With no CIF section or state playoff games for this spring season, we reverted back to our longstanding tradition of ranking teams in five separate divisions and have chosen a No. 1 team for each one (even though those final rankings are still not done yet) plus we also have our latest Public School State Team of the Year named. Congratulations to Folsom (public), Rocklin (D2), Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (D3), Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton (D4) and Tri-City Christian of Vista (D5).
FOR ANNOUNCEMENT OF SANTA ANA MATER DEI AS STATE TEAM OF YEAR, CLICK HERE.
FOR UPDATED GOLD CLUB LIST OF ALL DIVISIONAL STATE TEAMS OF THE YEAR GOING BACK MORE THAN 100 YEARS AND INCLUDING THIS YEAR’S SELECTIONS, CLICK HERE.
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NOTE: Schools were put into the same divisions they were in for the 2019 season with just a few exceptions. Those divisions for that season were based mostly on the divisions in which each school competed in during that season in their CIF section and CIF regional/state divisions. League strength also has always been a major component of division placement. Enrollments are used in much lower priority in recent years in section playoff division placement in favor of competitive equity. Enrollments are a factor in our five-division format in that a school with a large enrollment (especially those with 2,500 or more) cannot be in our D4 or D5 because those divisions over the years have been the ones we consider for “small” schools.
STATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS TEAM OF YEAR:
For the last few years, it’s been the Bulldogs along with Corona Centennial and last season’s honoree, Mission Viejo, vying for the claim as California’s No. 1 public school football program. Since both Centennial and Mission Viejo had losses in this spring season and Folsom did not, that did make it easier to rank the Bulldogs higher than all other public schools in the state.
Or did it. While Folsom showed it was the No. 1 team in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section with victories over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills (twice) and Granite Bay, it would be unfair not to mention several other schools that could have conceivably jumped the Bulldogs for the final rankings, especially San Clemente, which ended its season with a 10-7 win over Mission Viejo when that team was at No. 5 in the state. For San Clemente to have jumped in the final overall rankings above Folsom, however, proved to be too much of a hill to climb. Plus, the Tritons were not the highest ranked public school in the final Orange County Register rankings (which had Los Alamitos one spot higher). We will have San Clemente and Mission Viejo both just in front of Los Al.
Folsom debuted with a matchup against Oak Ridge, which was the 2019 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 champion. The Bulldogs also debuted junior quarterback Tyler Tremain, who passed for 297 yards in a 23-18 triumph. He would later have a 400-yard game and ended as the state’s spring passing leader with 2,024 yards. The team also ended its season against Oak Ridge and racked up an even more impressive 54-21 win.
Beating Granite Bay, 35-25, ended up as another quality win that the Bulldogs had. The Grizzlies won their final game, 48-7, over Del Oro of Loomis.
Tremain’s leading receiver, Rico Flores Jr., also will be back in the fall. The sophomore had 31 catches for 606 yards and 10 TDs. He figures to be a leading D1 college recruit for his class.
“It was incredibly rewarding to have just played a football season this year and gotten games in,” said third-year (second season) head coach Paul Doherty. “The maturity and discipline of our depleted group made it all that much more encouraging to watch them succeed.
“We had 0 returning offensive starters from the 2019 season, graduation had hit hard, and then early graduation for Class of 2021 National Recruits hit even harder,” Doherty continued. “We had an incredibly young team, will return 14 of the top 15 players on offense, and the strides of progress they made each and every week was remarkable.”
CAL-HI SPORTS STATE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
FOOTBALL TEAMS OF THE YEAR
2021 – Folsom 6-0
2019 – Mission Viejo 11-1
2018 – Centennial (Corona) 14-1
2017 – Centennial (Corona) 10-2
2016 – Centennial (Corona) 11-2
2015 – Centennial (Corona) 14-1
2014 – Folsom 16-0
2013 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 11-2
2012 – Centennial (Corona) 14-2
2011 – Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 14-0*
2010 – Folsom 14-1
2009 – Oceanside 14-0
2008 – Centennial (Corona) 15-0**
2007 – Centennial (Corona) 13-2
2006 – Canyon (Canyon Country) 12-2
2005 – Dominguez (Compton) 13-1
2004 – Mission Viejo 14-0*
2003 – J.W. North (Riverside) 14-0
2002 – Los Alamitos 13-0-1
2001 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 12-1
2000 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 14-0
1999 – Hart (Newhall) 14-0
1998 – Elk Grove 14-0
1997 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 14-0
1996 – Fontana 11-1-1
1995 – Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 12-1
1994 – Los Alamitos 12-1
1993 – Eisenhower (Rialto) 14-0*
1992 – Clovis West (Fresno) 13-0
1991 – Eisenhower (Rialto) 13-1
1990 – Merced 14-0*
STATE DIVISION II TEAM OF THE YEAR:
Not having playoffs in the Sac-Joaquin Section definitely benefitted the Thunder in this selection and for our final D2 state rankings. If it had been a normal season and Rocklin had been able to play Folsom and had been able to win, then the team would have been in the SJS D1 playoffs and not D2 and then not eligible for our D2.
As it worked out, and going by our criteria for division placement, including where a team had been placed for the previous season, Rocklin is indeed D2 and would indeed be the pick compared to others we had as D2.
“We appreciate you recognizing our team with all of the other great programs in our state,” said head coach Jason Adams. “There’s no doubt that we have a special group this year and we would have loved the opportunity to earn this honor on the field.”
Regardless of not playing Folsom as scheduled, Rocklin still played a very good schedule. The two wins that stand out the most were 38-13 over 2019 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 champion Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) plus 17-14 over a Granite Bay squad that also played Folsom tough.
“This is the most talented team to play for Rocklin High School with tremendous size, speed, depth and the highest football IQs we’ve ever assembled,” said head coach Jason Adams. “We are very proud of the work our guys put in during the extended off-season and the physical brand of football we played once we got an opportunity to play this season.”
Adams also wanted to praise team captains Richie Watts, Mason Thomas and Bobby Piland along with other players.
The list included offensive linemen Daniel Bracone, Brad Baur and Caden Brown; and defensive linemen Nick Johnson, Evan Niemi and Cole Gustafson. Piland and Ilaisa Gonebure went both ways as linemen. Peyton Smith and Tyler Moya also were very physical blockers at the tight end and fullback positions.
Adams also said he had two high-level quarterbacks in Watts and Kenny Lueth with running backs Thomas and Anthony Johnston churning out tough runs. Nathan Kent, Jaylen Pickens, Toran O’Harran, and Elias Mullican all made explosive plays on the perimeter.
Defensively, Adams cited linebackers Hunter Houser and Derek Houston while the secondary was led by Mullican, Teeg Slone, Hudson Skerl, Taylor Wake and Jaylen Pickens.
Add in Colorado-bound kicker Cole Becker, who had a 49-yard field goal vs. Granite Bay, and one can see why this was a team loaded in all phases of the game.
STATE DIVISION III TEAM OF THE YEAR:
CARDINAL NEWMAN (SANTA ROSA)
It’s a repeat for the Cardinals after they won the CIF D3-AA state title last season and were placed within the top 40 of our overall state preseason rankings with several top returning players. Their challenges in setting up a schedule, however, weren’t known at the time nor was it known which of those players would be on the team.
As it turned out, Washington State-bound receiver Tsion Nunnally did play, but running back Shea Moran decided to concentrate on baseball (where he has a scholarship to Long Beach State). Still, the Cardinals played their schedule, won their games and there was just no strong reason to drop them from the top spot for our D3.
Some in the Bay Area have fellow CIF North Coast Section school Marin Catholic of Kentfield higher than Cardinal Newman. That’s not a reach, especially after the Wildcats were able to schedule a game against Central Catholic of Modesto and posted an impressive win. But the Cardinals did win in the last game between the two (13-10 in the 2019 NCS playoffs) so doing any kind of a switch right now goes against too much of the way that Cal-Hi Sports has been doing rankings for many years.
Plus, in comparison to Marin Catholic having a 27-17 win over Windsor, the Cardinals topped Windsor twice 28-8 and 38-14.
“That is great news,” said Cardinal Newman head coach Paul Cronin. “Our seniors did a unbelievable job handling a very stressful situation. We are so proud of their accomplishments and commitment.”
Cronin also was head coach of the Cardinals when they were D3 State Team of the Year in 2010. The school additionally shows up on the all-time state list for the same selection in 1973. That was the first of four straight undefeated seasons that helped Cardinal Newman win 47 straight games (the state record from 1977 to 1995).
Nunnally certainly showed what he could do in just five games. He caught 25 passes for 520 yards and seven TDs, made 20 tackles on defense, returned punts and kickoffs (ran a kickoff back for a TD vs. Vanden) and he did the team’s punting.
STATE DIVISION IV TEAM OF THE YEAR:
SACRED HEART PREP (ATHERTON)
The Gators were actually No. 1 for this division not that long ago in 2014. That was the year they won the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division title and went 13-0, but didn’t get to play in the CIF NorCal game since they would have had to have been chosen ahead of either De La Salle or Folsom.
This year’s team lost its fourth game of the spring, but that didn’t hurt it compared to other schools in D4 since it was just 15-7 to Menlo-Atherton of Atherton, a 5-0 team that has been in our D2 state rankings. The Gators also benefitted by playing other top small school programs in the CCS, including King’s Academy of Sunnyvale (38-31 win), Half Moon Bay (29-26) and the last game vs. arch-rival Menlo School. They won that game 28-7 over a Knights’ team that was 4-0.
“I am extremely proud of the toughness and resilience of our players as they overcame practices without footballs, lifting without weights and the longest offseason in recent memory,” said head coach Mark Grieb. “Every time this team was challenged they responded. We play in a league that is full of talented players and coaches, so to be 4-1, and competitive in every game is truly something to be proud of and says a lot about the character of this group of young men.”
Sophomore Andrew Latu led the team in rushing and scored twice in the team’s win over Menlo.
Senior QB Teddy Purcell was the team leader and finished with just over 1,000 yards passing and 11 TDs with another 105 yards rushing and one score. Senior Beck Anderson also stood out for his versatility with 17 catches for 252 yards and two TDs, 110 yards rushing and one score, 19 tackles on defense with one interception plus a 99-yard kickoff return TD.
STATE DIVISION V TEAM OF THE YEAR:
TRI-CITY CHRISTIAN (VISTA)
The Eagles have never been near the top of our D5 rankings before, but they broke through this year and will now finish in the No. 1 position after last week’s 42-22 victory over Orange Glen of Escondido (larger school by enrollment but same school that played for a lower division state title in 2018). Noah Waldeck passed for two TDs to lead Tri-City.
The last time a CIF San Diego Section school ended No. 1 in our D5 was Santa Fe Christian of Solana Beach in 2001. That was one year after Horizon of San Diego finished in that position. The only other San Diego Section schools on the list are Bishop’s of La Jolla (1997) and Ramona High for 1958 and 1959, but Ramona’s two years was before the section was formed.
Head coach Shane Goodwin’s club began the season with a win over a Bishop’s of La Jolla team that was 12-1 in 2019 and although a lot of players off of that team were gone the 27-7 score was eye-opening. Bishop’s later won twice.
The Eagles had a 35-23 loss to Santa Fe Christian, but for our division rankings that was a loss to a team that had been No. 2 in D4. Tri-City’s other wins came against Classical Academy of Escondido, 28-6, and Rancho Christian of Temecula, 21-6, a small schools CIF state champ from 2016.
Other than Waldeck, a D1 baseball recruit for Grand Canyon University, TCC had Taylor University commit Trey Blackford playing at receiver.
Earlier this week, Goodwin announced he was stepping down as the team’s head coach, but will remain at the school as admissions director.