How much of a 2020 high school football season in the state to be played remains to be determined and if it starts as scheduled in August is big IF as well. Still, with some other preseason national rankings about to drop, we took the time to compile an early, maybe preseason Top 25. We will have more detailed and expanded to 50 preseason rankings compiled later, but here is a rundown of those 25 teams we’d be inclined to go with as among the best in the state as of June 14. This will be the 41st season in which Cal-Hi Sports has done state football rankings.
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(Could be additional transfers to be completed and announced that would impact more official preseason rankings that will be done approximately 10 days before the first scheduled games.)
(More changes to the order also can come once others release more localized rankings and a consensus begins to emerge.)
(Teams listed with 2019 win-loss record; *indicates forfeits not included.)
1. St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 13-1
In all of the previous years of the Bosco-Mater Dei era of dominance — we’re on year five coming up — we’ve handled those teams in the preseason the same way and it doesn’t make sense to change now. The team that is the defending state champion is first and the other team is second. The two are likely going to play twice once again in 2020 so where they’re ranked really doesn’t matter. The team that wins the second game in the CIF Southern Section Division I championship is then likely going to win the CIF Open Division state title and that is it. Bosco loses Mr. Football State Player of the Year D.J. Uiagalelei at quarterback plus a number of other top players. There are plenty of others loaded up with major college D1 offers all waiting to step up, though, so there’s no indication that there will be much of a drop.
2. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 13-1
Based on transfers such as RB/WR Raleek Brown, the junior from Edison of Stockton, and QB Miller Moss, the USC commit from Alemany of Mission Hills who had his transfer announced within the last few days, it’s easy to see why Mater Dei might be ranked higher in the preseason than St. John Bosco. Again, though, it doesn’t matter when the two are likely going to play twice. Moss has multiple returning standouts he can go to in addition to Brown, including wideouts Kyron Ware-Hudson (senior) and C.J. Williams (junior). He still isn’t as highly rated as a prospect as graduated Bryce Young and he’ll have far less time working with all of the new players than if he’d checked into the school with the usual spring football. Mater Dei also will have highly regarded players in the secondary and at linebacker.
3. De La Salle (Concord) 12-2
Head coach Jason Alumbaugh got to work out with his players this week (wearing his UCLA Bruins mask) and it should be another year in which the Spartans figure to be the class of Northern California. They usually have had their best teams with an experienced quarterback and they’ll have one with three-year starter Dorian Hale. Lu-Magia Hearns also returns as a deep threat receiver plus some of the younger players — like upcoming junior RB-DB Zeke Barry — are already getting D1 offers. The first major question regarding the team will be if it goes ahead and takes a trip to Houston to face Texas powerhouse North Shore for the first game on Aug. 29. At this point, it’s hard to see a bunch of high school kids crowding onto a plane to play a game in Texas. On the other hand, Texas probably isn’t going to have as many restrictions on such a game if it was scheduled in the Bay Area.
4. Servite (Anaheim) 7-4
There is some good news on the Bosco-Mater Dei domination front and that is that those two teams will no longer have the top two quarterbacks in the nation. The Friars also have just about everyone back from a squad that only lost by one point to the Braves last season. It’s still going to take a monumental effort for them to get up to that elite level, but at the minimum Servite should be closer to the big two. State Sophomore Player of the Year Noah Fifita will be back to lead the offense at quarterback. The team’s higher-ranked junior returner from a recruiting standpoint, though, is WR Tetairoa McMillan. He’s one of the top junior WRs in the nation.
5. Centennial (Corona) 9-3
DE Korey Foreman is generally regarded as the No. 1 college prospect for the Class of 2021 in the nation and could help the Huskies get back closer to the Bosco-Mater Dei level. There are productive returnees everywhere, except at running back. QB Jake Retzlaff shared duties last season, but still went over 1,000 yards passing. WR Branden Alvarez returns after nabbing 35 receptions while junior Jaden Mickey (6 interceptions) and LB Calvin Pitcher (61 tackles) are two more to watch on defense.
6. Mission Viejo 11-1
Head coach Chad Johnson has to replace the key members of a dominant defensive line, but he’s known mostly for offense and he’s got a group that should be comparable even to Mater Dei and Bosco. QB Peter Costelli, WR Maven Anderson and RB Jacquez Robertson lead that unit with all-state candidate J.T. Hand headlining the offensive line. LB Easton Mascarenas will be another of the squad’s leaders.
7. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 14-2
This should be the best team that the Trailblazers have ever had, with more than a dozen returning starters off of a team that dropped the CIF D1-AA state final to Central of Fresno. QB Chayden Peery, a four-year starter, tops the group on offense. DB D.J. Harvey, who also can catch and score as a wideout on offense, also is among those back. The trick for the preseason is despite all of its returnees is where to start head coach Jon Ellinghouse’s squad. It’s almost certain that the team will be in the super-tough CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. We would definitely start the Trailblazers ahead of 2019 CIFSS D1 playoff teams JSerra, Calabasas and Bishop Amat, but putting them higher than St. John Bosco, Mater Dei, Servite, Centennial and Mission Viejo seems like a reach.
8. Helix (La Mesa) 11-2
The Highlanders start the year as a big favorite to win the CIF San Diego Section Open Division once again (they are defending champion) but we’d also say they’re a big favorite to win the CIF D1-AA state title (if it gets played). They have added phenomenal transfer talent, led by who we think is the top quarterback (State Junior of the Year Tyler Buchner previously from Bishop’s of La Jolla) plus receivers D.J. Justice (UCLA commit) and Clay Petry (also from Bishop’s). With so many top teams in the CIFSS Division I bracket (and with the winner going on to the CIF Open Division final), you just have to think that this Helix group is going to be better than the ninth best team from the CIFSS and better than the second-best team from the north after De La Salle. The Highlanders maybe should be higher than eighth in the state in the preseason, but they did lose to Sierra Canyon in last year’s CIF SoCal D1-AA regional final.
9. Alemany (Mission Hills) 9-3
It was tumultuous week for the Warriors that just ended. Expected starting QB Miller Moss and his transfer to Mater Dei was announced. That was followed by the addition of Calabasas transfer QB Finn Collins. He never played a down for the Coyotes after he went to them following his junior season at San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. Collins has committed to Arizona State. This is a season that head coach Casey Clausen has been building toward since he went with a number of talented freshmen in key roles two years ago, including WR Kevin Green Jr. and LB Niuafe Tuihalamaka. Alemany’s first game is scheduled for Aug. 21 at home vs. Helix so we’d tend to want to start the team out in our rankings right behind the Highlanders.
10. Central (Fresno) 15-0
There is much to replace from last year’s CIF D1-AA state championship team, but there’s still plenty around for the Grizzlies to be the team to beat in the CIF Central Section and we’re leaving them in the top 10 after a No. 5 final ranking from 2019. Linebacker Je’kob Jones was the squad’s leading tackler as a junior and was on the all-state first team juniors. Xavier Worthy also returns as one of the top college receiving prospects in California. Plus, QB D.J. Stevenson has moved over from Buchanan of Clovis, where he started as a sophomore and missed time with an injury last season.
11. Serra (San Mateo) 13-2
Junior QB Dominique Lampkin showed a lot of promise when he played as a sophomore last year during those times when Daylin McLemore (now at Arizona State) was injured. The Padres do have a lot of holes to fill on defense, but still look like the team to beat in the CIF Central Coast Section. Another junior who was fun to watch last season was RB Hassan “The Missile” Mahasin. TE Christian Pedersen also has been getting a bunch of D1 offers.
12. Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 11-3
The defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 champions have plenty of returning firepower and should start out at the top of the section for the preseason. Justin Lamson stepped into the starting role at QB as a junior and was one of the best in the state with 3,114 yards and 24 TDs passing plus 462 yards rushing and five scores. The RB/WR corps will need bolstering, but among those back on defense are tackles leader Ryan Enney and sacks leader Elijah Hansen.
13. Grace Brethren (Simi Valley) 12-2
Four-year varsity starting QB Mikey Zele has already played 46 games and needs 13 to tie the state record for games played, which was set at 59 last year by Aaron Estrada, a long-snapper at Strathmore. But there’s more to like for the Lancers than just Zele. Julian Stokes rushed for 1,385 yards and 18 TDs last season. Jay Toia is an all-state first team candidate for the offensive line at 6-foot-3, 320 pounds. Plus, the top three tacklers on defense will be back, led by Cooper Robertson.
14. Bishop Amat (La Puente) 9-2
Yes, of course Alemany is going to get the bulk of the preseason attention among teams in the Mission League. But the Lancers have gone unbeaten in that league for two straight years and deserve their share, too. Senior DB/RB Dyson McCutcheon just committed to Washington and leads Amats list of returning players. Junior QB Tobin O’Dell also returns after a breakout sophomore season. Head coach Steve Hagerty also should count on WR Kyran Hayes and junior WR Brady Kalau plus others to lead the way.
15. Oceanside 10-5*
There is universal consensus about Helix being No. 1 for the San Diego Section and near the top of the state for the 2020 preseason. But it’s also quite strong that the Pirates should be No. 2 for the section and not far behind for the state. The on-the-field losses from 2019 were a lot, but it’s hard to ignore how they finished, including a win over Lincoln in the D1 section final and a loss by just 14-7 to 16-0 Corona del Mar in which Oceanside gave the Sea Kings all they could handle. Almost everyone is back for the Pirates, led by RB Kavika Tua (2,166 yds, 21 TDs), QB Jakob Harris (2,443 yds passing) and WR Kamron Beacham (Arizona State commit).
16. Lutheran (Orange) 4-7
With JSerra being hit hard by the loss of players through transfer and graduation, the Lancers are favored to be the fourth team in the preseason pecking order out of the monstrous Trinity League behind Bosco/Mater Dei and then Servite. They also have a great nucleus of players from last year. Both QBs who played — sophomore Carson Conklin and junior Logan Gonzalez — are getting D1 college offers. Two of the top wideouts from last season also return — sophomore Tiger Bachmeier and junior Malik Blackmon. OLu also has DB Robert Regan, OL Jason White and DB Bryce Phillips (transferring from La Habra) shown with D1 offers.
17. Pittsburg 11-2
Transfer QB Eli Brickhandler sparked a turnaround season in 2019 at Whitney of Rocklin and could be a perfect fit for the Pirates. He’ll have one of NorCal’s top linemen protecting him in Ryan Lange and he’ll get to work with one of the state’s top sophomore WRs in Rashid Williams. LB Maurice Jamison also is getting D1 offers. This season it will be possible for the CIF North Coast Section Open Division runner-up (which the Pirates have been many times to De La Salle) to have a chance to play on for possible CIF state title in a lower division. If it’s the Pirates, and looking at their schedule, they’d likely be in D1-AA. Whether there even are CIF state title games in 2020, however, is a bigger issue.
18. Folsom 10-2
After winning CIF Sac-Joaquin Section titles for three years (and seven out of eight), the Bulldogs fell short last year with a loss to Monterey Trail of Elk Grove in the semifinals. They did continue their unbeaten streak in the Sierra Foothill League, however, and that included a win over SJS D1 champ Oak Ridge. Head coach Paul Doherty starts his second season with Stanford-committed QB Ari Patu ready for a starring role. A lot of standouts have graduated, but players from an impressive sophomore/JV team that dominated De La Salle in a game we saw should help with that.
19. Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 10-2
Looking for the preseason second-best team to watch out of the Inland Empire after Corona Centennial isn’t that easy. Norco, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland all lost a lot of top seniors. The Mustangs certainly did not. Junior QB A.J. Duffy passed for 2,568 yards and 26 TDs with another 500 yards rushing and is one of the top junior QBs in the nation. His two top receivers, Jonah Carnell and Andre McKinney Jr., also were underclassmen last season. The top two reported tacklers on defense also should be back.
20. Chaminade (West Hills) 7-6*
Key returnees off of last year’s team that reached the CIFSS D2 championship game are led by QB Jaylen Henderson. In addition to some of the usual D1 colleges offering him, he has Ivy League academic credentials to boot. Henderson passed for 2,664 yards and 20 TDs with another 767 yards rushing and five scores. WR Jordan McIntyre also is back while WR/ATH Ian Duarte has already shown he’s an elite talent even though he is just a sophomore. Plus, Chaminade has a great special teams unit — punter Jack Stonehouse and PK Chase Meyer — and some solid size and depth in the offensive line.
21. Monterey Trail (Elk Grove) 12-2
The leading rusher and leading tackler are gone from last season’s SJS D1 title game finalists, but you have to assume head coach T.J. Ewing is going to get the ball into the hands quite often of RB/WR/KR Prophet Brown, one of the most exciting players in NorCal with offers from D1 colleges everywhere. Otha Williams (16 TDs) and Chris Lands should be two other major threats running the ball in an offense that doesn’t throw much. Two defensive veterans to watch are Nekhi Broadway (104 tackles) and Jamauri Jackson (four interceptions).
22. Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 8-4
Losing DB Kamren Blanton on a transfer to St. John Bosco will hurt, but the Jackrabbits still have excellent returning strength from last year’s team that beat Orange Lutheran in the CIFSS D2 playoffs before falling to Rancho Cucamonga. Junior QB Shea Kuykendall may be ready for a breakout season, DL Jacob Tuioti is the returning Moore League Defensive Player of the Year and LB Bryun Parham is collecting D1 offers. All-league OL Michael Fesili and WR/ATH Keyonta Lanier (New Mexico commit) are among others to watch.
23. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 5-6
This was one of the hard-luck teams of the state last season and looks like it will have the ingredients in 2020 to be closer to the level of success that the Lions had in 2018 and earlier. Ethan Calvert is a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder who has played multiple positions but who is one of the top linebacker recruits in the state. Oaks Christian’s returnee list also includes WR Alonzo Fontenette, sophomore DB Jalen Lewis, and OL Kekoa Pele-Allen. Junior QB Cole Tannenbaum could be another bright spot.
24. Menlo-Atherton (Atherton) 6-4
Which team should be No. 2 in the CCS behind Serra? That doesn’t seem obvious to us, but we’ll start out with the Bears. They will have one of the top Class of 2021 talents in the state in WR Troy Franklin. Matt Macleod also will be back after passing for 1,834 yards and 19 TDs. In fact, not many key starters graduated at all from last year and all of the losses were to higher-ranked teams.
25. Clayton Valley (Concord) 10-5
Last year’s CIF D2-AA champions get the nod for this last spot, but when the real preseason rankings come out (which will be doubled in size to 50 teams and released within multiple posts) it might be slightly different. Plenty more info will be collected by then. The Ugly Eagles do have their leading passer, Jake Kern (1,685 yards & 12 TDs), and leading rusher, Omari Taylor (1,428 yards and 12 TDs), among those back. LBs Lukas Linkhart and Dylan Seeley are also returning as the No. 2 and No. 3 tackle leaders.
Buchanan (Clovis) 9-4
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 14-1
Edison (Huntington Beach) 8-4
JSerra (San Juan Capistrano) 6-5
La Habra 10-3
Liberty (Brentwood) 10-2
Lincoln (San Diego) 9-4*
Lincoln (Stockton) 9-2
San Clemente 10-2*
San Ramon Valley (Danville) 7-4
Serra (Gardena) 5-6
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 6-5
Valley Christian (San Jose) 11-2