This second group of elite teams leads off with Calabasas, which is continuing to build toward a CIF state title. We also had a hard time coming up with a team to start out highest in the CIF Central Coast Section, so we just stuck two of them in this group right next to each other. Also included in this post is the highest ranked team from the CIF Central Section.
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(All teams listed with last year’s win-loss record)
(Thanks to Stockton office assistant editor Paul Muyskens for contributions)
(This is the start of the 38th consecutive season in which Cal-Hi Sports has provided state rankings for California high school football teams)
16. CALABASAS 14-1
Head Coach: Casey Clausen
First Game: Thur., Aug 24 vs. No. 49 Dorsey (Los Angeles) at Agoura HS.
Don’t feel sorry for the Coyotes for losing All-Americans Darnay Holmes (DB) and Tristan Gebbia (QB) as well as for the transfer loss of DB Bookie Radley-Hiles to IMG Academy. We only started them out at No. 26 in the preseason last year and their only loss came in heart-breaking fashion to San Diego Madison in the CIF D2-AA SoCal bowl game. Even with losing those great players, Calabasas is loaded.
New QB Jaden Casey has a lot of talent, but the key for him is all the receivers going out on routes. Oaks Christian transfer Mycah Pittman (6-0, 190) was an all-state sophomore last season while sophomore Johnny Wilson returns after catching 58 passes for 855 yards. Junior Johnny Williams also has been a very productive receiver.
Another significant transfer coming in is 6-foot-2, 305-pound DL Mykee Irving, who was at Chaminade (West Hills) previously and has committed to Arizona. DE Reggie Hughes (6-2, 230) didn’t go anywhere, either, so he’ll continue to make life miserable to opposing QBs. He had 19 sacks last season and is headed to Arizona State.
Another top returning starter is DB Nikko Hall (4 interceptions).
17. OAK RIDGE (EL DORADO HILLS) 10-3
Head Coach: Eric Cavaliere
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. Vista del Lago (Folsom).
The Trojans have the most returning starters among all of the top teams from a year ago in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. While they haven’t been able to actually beat Folsom in several years, the loss last year was by one point so ranking them higher than the Bulldogs isn’t something out of left field.
Oak Ridge did go on the road and defeat Del Oro of Loomis, which allowed them to finish in second place in the Sierra Foothill League behind Folsom. Del Oro later went on to play San Clemente in the CIF Division 1-A state final.
QB Marco Baldacchino passed for 1,841 yards and 22 touchdowns during his junior year while also nearly leading the team in rushing with 991 yards and 17 touchdowns. His leading target, Justin Poerio, will also be back after catching 41 passes for 558 yards and four scores while recording a second-best five interceptions on defense. On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans lose several of their top tacklers but will have senior linebacker Nate Otto, who had a team-best 141 total tackles during his junior year. Another plus is that Oak Ridge’s top lineman from last year, Bryan Catchings (6-3, 270), also is back.
18. BISHOP AMAT (LA PUENTE) 7-4
Head Coach: Steve Hagerty
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana).
The Lancers figure to be in the hunt for the Mission League title with Chaminade of West Hills and Serra of Gardena. They played a challenging schedule last season that started with a loss to Mater Dei of Santa Ana and a first round playoff exit to Vista Murrieta of Murrieta.
QB Blake Archuleta was just a sophomore last season and passed for 1,405 yards while leading rusher Dominic Barrera is back for his senior year and junior Jaden Allen led the way with 45 catches last year.
On defense, senior Noah Guzman is the leading returning tackler as he had a fifth-best 67 tackles but the biggest force will be senior Aaron Maldonado (6-3, 300), who had eight sacks last year and has committed to UCLA.
Amat will once again open the season against the Monarchs before non-league tests against JSerra Catholic of San Juan Capistrano and Rancho Cucamonga.
19. VALENCIA 10-3
Head Coach: Larry Muir
First Game: Fri., Sept. 1 at Palmdale.
This could be a huge year for the Vikings, who look like one of the top CIFSS teams in D2 and therefore would be a major contender for a CIF state title. There are 15 returning starters and players coming up from a 10-0 JV squad. We knew we were going to start out Valencia higher than preseason CIF Central Section No. 1 Bakersfield because the Vikings drilled the Drillers 48-9 last season. Their only losses were to Chaminade and Calabasas (ranked higher) and to San Clemente in the CIFSS playoffs by a close 41-35 margin.
Moises Haynes (5-9, 205) returns at RB after getting 1,682 yards and scoring 22 TDs last season. Juniors Ben Seymour (6-2, 240), a DE, and Mykael Wright (5-11, 185), a WR/DB, also come back with all-state sophomore credentials. Wright had seven interceptions last season and caught 31 passes for 669 yards and eight TDs.
WR Zion Dunson (38 catches, 596 yds, 7 TDs) and LB Reilly Royce (22 tackles for loss) are among other returnees for the team.
20. FOLSOM 12-2
Head Coach: Kris Richardson
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. Couer d’Alene (Idaho).
This is actually a low preseason ranking for the Bulldogs in the last few years, but it is coming after their streak of winning CIF SJS titles was snapped at four by St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Despite some strong graduation losses and not being a defending champ, recent history says to expect the Bulldogs to reload and be in the mix for a section title.. Known for their high powered passing attack, they will have to replace their quarterback from last season, Joe Curry, after he passed for 3,875 yards and 53 touchdowns. The offense will have leading rusher Kaiden Bennett back along with an exciting two-way talent in junior Joe Ngata.
Returning players on defense include DB Tanner Ward, LB Ezra Gulewich and DE Cruz Lara. After their home opener, the Bulldogs will play five straight games away from their blue turf which includes non-league games at Oakdale and Sacramento, which handed them a loss last season.
21. SAN RAMON VALLEY (DANVILLE) 6-5
Head Coach: Aaron Becker
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Tracy.
The players we talked to from SRV at the NorCal Opening in May who will be back this season can’t wait to get another shot at De La Salle after last year’s one-point loss that required a stopped two-point conversion at the end of the game to prevent what would have been a monstrous upset.
The Wolves also rank as the preseason pick in the East Bay Athletic League due to major graduation losses and a transitional season with a new head coach at defending champion Monte Vista.
QB Clark Baker (5-11, 185) directed last year’s team and ended with 2,736 yards passing and 32 TDs. He’ll have top target Robbie Funkhouser (5-11, 180) back as well. He caught 48 passes for 862 yards and eight TDs last season. Another huge plus is having OL Blake McDonald returning. He’s a 6-foot-5, 305-pounder committed to UCLA.
With 11 returning starters and a 9-0-1 JV team coming up, the SRV defense looks solid too. Junior LB Tristan Sinclair (6-1, 210) shined on that day at the Nike event while another to watch is LB/RB Ben Lageson (6-1, 215).
22. ST. AUGUSTINE (SAN DIEGO) 10-3
Head Coach: Richard Sanchez
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. Canyon Springs (N. Las Vegas, Nev.).
Last year’s CIF San Diego Section Division I finalist will be in the mix to be one of the section’s best once again despite losing the quarterback and leading running back from last year plus a transfer loss of a top player. The Saints still return a total of 14 starters this season.
Senior J.R. Justice, the son of former MLB standout David Justice, led the team last year with 46 receptions for 932 yards and 12 touchdowns but he could see himself throwing the passes instead of catching them as the QB this year.
On defense, even though all-state underclass DB Isaac Stuart-Taylor is now at Helix, St. Augustine has seven starters returning. The leader is senior LB Andrew Alves (6-1, 215), who had 83 tackles as a junior. Also named to our preseason all-section first team was DB David Ambagtsheer (6-2, 190). He had 78 tackles and 10 pass deflections.
Others on the preseason all-section second team were LB Isaac Hall, OL Mohammed Khalil and LB Tysean White.
23. JSERRA (SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO) 5-6
Head Coach: Pat Harlow
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Corona del Mar (Newport Beach).
It’s always a close call as to which Trinity League squad should be considered third in the preseason since St. John Bosco and Mater Dei distanced themselves from everyone. There’s also not much of a difference between third and last in the league standing.
This year, though, the Lions seem to be best suited for that task. Harlow, the new head coach who was a former big-time lineman at San Clemente and USC, has major returnees on both sides of the ball.
On offense, QB Matt Robinson (6-1, 180) passed for 2,053 yards and 20 TDs and rushed for 459 yards and five scores as a junior. Tristan West also caught 30 passes for 332 yards while MuNir McClain is a highly regarded junior WR transfer from Santa Margarita.
The JSerra defense may be even better. UCLA commit Abdul-Malik McClain (6-4, 230) is a fierce pass rusher. LB T.J. Medina (6-1, 220) also is back after leading the team with 93 tackles as a junior while DB Eli Jefferson (three interceptions) was outstanding as well. Toss in D1 recruit Calvin Mouisset (6-1, 205) at LB/SS and it’s a unit that has few weaknesses.
24. BAKERSFIELD 11-3
Head Coach: Paul Golla
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Centennial vs. Edison (Fresno).
There were two pretty bad losses that the Drillers suffered last season — one to Valencia and the other to Del Oro (Loomis) — but they were very young and despite that they still won the CIF Central Section D1 title. Fifteen starters are back this season and it should be a dangerous group of receivers, running backs and DBs.
Junior QB Cameron Williams (6-0, 170) has several D1 college offers and as a sophomore had 1,407 yards passing and 13 TDs. He also had 339 yards rushing and two scores. RB Shane Jones (6-1, 210) also rushed for 835 yards and 10 TDs and had four TD catches while both Justin McGill (35 catches, 876 yds, 6 TDs) and Tahj Wright (29 catches, 711 yds, 6 TDs) were very effective receivers. Both McGill and Wright also are known for being shutdown defenders.
Others that Golla is counting on include RB Trayvone Jackson (730 yds, 9 TDs) and OL/DL Bryce Underwood (5-9, 210).
25. VISTA MURRIETA (MURRIETA) 9-3
Head Coach: David Olson
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.).
Despite some youth and inexperience at the quarterback and offensive line positions, the Broncos will have a total of 11 starters back and should be a talented team that will be tested early on with a tough schedule that includes a trip to Georgia and games against Mission Viejo, Orange Lutheran and JSerra Catholic of San Juan Capistrano.
Four star senior Khalil Shakir will be a threat either being handed the ball or catching it as he rushed for 374 yards and six touchdowns while also finishing as the team’s leading receiver with 29 catches for 392 yards.
Senior DB Elisha Guidry, younger brother of graduated Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Year Javelin Guidry, is one of five starters back on the defensive side of the ball. He led last year’s team with 86 total tackles. Junior Keyon Ware-Hudson (6-4, 240) had 10 sacks last season en route to all-state sophomore honors and is already looked at as being a national recruit for next year. Senior LB Travis Plantier is another key piece back on defense. Note: Ware-Hudson has now been reported as a transfer to Mater Dei, third major one to that school on defense since end of last season.
26. ST. FRANCIS (MOUNTAIN VIEW) 10-2
Head Coach: Greg Calcagno
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at home vs. Oak Grove (San Jose).
Any one of the three teams that tied for first-place in the West Catholic Athletic League last season could have been higher than the others in the preseason rankings for the state and for the CIF Central Coast Section. St. Francis just seems to have a nice blend of experience at the quarterback position with some dominant players on defense and we like the fact that the Lancers have renewed their non-league rivalry with De La Salle. Believe it or not, but once in the 1980s we saw them beat the Spartans in Mountain View, a night that probably was one of the best for the late Joe Schramm, St. Francis’ legendary stats and game program editor who died two weeks ago.
Reed Vettel will be back under center after passing for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while junior running back Opeti Fangupo is returning after rushing for a third-best 317 yards and four scores.
Junior LB Joshua Pakola (6-3, 215) will be the Lancers’ leading returning tackler after 57 total tackles last season to go with a team leading seven sacks. Tyler Manoa (6-4, 290) is perhaps even more of a beast in the interior of the line. Among those who have offered him are Arizona, UCLA, BYU and Utah.
27. VALLEY CHRISTIAN (SAN JOSE) 13-2
Head Coach: Mike Machado
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Manteca.
We’ll go with the Warriors right behind St. Francis as they return a large majority of players on defense off of a 2016 squad that lost to San Diego Madison in the CIF D2-AA state final.
Some of the skill players on offense will need to be replaced, but the defense will return three of the top five tacklers from last season. DE R.J. Stone (6-4, 210), the son of former SF 49er OL Ron Stone, had a second-best 88 total tackles and led the team in sacks with 13.5.
Valley Christian also will have most of its secondary back as well as Charlie Bostic and Alton Julian both had three interceptions last year as juniors. D’Angelo Mckenzie is even more highly regarded on the secondary. He has offers from schools like USC, Michigan and Notre Dame.
28. CLAYTON VALLEY (CONCORD) 9-2
Head Coach: Tim Murphy
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Reed (Sparks, Nev.).
As long as Murphy is running the Ugly Eagles’ show, this team should be among the top 10 in Northern California. Last year’s team lost to Helix and De La Salle and this year’s team doesn’t seem like it’s going have much of a dropoff. There are only eight returning starters, but Murphy has a large roster with a lot of players ready to go who got plenty of previous experience.
Junior RB Thomas Alatini and senior RB/LB James Teofilo were two of those players. They’ll run behind an offensive line that includes Brandon Mello (6-7, 290) and junior Jacob Faleafine (6-3, 295).
Two others to watch for the Ugly Eagles are OL/DL Kitione Tau (6-1, 240) and junior WR/RB Andre Jerone White. White averaged. 36.6 yards per catch as a sophomore and could be a versatile weapon. Clayton Valley also has players from a 9-1 JV team coming up.
29. SAN CLEMENTE 13-3
Head Coach: Jaime Ortiz
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Oceanside.
The graduation losses for the Tritons are heavy and they will now have to be in the top division of the CIFSS after winning the CIF Division I-A state title last season. By winning that title, however, and having the type of program that has had so many big time D1 quarterbacks, including Sam Darnold (USC) and Travis Wilson (Utah), there’s no way weren’t going to put San Clemente somewhere in the preseason 50.
On the replacement side, most playmakers, including quarterback Jack Sears (USC), are gone. San Clemente does have three-year starters back at WR and RB and also has four starters back in the secondary with a total of six starters back on both sides of the ball.
Austin Whitsett rushed for over 1,100 yards and he will have 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior offensive lineman Thomas Wade back to create holes along with senior TE Chris Kane (6-5, 220).
On defense, the two leading tacklers from last season were juniors as Riley Croft had 130 total tackles and Bryce Wilson had 105. Jack Shippy is one of the returners in the secondary and had a team-best six interceptions as a junior.
30. EDISON (HUNTINGTON BEACH) 13-2
Head Coach: Jeff Grady
First Game: Fri., Aug. 25 at Tesoro (Las Flores).
The Chargers are entering a new era as State Coach of the Year Dave White has retired with former QB Grady taking over. They lost early on last season to Mater Dei, then went on a run and didn’t lose until that 39-35 game to San Clemente in the CIF SoCal D1-A championship. When it looked like both teams were going to be slotted in the 25 to 30 range for our preseason state rankings, we just went along with last year’s results and have placed the Tritons right in front.
Edison definitely has more back in the offensive skill positions than San Clemente, but not as much in other areas. Senior QB Griffin O’Connor is back after passing for 3,600 yards and 37 touchdowns while also rushing for 415 yards and 10 scores. He recently de-committed from UNLV. Senior Jack Carmichael rushed for 1,088 yards and 12 scores and also returns. Senior David Atencio will be the leading target in the passing game back from last year after 44 receptions for 704 yards and seven scores last year.
Edison does lose four of its top five tacklers from last season but returns junior. Luke Hoggard, who had a second-best 119 tackles and they will have three other seniors this season who had over 70 tackles last year. It will be a senior filled secondary as well with three seniors who had at least two interceptions last year. Mateo Gallego tied for the team lead with three interceptions. Before the Sunset League gets underway, Edison will get the chance to avenge that title game loss from last season with a contest at San Clemente.
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: