It’s a little different this year since previously we just coronated the CIF Open Division state champion. We still have that for St. John Bosco, which is State Team of the Year for the third time, but we also are adding three more that are not simple coronations but in which two of the three required grinding, more difficult decisions. That’s the State Public Schools Team of the Year, State Medium Schools Team of the Year and the State Small Schools Team of the Year. Two of three coaches up for teams for the public schools’ honor also happen to be former assistant coaches at Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo when current St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro was the head coach there.
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ST. JOHN BOSCO:
STATE TEAM OF THE YEAR
The buzz on social media on Tuesday was the release of many of the final national rankings and it was a clean sweep for the Braves, who defeated De La Salle of Concord 49-28 for the CIF Open Division state title last Saturday at Cerritos College.
This is the fourth year of the current landscape in the big boy sandbox of CIF football that includes St. John Bosco and its Trinity League rivals from Mater Dei of Santa Ana having elevating themselves with dozens of D1 college recruits (some transfers, some home grown) to a level that doesn’t just dominate California but it’s easy to see would dominate pretty much in any other state. De La Salle is also in that sandbox as the perennial power from Northern California that will almost always make it into the CIF Open Division state final opposite either Bosco or Mater Dei. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they would have be playing with one of the top five teams they’ve ever had to have a realistic shot at beating the other two.
The Braves won their first CIF state title and first State Team of the Year honor in 2013. That team also was No. 1 in a national computer ranking, but was not a consensus No. 1 considering all the polls out there. That honor for that year would have gone to Katy, Texas. The second state title came in 2016 after that team had lost to Mater Dei in the regular season. It wasn’t No. 1 in the nation. This year’s state title also came after a loss to the Monarchs in the regular season (only MD for 2017 has had a sweep of the two games in this four-year span), but they were No. 1 in the nation at the time so the later avenging win in the CIF Southern Section D1 final simply reversed the order of the two. This year’s mythical national title is therefore the first one for Bosco in which there’s no other school out there than can also legitimately claim it.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS STATE TEAM OF THE YEAR
A four-year run for Centennial of Corona as the highest state-ranked public high school football team in the state (according to our own rankings, which are by far the longest-running in the state) has come to an end. The nod has gone this year to Mission Viejo. This is the second time that the Diablos are going to be on the all-time state list (which currently goes back to 1990). They topped the charts of the state’s public schools for the first time in 2004 when they also were State Team of the Year (public or private).
Mission Viejo’s only loss in an 11-1 season was 49-24 to overall state and national No. 2 Mater Dei of Santa Ana (private) in the CIFSS D1 semifinals. The Diablos earned that slot in the semifinals of that bracket with a 38-35 win over a Servite of Anaheim squad in the quarterfinals that had earlier in the season only lost by one point to St. John Bosco. Mission Viejo’s other quality wins were against state ranked opponents La Habra, Upland and league rival San Clemente.
Two others were seriously considered for the honor (and essentially the No. 4 slot in the final state rankings behind Bosco, Mater Dei and De La Salle): 15-0 CIF Division 1-AA state champion Central of Fresno and 16-0 CIF Division 1-A state champion Corona del Mar of Newport Beach.
Central won its first CIF state title last Friday over Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth. The Grizzlies also have won three straight CIF Central Section D1 titles. At the start of section playoffs, however, their lack of having a significant statewide win earlier in the season (it really would have helped them a lot, for example, if league rival Buchanan of Clovis had not lost 32-7 to Narbonne of Harbor City) caused them to start climbing from a lower position in the rankings. They also had to hang on to win in the final seconds against state No. 16 Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) in the CIF D1-AA NorCal final.
Mission Viejo’s twitter account even sent out a congratulatory message to Corona del Mar for it being the state’s No. 1 public school team after its win on Saturday over Serra of San Mateo. Talking with Orange County writers at Cerritos College, however, showed that moving up the Sea Kings ahead of the Diablos in those final rankings might not happen. Besides, Corona del Mar never had to play Mater Dei and didn’t have a win over a team higher in the state rankings than Servite. There’s also obviously a strong bond between the Mission Viejo and Corona del Mar programs because the head coaches — Chad Johnson at Mission and Dan O’Shea at CdM — were once assistant coaches at Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo. The head coach on that Trabuco Hills staff at the time was Jason Negro, who has gone on to make history at St. John Bosco.
CLAYTON VALLEY (CONCORD):
MEDIUM SCHOOLS STATE TEAM OF THE YEAR
There’s two main reasons why the Ugly Eagles have earned this honor in the first year we’ve ever handed it out. First, they beat the No. 1 team in last week’s medium schools state rankings (top 15) with their triumph over Aquinas of San Bernardino in the CIF Division 2-AA state final. And second, they are the state champions in a higher competitive equity division than either of the two others that also were strongly considered: Pacifica of Oxnard (CIF D2-A) and Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (CIF D3-AA).
We realize some reading this may not have even known we were doing medium schools state rankings this year, but we have added a series of section-by-section lists of which schools are medium, which are large and which are small onto the end of those rankings every week. Clayton Valley is considered medium along with every other school in the CIF North Coast Section D2 playoff grouping. For the Ugly Eagles, enrollment doesn’t matter. It’s the same for Pacifica from the CIF Southern Section D6 playoff grouping. All of the teams from CIFSS D6 we had as medium schools. Next season, when the CIFSS won’t release teams and which playoff divisions they’ll be in until its playoffs actually begin, we’ll have to come up with a different criteria. That’s how it was done at the beginning of this season and it’s not fair to switch to something else now, declaring that a school is too large with its enrollment to be medium.
Clayton Valley was No. 5 in the medium schools rankings before it beat No. 1 Aquinas. Head coach Tim Murphy’s team has five losses, but most are to higher-ranked teams De La Salle, Liberty of Brentwood (in overtime) and Monte Vista of Danville. The Ugly Eagles also were hit by a rash of injuries in the middle of the season, had a standout running back asked to leave the team and were in the midst of playing strong large-school competition in the East Bay Athletic League. When they got healthy and then had junior Omari Taylor step up and become a major threat (and this was after Omari had to go through the trauma of losing his older brother, Omar Jr., to gun violence on Halloween night), they went on a roll that began in the NCS D2 playoffs. Clayton Valley qualified for the state bowls with an 27-7 victory over Campolindo of Moraga, then rallied to beat CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 champ Elk Grove (which also was on a roll) 28-26 in the D2-AA NorCal bowl game and then put on a defensive clinic in holding down an Aquinas team that had won the CIFSS D5 title (over La Serna, St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs, Culver City and others) and then beat San Juan Hills of San Juan Capistrano (CIFSS D4 champion) to get to the state final.
Pacifica was arguably more impressive from a talent standpoint than Clayton Valley among teams we saw in Cerritos and had no trouble with previous medium schools No. 2 McClymonds of Oakland on Saturday in its state final 34-8. Still, we had the Tritons ranked lower than league and city rival Oxnard High coming into the game since Oxnard had pinned a head-to-head loss onto their resume during the regular season. Oxnard didn’t make it out of the CIFSS D5 playoffs since it lost 23-0 to Aquinas (the same team Clayton Valley just beat). We’ll go ahead and move up Pacifica for the final rankings, but jumping the Tritons all the way to the top for medium schools was too extreme.
Cardinal Newman may be higher than Clayton Valley in some Bay Area and NorCal rankings, but not all of them. We contacted many of those who do those rankings and received differing opinions. The Cardinals started the last week of the season at No. 3 in the medium schools state rankings and defeated El Camino of Oceanside 31-14 for the CIF D3-AA state crown. They’ll move up to No. 2 for the final rankings, but Clayton Valley is going to move to the No. 1 position.
Look for the final medium schools rankings later this week. We also will be releasing our annual five-division final state rankings since we have done those for nearly 40 years and don’t want to stop due to competitive equity gone wild. Clayton Valley will be No. 1 for Division II, Cardinal Newman will be No. 1 for Division III.
SMALL SCHOOLS STATE TEAM OF THE YEAR
Unlike the public schools and medium schools, there was no difficulty for the small schools. Ripon was No. 1 in last week’s small schools state rankings (top 15) and won the CIF D4-AA state title with a 31-28 triumph over Highland of Palmdale (which has too large of an enrollment to be small schools). Note that there is an enrollment cap (generally 1,000 students) for schools we consider small or medium, but haven’t had one for medium or large.
The Indians, who also will be the final No. 1 team in Division IV for our final five-division rankings format, lost their only game to league rival Hilmar when they had a couple of significant injuries. Hilmar then lost to league rival Escalon, but then when Ripon got healthy and played Escalon it was an impressive 42-21 triumph. Head coach Chris Musseman’s squad stayed on that roll all the way through the state championship. Escalon didn’t lose again, either, as the Cougars went on to win the CIF D4-A state title. The two towns are 12 miles apart.
We also have to give a shout to No. 2 small schools team Half Moon Bay, which was unbeaten in the regular season but had to play large school division powerhouse Serra of San Mateo in the first round of the CIF Central Coast Section D1 playoffs. We’ll never know if Half Moon Bay had a better team than Ripon and it’s that kind of playoff seeding that small schools everywhere should be concerned about. Competitive equity tends to make it much more difficult for small schools since more and more schools with large school enrollments are getting to drop down and play against them for section and state titles. That’s why we decided to start the medium/small school state rankings in the first place. While the schools go wild for winning state titles, it’s only fair to recognize those schools in which competitive equity has robbed them potentially of the same experience.
Ripon football is listed for three other seasons in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book. The school was No. 1 for Division V in both 1982 and 1983 with respective 11-1 and 10-2 records. The Indians also went 8-0 in 1946 and are considered the 1946 Division V State Team of the Year. It wasn’t that long ago that we were standing on a softball field in Stockton with Ripon’s softball team after it won its final game and we were confirming to the coaches that their team would be the D4 State Team of the Year.
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