410 yards rushing and 18 TDs.
Key returners on defense include the top tackler from last season, Jason Gallagher (6-0, 225), along with Joseph Hagopian, who was second on the team in tackles while also recording a team-best six interceptions.
42. HERITAGE (MENIFEE) 11-1
Head Coach: Kraig Broach
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Great Oak (Temecula).
The Patriots have one of the state’s top records for the 2010s at 83-9 and since they started playing in 2008 they are 92-22. For much of that time, they’d be 8-0 or 9-0 in the regular season but not ranked high in the state because their schedule was missing very many true tests against more elite competition. That changes this year due to a matchup they have at Trinity League member Orange Lutheran. If Heritage beats OLu and gets to 8-0 or 9-0 this year, then watch out.
This year’s team at Heritage also will be a good one to take to OLu. Broach has eight starters back on offense with five on defense. The leading returnee is all-state candidate Sherod White (5-10, 175), who rushed for 1,171 yards as a junior and also had eight interceptions on defense.
Other reasons to like the Patriots include the return of QB Devon Freedland (who had nearly 1,000 yards passing last year as the sophomore starter), the return of versatile James Phillips (had nearly 600 yards of rushing and receiver), an offensive line led by Parker Benner (6-6, 315) and the addition of players from a JV team last season that went 10-0.
43. MISSION HILLS (SAN MARCOS) 7-5
Head Coach: Chris Hauser
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Paramount.
While the Grizzlies went just 7-5 last season, they did have a playoff win in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division and their playoff loss was by a respectable 44-21 score to a Cathedral Catholic team that later won the CIF D1-AA state crown.
With a quarterback like Jack Tuttle, it is likely that record will improve this season. Committed to Utah, Jack stood out at Nike’s The Opening in Oregon during the off season and has shined over his high school career, which included being named to our All-State Sophomore team two seasons ago.
Tuttle has a lot of other offensive starters returning as well plus there’s the addition of San Diego State-committed WR Chris Olave, who was ineligible last season. Others back include Navy-bound RB/LB Samuel Dixon.
44. OAKDALE 14-2
Head Coach: Trent Merzon
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Sonora.
You would have to think the confidence is sky high in Oakdale about its team this season with a home game scheduled against Folsom, one of the perennial powers in the Northern California the past six years.
In 2016, the Mustangs tied for first in the Valley Oak League and won the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title and then Division 3-A state title with a 47-0 win over Bishop’s of La Jolla. While they do lose Will Semone and his 2,851 yards of rushing, if you know Oakdale, the system of Merzon seems to simply plug in yet another hard-charging back who breaks tackles and churns out yards.
There also are several key players on both sides of the ball coming back, including QB Marc Dickson and running backs Cameron Cherry and Bronson Harmon, who stood out during the postseason last year. Harmon will also contribute on defense along with DL Levi Ichord and LB Jayce Crick, who had a pick six in the team’s NorCal D3-A win over Sutter. Up front, it looks good too, especially with Niko Sarale (6-4, 260) as one of those back.
Oakdale actually is starting at No. 2 in preseason 209 area code rankings ahead of Manteca but right behind St. Mary’s of Stockton by local expert Rich Estrada of BlackHatFootball. We didn’t go for the Mustangs that high, but both teams have huge early games so we’ll find out about how good both are right away.
45. BISHOP O’DOWD (OAKLAND) 15-1
Head Coach: Napoleon Kaufman
First Game: Fri., Sept. 1 at home vs. Kennedy (Fremont).
Not only did the Dragons capture the CIF NCS Division III championship last season but the Division 5-AA state title as well. Could they be a strong enough this time to get into the NCS Open Division? There’s definitely a chance as they return 13 starters from last year’s one loss team. They just need to show improvement from when they did step up last year and lost to Freedom of Oakley.
Kaufman will be replacing the quarterback but should have an easy time breaking him in by just handing the ball off to junior Austin Jones, who rushed for 1,967 yards and 27 touchdowns last season as a sophomore. With almost all of the key skill players on offense back, O’Dowd also will have 6-foot-7, 320-pound senior Miles Owens along the line on both sides of the ball. Senior Kenyan Branscomb Jr. had 69 tackles and five sacks and will be the top returner on the defensive side of the ball along with two-way standout Jevon Holland as the two combined for seven interceptions. Holland, committed to Oregon, is one of the top recruits in the Bay Area.
Entering the season with a 12-game winning streak, the Dragons will have two big road games before league play starts at Freedom of Oakley and at De La Salle of Concord on back to back weeks.
46. PARACLETE (LANCASTER) 12-4
Head Coach: Dean Herrington
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. Serrano (Phelan).
Yet another team that captured a section and state championship last season, the Spirits ended the season on a six-game winning streak. They captured the CIFSS Division VI title and then went on and defeated Menlo-Atherton of Atherton for the Division 3-AA championship. Losing their quarterback, Tooni Ikahihifo, who passed for 3,360 yards last season, would be a problem at most schools but Brevin White is ready to take over. He is the brother of former Hart QB Brady White and played at Chaminade (West Hills) last season. White has recently committed to Princeton of the Ivy League over several Pac-12 offers.
Paraclete also returns leading rusher, junior Jamaal Bell, who rushed for 1,404 yards and 14 touchdowns while also being the team’s leading receiver as a sophomore. Four of the top five tacklers from last year also return, led by senior Jaylin Tynes, who had a team-best 124 tackles. A pair of juniors will be looking to make themselves at home in the opponents’ backfield as 6-1 225 pound Travis Hansen and 6-2 240 pound Henry Ikahihifo combined for 16 sacks last season.
47. TULARE 9-2
Head Coach: Darren Bennett
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Mt. Whitney (Visalia).
A Division II team was highest on the CIF bowl board from the CIF Central Section last season (Sanger) and that could happen again with the Tribe.
Among a whopping group of 14 returning starters is arguably the top receiver in the section (Emoryie Edwards), the top running back in the section (Kazmeier Allen), one of the top two or three quarterbacks (Nathan Lamb) and one of the top offensive linemen (Brian Wendt).
Edwards, committed to Fresno State, caught 94 passes for 1,571 yards and 19 TDs last season. Allen, who recently de-committed from Boise State and now may go Pac-12, rushed for 1,842 yards and 27 TDs. He also was sixth in the 100 meters as a junior in the CIF state track finals. Lamb, still just a junior, passed for 3,004 yards and 30 TDs, while Wendt is a 6-4, 270-pounder with D1 possibilities. All of that and no wonder the team averaged more than 50 ppg last season.
The defense at Tulare isn’t devoid of returnees, either. Leading tackler Andrew Ruelas (5-10, 195) also is back. He had 132 tackles as a junior.
48. SIERRA CANYON (CHATSWORTH) 15-0
Head Coach: Jon Ellinghouse
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Westlake (Westlake Village)
As the CIF D2-A state champions from last year due to a win over San Mateo Serra, the Trailblazers certainly deserve to start out in the top 50 even though they have major graduation losses to overcome. They also are moving up in the CIFSS playoffs from Division IV to Division III where they’ll have to go up against a tougher group, including Hart of Newhall, Lompoc and St. Francis (La Canada). In addition, Calabasas has been added to the schedule.
Championship QB Niko Harris, all-state RB Bobby Cole and all-state OL Kanan Ray are all gone. Junior QB Johnny Hawkins did well in games that Harris missed last year and is back. According to the L.A. Daily News, however, transfer Mason Quandt (who played at St. Bonaventure of Ventura last year) could get that job as well.
Among those who are back include junior WR/DB J.J. Hernandez, who had a 95-yard kickoff return to help spark the win over Serra, DE Chris Cannon (who was among the state leaders with 20 sacks in 2016) and DB Corey Jones, who had seven interceptions.
49. DORSEY (LOS ANGELES) 11-3
Head Coach: Charles Mincy
First Game: Thurs., Aug. 24 vs. No. 15 Calabasas at Agoura HS.
We wanted to put a second L.A. City Section squad into the mix behind favored Narbonne to mention the fact that this year the section will be going to a new Open Division that will give the runner-up a chance to go to a CIF state bowl game. Last year, the Dons lost in the D1 final to the Gauchos 42-34 with the second L.A. City bowl bid going to D2 champion Los Angeles High. Both the Romans and D2 runner-up Hawkins were hit with major penalties after the season and both likely will be much weaker teams in 2017. Dorsey, on the other hand, may be just as strong or stronger.
Even though big-time junior Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 2 in our Class of 2019 state player rankings) has transferred to Oaks Christian, the Dons have a lot back. All-state sophomore RB Charles Mincy Jr. was at his best vs. the best foes while TE/QB Isaiah Smalls (6-3, 215) has committed to Oregon State. Another Pac-12 player to watch is DE Tim Mosley (6-4, 240), who has an offer from Arizona.
Dorsey opens its season against Calabasas in what could be called the Keyshawn Johnson Bowl. The former No. 1 NFL Draft pick is from Dorsey and his son, Keyshawn Jr., played at Calabasas last season.
50. CLOVIS WEST (FRESNO) 8-4
Head Coach: George Petrissans
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Liberty (Bakersfield)
If there was not such a huge question mark about QB Adrian Martinez, the Golden Eagles might be closer or in the top 25 and right there with defending champion Bakersfield as favorites in the CIF Central Section. Martinez, one of the top QB recruits in the nation, has been reported out for the season with a torn labrum. He passed for 2,562 yards and rushed for 1,462 yards last season and was the Fresno Bee Player of the Year. There have been rumblings, however, that Adrian may play toward the end of the season. We just decided to put his team in at No. 50.
Even without Martinez, most of the Clovis West starters are back and the defense looks especially strong with LBs Dusty Schramm (6-1, 215) and D.J. Schramm (6-2, 220). Dusty has numerous D1 offers. D.J. has committed to Boise State.
Two other key returnees are senior Nick Coleman, who had 45 catches last season, and senior Eli Riofrio, named as the kicker on our 2016 All-State Underclass squad (juniors).
TEAMS ON THE BUBBLE
Buchanan (Clovis) 7-5
Cathedral (Los Angeles) 11-1
Foothill (Pleasanton) 6-5
Grant (Sacramento) 8-4
Granite Bay 4-7
Hart (Newhall) 8-3
Inderkum (Sacramento) 11-3
Los Alamitos 9-4
Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 11-3
Menlo-Atherton (Atherton) 12-3
Monte Vista (Danville) 12-1
Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 8-3
Roosevelt (Eastvale) 10-3
Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 7-5
Servite (Anaheim) 4-7
St. Bonaventure (Ventura) 6-5
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 8-3
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: