This group begins with perennial Orange County powerhouse Mission Viejo, which has a lot of playmakers to replace but has a lot of other positives in the second year under head coach Chad Johnson. This post also has the preseason No. 1 team from the CIF Central Coast Section, the schools that won last year’s CIF Division 2-AA, Division 2-A and Division 3-AA state titles plus some squads looking to move up that had very young, talented lineups last season.
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(All teams listed with last year’s win-loss record, not counting forfeits)
(This is the start of the 41st consecutive season in which Cal-Hi Sports has provided state rankings for California high school football teams)
16. MISSION VIEJO 10-2
CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals
Head Coach: Chad Johnson
It was a more than solid showing for Johnson in his first season last year after moving over from the offensive coordinator position at St. John Bosco and taking over for previous Diablos’ head coach Bob Johnson (no relation), the winningest head coach in Orange County history. In year two, Johnson loses quarterback Joey Yellen to Arizona State and just about all of the team’s leading playmakers (including all-state first team Akili Arnold). Expected to step in for Yellen is transfer QB Peter Costelli, who started last year and had some great outings at Santa Margarita. Junior Mavin Anderson also has been getting attention from college evaluators as a receiver and has a good opportunity to have a breakout season. The defense for Mission should be a huge strength. Up front, the team has two of the best lineman in Orange County with Lance Keneley (6-5, 220) and Keanu Tanuvasa (6-4, 275). Keneley had 10 sacks last season while Tanuvasa had five and both have multiple D1 offers. There’s also promising junior Easton Mascarenas (6-0, 220) on hand to be one of the standouts at linebacker.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 at Konawaena (Hawaii)
17. VALLEY CHRISTIAN (SAN JOSE) 11-3
CIF Central Coast Section Open Division 2 champion
Head Coach: Mike Machado
It’s a great collection of returning talent for the Warriors, who are pegged to be the team to beat in the first CCS Open Division playoffs that will be comprised of the eight top teams in the section. There will no longer be three separate CCS Open Divisions with two of the runner-up teams going into the CIF state bowls. This move will make it harder for CCS teams to win state titles (both Menlo-Atherton and Wilcox won them last year), but the actual Open Division eight-team bracket itself should be fun and highly competitive. Defense is where you begin when looking at the potential of this VC team. The Warriors are always tough on defense, but this year they have D1 college prospects all over the field. Up front, there will be J.T. Reed (6-3, 295). The linebacking unit will feature Moon Ashby (6-4, 200). And in the secondary, there is Kavir Bains (5 interceptions) and Deven Vanderbilt (the West Catholic Athletic League 100-200 sprint champ as a junior). The offense has a lot back, too. RB Isaiah McElvane rushed for more than 1,200 yards; QB Cory Taylor is a deluxe threat to run or pass; and FB Michael Corini is about as bone-crunching as one can get as a lead blocker.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 30 at No. 34 Wilcox (Santa Clara)
18. SIERRA CANYON (CHATSWORTH) 12-4
CIF Division 1-A state runner-up
Head Coach: Jon Ellinghouse
No, the football program at Sierra Canyon isn’t quite like what’s going on with the Trailblazers on the basketball court (both boys and girls). But Ellinghouse has two CIF state title plaques already in the trophy case and nearly got a third until Liberty of Brentwood rallied in the fourth quarter of last season’s D1-A state final for a narrow win. This year’s team has moved up to D2 for the CIF Southern Section, which means it’s also now in the mix for the CIFSS Open Division. For that to happen, Sierra Canyon would probably have to win every game in the regular season, including one game at Oaks Christian. But that wouldn’t be a shocker, either. There is returning strength in all facets of the squad, led by QB Chad Peery, who passed for 2,886 yards and 18 TDs last season. RB E.J. Gable is gone, but there were plenty of others who showed explosive moves with ball in hand, including Hunter Williams (713 yds, 16 TDs) and J.D. Sumlin (595 yds, 5 TDs). Sumlin also will be a leader in the secondary on defense, although that unit’s top returnee is all-state sophomore D.J. Harvey (7 interceptions). The defense also has its leading tackler from last season, LB J.D. Hernandez (168 tackles), returning. Yet one more on defense to mention is sophomore Kamari Ramsey, who is a LB/DB who had 95 tackles last season and already is generating much D1 recruiting attention,
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 at Westlake (Westlake Village)
19. NORCO 9-3
CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals
Head Coach: Chuck Chastain
Sixteen starters are back for the Cougars, who should have the offensive firepower to make it interesting with perennial power Corona Centennial in the Big VIII League. The key for this team to go further in the postseason is on defense, which hasn’t been able to slow down opposing offenses (not just Centennial). Offensively, the show begins with quarterback Shane Illingworth. The Oklahoma State commit and top national recruit fired away for 2,739 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior. The top two receivers also are back — Marquis Ashley with 41 catches for 736 yards and nine TDs plus Jaden Navarette with 37 for 670 and seven. Navarette is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound freakish athlete who has committed to Oregon. He could be used in all sorts of ways this season and at the next level. Also among the returnees is sophomore RB Jadyn Ott. One of the top sophomores in California, Ott was inserted into the fire as a freshman when then senior D.J Ford got hurt. He ended the season with almost 1,100 yards and 13 TDs. Team captain Ceaser Gonzalez (6-1, 205) could be a key player on that defense.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 at Williams Field (Arizona)
20. CENTRAL (FRESNO) 13-1
CIF Central Section Division 1 champion
Head Coach: Kyle Biggs
Graduating quarterbacks are missed every season by many teams, but for the Grizzlies not having three-year starter Trent Tompkins (now at UC Davis) is going to take some getting used to. Tompkins is actually one of the best in section history. Still, there is plenty of top returnees to see why some in the Central Section would continue to put Central at No. 1 in that section’s rankings. We may have it the same way after Buchanan plays Narbonne on national TV on opening weekend. Tompkins’ top target, Cal commit Jeremiah Hunter, is one of those back. He had a whopping 94 catches for 1,534 yards and 28 TDs as a junior. The team’s main running back, Quali Conley, also returns. He caught 46 passes for 846 yards and 10 TDs and he rushed for 1,331 yards with 17 TDs. On defense, all-state sophomore Jekob Jones was the leading tackler last season with 122. The Grizzlies also still have their two mammoth, D1 offered lineman — Ricky Correia (6-4, 350) mainly on defense and Dwight Tatum (6-2, 360) on offense. If a quarterback steps up to effectively replace Tompkins, Central will be off to the races once again.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 vs. Edison (Fresno)
21. ST. AUGUSTINE (SAN DIEGO) 10-4
CIF SoCal D2-AA runner-up
Head Coach: Joe Kremer
Consistently fielding a high quality team is nothing new for the Saints. Annually one of the top teams in the San Diego Section, St. Augustine has assembled one of the most impressive rosters in the SoCal region. At quarterback, Angel Peraza, who posted 2,559 yards and 27 touchdowns last year, will be challenged by impressive Eastlake transfer Richard Colmenero (2,111 yards passing, 24 TDs) for head signal caller. With a tremendous passing target in All-SD wideout Samuel Scaife III (15 TDs and 839 yards receiving) and elite running back Byron Cardwell, who put up over 1,500 yards of total offense (15 TDs) as a sophomore and has big-time colleges after him, there will be no shortage of points to go around on offense. The highly recruited 6-foot-4, 250-pound Michael Ambagtsheer will also provide another option on offense ( 473 yds receiving, 6 TDs) as well as added tackles and sacks (47,6) to a superb defensive unit. Regarded as one of the top defensive backs in the section and holding over 15 D1 offers, Tyson McWilliams will assist in keeping points off the board alongside high-energy and productive linebacker Connar Hefler (104 tackles, 8 sacks, 24 TFLs). Cut short with their defeat to Grace Brethren (28-14) in the Southern Regional championship game last season, the Saints will be prepared once again to make a run to a state bowl in 2019. They just might have to do it this time by beating their rivals from Cathedral Catholic.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 vs. Bonita Vista (Chula Vista).
22. SERVITE (ANAHEIM) 4-5
CIF Southern Section Trinity League
Head Coach: Troy Thomas
This would be the fourth Trinity League team to crack the state top 25. The Friars took their lumps last season in the first of the second era of Troy Thomas being their head coach, but just about everyone is back and they should be stronger than the other two Trinity League teams — Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita. The team has a promising mix of skill players and linemen. Sophomore Noah Fifita is a highly regarded quarterback who got varsity reps as a freshman. Leading rusher Derek Fuentes and leading pass catcher Damien Moun both return as does the versatile Noah Avinger, a junior who is getting D1 offers. The big boys are led by OL Nick Martinez (6-6, 300 with a commitment to Kansas); DL Ender Aguilar (6-5, 255 with a commitment to Cal); and OL Clarence Krebs (6-5, 275 with a commitment to Columbia). TE/DE Jake Overman (6-5, 230) looks like is more of a TE and has offers from the Pac-12. The Friars also can break big plays on kick returns with Zedekiah Centers and have another super quick player on the corner in Karrington Dennis.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 30 at J.W. North (Riverside).
23. CORONA DEL MAR (NEWPORT BEACH) 11-2-1
CIF Southern Section Division 4 finalist
Head Coach: Dan O’Shea
We haven’t seen the Sea Kings in person since they became the first team in state history to finish 16-0 back in 2013 in a CIF state championship game. We’re planning to check them out on Aug. 30 when they visit NorCal powerhouse St. Francis of Mountain View, which may be in a rebuilding mode this year. They project to be the favorite this year in the CIFSS Division 3 playoffs after moving up from D4 and are loaded with top returnees. Elite 11 QB Ethan Garbers, who has committed to Washington, tops the group. He mashed it with 4,135 yards passing and 55 TDs as a junior. Garbers also rushed for six TDs and punted for a 38.8-yard mark. This team also of course boasts of having one of the state’s elite Class of 2020 athletes in Grid-Hoop all-state pick John Humphries. When he plays at St. Francis, he will just be a few miles south of his future home at Stanford. Humphries threatened the state TD catch record last season before settling on 28. He also caught 130 balls for 1,783 yards. Tight end Mark Redman, also committed to Washington, had 54 receptions for nearly 600 yards and nine TDs. With others back on both sides of the ball, CdM should be well-prepared to go on a long CIFSS and possibly CIF state playoff run. We didn’t put them in the top 20, however, because they don’t have the kind of depth and line strength of a team like JSerra, which handled them pretty easily in one of those two losses.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 vs. Downey.
24. ST. MARY’S (STOCKTON) 7-5
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 semifinalist
Head Coach: Tony Franks
While watching the Rams last year it didn’t take long to see that they were a young team with some talented players that likely were going to be much better the following year. Whether they really are the second-best team in the SJS after Folsom remains an open question, but a lot of the other top teams in the section last year (Monterey Trail, Del Oro, Jesuit, etc.) in our view have been hit hard by graduation. St. Mary’s is also the only team of the top group that actually has beaten Folsom fairly recently (in 2016). QB Noah May leads the returnees after he passed for 1,339 yards and 12 TDs last season. Junior RB Tyrei Washington impressed at the Nike camp last spring at El Cerrito and could take off from the 658-yard, 11-TD showing he had as a sophomore. Taj Morris also rushed for 575 yards in eight games, while one of the team’s top receivers, Elijah Wood (6-3, 210), also is back. We don’t think State Junior Athlete of the Year Jamir Marshall (basketball, track) is going to play football this year (he did as a sophomore), but his younger brother, Jadyn, a sophomore, could be electrifying. The Rams have a few holes to fill on defense, but two we like are senior Dyllen Williams (58 tackles, 3 sacks) and junior Nick Murray (two interceptions). Up front, St. Mary’s has size and strength with juniors William Hopson (6-2, 275) and Jackson Baldi (6-3, 245). The schedule doesn’t have Mater Dei or St. John Bosco like in the past three seasons, but De La Salle is back and will be playing in Stockton on Sept. 27. The Rams also are traveling to play Orange County powerhouse Mission Viejo.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 vs. Pittsburg.
25. GRACE BRETHREN (SIMI VALLEY) 14-2
CIF Division 2-AA state champion
Head Coach: Josh Henderson
Some big names from last year’s state title team are gone, such as RB Latrelle Diggs, LB/FB Stanley Taufoou, LB Justin Skidmore and DB Troy Hothan (11 interceptions), but there is still plenty to like about the Lancers. At quarterback, Mikey Zele is going to be starting for his third season and he’ll still have another one to go after this year. Zele passed for 1,700 yards and 11 TDs and rushed for 640 yards and eight scores as a sophomore. Josh Henderson (6-2, 215), the coach’s son, will be one of the top two-way players in Ventura County. He piled up 157 tackles on defense and rushed for 800 yards on offense. Grace Brethren has returning strength along the lines, too. Senior Soane Toia (6-1, 285) is an effective run-plugger on defense and can play guard on offense. Younger (but bigger) brother Jay Toia (6-3, 320) was an all-state sophomore last season and already has major college D1 offers. DB Payton Gorley (115 tackles) and WR Nate Bennett (21 catches for 558 yds, 5 TDs) are two other returnees to watch. The Lancers also continue to build their schedule. Their second game will be against Oaks Christian.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 at Aquinas (San Bernardino)
26. LAWNDALE 14-2
CIF Division 2-A state champion
Head Coach: Travis Clark
QB Jalon Daniels is back for the Cardinals after he racked up 2,351 yards passing (26 TDs) and 940 yards rushing (10 TDs) for last season’s D2-A state champs, who outlasted San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno in their title game. One other big-time playmaker returning is WR/DB Makell Esteen. He had eight interceptions as a junior, caught six TD passes and has just about every school in the Pac-12 offering him. DB Elijah Jackson (three interceptions) is another elite defender and has listed offers from Cal, Washington, Arizona and UCLA. The defense loses its top three tacklers from last season, but LB Tuli Tulipulotu (6-3, 240) is back and he’s got offers from Stanford, Arizona State and Oregon. Losing those tacklers and also no longer having powerful all-state running back Jordan Wilmore (the Medium Schools State Player of the Year) would be the only reasons we didn’t start out the Cardinals even higher in these rankings.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 30 vs. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) at Pierce College
27. MENLO-ATHERTON (ATHERTON) 13-2
CIF Division 3-AA state champion
Head Coach: Steve Papin
There’s an intriguing quarterback situation with the Bears, who will have sophomore Matt Macleod starting for the first four games and then junior Raymond Price (a transfer from Sacred Heart Prep) will become eligible. Macleod may not go behind Price, however, if M-A has done well in its first few games, which includes a matchup on Sept. 6 at Serra of San Mateo. And Macleod was the one as a freshman who helped fuel a 21-point comeback in a win over Wilcox of Santa Clara in the CCS D1 Open title game and then started in two straight CIF regional/state playoff wins. Papin will be in his first season after previously being at Piedmont Hills (San Jose). Previous head coach Advir Ravipati left to take a job in sports marketing. The new coach and whoever is playing quarterback will have a ton of weapons to use, too. The leading returnee is 2018 State Sophomore of the Year Troy Franklin, also one of the top Class of 2021 recruits in the nation. He scored 17 TDs last season. Justin Anderson, who is being recruited as a corner and also will play offense, is another prime time performer. Also looking to shine in the secondary and on offense will be Treavon Norton, Jalen Moss and Skyler Thomas. On defense, linebacker Joe Posthauer (6-1, 195) and DL Uate Uhila (6-0, 300) are among those to watch.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 30 vs. Bellarmine (San Jose) at San Jose City College
28. CENTRAL CATHOLIC (MODESTO) 11-2
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 finalist
Head Coach: Roger Canepa
Similar to No. 23 St. Mary’s, the Raiders are in that mix of five or six teams in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section that will be battling to see which one becomes the primary contender to Folsom as that section’s top squad. We went with St. Mary’s to be that team, but the Raiders did beat the Rams last season and would seem to have the type of potential lineup that could erase the painful experience of losing in the closing seconds of last year’s CIFSJS D2 final to Del Oro. QB Dalton Durossette is back after passing for 1,420 yards and 18 TDs and could be one of the best QBs in the section. The top two running backs from last season are gone, but Minaya Olivo impressed when he got the ball, too, and prior to this season is getting D1 offers. Another top returnee is two-way playmaker Sithri Price. He caught nine TD passes and picked off five as a junior. It’s easy to see as well that Kyle Jackson (6-2, 215) will be used in multiple roles while another Raider to watch is TE/DE Nic Sani. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder has offers from Nevada and UC-Davis.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 23 vs. Clovis West (Fresno)
29. ALEMANY (MISSION HILLS) 7-5
CIF Southern Section Division 2 quarterfinals
Head Coach: Casey Clausen
In Clausen’s second year at Alemany, it still may be a team too young to really get up there and compete with the big boys, but if this group of juniors and sophomores stays together the 2020 season could be spectacular. Just about all of the team’s top returnees, except senior OL Jonathan Arellano (6-5, 285), will still be juniors and sophomores. Junior QB Miller Moss passed for 2,714 yards and 19 TDs as a sophomore after starting as a freshman at Loyola (Los Angeles). Sophomore WR Kevin Green Jr. grabbed 77 passes as a freshman last season for 854 yards and six TDs. Sophomore RB Floyd Chalk was the team’s leading rusher with 658 yards, while sophomore LB Niuafe Tuihalamaka (6-3, 230) had 68 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Junior DB Jaylin Smith had three interceptions as a sophomore and is back as well. The transfer departures of WR Alonzo Fontenette to Oaks Christian and DB Micah Adams to Paraclete (Lancaster) should hurt, but not enough to prevent the Warriors from competing for the top spot in the Mission League.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 16 vs. Jordan (Sandy, Utah)
30. SERRA (SAN MATEO) 7-5
CIF Central Coast Section Open Division 2 semifinals
Head Coach: Patrick Walsh
The Padres are getting top five attention in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is because they have some top returning players, they play a very difficult schedule (it’ll be Pittsburg, Menlo-Atherton and Stockton St. Mary’s to start) and they’re just two years removed from winning a CIF state title. Walsh is turning to Daylin McLemore to be the new quarterback in place of All-CCS standout Luke Bottari (graduated). The team should have an outstanding defensive line with Nusi Malani (6-6, 250) leading that unit. He is receiving solid D1 college interest. The offensive line also looks top-notch led by Nate Azzopardi (6-3, 245). Along with Malani, the other player getting multiple D1 offers is receiver-cornerback Derek Loville. He had 589 receiving yards and seven TD catches as a junior. Nate Sanchez is back at running back with nearly 500 yards from last season and also will play in the secondary. Marcellus Eison is another defensive lineman to watch while Jarred Quilter is another one to watch as a DB.
First Game: Saturday, Aug. 31 vs. Pittsburg.
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