More State Schools of the Year

Mater Dei of Santa Ana had its best-ever team during 2020-21 in boys lacrosse (left), which helped the Monarchs get named as State School of the Year for boys sports. At right are flags being waved at Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton, the State School of the Year for schools considered D3. Photos: @mdblax & @SHPAthletics /

For boys sports only, Mater Dei of Santa Ana is considered tops for the state for 2020-21 despite year of transition in the athletic department. For the girls, Harvard-Westlake is going to be listed alongside its overall State School of the Year selection. Other schools topping the list for overall state sports excellence honors for 2020-21 are Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista (D2), Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton (D3), University of San Francisco (D4) and Fowler (D5). Check inside for writeups of those schools and for every other school that is appearing on our Top 6 ticker at the top of our home page.

For announcement of overall State School of the Year, CLICK HERE.


Congratulations to the following schools for collecting a statewide all-sports honor for the 2020-2021 school year:
(Please note that for our criteria we are going to favor schools that have been in our state rankings for football, boys basketball, girls basketball, baseball & softball plus schools that have have placed high in CIF championship events, which would just be SoCal regional playoffs for this school year.)

Boys Sports Only:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)

There was big news last week at Mater Dei when the state’s winningest all-time girls basketball coach, Kevin Kiernan, was named new athletic director. Kiernan had been in an interim role after the previous athletic director, Tia Meza, left earlier in the 2020-21 school year for a new job with the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL. Kiernan will continue to coach the girls and the double-duty is not a new thing for the Monarchs. Longtime boys basketball head coach Gary McKnight, also the winningest ever in his sport, once had the AD job in addition to head coaching.

Kiernan of course inherits one of the greatest all-around athletic departments not just in California but the nation. The Monarchs were State School of the Year most recently in 2018 and were State School of the Year and winner of the boys sports only honor in 2014. This is the sixth time the school has been the boys only winner since 1985 when the awards began. There also is a 1956-57 listing in our state records for medium schools.

Head coach Bruce Rollinson’s football team only got to play five games in the short spring season, but beat St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the game that mattered the most and was selected State Team of the Year. The Monarchs had several other teams finish near the top of the state in boys sports, including golf which was fifth at the CIF SoCal championships. McKnight’s team ended No. 6 in the final state rankings while boys lacrosse had a historically great season with a semifinal finish in the CIF Southern Section D1 playoffs. The year ended on June 26 at the unofficial state track and field championships where Mater Dei’s Domani Jackson equaled the all-time state record by winning the 100-meter dash in 10.25 seconds.

The Mater Dei girls didn’t have anything to do with the boys gaining the boys sports only honor, but they did in getting the Monarchs to push Harvard-Westlake for the No. 1 overall position. Kiernan’s team, led by Stanford-bound Brooke Demetre, won the CIFSS Open Division title and was No. 1 in the state until falling in a rematch with Corona Centennial for the CIF Southern California Open Division regional. It also was possible to see that MD should be considered one of the state’s top teams in girls swimming (based on comparisons to other schools and top times in various events).

Girls Sports Only:
Harvard-Westlake (Studio City)

It was proving to be quite difficult in selecting this year’s girls sports only honor for State School of the Year so we admit to taking the easy way out and just going with the same school that was State School of the Year overall.

The girls for the Wolverines were huge in many sports played during the two spring seasons. They were unbeaten and considered No. 1 in the state in soccer, finished No. 5 in girls basketball, won a CIFSS track title (in D3) and were considered top five in another sport (swimming).

Like the overall selection, Harvard-Westlake has never been State School of the Year for girls sports only prior to this year. The school’s previous honors for State School of the Year came in 2009-10 (Division IV), 1998-99 (Division III) and 1995-96 (medium schools).

Mater Dei Catholic’s boys basketball team has some fun with their medals after they won CIF Southern California D2-AA regional title. The girls won the same title on the same night. Photo: @mdcathletics /

Division II State School of Year:
Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista)

Yes, you have to add the “Catholic” part of it at the end to avoid further confusion with Mater Dei of Santa Ana, but the Crusaders have been very successful in recent years and for this one they have their first-ever state school of the year honor. This would even include the years before Mater Dei Catholic was born in 2007 from the history of Marian Catholic (San Diego).

Mater Dei Catholic became a contender for school of the year recognition when it swept a pair of Southern California regional titles in boys and girls basketball. The boys (18-4) downed Central of Fresno to win the D2-A title. The girls (20-9) got into the CIF SoCal D2-AA playoffs after losing in the San Diego Section Open Division playoffs and went all the way. They topped higher seeded Alemany of Mission Hills on the road in the final behind D2 State Player of the Year Kayanna Spriggs.

Mater Dei Catholic’s softball team was the cream of the crop at the school because it not only won a CIF San Diego Section title but did it in the Open Division and was No. 6 in the final state rankings. It might have looked like a foregone conclusion that the Crusaders would roll to the section title, but they hit some bumps in Metro Mesa League play and were second behind Bonita Vista. They mercy-ruled Rancho Buena Vista in the final, 10-0. Section player of the year Giselle Garcia had a 0.89 ERA for the season and she batted .312 with 13 RBI.

The girls water polo team and girls golf teams then made the second spring season that much more memorable. In water polo, MD Catholic captured the San Diego Section D3 title with a victory over top seed Valley Center. And in golf, the Crusaders went to the CIF Southern California championships where they finished in third-place behind Troy of Fullerton and Walnut.

Division III State School of Year:
Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton)

Competitive equity playoffs for a school like Sacred Heart Prep, which traditionally has been D4 for school of the year calculations, allows for the Gators to be moved up and gives us some flexibility to select a more deserving group of honorees instead of rigidly jamming schools into enrollment-based divisions.

For 2019-20, the Gators were the D4 state school of the year. For 2020-21, they were considered for D3 but have come out on top again. There were five CIF Central Coast Section title teams that came in boys basketball, boys soccer, girls swimming, boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse. The two lacrosse titles also came in the CCS Open Division. SHP lacrosse players Paul Barton and Ben Ramsey were both All-Americans and both will play in college in the famed Atlantic Coast Conference (for lacrosse).

For us, Sacred Heart Prep gained notice early in the spring in football as head coach Mark Grieb’s squad finished No. 1 in the final D4 state rankings. There were no CCS playoffs in football and there were none in boys water polo, either, a sport in which SHP was 13-0 and probably one of the best in Northern California.

The year ended for the Gators at the unofficial state track championships in Arcadia where the foursome of Janie Morganroth, Julia Soderbery, Luci Lambert and Lucy Paynter placed second in the 4×800 relay.

Division IV:
University (San Francisco)

Athletic director Jim Ketcham sent in a strong nomination for SF University and also believes schools should be kept in divisions that are consistent with the history of the award (which would be D5 for his school). Point taken, but that may not be fair for public schools with small enrollments compared to private schools like University.

Whether it was D4 or D5, in the end, it didn’t matter. University is once again a State School of the Year.

Highlights for the Red Devils included boys basketball (No. 1 in final D4 state rankings with wins over St. Ignatius and Piedmont); boys soccer (9-0-2 record and No. 1 in D4 computer state rankings in the CIF North Coast Section); baseball (13-2 record & top 10 in final D5 state rankings); and boys & girls cross country (won league titles and would have both been among the favorites to win CIF D5 state titles.

In addition, University had teams in girls basketball, girls volleyball, girls soccer ad girls track that were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in D4 or D5 in the NCS by the MaxPreps computer.

Finally, there were the two Red Devil boys and girls tennis teams. The boys, which have won the last two NCS D2 titles, posted a 16-0 record. The girls were 9-1 with some big non-league wins, but dropped a league match to Head-Royce (Oakland).

State schools of the year by divisions have been compiled since 1996-97 and University was an early dominator with top finishes for 1998-98, 1998-99, 2001-02, 2002-03 and 2003-04. The school was last chosen for D5 in 2018. This year then would be its seventh state school of the year honor in its history.

Fowler’s softball team was all smiles after it defeated St. Bonaventure of Ventura for the CIF D4 SoCal regional title. The Redcats also finished 26-1. Photo: @RedcatAthletics /

Division V:

Small school, small town in the CIF Central Section had the best school year in its history — and that goes back more than 100 years. This also would be the first time that the Redcats have been a state school of the year.

The capper came in softball as the squad went 26-1, won its section title and then won in the first-ever CIF SoCal Division 3 regional playoffs. The team was No. 1 in the final D5 state rankings.

Just one week earlier, Fowler’s boys basketball team won the CIF SoCal D6-AA title and was in the final D5 state rankings. The bigger news came in the section playoffs where D5 State Coach of the Year Alfonso Alvarado’s squad captured the first section title for Fowler in 105 years.

Fowler also was D5 state-ranked in baseball (19-10) and would have been in boys soccer if that was a sport in which we did those types of rankings. The soccer team went 16-4 and lost in a higher playoff division (D4). The girls soccer team posted a 12-6 record while it was 10-2 in girls basketball and 2-2 in football.

(Note: If we were doing a top 6 ranking for schools of year, Harvard-Westlake would be first, Mater Dei would be second, Torrey Pines of San Diego third, Buchanan of Clovis fourth, Centennial of Corona fifth and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose sixth. Sorry, for this year we are not able go 10 deep plus many more honorable mentions. Here below would be writeups on those top six schools not shown before.)

3. Torrey Pines (San Diego)
The State School of the Year for both 2014-15 and 2015-16 and the honored for boys sports only just three years ago had another outstanding group of teams. From a historical perspective and for sheer drama, nothing beat what the Falcons did in boys hoops. They were No. 1 in the state until losing in the CIF SoCal Open Division final to Etiwanda, but still ended No. 3. Nick Herrmann’s game-winning shot in the San Diego Section championship vs. Cathedral Catholic kept the team unbeaten. His hug of his mom afterward (both cancer survivors) is the scene any movie would end with. Torrey Pines of course had other outstanding teams. The boys golf and girls golf teams were both in the top five (girls 5th, boys 2nd) at the CIF SoCal championships. The boys lacrosse team was named the best on the West Coast while the boys volleyball team reached the CIF SoCal D2 finals. In swimming, both Falcon teams posted times in various events that were on national lists. The baseball team featured MLB first round draft pick Carson Williams. The football team was only 3-3, but if it weren’t for the efforts of head coach Ron Gladnick there may not have been a spring season for any teams in the state.

Hayden Petersen was the top honors candidate off of Buchanan football team that beat both Central (Fresno) and Clovis. Photo: Buchanan Football.

4. Buchanan (Clovis)
The Bears, winners of the State School of the Year honor for 2018-19 and 2019-20, were hurt by the lack of CIF state championships probably more than any other school. They usually pile up the points in boys wrestling and girls cross country (the two sports they won state titles in for the previous year). For this year, we did get a comment from editor Erik Boal that if there had been a CIF state track meet that he expected Buchanan’s girls would have scored between 50 and 60 points “and easily would have won.” The Bears were 5-0 in football with wins over both Clovis and Fresno Central, they were No. 6 in the final state baseball rankings and they were tied for sixth in the CIF SoCal boys golf championships. In swimming, Buchanan had one of the best boys teams in the state led by junior Colby Hatton (broke 20 seconds in the 50 free) and won a section title. The Bears also won the CIF SoCal D2-A regional title in girls basketball (but were third in league behind Clovis West and Clovis) and won the CIF SoCal D2 regional title in girls soccer (but Clovis North won the D1 section title).

5. Centennial (Corona)
The Huskies have to get a lot of credit as a State School of the Year contender just for the simple fact they were State Team of the Year in both boys and girls basketball. This year’s postseason honors also reflected those accomplishments as Josh Giles was State Coach of the Year for the boys while Martin Woods was State Coach of the Year for the girls. Jayda Curry of the girls team also was named Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year. Centennial also had strong squads in football and baseball.

6. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
It was a 2-3 showing for the Monarchs in CIF Central Coast Section Open Division championship finals that closed the spring. Going 5-0, of course, would have been great but all five teams were outstanding and shows the usual depth of the program. The boys basketball and girls soccer teams were the teams that won CCS Open Division titles. The girls basketball, girls lacrosse and baseball teams were the ones that were all runner-up. Mitty also posted a second-place showing in team standings for CCS boys golf.


Aquinas (San Bernardino) (D3) Boys Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Boys Soccer
Campolindo (Moraga) (D2) Football, Boys Basketball, Aquatics
Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) (D3) Football, Boys Basketball, Baseball
Clovis North (Fresno) Softball, Boys Track, Girls Track, Boys Tennis, Girls Soccer
Crean Lutheran (Irvine) Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Baseball
Loyola (Los Angeles) Football, Boys Track, Boys Volleyball, Boys Swimming, Boys Lacrosse
Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) Football, Boys Basketball, Boys Soccer, Baseball, Girls Basketball
Sutter (D4) Football, Softball, Baseball
Vanden (Fairfield) (D3) Softball, Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball
Westlake (Westlake Village) (D2) Girls Basketball, Softball, Girls Track (Paige Sommers PV)

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. Wilbur Jordan
    Posted August 18, 2021 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    How can Flower High School be labeled a small school with 770 students?

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted August 19, 2021 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Fowler is D5 in almost all sports in the CIF Central Section. We haven’t used enrollment cutoffs for a long time. If we did, small private schools would win almost everything.

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