Here are the top 10 rankings for this division in Southern California by Cal-Hi Sports after all section championships are complete (previous ranking in parentheses; teams with asterisk are ineligible for bowl game):
1. (1) Helix (La Mesa) 12-1
2. (2) Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) 14-0
3. (4) Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 12-1
4. (5) Arroyo Grande 13-1
5. (7) West Covina 13-1
6. (8) Summit (Fontana) 13-1
7. (NR) Tustin 11-3
8. (6) El Toro (Lake Forest) 12-2*
9. (3) Palm Springs 13-1*
10. (NR) Chaminade (West Hills) 10-3*
Drops: Previous No. 9 Ridgeview (Bakersfield), No. 10 Heritage (Menifee).
Other section champs also eligible: Clovis North (Clovis) 11-3, Kingsburg 12-2, South East (South Gate) 13-1.
Case for Helix:
1. The Highlanders won the CIF San Diego Section Div. II title with a 44-6 rout over Oceanside. Oceanside was the seven-time defending division champion and the manner in which Helix defeated the Pirates was impressive. Oceanside only scored in the game's waning moments and Helix was impressive in every aspect of the game -- passing the ball, running the ball, defense and special teams.
2. Following its opening 21-14 loss to Eastlake of Chula Vista, Helix soundly defeated every one of its opponents. Quarterback Brandon Lewis led an explosive offense that put up less than 40 points in Helix's wins only once -- a 21-0 victory over Mission Hills of San Marcos in the section semifinals. The defense, led by ends Gary Thompson and Arthur Shepard, hasn't given up more than a single touchdown in nine consecutive games. Venice of the L.A. City section, an explosive offensive team, scored 20 points but besides that Helix's defense has been stingy. Helix's strength of schedule isn't particularly strong, but Highlanders soundly defeated every team put in front of them with the exception of that first game.
3. Looking at its personnel, Helix doesn't have a weakness you can point to and at the CIF San Diego Section championships at Qualcomm Stadium the Highlanders proved without a shadow of a doubt they are San Diego's best team period. Senior Darrion Hancock provides Helix with a downhill runner and junior Michael Adkins is an excellent change of pace back that makes the Highlanders' passing game even more potent. Helix's line has size and depth with Shepard and William Milo particularly effective on the left side. Both those players also shine on defense, but not too many players go both ways in the trenches. Helix's front seven is a strongpoint and can put tremendous pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Helix's secondary is rangy and closes to the ball well, particularly safety Kendal Keys. Cornerbacks Cameron Lee and Jimmy Pruitt get the job done and Keys and Lee are also two of Lewis' favorite targets at wide receiver.
Case for Rancho Verde:
1. The Mustangs won their first ever CIF Southern Section title with a 35-16 over Palm Springs and did not lose in becoming bowl eligible. It was an impressive win because Palm Springs came in unbeaten and they beat the Indians on their home field. Palm Springs wasn't as talented as Rancho Verde, but the Mustangs beat them convincingly in nearly every aspect of the game.
2. Similar to Helix, Rancho Verde's strength of schedule was not overwhelming. There is one difference, however, between the two – Helix lost a game and Rancho Verde did not. Even though we have ranked Helix ahead of Rancho Verde, the overall won-loss record is one aspect of the selection criteria that cannot be overlooked in the Helix-Rancho Verde case because the Highlanders' schedule was not strikingly better than Rancho Verde's. Besides beating Palm Springs, Rancho Verde owns a quality win over Heritage of Romoland, which lost in the CIF Southern Section Eastern Division final on Saturday night, and has won 27 of 28 games dating back to last season when they lost in the CIF Southern Section Central Division title game. A Heritage win sure would have been helpful to Rancho Verde’s cause.
3. Looking at its personnel, Rancho Verde would match up well with Helix if the teams actually played. If there were regional bowl games this season, Rancho Verde-Helix would be the most interesting game because both teams are truly deserving.
Helix vs. Rancho Verde scouting report
QB Carlos Hernandez does many of the things Brandon Lewis can do for his team at Helix, although he probably doesn't have the arm strength Lewis does. Hernandez didn't play his best game of the season against Palm Springs, but he played under control, didn't commit a turnover and Rancho Verde's offense was efficient with few penalties. Rancho Verde doesn't have much size on the perimeter, but has four capable wide receivers, including Breon Redman, Devonte Collier and big-time junior Demorea Stringfellow.
Rancho Verde doesn't have a runner like Helix's Hancock, but against Palm Springs seven players had a rushing attempt and all were capable, especially off the edge.
In a nutshell, Helix has more depth on the lines and Rancho Verde has more depth at the skill positions. The defensive front seven for both teams are real strong. Rancho Verde has a defensive playmaker similar to Helix's Thompson in middle linebacker Blair Brown. Rancho Verde's secondary gave up a lot of yards to Palm Springs and doesn't cover and close quite like Helix, but the group can make the big play. Collier is the only full-time two-way starter for Rancho Verde.
With the resume between the two teams being so close, it's important to look in-depth at the roster because it could make a difference in which team could represent Southern California best. In this case, both teams would be excellent choices and both have legitimate reasons why they should be picked.
*Arroyo Grande won the CIF Western Division title, but unlike Rancho Verde the Eagles did suffer a loss. The loss was to CIF Southern Section Northwest Division champion Lompoc, the favorite to represent SoCal in the Div. III bowl game. It was not a bad loss for Arroyo Grande, but it's more logical to nominate unbeaten Rancho Verde in this case. Helix's and Rancho Verde's speed and athleticism on defense also would seem to give them an edge over Arroyo Grande.
*Cathedral Catholic of San Diego won the CIF San Diego Section Div. III title, but Helix has a head-to-head win over the Dons.
*With one-loss El Toro losing in the CIF Southwest Division title game to Tustin, there is not another bowl eligible team that would come up in the final ratings to be as strong a candidate as Helix or Rancho Verde.