These are the ones with more than 45 years of work behind them, but it’s so different for this spring season. Factors such as which teams are playing which teams and building a consensus of those who do local rankings will be more important in compiling these rankings than when it’s known there are going to be playoffs and CIF state championships decided to end it all. None of that matters, of course, at the top because pandemic or not it’s still the era of Bosco-Mater Dei for California prep football until it’s proven differently. Go inside here for the first 25 teams.
FOR ALL-STATE PRESEASON TEAMS, CLICK HERE.
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(Teams listed with 2019 season record)
(*Record does not include forfeit wins or losses)
(First games could be added/changed quickly due to reporting errors & teams having to cancel with a positive COVID-19 test)
(Matchups also only added to provide home & away designations and not sites of any games)
1. St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 13-1
First Game: Sat. March 13 vs. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth).
Since 2016, when the Braves won the first of their three CIF Open Division state titles and Mater Dei won the first of its two, the state rankings we do (more based on results) has always rewarded the team in that rivalry that won the most recent game. Sure, Mater Dei could be ranked higher for having stronger transfers since the 2019 season, but the two will be playing again and that will settle it regardless. The offensive line is a real strength for this group, led by preseason all-state picks Earnest Greene Jr. and Maximus Gibbs, but who will emerge as primary playmakers will be the big question. The defense has players ready to step up as well.
2. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 12-1
First Game: Fri. March 19 at JSerra (SJ Capistrano).
The quarterback position in the aftermath of Bryce Young moving on to Alabama is the big question for the Monarchs, but the rest of the offense should be ridiculous with junior RB/WR Raleek Brown coming in to join returnees such as WR Kyran Ware-Hudson and WR C.J. Williams. Mater Dei has more back on defense than Bosco as well, especially with LB Raesjon Davis and junior DB Domani Jackson. The Monarchs (as of this writing) don’t have a scrimmage or game for the upcoming first weekend so it looks like they will only get to play five games instead of six. Still, beating all of the Trinity League opponents (including Bosco) won’t matter in the end because if that happens it will be a third State Team of the Year selection for the school since 2017.
3. Servite (Anaheim) 7-4
First Game: Fri. March 12 at Damien (La Verne).
Putting the Friars third instead of De La Salle might be a surprise to some, but with no CIF Open Division state game and De La Salle unable to play either St. John Bosco or Mater Dei, the only other team that is playing both is head coach Troy Thomas’ bunch. Servite also had one close game last season vs. the Braves and is loaded with top returnees. Junior QB Noah Fifita figures to be the top QB in the Trinity League and when was the last time that Mater Dei or Bosco didn’t have that player? Those two had perhaps the top two QBs in the entire nation in 2019. Servite junior WR Tetairoa McMillan also is regarded as one of the top junior recruits in the nation.
4. De La Salle (Concord) 12-2
First Game: Sat. March 13 vs. St. Mary’s (Stockton).
In addition to St. Mary’s, the Spartans are also going to play East Bay Athletic League schools Monte Vista, San Ramon Valley and California (San Ramon) plus Jesuit of Carmichael and 2019 CIF D2-A state champ Clayton Valley. That has altered where to rank them in our system since so many of the top CIF Southern Section schools are still able to play each other. Regardless, De La Salle’s status as the kings of the north doesn’t change and it’s another stellar group operating under the greatest coaching staff in state history, led by head coach Justin Alumbaugh. It’s a shame that three-year starting QB Dorian Hale won’t get to conclude his career under a normal season along with Cal-bound WR-DB Lu Magia Hearns. A strong junior class includes four-star standouts Zeke Berry (DB) and Brodie Tagaloa (TE).
5. Mission Viejo 11-1
First Game: Fri. March 12 vs. La Habra.
The Diablos came in very high in the Orange County Register preseason rankings (third behind Mater Dei and Servite) but surprisingly low by the L.A. Times. Considering their recent history plus a spring schedule that includes La Habra, San Clemente and others, we’ll more go by the Register. Top returnees include LB Easton Mascarenas (Oregon State) and WR Maven Anderson (Cal). QB Peter Costelli left for the University of Utah, but big things are expected from sophomore QB Kadin Semonza.
First Game: Thurs. March 18 M.L. King (Riverside).
With the schedule having to be contained to league opponents only, it’ll be more of a practice season for the Huskies compared to many of the other top teams in the CIF Southern Section. It’ll be a balance of the coaches looking out for the seniors to gain some great memories while preparing for a more normal 2021 fall season. QB Jake Retzlaff should be one of the seniors looking for some big numbers. Senior Devin Spencer (OL) and junior Jaden Mickey (DB) are the team’s leading honors candidates. The team would have had the nation’s top recruit, DE Korey Foreman, if not for the pandemic. He will play next at USC.
7. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 14-2
First Game: Sat. March 13 at St. John Bosco (Bellflower).
With their matchup coming up against the No. 1 Braves it was thought about putting the Trailblazers all the way up to fourth, but they did lose the last time out in the CIF D1-AA state championship to Central of Fresno. Although they won’t have QB Chayden Peery (now at Georgia Tech and would have been a four-year starter), the rest of the lineup is loaded with returning players and a couple of key transfers. The secondary is one of the best anywhere with senior D.J. Harvey and junior Kamari Ramsey. Harvey also ranks as one of the best returning receivers in the state.
8. Helix (La Mesa) 11-2*
First Game: Fri. March 12 vs. St. Augustine (San Diego).
Wow, what a season it might have been last fall for the Highlanders with one of the nation’s top QBs, Tyler Buchner, leading the way after his transfer from Bishop’s of La Jolla. Alas, that didn’t happen and understandably Buchner already has left to get his clock going at Notre Dame. His Bishop’s teammate, prolific WR Clay Petry, also came to Helix and is playing this spring. A lot of others with CIF section and regional title game experience also are back, led by junior RB Christian Washington, senior OL Shawn Martinez and more. Helix is the consensus No. 1 to start out in San Diego this spring and does have tests on its schedule, including the first one on Friday.
9. Serra (San Mateo) 13-2
First Game: Fri. March 19 at Valley Christian (San Jose).
A lot of folks from outside of the Bay Area will be pulling for the Padres after head coach Patrick Walsh became such a proponent, organizer and influencer in helping to get the state to loosen its health guidelines to enable this spring season to be played in the first place. On the field, Walsh has a group that has been placed No. 2 in NorCal from our friends at both Prep2Prep and SportStars Magazine. We tend to agree with returnees like junior QB Dominique Lampkin, junior RB Hassan “The Missile” Mahasin, TE Christian Pedersen (Louisville) and DL Sioeli Helu (New Mexico State). Plus, Serra is going to get to play WCAL schools like Valley Christian, St. Francis of Mountain View and St. Ignatius of San Francisco.
10. Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 10-3
First Game: Sat. March 13 at Folsom.
This is the Sacramento Bee’s preseason No. 1 team and also would have been defending the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 title. The Trojans still will be in that position in the fall and hope to be on a continuing win streak. The QB who led the way in the fall of 2019, Justin Lamson, has already left for his future college (Syracuse), but there’s still plenty of other top returnees, especially on defense and especially at linebacker with Ryan Enney and Hunter Nabors.
11. Alemany (Mission Hills) 9-3*
First Game: Fri. March 19 vs. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks).
Miller Moss was the QB for the Warriors in 2019, briefly transferred to Mater Dei and then came back to graduate early and head for USC. Finn Collins also was at the school after transferring in from Fresno San Joaquin Memorial to take the place of Moss, but not having a fall season caused him to miss out and he’s now at Arizona State. Even with all that, plus others opting out, Alemany still has a promising group with numerous major recruits (many of them juniors). The team is starting out No. 2 in the L.A. Daily News preseason rankings after Sierra Canyon and could set itself up for an even bigger 2021 fall season.
12. Folsom 10-2
First Game: Sat. March 13 vs. Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills).
Since the Bulldogs are in the best first weekend game in Northern California against their league rivals from up the road on Highway 50, we’re going to start them out right behind the Trojans for CIF Sac-Joaquin Section teams. Folsom defeated Oak Ridge last season, but lost to Monterey Trail in the section semifinals. If Folsom were to win out with its schedule and Monterey Trail did the same, it looks like the Bulldogs would clearly have a strength of schedule edge. New players need to step up, but certainly could happen.
13. Central (Fresno) 15-0
First Game: Thurs. March 18 at Clovis.
Graduation losses for the 2019 CIF D1-AA state champions are heavy plus WR Xavier Worthy has already graduated and is attending college. Still, starting out the Grizzlies at No. 1 for the CIF Central Section once again and somewhere in the state top 20 makes sense. They will have a transfer QB, D.J. Stevenson, who previously started at Buchanan, and there are some solid pieces to build around on defense, especially with tackling machine Jekob Jones. Asonii McDowell (RB/DB) is another transfer to watch from Washington (Easton).
14. Monterey Trail (Elk Grove) 10-2
First Game: Fri. March 19 vs. Sheldon (Sacramento).
This is the Sacramento Bee’s No. 2 team behind Oak Ridge and will have the most dynamic player in the SJS in USC-bound receiver-running back-defensive back-kick returner Prophet Brown. The Mustangs’ second game as of now set for March 27 vs. Clayton Valley of Concord should be a good test, but the schedule in general is more uncertain since they aren’t playing any opponents from their Metro League (Sacramento Unified School District).
15. San Clemente 10-2*
First Game: Fri. March 19 vs. Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo).
All the forfeits that the Tritons were hit with at the close of the 2019 season should be long forgotten and it should be a strong group hitting the field this spring. San Clemente, which came in high in both the L.A. Times and OC Register preseason rankings, also will get to play Mission Viejo. Top returnees include WR/DB Cole Batson (Boston College), TE/DE Bentley Redden (BYU) and RB James Bohls (Arizona).
16. Lincoln (San Diego) 9-4
First Game: Fri. March 19 vs. Point Loma (San Diego).
The Hornets and head coach David Dunn continue to build a program collecting and developing major college talent. They’re still looking for that championship season, but still checked in second in the San Diego Section for this spring based on a consensus of local rankings. St. Augustine transfer Jalil Tucker is a big-time DB and was preseason all-state first team. There’s a lot more than him, of course, including DB Zamajay Duncan (Idaho), DL Isaiah World (6-8, 270), LB Herman Smith and sophomore QB Samuel Cooper.
17. Valley Christian (San Jose) 11-2
First Game: Fri. March 19 vs. Serra (San Mateo).
With that first game against Serra (a rematch of the 2019 CIF Central Coast Section Open Division final), the Warriors have an opportunity to move way up into the state rankings right away. Head coach Mike Machado should have a mix of exciting young talent, led by sophomore WR Jurrion Dickey, plus solid seniors, including DE/WR Dominic Oliver.
18. Serra (Gardena) 5-6
First Game: Fri. March 12 at Long Beach Poly.
The Cavaliers are playing a strong schedule and appear to have the type of players capable of backing up a high state ranking. If they stay healthy (which has been a problem for them the last two seasons), watch out. Junior QB Maalik Murphy has committed to Texas (where former South Bay prep star Steve Sarkisian is now head coach) and is looking to make a major jump up the national Class of 2022 QB charts. On defense, the leading returnee is sack machine Lando Brown.
19. Pittsburg 11-2
First Game: Fri. March 19 vs. Freedom (Oakley).
Some in the Bay Area like the Pirates to be No. 2 behind De La Salle to start instead of Serra. Based on some of their young emerging talent — especially sophomore WR Rashid Williams and sophomore QB Jaden Rashada — that makes sense. The schedule, however, isn’t as strong as what Serra or Valley Christian is playing and those two also are playing each other. It would have been great if Pitt could have gotten something set up with fellow Contra Costa County school De La Salle, but its schedule is being contained within the Bay Valley Athletic League.
20. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 5-6
First Game: Sat. March 13 at Paraclete (Lancaster).
The hard-luck Lions of 2019 (who lost in a number of close games to highly ranked opponents) have been slotted at No. 3 by L.A. Daily News in its preseason rankings and at No. 6 by L.A. Times. Junior running back Derek Boyd had a breakout sophomore season and is one of many juniors who are receiving major college attention. Sierra Canyon, Calabasas and Grace Brethren are all on a very good spring schedule as well.
21. Oceanside 10-5*
First Game: Fri. March 19 at Mission Hills (San Marcos).
RB Kavika Tua rushed for more than 2,100 yards and 21 TDs for the Pirates as a junior and is one of many top returning players from a group that won the CIF San Diego Section D1 title in 2019 (and then lost in a close game to Corona del Mar in the SoCal region final). TE/WR/DE Kamron Beachem (34 catches for 555 yds) and DB Shawn Ramsey (75 tackles, 2 ints) are two other top players to watch.
22. Loyola (Los Angeles) 6-7
First Game: Sat. March 13 vs. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks).
The Cubs aren’t in a local ranking we can look at like in Orange County or the San Fernando Valley, but the L.A. Times is starting them ninth for the entire CIFSS/L.A. City region. There’s experience at the skill positions on offense, but on defense there are three major standouts back, including first team preseason all-state defensive back Ceyair Wright (USC). That unit also has DB Zakhari Spears (Washington) and LB Joshua Long (multiple D1 offers).
23. La Habra 10-3
First Game: Fri. March 12 at Mission Viejo.
Opening up against Mission Viejo obviously helps the Highlanders start out high in these rankings. This also is right about at where they where to end the 2019 campaign. There also are some top returnees to keep in mind, especially LB T.J. Patu (Colorado) and WR Brandon Vasquez (75 catches for 1,104 yds and 12 TDs).
24. Lutheran (Orange) 4-7
First Game: Sat. March 20 at Servite (Anaheim).
Which team is going to be fourth in the Trinity League? With 50 teams in our preseason rankings, we know all six from the league are going to be in there, but there’s no consensus among the sources we looked at as to which one should be fourth. QB Logan Gonzalez is back for OLu and there are some other players we like so our approach was to put the Lancers fourth with the next two not far behind.
25. Bishop Amat (La Puente) 9-2
First Game: Fri. March 19 at Cathedral (Los Angeles).
No, the Lancers aren’t favored once again in the Mission League and they’ll be hurt by grad losses plus all-state junior Dyson McCutcheon already getting ready to play for Washington. It’s just that head coach Steve Hagerty and staff always seem to find a way to compete for Mission League titles (including 10-0 in the last two league seasons). Junior QB Tobin O’Dell is among the returnees after he passed for 1,213 yards and 10 TDs as a sophomore.
FOR PART 2 OF THESE PRESEASON RANKINGS, CLICK HERE.