Part 3: Cal-Hi Sports Preseason 50

Andrew Moore and Mana Pauu showed flashes of great play for Servite in 2011. Mark Tennis/ESPNHS

Servite still has running game to challenge for CIFSS Pac-Five title, Oceanside looks for a return to the top of the San Diego Section while Rancho Cucamonga may have more D1 defensive recruits than anyone. Check this post as well for the rest of the top 25.

With contributions from Harold Abend and Paul Muyskens, here are the teams ranked from No. 11 through No. 25 in the Cal-Hi Sports preseason overall state football rankings (listed with last year’s win-loss record and coach’s record if available):


CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division quarterfinalist

Head Coach: Troy Thomas (106-31 including years at Crespi of Encino)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Bishop Amat. The team’s second game at Rancho Cucamonga will be against a team that also is in the preseason state top 20.

Why This Ranking: The Friars were No. 2 in the state for most of last season before losing in the playoffs to Tesoro. With Tesoro getting a top 10 preseason ranking, Servite also can start fairly high. A new quarterback must come through, but five starters are back on both sides of the ball. With Santa Margarita getting so much attention, don’t forget that Servite has won the Trinity League title in each of Thomas’ seasons since 2005.

Key Players: For depth at the running back position, the Friars may have no equal. Senior Salesi Eteaki, senior Mana Pauu and junior Andrew Moore are all over 200 pounds, can hit the corners and provide fresh legs throughout a game. The defense should feature linebacker Joel Foy and nose guard Austin Pyka. Kicker Nick Mares is another top returnee.

12. OCEANSIDE 9-3-1

CIF San Diego Section Division II runner-up

Head Coach: John Carroll (216-95-6 overall including years at Kennedy of La Palma)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 vs. Oakdale at Westlake of Westlake Village in first varsity game of U.S. Armed Forces Allegiant Battle For Veterans Football Invitational.

Why This Ranking: The Pirates are loaded with 11 returning starters (five defense, six offense) and should be hungry to get back to their title-winning ways in the CIF San Diego Section. They had won seven straight section crowns before last season’s title-game loss to eventual CIF Division II state champ Helix.

Key Players: Quarterback Tofi Paopao is much improved and seems poised to have a huge season, his third as the starter. Three other honors candidates are fullback/linebacker William Gulley, receiver Ryshaud Keegan and cornerback Jace Whittaker. The biggest concern is up front on both offense and defense.


CIF Southern Section Inland Division semifinalist

Head Coach: Nick Baiz

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Redlands at Los Osos High. While the Terriers should provide a good opening test, the Cougars’ second game against state-ranked Servite should be the one that sets the tone for the rest of the regular season.

Why This Ranking: With a defense that features four big-time senior recruits, the Cougars are going to be hard to beat again this season. We thought about having them higher, but couldn’t get past a 20-point loss to No. 10 Corona Centennial. The Huskies probably should be higher until proven otherwise.

Key Players: The Rancho Cucamonga secondary will feature two of the top players in the country as senior corner Chris Hawkins has committed to USC and senior safety Tahaan Goodman has received offers from nearly every top Division I program. Senior linebackers Viliami and A.J. Latu are also receiving offers from Pac-12 schools and many other Division I programs as well. Viliami Latu also is a returning first team All-State underclass choice. Receiver Jermel Walker has committed to Oregon State while running back Tyan Washington is back after rushing for 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns.


CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinalist

Head Coach: Brian Gray (fourth season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Elk Grove. The Thundering Herd also should be among the top teams in the section this season.

Why This Ranking: The Trojans once again have a very strong preseason schedule that includes games against Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove, rival St. Mary's of Stockton and Granite Bay in addition to Elk Grove. They have probably the best quarterback-running back combo in the state and one of the best in the country. If there were some linemen returning up front to block and if St. Mary’s did not have so many recent wins over Lincoln, the preseason ranking would have been higher.

Key Players: It's easy to point to quarterback Zack Greenlee and running back Justin Davis. Greenlee passed for 2,340 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and was one of the top 11 quarterbacks (No. 4 in the final rankings) at the ESPN-produced Elite 11 camp. The USC-bound Davis rushed for 2,380 yards and 36 touchdowns last season and was first team All-State. Linebacker Adrian Ramos is the leading returnee on defense after 63 tackles and four sacks last year.


CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division quarterfinalist

Head Coach: Raul Lara (118-25 since 2001)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Carson. The Colts are often difficult to beat, but the Jackrabbits’ strongest opponents before Moore League play begins are Bakersfield and Narbonne.

Why This Ranking: It seems like the Jackrabbits have never quite recovered from losing in the 2008 CIF Open Division bowl game to Sacramento Grant. The talent continues to develop and move on to the next level, however, and this year 12 starters are back. The continuing problem of not having a blue-chip quarterback to go with everything else remains a question.

Key Players: Headlining a group of seven defensive regulars with starting experience is secondary star David Price. Linebacker Jayon Brown and defensive lineman Raymon Price, who also are getting Division I college interest, return as well. On offense, watch out for Washington State-bound running back Gerard Wicks, running back Manu Luuga and receiver Thomas Tucker.

16. ELK GROVE 12-1

CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinalist

Head Coach: Chris Nixon (26-18 in three previous seasons)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Lincoln (Stockton). If Del Oro doesn’t upset Oaks Christian in its first game, it looks like the winner of Lincoln-Elk Grove will be No. 1 in the Sac-Joaquin Section after zero week.

Why This Ranking: Eleven starters return from a Thundering Herd squad that won their first 12 games last season before losing to Folsom in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II semifinals. The team’s biggest win came against Grant of Sacramento. It also helps with a preseason ranking that Elk Grove opens at Lincoln.

Key Players: Running back Robert Frazier rushed for 1,494 yards and 21 touchdowns while junior Wadus Parker rushed for 813 yards and 15 touchdowns as part of a rushing-dominated offense that combined to rush for 4,650 yards and score 74 touchdowns. Elk Grove’s defense should feature two of the section’s top juniors – linebacker Noah Letuligasenoa and defensive end B’Won Canada.


CIF Southern Section Pac-Five semifinalist

Head Coach: Bob Johnson (277-72-1 including years at El Toro of Lake Forest)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Centennial (Bakersfield). The Diablos could be 5-0 heading into their game against Redlands East Valley, a team they lost to last season.

Why This Ranking: Given the Diablos’ success in the last 10 years, it’s actually difficult not slotting them higher. The reason they are in the top 20 is defense with five starters back, including an All-American candidate. The reason they aren’t higher is it’s going to be an almost entirely new offense.

Key Players: Max Redfield is the All-America candidate. He’s headed to USC and it’s hard to imagine the Johnson braintrust (including Brett, the offensive coordinator) not using him effectively on offense. Young players from a 10-0 JV team will help as will the arrival of Orange Lutheran transfer quarterback Ian Fieber.


CIF L.A. City Section Division I champion

Head Coach: Manuel Douglas

First Game: Thursday, Aug. 30 at Palos Verdes (Palos Verdes Estates). The Gauchos were victorious 34-32 in the season opener against the Sea Kings last year. Later games against Long Beach Poly and Gardena Serra will tell more.

Why This Ranking: A whopping total of 17 starters are back from a squad that captured the L.A. City Section Division I championship. Narbonne perhaps could be higher, but has yet to win any significant games against top teams from outside the section.

Key Players: Leading the offense once again will be quarterback Troy Williams, a University of Washington commit who passed for 3,247 yards and 34 touchdowns while rushing for 587 yards and 11 scores. Senior linebackers Marquis Lomax and Keishawn Bierria also are back after leading the team in tackles and defensive tackle Paulo Lepua returns after an eight-sack season.

19. HELIX (LA MESA) 13-1

CIF Division II state champion

Head Coach: Troy Starr (43-9-1 in fifth year at Helix, 182-45-2 including 14 years at Woodland Hills Taft)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 31 at Eastlake of Chula Vista. The schedule that got the Highlanders to Carson last year is the same for the first three weeks this year, and since the lone loss they had before running the table was to Eastlake to open last season, this season can’t start worse.

Why This Ranking: The Highlanders may not be the same team as last year, but they are talented and have two D1 college prospects returning out of five returning starters, four of whom play offense and defense. Key Players: The top returner is Kendal Keys, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior wide receiver and defensive back who has multiple college offers. Senior running back Michael Adkins also ran for 919 yards and 12 TDs last year. Josh Harris, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound junior, takes over at quarterback. Other newcomers who could make an impact are linebacker/tight end Ruben Leasau, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior, and Forrest Hanlon, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound freshman defensive end.


CIF Southern Section Western Division playoff participant

Head Coach: Scott Altenberg

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks). This is a rematch of last season's opener that saw the Cavaliers on the losing end of a 35-13 final score. Notre Dame could be much better this year as well so it’s going to be a significant contest.

Why This Ranking: A total of 16 starters, eight on both sides of the ball, return from last year's team that went undefeated in Mission League play. The talent level of those starters might not be quite like when USC stars Robert Woods and Marquis Lee were leading the way, but it’s close and junior Adoree Jackson (the CIF state champ in the long jump as a sophomore) sure has that type of talent.

Key Players: Junior signal caller Jalen Greene passed for 1,368 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 694 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore. He will have an experienced offensive line in front of him as well. In addition to Jackson in the secondary, senior linebacker Che Potasi and junior linebacker Dwight Williams return on defense.


CIF North Coast Section Division I runner-up

Head Coach: Mark Kessler (23-15 at SRV, 124-89-1 overall)

Why This Ranking: It might seem too high at first with quarterback Zach Kline moving on to Cal, but last year’s back-up, Cameron Birse, looked like a D-1 player himself all summer. Not including that position, 13 starters return from a squad last lost to De La Salle twice, the second time in the NCS championship.

Key Players: Birse will need a running back to step up alongside him. Possibilities include Marcus de la Pena, a junior, and Johan Williams, a transfer fullback. Receiver Matt Turner and tight end/linebacker Ryan Dunn (6-3, 210) also are back. Up front, the offensive line is a concern for Kessler, but two solid returnees are Alex Kim (6-2, 280) and junior Dom Arotzarena (6-0, 245).

22. GRANITE BAY 12-2

CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion

Head Coach: Ernie Cooper (151-61-2 including years at Aptos)

First Game: Saturday, Aug. 25 vs. Westlake (Westlake Village). After taking on the Warriors, who lost to De La Salle in last year’s CIF Open Division bowl game, the Grizzlies travel the next week to play state-ranked Oaks Christian of Westlake Village. Vacaville and Lincoln of Stockton also are on one of the toughest schedules in the state.

Why This Ranking: This year’s seniors have gone 29-2-1 in their years at the school, including last year’s section title. After seeing many of the Granite Bay players at the Nike Combine and Nike Camp, we also think there will be minimal damage due to graduation.

Key Players: Among a group of five starters back on defense is linebacker Beau Hershberger, who is one of the best at his position in Northern California. Lineman Tyler Arneson and defensive backs Aaron Knapp and Nick Grace are also returning. On offense (four starters back), the development of quarterback Grant Caraway will be critical. Others like receiver Ty Serna, receiver Tony Ellison and halfback Johnny Cooley should step in and make plays.


CIF Southern Section Northern Division champion & CIF Open Division runner-up

Head Coach: Jim Benkert (204-75-5 since 1989)

First Game: Saturday, Aug. 25 vs. Granite Bay at Del Oro (Loomis). The Warriors then play Del Oro at home the following week.

Why This Ranking: Westlake would have been ranked higher if not for the surprising decision by quarterback Justin Moore to stop playing football after his junior season. Even if Moore had come back, the Warriors still need to replace many standout linemen. Benkert’s track record of success (Westlake was No. 3 in the 2011 final rankings and was in the top 10 for 2009 and 2010) plus the return of one standout still keeps the team in the top 25 until proven otherwise.

Key Players: Senior corner and running back Dashon Hunt is one of the top players in the state as he led the team with 1,274 yards rushing along with 18 scores while also recording 63 tackles and intercepting six passes from the secondary position last year. Linebacker Dylan Ray is the team's top returning tackler.

24. EDISON (FRESNO) 10-2

CIF Central Section Division I semifinalist

Head Coach: Ricky Manning Jr. (first season)

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 at Clovis. The Tigers also are taking on Carson and Crenshaw of the L.A. City Section this year.

Why This Ranking: Some in the Central Section have the Tigers even higher to start in the preseason than Bakersfield. We don’t because Bakersfield has even more returning starters and beat Edison 33-14 last year. Manning, a former NFL player, returns to Edison to take over for previous coach Tim McDonald, who is now an assistant at Fresno State.

Key Players: The enthusiasm for the Tigers primarily relates to the return of quarterback Khari McGee. An athlete cut from the mold of Robert Griffin III, McGee passed for 2,529 yards an 28 scores as a junior and added 633 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. A fleet group of wideouts, led by Deandre Howard, along with junior running backs Blake Wright (an all-state sophomore) and Kevin Nutt should make Edison’s offense even more dangerous. Tackle Brandon Wright is the top veteran player on defense.

25. UPLAND 12-1

CIF Southern Section Inland Division semifinalist

Head Coach: Tim Salter

First Game: Friday, Aug. 24 vs. Muir (Pasadena). The Highlanders’ schedule before league play has them not playing a single team from last season's preleague portion of the schedule.

Why This Ranking: It’s definitely a drop from where Upland ended in last year’s final rankings (No. 11) due to the loss of several prime-time players, such as receiver Kenny Lawler and running back Donta Abron Jr. But having quarterback Nate Romine once again at the controls will help tremendously and prime-time pass rusher Joe Mathis also returns.

Key Players: Romine has started to receive attention from some schools like Boise State and Oregon after passing for 2,192 yards and 22 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Mathis had 79 tackles and six sacks and is regarded as one of the top defensive end recruits in the state. Linebacker Kendal Dukes also had 76 tackles last year while defensive back Delvin Batsiste is headed to San Diego State.

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 markjtennis@gmail.com.