Medium/Small School Watch List

Ryker Peters (left) looks to make a move for Escalon during game last season vs Ripon. At right is Millikan of Long Beach QB Myles Jackson, who accounted for seven TDs in first game played Thursday vs Santa Ana. Photos: Samantha Schmidt / &

Among those to watch among schools we think will be in the D2-A to D-4AA range of the CIF state bowl games if they were to win a section title are Apple Valley, Central Valley Christian of Visalia, Vanden of Fairfield, Kingsburg, Marin Catholic and Cajon of San Bernardino. For the small schools (roughly D-4A to D-7A) it’s Escalon, Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton, St. Pius X-St. Matthias of Downey and La Jolla Country Day.


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With the emphasis on competitive equity seedings in most CIF section playoffs and then in the CIF regional championship matchups after that, it’s impossible to do any kind of divisional state ranking until the end of the season. No one knows which divisions most schools are going to be in until the various section playoffs are seeded.

Still, we are going to continue to look to recognize those top teams that from our 44 years of covering the state we know they are medium or small school in tradition, general school size and usually their league strength. Also by following these schools closely, it will be easier at the end to slot various players into medium or small school positions for all-state honors.

We already know some schools are not going to be medium schools anymore. This includes CIF state champions Mater Dei Catholic and Scripps Ranch in the CIF San Diego Section (going to D1 in that section) plus teams in the CIF Southern Section such as St. Bonaventure and Bishop Diego which are going to now be in the much more prestigious D1 Marmonte League. We also just found out on Thursday at Sac-Joaquin Section media day that Manteca is going to be D2 for that section so the Buffaloes are no longer medium for us. Inglewood and Warren of Downey also probably should have to be large instead of medium, too. We’ll just have to see about other schools as we find out more surrounding new leagues and new playoff formats.

We are listing each team below in alpha order and with last year’s record with a comment about each. Every Tuesday this season, we also will be adding a State Medium Schools Team of the Week and a State Small Schools Team of the Week to our weekly schedule. Eventually, state team rankings in those categories will be done and of course we’ll again be the best place to go for breaking down all of the possible CIF bowl game matchups (north and south) after the section playoffs are underway.

Note that 2021 CIF D4-A state champ Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco is from the famed West Catholic Athletic League and playing in such a D1 league makes the Irish ineligible to be considered medium or small schools.


Antelope 10-1
The Titans were in SJS D2 last year and lost in the first round to Central Catholic. While the Raiders are now in D1 in that section, Antelope is now D3 and therefore becomes eligible as medium schools for us. RB Curron Borders is one of the top returning players at his position in Northern California.

Curron Borders and the Antelope Titans are getting a lot of preseason attention in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. Photo:

Apple Valley 11-4
Hard-nosed FB/LB Dustin Reynolds and preseason all-state first team OL Raymond Pulido will have the Sun Devils contending for a CIFSS title (especially if they are in D3 and not D2).

Aquinas (San Bernardino) 11-5
Sophomore RB JoJo Solis was a freshman breakout star for the Falcons last season. They won CIFSS D7 crown in 2021 and should be strong enough to win in a higher division in 2022.

Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 9-6
Arlis Boardingham will be missed, but the Patriots are pegged by most in the CIF L.A. City Section to be the team to beat once again. San Pedro and Banning (Wilmington) from the Marine League also have support. Note that all CIF L.A. City teams are either medium or small. Medium due to competitive equity. Small would be those in the section due to enrollment.

Buena (Ventura) 10-4
The Bulldogs have the skill players, led by QB Zane Carter, to have a great season. They are another team that probably needs to land in a favorable CIFSS division (not too high).

Cajon (San Bernardino) 10-1
QB Martinez Miles Jr. on offense and Philander Lee on defense plus a lot of other returning talent has the Cowboys once again thinking about all the possibilities. Non-league matchup on Sept. 9 vs Aquinas will be a doozy.

Campolindo (Moraga) 10-4
In the NCS, competitive equity won’t jump the Cougars too high because the NCS still doesn’t use it. A great cast of returnees comes back for veteran head coach Kevin Macy, led by QB Dashiell Weaver and WR Robbie Mascheroni.

Central Valley Christian (Visalia) 11-5
Big-time rush end Jaedon Moore also will be a force on offense for the Cavs. Head coach Mason Hughes has 13 other returning starters. CVC may not be D2 in the section playoffs, but with 12 teams now in D1 instead of eight the odds for a smaller school like CVC to win it in D2 are better.

Chico 9-4
The Panthers won the top division of the CIF Northern Section last year and will have the top returning RB in the section in junior Dion Coleman.

Cypress 10-3
The Centurions made the CIFSS D4 semis last year but had to play Long Beach Poly and lost 35-0. It’s hard not to like them for 2022 with guys like Matthew Morrell (WR/ATH) and Memphis Stover (RB/LB) among the returnees.

Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 14-1
We have the Wildcats roughly in the same category as McClymonds, which handed them their only loss last season. There’s a solid group coming back for head coach Mazi Moayed and staff, including junior RB Charles Williams and OL Mac Dorward. Plus, QB Joey Cook has checked in as a transfer from nearby San Marin.

McClymonds (Oakland) 12-1
Head coach Michael Peters’ program won its fourth CIF state title last year in D3-A and clearly was placed too low on the CIF board. RB Javian Thomas is the returning star from last season. The Warriors are one of the only schools the CIF can start to think about where to put them before the season even begins. Their dominance of the Oakland Section has become that automatic.

Millikan (Long Beach) 6-5
Moore League teams like the Rams are medium due to competitive equity with Long Beach Poly in large. They’ve already won a game this week 62-13 over Santa Ana. QB Myles Jackson, RB Nygel Osborne, WR Ryan Pellum and WR Jordan Anderson are all elite talents.

Pasadena 10-3
The Turkey Tussle vs Muir to end the regular season at the Rose Bowl will likely decide a league title. The Bulldogs have all the talent they need to dream of even bigger things.

Ramona 9-4
A potentially great defense with LB experience plus DL Nick Driscoll (6-5, 245), DE Matt Malinson and sophomore Xavier Mumaw at DL has the Bulldog fans pumped. They are a D2 team to watch in the SD Section.

Rancho Cotate (Rohnert Park) 10-2
The Cougars and their league rivals from Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) are still medium. They won in last year’s game and return WR/DB Sailasa Vadrawale, perhaps the top player this year in the Redwood Empire.

St. Francis (La Canada) 10-3
Allen of Texas transfer RB Devyn Turner, QB Jack Jacobs returning plus a super-sized offensive line makes the Golden Knights a favorite over Loyola and St. Paul in the Angelus League. The Angelus still looks like it’s medium.

Vanden (Fairfield) 13-2
Last year’s CIF D3-AA state champs welcome back QB Tre Dimes on offense and DE Orion Null on defense. First game against Yuba City will be a test.

Yorba Linda 10-1
It will be a tough opener for the Mustangs against Damien (La Verne), but Damien is from a large school league. LB Wyatt Mosier also was one of the rare non-Trinity League players who was on our preseason All-Orange County team.


Bradshaw Christian (Sacramento) 11-2
Some grad losses will need to be overcome, but the Pride should be one of the teams to beat in the Sac-Joaquin Section for D6, especially with Rosemont of Sacramento now up in D4 (medium).

Hilmar 11-3
There’s a 100-year celebration of Hilmar High football going on this year in that Merced County community. The team should be good, with one of the top TEs in the SJS in Derek Taylor plus others, ready to challenge Escalon in the Trans-Valley League.

Garrett Bass-Sulpizo is the highly productive QB returning at La Jolla Country Day. Photo: Mark Tennis.

La Jolla Country Day 7-5
The Torres are still D4 in the SDS and figure to really pile up the stats behind QB Garrett Bass-Sulpizo, who we think should be getting more D1 recruiting attention.

Menlo School (Atherton) 12-1
Our top small school team from last season stayed there with its only loss coming to large school Wilcox in CCS D2 semis. Replacing QB Sergio Beltran and others from a great senior class will be tough.

Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) 10-1
Seeing this team having to play Bakersfield in the Central Section D2 playoffs last year was the height of competitive equity silliness. The Royals have some top-notch returnees, including junior RB/LB Drew Harrigan, grid-hooper Jamar Howard and TE Tyler Garrett.

Pierce (Arbuckle) 9-4
Manuel Lopez rushed for 1,692 yards for the Bears last year. They are looking to take advantage of graduation losses for defending Northern Section D4 champ University Prep. Sutter is now in the Sac-Joaquin Section while D7-AA state champ Fall River (McArthur) also has heavy grad losses.

Rim of the World (Lake Arrowhead) 8-2
Zach Gross comes back as one of the state’s rushing leaders with 2,311 yards and he scored 36 TDs. The Scots will need their o-line to still be strong with big Nate Maier now ripping it up as a freshman at Fresno State.

Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) 8-7
The Gators won CCS and CIF state titles in a much lower division than arch-rival Menlo would have and probably should have been in. Still, they only lost to Menlo 18-15 and would seem to have a stronger group of returning players than their rivals, including LB Shay O’Kelly and RB/LB Andrew Latu.

St. Pius X-St. Matthias (Downey)
It should be a huge season for QB Dieter Barr on offense. The Warriors also have one of the top junior DBs in California with Jordan Shaw. They’ve been hurt the last two seasons by being too high on the CIFSS playoff board, but qualify as a small school all the way.

Strathmore 11-1
The three leading tacklers from 2021 return for the Spartans – Jaime Arredondo, Raul Morales and Jacob Poole. They were in D3 in the section playoffs, which was too high. Just one spot lower and they could do some real damage.

St. Vincent de Paul (Petaluma) 11-2
RB Kai Hall and the rest of the Mustangs will be itching to have another great season and want to do better facing a NorCal regional foe like Argonaut from last year.

Sutter 10-2
The Huskies won CIF Northern Section titles for six of the last seven years, but are now going to be in the Sac-Joaquin. They will be in D6 in the SJS, which is not the same as Escalon or Hilmar but will be with Bradshaw Christian. The section said on Thursday that Sutter’s previous section titles won’t count toward a move up in divisions, but if the Huskies win in D6 this season you can bet the section will move them up at least to D5 next year.

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 19, 2022 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Looking at the present rankings Sutter High School is in V 3rd behind Escalon and Hilmar. Are they V or VI?

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted August 20, 2022 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Sutter is 6 in SJS. From section office.

      • Mark Santos
        Posted August 21, 2022 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        Sutter is D6, unless they win their league and then they would be D5?
        Or are they in a D6 league?

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