Oaks Christian, Bakersfield and Bellarmine get slotted into the No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 positions after the first three of De La Salle, Santa Margarita and Vista Murrieta. Check this post as well for the rest of the top 10.
Here are the teams ranked from No. 4 through No. 10 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason overall state football rankings (listed with last year’s win-loss record and coach’s record if available):
4. OAKS CHRISTIAN (WESTLAKE VILLAGE) 11-3
CIF Southern Section Northern Division finalist
Head Coach: Jeff Woodruff (First season)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Del Oro (Loomis). The Lions also will play a defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section champ in their second game on Saturday, Sept. 1 at home against Granite Bay.
Why This Ranking: After the first big three of De La Salle, Santa Margarita and Vista Murrieta, it was much more difficult to pull the trigger on a No. 4 preseason team in the state. While Oaks Christian is going to be without retired coach Bill Redell at the helm, the group of returning players is clearly stronger than that of Marmonte League rivals Westlake and St. Bonaventure. Seven players are back on offense, which was a unit that went for 42 points in a 49-42 loss to Westlake in the CIFSS Northern Division final.
Key Players: Junior quarterback Brandon Dawkins was the Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year after passing for 2,844 yards and 33 touchdowns. He also will be throwing once again to fellow junior Chris Davis after he latched on to 60 catches for 598 yards. The Lions have another talented wideout in senior Francis Owusu while senior Robert McGee is back to lead the offensive line. McGee is an ESPN 150 member and will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The defense has more slots to fill, but senior linebacker Cameron Judge (112 tackles) and senior nose guard Marcus Jones (12 sacks) should be more than solid.
5. BAKERSFIELD 13-0
CIF Central Section Division I champion
Head Coach: Paul Golla (66-23 at BHS)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Ventura. The Drillers’ biggest non-league game will be Friday, Sept. 14 against Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
Why This Ranking: Among teams that were undefeated last year, the Drillers have just about as much returning talent as anybody with seven starters back on offense and eight on defense. If quarterback Chris Hannible (the Bakersfield Californian’s Player of the Year) didn’t need to be replaced, this ranking might have been higher. The schedule also has been beefed up with the resumption of a series with Long Beach Poly. Those are the top two schools in the state for all-time wins so as compilers of the state record book it’s a rivalry we love and hope it continues.
Key Players: Among seven sophomores who started for Bakersfield in last year’s 38-3 romp past Bullard of Fresno in the Division I section final was receiver Kevin Hayes, who had six catches for 171 yards and two scores. Hayes has to be one of the state’s top juniors this season. Asuani Rufus is expected to take over the quarterback role and has the athleticism that Golla loves for his option-style offense. On defense, Kenneth Trueba returns at linebacker after piling up 126 tackles while Shaq Garrett is one to watch at nose guard. The Drillers also have one of the state’s top kickers, Parker Campbell, and a transfer running back, James Hosey, who could make some noise.
6. BELLARMINE (SAN JOSE) 12-2
CIF Central Section Open Division champion & CIF Division I state runner-up
Head Coach: Mike Janda (229 wins since 1984, needs four more to become third winningest in CCS history and most ever for a coach in the West Catholic Athletic League)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at home (San Jose City College) against De La Salle of Concord. This is a rematch of a thrilling double-overtime loss to the Spartans from last year that came within a missed extra point of ending De La Salle’s 20-year unbeaten streak against Bay Area opponents.
Why This Ranking: It’s mostly because the Bells get to open against No. 1 De La Salle at home and based on last year you’d think they have a shot. There are a lot of graduation losses to overcome, but Janda and his staff have been on a roll in recent years and know how to build a powerful squad. And in addition to the 26-23 and 42-37 losses last year to De La Salle and Santa Margarita, the Bells also have a lot of upcoming talent. Their JV team tied with the Spartans and prevented the DLS JVs from going 10-0.
Key Players: Filling the large shoes of graduated quarterback Travis McHugh will be eased by junior K.J. Carta-Samuels. K.J. is the younger brother of former Bells’ standout Austyn Carta-Samuels and already has committed to Vanderbilt. The top returning starter is linebacker and possible starting running back Kenneth Olugbode.
7. TESORO (RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA) 8-5
CIF Southern Section Pac-Five semifinalist
Head Coach: Brian Barnes (50-32, 41-19 at Tesoro)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Compton. The second game, which will be at home against Hart of Newhall, should be much more interesting.
Why This Ranking: Seven starters are returning on defense with eight back on offense from a team that knocked off defending champion Servite of Anaheim in last year’s CIFSS Pac-Five playoffs. Many of the returning starters also are of the three-year variety.
Key Players: The returning strength for the Titans is across the board, but it’s going to be very helpful that quarterback Matt Adam (All-South Coast League) is one of those returnees. Defensive back Nick Crouch, defensive tackle Chazz Roberts and running back/linebacker Nate Tago are all major honors candidates. Transfer linebacker Parker Wells from nearby JSerra also should help.
8. ALEMANY (MISSION HILLS) 8-3
CIF Southern Section Pac-Five playoff participant
Head Coach: Dean Herrington (53-20)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Pasadena. The third game against J.W. North will give the Warriors the chance to avenge a 36-35 loss from last season.
Why This Ranking: With seven starters coming back on offense plus six on defense, Alemany has a great chance to be as good or better than its 12-1 team of two seasons ago that was 12-0 entering the CIFSS Pac-Five semifinals. Although last year’s team didn’t get out of the first-round of the playoffs, none of the three losses were by more than five points.
Key Players: There may not be a better receiving corps in the state than at Alemany where USC-bound Steven Mitchell is joined by two other certain Division I recruits in Devin Ross and sophomore Desean Holmes. QB Devon Dunn also returns to throw to them. “If he was four inches taller, he would be one of the top recruits in the state,” Herrington said.
9. DEL ORO (LOOMIS) 13-2
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion & CIF Division II state runner-up
Head Coach: Casey Taylor (100-27, all at Del Oro)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village). After facing off against the Lions in what may be the state’s top matchup for Zero Week (other than Santa Margarita’s game in Arizona), the Golden Eagles then travel to Ventura County the next week to play Westlake.
Why This Ranking: As with Bellarmine playing De La Salle in its first game, Del Oro getting to play a highly ranked foe like Oaks Christian right off the bat is a big plus in the criteria we look at for preseason slotting of teams. This is also a team with five returning starters on defense plus four on offense, including all-state underclass running back Brandon Monroe, who committed to San Jose State on Monday. A strong upcoming 9-1 JV team also will help.
Key Players: In addition to starring at running back, Monroe will be one of the best in the Sac-Joaquin Section as a defensive back. Others expected to shine could be kicker Skyler Rand, two-way lineman Tanner Woods and linebacker Tyler Meteer. If Taylor can develop a quarterback to replace graduated standout Bobby Heatherington, then the Golden Eagles could make another spirited run toward a CIF bowl berth.
10. CENTENNIAL (CORONA) 12-2
CIF Southern Section Inland Division runner-up
Head Coach: Matt Logan (159-37, all at Centennial)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at St. Bonaventure (Ventura). The Huskies should be motivated for that one since the Seraphs came out to Riverside County and beat them last season.
Why This Ranking: It’s just slightly down – one spot to be exact – from where Centennial finished in the rankings last season. It’s a reflection of past success, the fact that the Huskies beat some strong teams last year easily (such as Rancho Cucamonga) and they lost on a touchdown in the closing seconds in last year’s CIFSS Inland Division final to Vista Murrieta. We think being somewhat of an underdog to the Broncos at the start of this year will be a good thing for this team.
Key Players: Cameron Hunt (6-4, 265) had a very good spring and summer and ranks as one of the state’s best offensive linemen. Another of those back up front is Anthony Juarez (6-6, 310). Miquon Johnson also is one of three defensive backs who are returning. Another plus is the receivers, led by returnees Chase Krivashel and Ryan Pascarella. The best from a 10-0 JV team should be Dvonta McKneely, Tre Watson and Jamie Pearson.
Note: Check back for additional Cal-Hi Sports preseason rankings over the upcoming week, including outlooks for each CIF regional bowl game division in the north and south. If you check back and do not see Cal-Hi Sports content, check our twitter page @CalHiSports or go to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/CalHiSportscom/162897664162 for updates. For corrections or comments, email Mark.Tennis@espn.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.