For the eighth straight year since Mater Dei of Santa Ana and St. John Bosco have gone on their current run of dominance atop California (and really the nation), the winning team from the season before gets to start out No. 1 for the following season. That means until they play again it will be Bosco at No. 1 and MD at No. 2. Where to put NorCal No. 1 Serra of San Mateo into the mix of the next three to seven teams from the CIF Southern Section was one of the hardest choices to make.
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1. ST. JOHN BOSCO (BELLFLOWER)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 13-1, No. 1
First Game: Friday, Aug. 18 vs. Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) at home
One year ago, the Braves were No. 2 in these preseason state rankings with Mater Dei at No. 1 despite almost universal consensus that they were going to be the stronger squad. That was because it was MD that had been on top the year before and as we’ve said a million times with these two teams so far ahead of everyone else what difference does it make where they are ranked since they are likely going to be playing each other twice? For us, it’s simple. The winning team from the last game is ranked higher until they play again.
Bosco actually broke a three-game slide against the Monarchs in last year’s CIF Southern Section D1 final and then won its third CIF Open Division state title since 2016 with an easy romp past Serra of San Mateo.
Mater Dei may have the best collection of talent in all positions of the field as any team coming into a season in the history of U.S. high school football. The Monarchs will still likely have to figure out ways to score against the Braves’ defense, which was in some ways could be called the best unit on that side of the ball in state history. The Bosco defense is going to be insane once again.
Recent Notre Dame commit Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa (6-3, 230) at linebacker and three-year standout Peyton Woodyard (6-3, 190) at defensive back would have to be the top two players for the Braves’ defense. Viliamu-Asa had 111 tackles last season. Woodyard, who just flipped his commitment to Georgia that he made on national TV last January to Alabama, has been one of the top-ranked Class of 2024 DBs for more than two years. Jordan Lockhart (Texas A&M) at LB and Marcellus Williams (USC) at DB also have all-state first team potential.
The main questions for head coach Jason Negro (who needs eight wins to earn the 200th milestone win of his career) and his staff surround the offense. QB Pierce Clarkson is now at Louisville so it will be Caleb Sanchez looking to step up at starter. The receiving corps also was decimated by graduation, but transfer Jason Mitchell from Gardena Serra and upcoming junior Kamryn Jones should be among the leaders. The running back group is the opposite as Cameron Jones (UCLA commit) is a beast running inside the tackles and either Chauncey Sylvester or Khalil Warren can break loose for long scoring runs.
The Bosco schedule this season is remarkable in that it seems to us will be a national record for miles traveled. The team has one trip for Aug. 26 to play St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida in Florida and then on Sept. 16 will be going to Hawaii to play Kahuku. All those miles and the team the Braves likely will have to beat to win another national title is that same one they’ve been dealing with the past eight years and that’s just down the road about 20 miles in Santa Ana.
2. MATER DEI (SANTA ANA)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 12-1, No. 2
First Game: Friday, Aug. 18 at Centennial (Corona)
It’s a new era after 34 years at the corner of Bristol and Edinger avenues in Santa Ana as Frank McManus is the new head coach due to the retirement of the legendary Bruce Rollinson.
When Rollinson announced he would be stepping down before the CIFSS championship game in a switch of a previous statement in which he said he would be back, he said one of the reasons to do it now was so that the new coach would have a lot of experienced players to work with. Ain’t that the truth.
McManus, who previously was the defensive backs coach and was hired later in the spring, will have one of the top five QBs in the nation (Elijah Brown), two of the top five or 10 offensive linemen in the nation (Brandon Baker & DeAndre Carter), perhaps the top junior running back in the nation (Jordon Davison), one of the top 10 junior receivers in the state (Marcus Harris), one of the top defensive linemen in the nation (Aydin Breland), perhaps the top junior linebacker in the nation (Nasir Wyatt), one of the top senior and junior defensive backs in the nation (Zabien Brown & Daryus Dixson) and even perhaps the No. 1 long-snapper in the nation (Rylan Vagana). It’s one of those situations in which almost everyone is back from a team that beat St. John Bosco early in the season only to have a 29-game win streak snapped later on. As mentioned before, the only reason we don’t have MD at No. 1 to start (which is where the team is starting in all of the national rankings we’ve seen) is because the Braves won in the last meeting between the two.
Brown is 29-1 as a starter after he took over from 2019 starter, Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL Draft pick Bryce Young. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes last season for 2,785 yards and 31 TDs and he has committed to Stanford. Davison led the team with 1,541 yards rushing as a sophomore, but senior teammate Nathaniel Frazier has more speed (10.58 in the 100) so it very well could be thunder with Davison and lightning with Frazier.
The defense also has a lot more to like than just Breland, Wyatt plus Brown and Dixson on the back end. Senior Zeus Venegas was second on the team in tackles for loss and is quite versatile on where he can line up. Also collecting numerous D1 offers are senior DBs Ramere Davis and Jeilani Davis.
After the season-opener at Corona Centennial, Mater Dei’s toughest game before the start of the Trinity League may be on Sept. 22 at St. Frances of Baltimore (Md.).
3. CENTENNIAL (CORONA)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 9-2, No. 3
First Game: Friday, Aug. 18 vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) at home
There was a clear pecking order at the end of last season for the CIF Southern Section teams after St. John Bosco and Mater Dei. Based on head-to-head results, it was Los Alamitos next (win over Long Beach Poly), Long Beach Poly (win over Mission Viejo), Mission Viejo (win over Centennial) and then Centennial.
To start this season, that order is different for a couple of reasons: Centennial’s first game once again is going to be against Mater Dei and Centennial has added several key transfers to a lineup that already had some impressive veterans.
Head coach Matt Logan’s offense is expected to revolve around transfer QB Husan Longstreet, who passed for 3,941 yards and 41 touchdowns last season for 13-1 Inglewood. Longstreet did that as a sophomore. The offense already was going to have some punch with the return of leading rusher Cornell Hatcher. The offensive line also has returning strength with Iowa State-committed twins Wade and Brent Helton (6-5, 280) plus junior standout Drew Hill (6-3, 265), who has D1 offers. Returning WR Cory Butler Jr. will be joined by transfer WR Jason Harris Jr. from Rancho Cucamonga.
The defensive duo in the secondary of Tayten Beyer (San Diego State) and Larue Zamarano (6-1, 170) looks like a real strength of the Huskies as well. M.L. King transfer LB Dez Polamalu (6-2, 250) could be another who has a breakout season. Another transfer who could make an impact is Tye Smith (6-2, 230) who previously was at Loyola of Los Angeles.
4. LONG BEACH POLY (LONG BEACH)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 10-1, No. 4.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 12 at Konawaena (Hawaii)
Based on the returning starters expected back at the end of last season, we had penciled in the Jackrabbits as the top team from the CIFSS behind Bosco and Mater Dei. It didn’t quite happen, but they’ll probably be third after the first week of results are in.
Head coach Stephen Barbee has done a great job re-instilling that championship DNA at the School of Champions. Unless the program starts bringing in transfer/regional talent like the big two, though, getting all the way back to No. 1 in the state will remain a huge challenge.
QB Darius Curry stepped up last season as the team’s leader and will be looking to step up further among the various player of the year candidates. The Colorado State commit passed for 3,007 yards and 38 TDs plus he ran for five scores. Speedy senior Jason Robinson and similar junior Jadyn Robinson were expected back on offense, but both transferred out. Coming in from Kansas, however, was junior Caden Butler (numerous D1 offers). Butler joins a group that still has multiple D1 recruits despite the Robinsons leaving with senior Titus Bordeaux and junior Jordan Malau’ulu.
Poly has two linebackers returning to lead the defense. Dylan Williams (6-3, 210) was an early commit to USC and wore USC garb in the game we saw him play last season. He recently switched to Oregon, but either way he’s one of the top edge style LBs in the state. Joshua Cason (5-9, 215) is also back and has 163 career tackles. Michael Beresford, a transfer from Palos Verdes who had seven interceptions last season, will help in the secondary.
The team opens up in Hawaii this week against a Konawaena team that was 11-1 last season, then has one week off before a huge matchup vs nationally ranked Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas).
5. SERRA (SAN MATEO)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 13-1, No. 7
First Game: Saturday, Aug. 26 vs. Folsom at home.
Despite the lopsided loss in the CIF Open Division state final to St. John Bosco, that didn’t diminish a historically great season for the Padres. After all, Mater Dei had won in its CIF Southern Section semifinal 52-0 and there was no chance any of the other CIFSS teams or any other teams in the state were close to those top two. It was supposed to be, however, mostly a rebuild type of season as a group stacked with a ton of juniors won its first two games on the road at Folsom and at De La Salle and then went on to win the CIF Central Coast Section D1 title.
Serra has most of its offense and defense returning and should be better so for these rankings we put the Padres into the middle of the group of teams from the CIFSS that project to be D1 there. The trick will be to beat Folsom and De La Salle, this year back-to-back at home, to get the year started.
QB Maealiuaki Smith has numerous D1 offers coming into his senior year. He passed for 2,546 yards and 34 TDs last season. Head coach Patrick Walsh likes to use different running backs (kind of going with the hot hand until it gets stopped) and two of the best last season were Jaden Green and Danny Niu, who are both back as well.
The defense should be even stronger. Linebacker Jabari Mann and defensive back Joseph Bey were the team’s first and third leading tacklers last season and both have committed to San Jose State. Junior Teddy Ching is back after collecting four interceptions (which led the team) and senior LB Marley Alapati has been a force since he was starting as a sophomore at De La Salle.
Like last year, since Serra is playing both DLS and Folsom early on, the NorCal race for the CIF Open Division berth probably will be decided as well early on.
6. MISSION VIEJO
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 10-2, No. 5
First Game: Friday, August 18 vs. El Camino (Oceanside)
This team that beat Corona Centennial last year is starting behind the Huskies this season due to a lot of grad losses on offense, but we also weren’t going to start the Diablos behind Sierra Canyon. They didn’t just beat the Trailblazers last season, they rocked them 41-0.
Head coach Chad Johnson has continued to keep the program near the top of the state for public schools (along with Corona Centennial and Folsom with Long Beach Poly moving up last year) and has another strong squad.
The back end of the defense is one of the best in the state, including the big two. Dijon Lee is rated as one of the top junior corners in the nation and is coming off of a huge summer. Travis Anderson also is back after ranking among the state leaders with nine interceptions. Both he and preseason All-Orange County DB Treyvon Tolmaire have committed to Boise State. First team preseason All-OC linebacker Jack Matranga along with another leading tackler from last season, senior Jonavan Asuncion, also return.
The offense is where work needs to be done. According to the OC Register, sophomore Luke Fahey and junior Drai Trudeau are in a battle to be the starter. The offensive line has a great anchor with UCLA commit Mark Shroller (6-6, 275) along with three-year starter Reed Lancaster snapping the ball at center.
Mission’s other strength is special teams. The return game has always been dangerous, but kicker Michael Salgado-Medina is one of the best in the nation. He made 12 of 14 field goal attempts last season with a long of 49. The Arizona commit also has a 5-Star ranking from Chris Sailer Kicking.
7. SIERRA CANYON (CHATSWORTH)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 10-5, No. 14.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 18 vs. JSerra (SJ Capistrano) at home
Yes, with all of the returning players and the addition of key impact transfers, Sierra Canyon looks ready to move up this season into that next group of CIFSS contenders that project to be D1 for the playoffs but not yet up there with the big two. We weren’t going to start the team this year in front of Mission Viejo (lost 27-10 two years ago and 41-0 last season) until it shows it can actually beat a team like that.
Returning L.A. Daily News Player of the Year Dane Dunn had his best games down the stretch as the Trailblazers got hot and won the CIFSS D2 championship. He finished with 1,925 yards and 24 TDs and was considered runner-up to Mater Dei’s Jordon Davison for Soph State Player of the Year. It’s the rest of the offense, though, that has been super-charged with transfers. Junior QB Wyatt Becker moves over from Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) and has several P5 offers. USC commit Xavier Jordan previously put up big receiving numbers at Cathedral of Los Angeles while Kwazi Gilmer (previously at Chaminade) already had a lot of recruiting attention before he arrived. The offensive line will be led by 375-pound behemoth Eugene Brooks (committed to Oklahoma).
Leading tackler from last year Carmel Crunk doesn’t seem to have the offers of others on the team, but probably should. The defense also returns DB Jae’on Young, who led the squad last season with five interceptions. Like the offense, the defense also has an impact transfer from Chaminade as Marquis Gallegos arrives with all-league, all-area and all-state credentials. He has committed to USC. One of the top soph DBs in the state, Madden Riordan, is another to watch.
8. LOS ALAMITOS
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 9-3, No. 3.
First Game: Friday, Aug. 18 at Western (Anaheim)
It’s been tough to follow the Griffins this off-season with players transferring in and out of the program. The transfers were needed to help with all of the losses due to graduation from last year, especially with QB Malachi Nelson headed off to USC along with 2021 State Junior of the Year Makai Lemon. Still, they were a legit No. 3 last season and starting off inside the top 10 was going to happen again until proven otherwise on the field.
The biggest incoming transfer has been TE Davon Mitchell from Allen, Texas. He was initially ranked as the No. 1 Class of 2025 prospect in the state (based on national rankings) but then reclassified to Class of 2024. He was then placed No. 9 in that group and has committed to Oklahoma. QB Alonzo Esparza also has checked in from Sierra Canyon.
On defense, four-star DB Isaiah Rubin has arrived from Las Vegas and is getting major offers. The defense also has two significant returnees up front with sophomores Kapono Mao (6-0, 300) and Manoah Faupusa (6-2, 300). They were two of the top frosh players we saw last season. Watch out as well for junior LB Sirr Bible and junior DB Josh Tuchek.
9. DE LA SALLE (CONCORD)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 9-4, No. 9.
First Game: Aug. 24 vs Lutheran (Orange) at home
It was written a year ago that a 10-3 season for the Spartans just wasn’t acceptable to the coaching staff, so a 9-4 season that followed had to be even more difficult to accept (the first without at least 10 wins there since the early 1980s). Still, De La Salle had to feel a little better about the season due to an avenging win over Folsom for the CIF NorCal D1-AA title.
A big change from a year ago instituted by head coach Justin Alumbaugh — it really has been 10 years now since he took over from all-time winningest California head coach Bob Ladouceur — is for him to go back to his roots and lead the defense while moving assistant coach Kevin Fordon to lead the offense. The offense is going to have lots of speed to work with, too. Junior QB Toa Faavae took over the starter’s role by the playoffs and had 645 yards rushing with 11 TDs. He scored on the longest run in a CIF state title game (88 yards) in the loss to San Diego Lincoln. RBs Derrick Blanche (senior) and Dominic Kelley (junior) are back and are getting D1 offers.
The De La Salle defense has a lot of returning strength. DB Johnathan Guerrero led the team in interceptions and will be joined in the secondary by Robert Santiago (lots of D1 offers) and one of the top sophomores in the state in Jaden Jefferson. Leading tackler Chris Biller (6-1, 220) also is back while another up front will be Matt Johnson, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior who is looking like a high school version of the San Francisco 49ers’ Aric Armstead. Junior LB Andrew Cunningham (6-3, 220) is another returning starter who made plays last season and has D1 offers.
The main questions will be up front on offense where all-state linemen Derek Thompson and Cooper Powers have graduated. If that unit steps up, everything else could fall into place for a special season.
10. LUTHERAN (ORANGE)
2022 Record & Final TOP 50 Rank: 7-5, No. 12
First Game: Friday, Aug. 18 vs. Serra (Gardena) at home
It figures to be a battle between the Lancers and JSerra for third-place in the Trinity League behind Mater Dei and St. John Bosco and we’ll find out about both teams early on as the Lancers are playing Serra of Gardena before they head up to the Bay Area to play at De La Salle. JSerra is opening at Sierra Canyon.
It was easy to notice that last year not all of the best freshmen in the Trinity League were at the big two. OLu has been getting its share of top incoming players from various youth programs in the region and had two of the best ninth graders last year with LB Talanoa Ili and DL Auma Jennings. A year before it was DL Jireh Moe, who stepped up as a sophomore last year and was first team All-Trinity League. His two blocked PAT kicks were the difference in a 28-26 win over Santa Margarita.
The other reason to like the Lancers is the return of QB T.J. Lateef. He moved into a starter’s role as a sophomore and shined by completing 63 percent of his passes for 2,446 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has an offer from Georgia so that may be all you need to know about how good he can be.
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