The Narbonne of Harbor City dynasty ended in 2019 right before COVID-19 hit L.A. County hard and negatively impacted the 2020 season for L.A. City section programs. Right now, it’s not about the section’s top teams cracking the weekly state rankings or a bunch of players earning college scholarships. It’s about safely getting back on the field, as some programs from this proud section fight for their existence.
Note: These preseason all-section or all-area teams are done in the same 30-player format as the annual Cal-Hi Sports All-State Football Teams. They are based on a combination of what the players did last spring and college recruiting. Transfers may not be included if not reported yet, haven’t played for a new school yet, or info on a transfer from previous school isn’t available. Not every all-section team will have writeups of every player. Some will have an intro, then lists.
STATEWIDE LINEUP OF THESE PRESEASON TEAMS
(ALL TO BE WRAPPED UP THIS WEEK):
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section | CIFSS (Orange County) | CIFSS (Long Beach-South Bay-SGV) | CIF Central Section | CIFSS (Inland Empire) | CIFSS (San Fernando-Ventura-other) | San Diego Section | Central Coast Section (includes S.F.) | NCS (East Bay) & Oakland | NCS (Redwood Empire) | Northern Section
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The onset of COVID-19 caused a lot of change in the CIF L.A. City Section football ranks and the 2019 season before the virus hit Southern California marked the end of an era. The fall 2021 season is the dawn of a new era in L.A. City football and there is nowhere to go but up.
In 2019, Narbonne of Harbor City began at No. 5 in the preseason state rankings and won eight of its nine games, but wasn’t eligible for the L.A. City Section playoffs. Narbonne had to forfeit all of its victories (it only lost to Lone Peak of Utah) and was banned for the playoffs for two seasons for the use of an ineligible player and other residency transgressions. The Gauchos were the overwhelming preseason favorite to capture the L.A. City Section Open Division title for the third season in a row and their sixth consecutive major division title overall to match the Banning of Wilmington run under legendary coach Chris Ferragamo from 1976-81 that included 1980 State Team of the Year honors. The Gauchos had 11 preseason all-L.A. City Section choices that season (and eight in 2018), but things are completely different now in the L.A. City ranks.
Coach Manuel Douglas is long gone from the Narbonne program and there is no dominant team after last spring’s shortened season. According to Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times, 16 L.A. City programs didn’t play last spring. That doesn’t include the programs that played only one game such as South Gate. It was just a chilling reminder of the impact of COVID-19 to see a program such as L.A. Dorsey, which has produced a plethora of future NFL players over the past 40 years, not field a team. As of now, all 16 of those programs are scheduled to have teams this fall.
In many respects, the section is starting all over and striving to field competitive teams as the Delta variant continues to wreak havoc on participation numbers and cause potential game cancellations. No L.A. City team landed in the preseason state Top 50 rankings and only Birmingham of Lake Balboa has been on the preseason bubble in the state’s longest running rankings for both the spring and fall 2021 seasons. This was once a section that dominated the state in the 1970s and 1980s with Carson and Banning fielding some of the nation’s top teams and a ton of future NFL players. Will there ever be another dynasty the likes of those Carson-Banning teams, or those under Paul Knox at L.A. Dorsey, Ed Croson at Birmingham of Lake Balboa or Douglas at Narbonne?
That remains to seen, but COVID-19 and the sheer size of the L.A. Unified School District, as it relates to safely having kids on campus, makes it a difficult challenge.
With Narbonne banned from the post-season, Birmingham won the 2019 L.A. City Section open title over Banning of Wilmington, 27-20. Last spring, the Patriots finished 4-2 with losses to Calabasas (28-27) and St. Bernard of Playa del Rey (58-28) of the CIF Southern Section.
Birmingham, San Pedro and Venice rate as the early favorites for the fall 2021 season and between the trio have eight selections on the fall preseason all-L.A. City football team. The race is definitely more wide open than it was during the 2010s when Narbonne ruled the roost, but the open title winner will likely emerge from one of those three programs and then that winner will likely be placed in the middle of the CIF bowl board and therefore draw middle division champions from the CIF Southern Section to play.