More State FB Teams of the Year

Orland head coach Nick Velazquez (left) holds up CIF NorCal regional title trophy. At right, players from Los Alamitos head onto the field before game against Corona del Mar. Photos: JCouchot_Sports / & Mark Tennis.

Los Alamitos is the 2022 State Public Schools Team of the Year even with a 9-3 final record. This group of Griffins, however, does make us recall great teams from Los Al in 1994 and 2002. We also have Granite Hills of El Cajon (medium schools) and Escalon (small schools) collecting final No. 1 honors. Plus, there are separate teams of the year for D3 and D5 according to our longstanding five-division rankings format.



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NOTE: Divisional placement for each school is 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 traditional “small” schools representing smaller towns.


Makai Lemon was one of the leading players for Los Al. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Even with the fewest wins of any State Public School Team of the Year since the list begins in 1990, the Griffins get the nod due to all of the head-to-head results involving themselves and the other top public school teams in the CIF Southern Section. CIF San Diego Section Open Division & CIF D1-AA state champion Lincoln of San Diego also was considered.

Los Al’s big win was 52-42 over Long Beach Poly in the CIFSS D1 quarterfinals. The Jackrabbits entered that game at 10-0 and it was a matchup of No. 4 and No. 5 seeded teams. Los Al had two losses in the regular season, but they were to out-of-state nationally ranked opponents. Poly got that No. 5 seed due to a 34-30 win in the regular season over Mission Viejo, which opened the CIFSS D1 playoffs with a 31-28 victory over Corona Centennial. So in the end we have Centennial with a loss to Mission, Mission with a loss to LB Poly, and LB Poly with a loss to Los Al. None of those teams were close to the juggernauts of St. John Bosco and Mater Dei, but they are all public schools and the others are privates.

There were extenuating circumstances with injuries, but Lincoln had a loss to a CIFSS team (Alemany of Mission Hills) plus Centennial had a 41-7 win over Cathedral Catholic of San Diego (a team Lincoln defeated 31-17).

Los Alamitos featured one of the leading QBs in the nation, USC commit Malachi Nelson, plus it had the addition of running back Damian Henderson, who rushed for 237 yards in the win over Poly and had more than 2,000 yards for the season. Head coach Ray Fenton’s club also captured the Sunset Surf League title over state top 20 Edison (Huntington Beach) and state top 40 Corona del Mar (Newport Beach). The team lost in the CIFSS D1 semifinals, 52-0, to Mater Dei, but it was a squad with numerous players out with the flu.

It’s been awhile since the Griffins have been the State Public Schools Team of the Year. The last time shown is for 2002 and that was more of a controversial pick over Mission Viejo. Los Al went 13-0-1 that year, won the CIFSS D1 title with a 41-14 win over Mater Dei and also won in the semifinals 31-7 over Loyola of Los Angeles. The tie came on a Hail Mary pass at the end of a game with Hart (Newhall). Mission Viejo finished 14-0, but its title wasn’t in the top division. The only other year for the Griffins being the state’s No. 1 public school was 1994. That team lost its only game in a battle of unbeatens to Mater Dei in the CIFSS semifinals, which then knocked off national No. 1 Bishop Amat in the championship. State Team of the Year De La Salle, Mater Dei and Bishop Amat are all private.


2022 – Los Alamitos 9-3
2021 – Centennial (Corona) 11-1
2020 – 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*
*Also overall State Team of Year.
**Played in 2021 spring season.


For the second straight year, the CIF San Diego Section has a team getting the D2 and Medium Schools Team of Year selection. The team that did it last year, Mater Dei Catholic, also won the CIF D2-AA state title for a second straight year, but was moved up to D1 in its section and therefore was considered D1 for our five-division state rankings and no longer medium schools.

Granite Hills took a head-to-head loss to Madison of San Diego (D1) along with Poway (D1) but didn’t play Mater Dei Catholic. The Eagles won their final nine games, including victories over Ramona (48-12) for the D2 section title, Etiwanda (41-21) for the CIF SoCal D2-A regional title and then San Ramon Valley of Danville (31-24 in OT) for the CIF D2-A state championship.

This is the first-ever divisional or medium school state team of the year honor for Granite Hills. The school’s league rivals from Helix (La Mesa) were No. 1 in the state for D2 in 2011 and 2001.

There are a couple of CIF Southern Section schools that are considered D2 and medium schools that lost to D1 teams in the playoffs that also could have been chosen over Granite Hills. The two most prominent were Oak Hills of Hesperia and Yorba Linda. As stated many times, though, we do look to select teams of the year that win CIF state titles.


Coming from the same school that perhaps posted the greatest win in CIF Sac-Joaquin Section history — a triumph in 2008 over fabled Long Beach Poly in the first-ever Open Division state final — this group of Pacers set some history of its own.

Co-head coaches Carl Reed and Syd Thompson from Grant of Sacramento show off some of their hardware following state title win against San Jacinto. Photo:

That previous group came during a time when Grant had top-end talent to go with head coach Mike Alberghini. The Pacers weren’t State Team of the Year in 2008 — Corona Centennial gained that nod — but they were D2 team of the year and they also were D2 state team of the year in 2006.

This team set itself apart by coming back from several rebuilding seasons, including a 1-8 record on the field from just last season. Now, with more players coming up from the Grant Junior Pacers club team and co-head coach Syd Thompson (former NFL player) joining forces with AD and co-coach Carl Reed, the winning formula seems to be back.

Grant had a loss to an out-of-state team plus a more than respectable 45-42 loss to league rival Monterey Trail of Elk Grove. The team then went into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D3 playoffs and turned heads everywhere with an 80-45 win over Patterson in the semifinals, which was followed by a closer win against Christian Brothers in the final. The Pacers then dominated previously unbeaten El Cerrito, 36-7, in the NorCal regionals and in last Saturday’s CIF D3-AA state final won in an epic shootout, 36-34, over San Jacinto.


Yes, it could be argued that Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton be placed in this position, just like Menlo School of Atherton from last year. The Gators had a win over teams like Menlo, Menlo-Atherton and Los Gatos in the regular season, but had to play up in the CCS D1 playoffs and then lost 28-21 to Salinas.

But Escalon played up in a different way. It took on teams like Buchanan of Clovis, Windsor and Kimball of Tracy in a challenging preseason and lost its only game to Buchanan by one point in overtime. The Cougars then slipped up in the Trans-Valley League twice, but came back from that to win the CIF D4-AA state title. They defeated CIF Northern Section D2 champ Pleasant Valley of Chico, 35-21, in their regional final and turned back CIFSS D8 winner Northwood of Irvine, 28-7, for state.

This year’s Escalon team is ending No. 1 in the state for small schools and in D4 for the fourth time. The Cougars were unbeaten Sac-Joaquin Section champs with no state playoffs in 1993 and 1996 under former head coach Mark Loureiro. They upset San Diego Madison for a D3 state final in 2010 for Loureiro’s greatest victory and that team also was No. 1 in the state for small schools and in D4. This year’s team, under current head coach Andrew Beam, has now matched those three state teams under Loureiro.

This also is another No. 1 state small schools finish for the Trans-Valley League. It was just three years ago in 2019 when Ripon High got the honor (the same year Escalon won its second state title but in a lower division). Modesto Christian (2009) and Hilmar (2008) are the other two from the league to do it.


This is another selection in which some benefit of doubt is going to the team that won a CIF state title and has done something more historically great than any other.

For Orland, its 20-7 triumph over Shafter last week not only gave the school its first CIF state title but it also capped a 15-0 season that makes it the school with the best record in the state for the season.

Throughout the regular season, as Orland was winning games, it wasn’t known for sure whether the Trojans would be the best team in the CIF Northern Section D3 playoffs. University Prep of Redding had avenged an earlier loss with a 33-16 win over West Valley of Cottonwood in the semifinals, but against head coach Nick Velazquez’s squad it was his group that rolled to a 33-19 win.

With running QB Grant Foster leading the way, Orland then took out Clear Lake of Lakeport to win the CIF NorCal D5-A title.

Note that Hughson, which won the CIF D5-AA title, is D4 in five divisions. The team Hughson beat in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D6 final, Ripon Christian, is D5 and also was considered for the top spot.

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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