A few teams among those that were chosen for this year’s elite 50 list are hoping to bounce back from disappointing seasons, including Grant of Sacramento and Mater Dei of Santa Ana. Check this post for writeups through No. 50 plus list of 25 more teams to watch.
With contributions from Harold Abend and Paul Muyskens, here are the teams ranked from No. 40 through No. 50 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason overall state football rankings (listed with last year’s win-loss record and coach’s record if available):
40. POWAY 12-0-1
CIF San Diego Section Division I champion
Head Coach: Damian Gonzalez (48-37 in ninth season)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 in San Diego at Scripps Ranch. The Titans will then host La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad in their second game.
Why This Ranking: Several top players from the section title team are gone, but Gonzalez returns 11 starters, five on offense and six on defense. Undefeated teams from last year also almost always get benefit of the doubt in our preseason rankings.
Key Players: The stellar defense that only gave up more than 20 points twice last season will be led by Arizona-committed cornerback Derek Babiash and Nevada-bound 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker Alec Moreno. Babiash had a school record 10 interceptions last year, four of which he returned for touchdowns. Moreno recorded eight sacks. The offense returns 1,100 yard-rusher Nehemiah Gross. He’ll run behind two solid returning offensive lineman, Charlie Long and Tahj Haywood.
41. NEVADA UNION (GRASS VALLEY) 7-4
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff participant
Head Coach: Dave Humphers (190 career wins since 1991)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. McQueen (Reno, Nev.). The Miners opened the season with a 27-6 win in Nevada last year against the Lancers. They will resume a rivalry this season with Grant of Sacramento and also will play Elk Grove and Pleasant Grove.
Why This Ranking: Several standout players on both sides of the ball return along with an impact transfer. Several preseason rankings for the section also have already come out and there is a consensus that NUC will be one of the section’s top teams.
Key Players: Quarterback Kyle Cota passed for 1,768 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011 and will have a new weapon in Golden Empire League MVP Cole Hannum. Hannum transfered from Marysville where he averaged 10.5 tackles per game at linebacker and rushed for 1,827 yards. Linebacker Tanner Vallejo led the team last year with 158 tackles and has committed to Boise State while second-leading tackler Hank Humphers is also back.
42. GRANT (SACRAMENTO) 8-4
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinalist
Head Coach: Mike Alberghini (221-38 since 1991)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Paradise. The Pacers will also host Nevada Union of Grass Valley and Del Oro of Loomis before league play gets underway.
Why This Ranking: The Pacers may not bounce back and win a state championship like they did in 2008 after a four-loss season but they should be solid despite the loss of Shaq Thompson (now at Washington). Last year’s sub-par (for them) record also was due to a rash of injuries and many of those players are now back.
Key Players: Marquise Carter is the team's leading returning rusher after running for 649 yards and seven touchdowns. Trayvon Henderson also returns for his senior year after leading the team in receptions and tackles and is getting national attention from several big-time Division I programs. Also back on defense are linebackers Tui Lopa and junior Moses Moala after each recorded over 100 tackles last season. Defensive tackle Misi Taifane (6-3, 300) was MVP for his position at the Nike Camp while Shawn Matautia (6-3, 360) is a junior lineman to watch.
43. MATER DEI (SANTA ANA) 4-6
CIF Southern Section playoff qualifier 24 straight years until 2011
Head coach: Bruce Rollinson (218-70-2, all at MD)
Why This Ranking: Although the Monarchs missed out on the postseason in 2011 and had a losing record, almost all of the losses were close and they even beat Santa Margarita once. Fifteen starters return and several transfers have been added into the mix as well. If the team had a better record from last season, the preseason ranking surely would be higher.
Key Players: Ryan McMahon returns at quarterback and could be among the best in Orange County (he’s even better in baseball). Second team All-Orange County receiver Thomas Duarte also returns along with all-state sophomore Jonathan Lockett in the secondary. David Bright (6-6, 285) heads up the offensive line and will be joined by Huntington Beach transfer Sam Bush (6-5, 280), who was on the all-state sophomore team with Lockett.
44. FOLSOM 11-3
CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II runner-up
Head Coach: Kris Richardson (53-19-1 in seven years)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Woodcreek (Roseville). Too bad the Bulldogs aren’t playing Grant in their opener once again, but they do have San Ramon Valley.
Why This Ranking: Despite losing several talented players such as single-season passing yards state record holder Tanner Trosin from their explosive offense, the Bulldogs still return plenty of talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball with eight returning starters. And from watching a few of their players in 7-on-7 drills at the Nike Camp, we have a hunch that the passing game may not be that depleted anyway.
Key Players: Senior quarterback Taylor Miller-Wing shined at the Nike Camp earlier this spring and is even bigger physically than either Trosin or 2010 Mr. Football State Player of the Year Dano Graves. He'll have junior receiver Troy Knox lined up in the slot after he caught 66 passes last year. Quincy Capel returns on the defensive line while Phillip Carter returns in the secondary and also could step up as a pass catcher on offense.
45. PALO ALTO 10-3
CIF Central Coast Section Open Division runner-up
Head Coach: Earl Hanson (195 wins in 25th season)
First Game: Friday, Sept. 7 in Hollister versus San Benito. The Vikings also will play Archbishop Mitty of San Jose from the West Catholic Athletic League in their second game.
Why This Ranking: Few public school coaches boast the pedigree of Hansen, the 2010 State Coach of the Year, so despite the departure of most of the offensive firepower, any team the wily veteran puts on the field will be competing for a section title. “We’ll have some weapons,” Hansen told Cal-Hi Sports despite the fact he only has three offensive and three defensive returners. This also is a program that won a CIF state bowl title just two years ago.
Key Players: The biggest weapon will be quarterback Keller Chryst. Although he was one of the few incoming juniors at the Nike Elite 11 quarterbacks camp at Contra Costa College, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound son of San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst performed well. Last season he passed for 2,165 yards and 28 touchdowns. Other impact players will be the senior running back duo of Justin Mouton-Gates and Matt Tolbert, and Justin’s twin, Jayshawn Mouton-Gates.
46. HART (NEWHALL) 8-4
CIF Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinalist
Head Coach: Mike Herrington (237-66-2 since 1989)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at Tesoro of Mission Viejo. The Indians will find out quickly how good they can be this season since Tesoro should be one of the top teams in the CIFSS Pac-Five Division.
Why This Ranking: We actually try to pick what we think are a few “hunch” teams in the top 50 and this is one of them. Valencia has actually won the Foothill League title three years in a row, but Hart looks like it may have the pieces to get back to the throne. There are eight starters back on offense with six on defense.
Key Players: Quarterback Connor Wingenroth passed for 1,755 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore starter, but according to the L.A. Daily News is being pushed by current sophomore Brady White. The Indians also have one of the top sophomores in the state in receiver Trent Irwin. As a freshman, he had 50 catches for 785 yards and eight scores and looked fabulous in every event we saw him at during the spring and summer. Others to watch include lineman John Perkins (6-2, 265) and running back/defensive back Austin Murillo.
47. EL TORO (LAKE FOREST) 12-2
CIF Southern Section Southwestern Division runner-up
Head Coach: Rob Frith (26-11 in three seasons)
First Game: Thursday, Aug. 23 vs. Huntington Beach. This is a rematch of last season's opener that saw the Chargers open the year with a 23-21 road loss. They will play another tough opponent the following week with a game against Clovis at the Mission Viejo Classic.
Why This Ranking: Although the Chargers are moving to the South Coast League and might not match up physically with higher-ranked teams like Tesoro and Mission Viejo, their prolific passing attack make them a team to watch. They return most of their starters from last year's squad that won 12 straight and averaged 43 points per game before losing to Tustin in the CIFSS Southwest Division final.
Key Players: Conner Manning, a University of Utah commit, passed for over 4,200 yards and 41 touchdowns and will have almost all his weapons from last year back, including receiver Cody White (85 catches, 1,284 yards, 17 TDs) and running back Jacob Furnari (1,500 yards rushing, 24 TDs). A pair of senior linebackers are also returning as Gabe Cerda and Andrew Wilson each recorded over 100 tackles last season.
48. FREEDOM (OAKLEY) 10-2
CIF North Coast Section Division I quarterfinals
Head Coach: Kevin Hartwig (11th season)
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 in Pleasanton at Amador Valley. With only six teams in the Bay Valley Athletic League, the Falcons have some flexibility in their schedule and also have lined up a very strong Franklin of Elk Grove once again this season.
Why This Ranking: So what if the Falcons got blown out by De La Salle in the playoffs to end their season in 2011? It was a young team and that’s no shame. They return almost the entire offense from last year and the defense may be pretty solid as well.
Key Players: The top returner is three-year starter Darrell Daniels. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound wide receiver has committed to Washington. Three-year starter Dante Mayes also is back at quarterback. He passed for 1,557 yards and 22 TDs and rushed for 207 yards and two scores last season. Joe Mixon, a three-year starting running back with an offer from Oregon, returns as well after rushing for 1,134 yards and 13 touchdowns. In addition, four of the five offensive linemen from last year were underclassmen.
49. MONTE VISTA (DANVILLE) 8-5
CIF North Coast Section Division I semifinalist
Head Coach: Craig Bergman
First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Castro Valley. The other games before East Bay Athletic League competition begins will be against Berkeley and Pittsburg.
Why This Ranking: Although big-time quarterback Jeff Lockie is now at Oregon, the Mustangs should still be a force in the NCS with eight starters back on defense and six on offense.
Key Players: If new quarterback Nikita Zamora (a junior) gets the job done, the weapons around him will be potent. Tight end Mason Melin returns after catching 36 passes for 590 yards and nine touchdowns. Running back Zack Chang also is back with 1,222 rushing yards from last year. Most of the returnees are in the trenches, led by Nick Turcotte (6-3, 240) on offense and Brendan Landman (6-4, 200, Jr.) on defense.
50. CENTRAL (FRESNO) 8-3
CIF Central Section Division I playoff participant
Head Coach: Justin Garza (first season)
Why This Ranking: Although quarterback Michael Baker is gone and now at San Diego State, the Grizzlies have big-time talent across the board. Plus, new quarterback Eric Jimenez is said to be well-suited to run the new coach’s Pistol offense.
Key Players: Defensive back Hatari Byrd has already committed to Oklahoma, but he won’t be the only Grizzly secondary star who will play at the next level. Two seniors – Johnny Johnson and L.J. Moore – have multiple offers from Pac-12 schools. And junior Devon Brewer looks like he’ll fit right in with the other three. Lineman Sharif Williams (6-2, 300) and receiver Michiah Quick (37 catches) also are among those back.
25 MORE CALIFORNIA TEAMS TO WATCH:
Arroyo Grande 13-1
Buhach Colony (Atwater) 12-1
Campolindo (Moraga) 14-1
Canyon (Canyon Country) 9-3
Casa Grande (Petaluma) 8-4
Central Catholic (Modesto) 10-3
Chaminade (West Hills) 10-3
Clovis North (Clovis) 9-3
Culver City 10-4
Dorsey (Los Angeles) 11-2
Edison (Huntington Beach) 8-3
Foothill (Palo Cedro) 10-2
Foothill (Pleasanton) 4-6
Franklin (Elk Grove) 8-4
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 9-3
Liberty (Bakersfield) 8-3
Placer (Auburn) 9-3
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 8-4
Valley Christian (San Jose) 6-6
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.