Top Medium/Small School Teams

Billy Parra (left) is one of the top players for small schools state No. 1 St. Genevieve (Panorama City). At right is Mahki Johnson, one of the top players for medium schools state-ranked Windsor. Photos: @gens_football / & Ben Enos / SportStars.

Matching our previously released State TOP 50 rankings order, Warren of Downey lands at No. 1 in this look at teams representing schools that are determined to be medium-sized in scope, competition and traditional playoff divisions. For the small schools, the first No. 1 team of the 2021 season is St. Genevieve of Panorama City. We’ll do these rankings several more times through the end of the CIF state bowls.

Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on Note that the any more of these medium & small school state rankings will be for Gold Club members only. After the preseason, all weekly and final state rankings also are available only to our Gold Club members as well as our state stat star of the week honor rolls. To check out getting a Gold Club membership to see all of these rankings, CLICK HERE.

It’s just too easy to forget about a lot of these teams (especially small schools) as they are placed in competitive equity playoffs with computer rankings as the only method many CIF sections are utilizing for seeding teams. These are teams we’ve followed for 20, 30 or 40 years or longer and now many of them have to face much larger schools that are third or fourth place in their leagues. Competitive equity has its benefits, too. This is just a way to put a continuing spotlight on schools that used to have an easier path at winning section and therefore state titles.
We also annually produce all-state teams for medium and small schools and by looking at teams in this fashion during the season it’s much easier to pick their players later on.
Note: Rankings after games played Saturday, Oct. 9.


Unbeaten Manteca has been led this season by junior RB-TE-DE Blake Nichelson. Photo: Wayne Thallander / Manteca Bulletin.

1. Warren (Downey) 6-0
2. Inglewood 6-0
3. St. Bonaventure (Ventura) 6-0
4. Simi Valley 8-0
5. Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 6-0
6. Bishop Diego (Santa Barbara) 6-1
7. Loyola (Los Angeles) 5-2
8. Cajon (San Bernardino) 7-0
9. Glendora 7-0
10. Windsor 6-0
11. McClymonds (Oakland) 3-1
12. Villa Park 6-1
13. Manteca 7-0
14. Apple Valley 5-2
15. Hanford 5-0
16. Scripps Ranch (San Diego) 6-0

Notes & Comments: The top nine teams were all placed in the same order as they appeared in our State TOP 50 overall rankings, which are released on Monday nights. We know it looks odd to have so many from the CIF Southern Section in the top 10, but a lot of these teams will be in the same higher divisions in the CIFSS playoffs and will be playing each other. Mater Dei Catholic, ranked by some at No. 3 in the CIF San Diego Section, is the only team in the top nine that is not from the Southern Section. Warren just moved in front of Inglewood in the State TOP 50 on the added strength of a 14-0 win from earlier in the season over Serra of Gardena. Inglewood’s best win continues to be its triumph in the first game vs. Loyola of Los Angeles.

San Diego Teams To Watch: Mt. Carmel (San Diego) 7-0, Poway 5-2, Santa Fe Christian (Solana Beach) 7-0. Note that Lincoln is now in D1 in the SD Section and would now have to be considered large schools. Scripps Ranch will be in the section D2 playoffs. Mater Dei Catholic, Mt. Carmel and Santa Fe Christian will all be in D3. There is a good chance that the San Diego D3 winner will be placed higher on the CIF SoCal bowl board than D2, especially if it’s Mater Dei Catholic.

Southern Section Teams to Watch: Foothill of Tustin (7-0) and Yorba Linda (7-0) will be playing each other this week. With so many CIFSS teams ranked above (Warren, Inglewood, St. Bonaventure, Simi Valley, Bishop Diego, Loyola, Cajon, Glendora, Villa Park, Apple Valley), we just didn’t research enough teams to have any more listed. Since Etiwanda (7-0) is from the Baseline League (considered D1 in all sports) and has almost 3,000 students, it is going to be considered large schools and not medium schools.

L.A. City Section: We haven’t been putting any L.A. City teams as large schools for the last few years due to competitive reasons. Heading into this week, Banning of Wilmington (6-1) and San Pedro (5-1) are top-ranked according to the computer (which is the same as MaxPreps if you didn’t know). The Pilots will not have D1 running back Jakob Galloway for the rest of the season, however, due to a knee injury. The team to really watch may be Birmingham of Lake Balboa (2-5), which won the top divisional title in the section in 2019.

QB Cayden Muir of Hanford was recently honored as our NorCal Offensive Player of the Week. Photo:

Central Section Teams to Watch: Frontier (Bakersfield) 4-1, Garces (Bakersfield) 3-3. San Joaquin Memorial (7-0) now has to be considered large schools for being up in D1 and is projected to be a top four seed in the D1 playoffs. Hanford, on the other hand, hasn’t been at the same level in recent years. The Bullpups also probably will be in the D1 playoffs, but are still being considered medium schools for our rankings. Hanford’s rivals from Lemoore are 6-1. The two are playing on Oct. 29.

Sac-Joaquin Section Teams to Watch: Antelope 7-0, Capital Christian (Sacramento) 5-2, Vacaville 5-2. Central Catholic of Modesto is the only team from the Valley Oak League that is not medium schools, but large schools due to it having to be in the D2 section playoffs. All other VOL teams are D3 or lower. The Raiders play Manteca this Friday (we will be there) and a win by Manteca would jump the Buffaloes into the top 50 and ahead of a lot of other teams in medium schools. Some of the locals already have Manteca higher, but Central Catholic has wins over St. Mary’s of Stockton and San Ramon Valley while we can’t quite forget Manteca losing to McClymonds in the 2019 CIF NorCal D2-A regional final and then again last spring. We know Capital Christian is currently ineligible for the SJS playoffs, but the Cougars are not ineligible to be ranked.

Central Coast Section Teams to Watch: Aptos 6-1, Burlingame 6-0, Palma (Salinas) 5-1. Los Gatos (7-0) would be large schools based on enrollment and where the Wildcats are projected to be in the CCS top division with Serra (San Mateo), St. Francis (Mountain View) and the rest. Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship, profiled by us last week, won his 300th game according to our count of varsity wins (not counting forfeits) when the Mariners rolled over Christopher of Gilroy, 38-7, last Saturday.

North Coast Section Teams to Watch: Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 4-2, Rancho Cotate (Rohnert Park) 5-1, Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 5-1, Tennyson (Hayward) 6-0. In past years, it’s always been Cardinal Newman or Marin Catholic at the top among schools we consider “medium” in the NCS. Windsor, now being led by head coach Paul Cronin after he came over from Cardinal Newman, is now in that role. In the NCS playoffs, though, Cronin’s team will be D3 while the other two will be D4.

Northern Section Teams to Watch: Chico 5-1, Foothill (Palo Cedro) 5-1. Chico’s only loss is to Whitney of Rocklin (CIF Sac-Joaquin Section large school). Based on recent years, it wouldn’t be a shock if Pleasant Valley of Chico was best at the end. The Vikings are only 3-3, but certainly played up during the non league portion of their schedule.

Oakland/San Francisco: McClymonds doesn’t appear to have much competition in its league/section. Lincoln of San Francisco is only 2-3, but is still favored to win the SF Section title and automatic CIF bowl berth. The Mustangs would then likely get a D6 or D7 regional seeding. They are still way too big of a school to be “small schools” so we wouldn’t be ranking them with the other small schools.


Jack Susank is the leading running back for Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo. Photo: @MCPFootball /

1. St. Genevieve (Panorama City) 6-0
2. Menlo School (Atherton) 6-0
3. Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) 7-0
4. Escalon 6-1
5. Sutter 5-1
6. Half Moon Bay 1-4
7. Campbell Hall (North Hollywood) 8-0
8. Union Mine (El Dorado) 6-0
9. Bradshaw Christian (Sacramento) 7-0
10. Dos Palos 7-0
11. Santa Cruz 6-0
12. St. Vincent de Paul (Petaluma) 6-0
13. St. Anthony (Long Beach) 5-3
14. Strathmore 7-0
15. St. Helena 5-1
16. Valley Christian (Cerritos) 5-1

Notes & Comments: Computer rankings were checked for many of the teams that are considered “small schools” due to lower enrollments and traditions of the past (some of which go back more than 100 years). St. Genevieve and Menlo were close to being the highest. Among the Valiants’ most impressive wins has been 56-28 over Harvard-Westlake of Studio City (5-0 last spring). They won last week, 42-14, over La Salle of Pasadena behind Camdan McWright, who rushed 17 times for 240 yards and two TDs. We don’t think Menlo is going to have to play Serra of San Mateo in the top CIF Central Coast Section division like Half Moon Bay last year, but likely will be in the second division where there will be stiff large and medium schools waiting. QB Sergio Beltran went 20 of 25 for 292 yards and five TDs in last week’s 55-21 victory against Hillsdale of San Mateo. He now has 30 TD passes for the season.

San Diego Teams to Watch: Coronado 4-2, Escondido Charter 6-0, La Jolla Country Day 4-2. Escondido Charter is in D5 for the section playoffs while the other two will be in D4.

Southern Section Teams to Watch: Big Bear (Big Bear Lake) 7-1, Cantwell-Sacred Heart (Montebello) 5-1, Nordhoff (Ojai) 5-3, Rio Hondo Prep (Arcadia) 6-1, St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy (Downey) 6-1. Cantwell-Sacred Heart and St. Pius X are playing this week. The only loss for St. Pius X was to St. Anthony (now coached by former Long Beach Poly head coach Raul Lara). The Warriors have notable wins over Xavier Prep of Palm Desert plus Reseda (L.A. City Section) and South (Torrance), two teams that won section titles in 2019. Rio Hondo Prep’s only loss was in a game just last week to Campbell Hall (ranked above).

L.A. City Section: There are some small schools according to our criteria in the section. We were surprised recently to see that Crenshaw (lost to De La Salle in an Open Division state final not that long ago) now has such a low enrollment that it would be “small schools” in football. The Cougars are 3-2. Dymally (7-0) is an unbeaten team to keep an eye on.

Central Section Teams To Watch: Bishop Union 5-1, Corcoran 6-0, Firebaugh 6-1. We have Mission Prep, Dos Palos and Strathmore ranked above. Mission Prep and Dos Palos are currently projected to be D2 for the section playoffs and therefore would play much bigger schools. We laughed out loud when seeing that Bakersfield (one of the greatest large schools in state history) could play Dos Palos in a first-round game. Maybe it would be competitive, but it’s just sad and wouldn’t be fair to have the Broncos in such a contest. One of the teams currently projected to be a high seed in the section’s D4 playoffs is a team with one win (Independence of Bakersfield), which also isn’t even a small school.

Ryan Reynolds of Sutter was the State Small Schools Coach of the Year for the 2021 spring season. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Sac-Joaquin Section Teams To Watch: Hilmar 6-2, Ripon 6-2, Waterford 7-0. Union Mine has a slightly better computer ranking than Escalon, but we didn’t want to go too crazy on the Diamondbacks yet because they are facing Bradshaw Christian this week and instead wanted to put those two right next to each other (see above). Escalon’s only loss is to Kimball of Tracy (medium schools) and the Cougars still have some big Trans-Valley League games to get through. Note that the TVL winner would be D5 for the section playoffs if it was Escalon. Bradshaw Christian would be D6 even if it were to beat Union Mine.

Central Coast Section Teams To Watch: King City 5-0. Yes, we will look at small schools losing in a close game to a large school to boost its ranking and may have such a team No. 1 in small schools for the state at the end of the season. We’ll try to get a state champion in that spot, but it may not be possible. Half Moon Bay in CCS is a good example. The Cougars have lost to Salinas, Serra (San Mateo) and Los Gatos (all unbeaten and all large school) and they just lost 47-46 to a strong Menlo-Atherton (Atherton) squad that we saw beat Pleasant Valley of Chico 34-0 at the Honor Bowl. If HMB gets into the CCS D3 playoffs or lower, watch out.

North Coast Section Teams To Watch: Del Norte (Crescent City) 4-1, Salesian (Richmond) 5-0, San Marin (Novato) 6-0. We have St. Vincent de Paul as the highest ranked among schools we consider “small” from the NCS. It was only a one-point margin, however (14-13), when head coach Trent Herzog’s squad beat St. Helena. Salesian is being coached this year by Jahvid Best, the former Cal Bears and Detroit Lions running back who had his playing career cut short by concussions. We’ll find out how good Salesian is this week with a game against El Cerrito.

Northern Section Teams To Watch: Fall River (McArthur) 5-0, Paradise 5-1, University Prep (Redding) 6-0. Sutter is still the team to beat in the D3 section playoffs. The Huskies (ranked above) lost their only game to Foothill (Palo Cedro), which is medium schools. Paradise also has a loss to a bigger school (Enterprise of Redding), but is lower ranked by almost 100 positions in the state by the computer compared to University Prep. Fall River is the school that has won the section D5 title the last two times (2018, 2019) and then opted out of the CIF bowls. This year’s team had four straight shutouts to start the season before giving up points in what was still an impressive 46-12 win over Biggs.

Note: We consider most San Francisco/Oakland schools to be “medium” schools but the eventual S.F. winning team probably will be playing a small school from the NCS, SJS or Northern Section in a CIF NorCal regional bowl game.

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. David A. Guerrero
    Posted October 14, 2021 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Rio Hondo Prep a co-ed school has a high school student body of 88 students. They may be the smallest school playing 11 man football. No transfers in playing football. All developed within. Amazing!

  2. Mark Hatfield
    Posted October 14, 2021 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Why is Corona Del Mat not considered a Medium School? It is a public school with low transfer numbers and an enrollment of 2,000 or less.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted October 14, 2021 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Teams toward top of Sunset League usually are large schools. CdM also would have been in CIFSS D1 playoffs in 2019 under current CIFSS playoff format (which also is one of the reasons).

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