Football: No. 8 Oaks Christian

Oaks Christian is coming off a championship season, winning the CIF Southern Section Northern Division title over Marmonte League rival Westlake. The Lions kept most of their defense in tact from a year ago, led by Arizona State-bound linebacker Carlos Mendoza and cornerback Ishmael Adams.

After winning a championship last season, Oaks Christian might be headed for a letdown. But coach Bill Redell points to the tradition that has quickly been established at the school in little more than a decade.

It has become expected the Oaks Christian football teams will win CIF championships. This team has a CIF state bowl game in its sights. Keeping the winning tradition alive at Oaks Christian is the main motivation for this team though.

Here's a closer look at the Lions:

Team: Oaks Christian.

Coach: Bill Redell, 12th year.

2010 Record: 12-2, won CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship, 29-28, over Westlake.

Returning starters: 14 total. Eight on defense, six on offense.

Key players on offense: RB Ishamel Adams, RB Carlos Mendoza, WR Jordan Payton, QB Luke Falk, QB Brandon Dawkins, OL Robert McGee, OL Marcus Piechowski.

Key players on defense: DB Ishmael Adams, LB Carlos Mendoza, DB Jordan Payton, LB Cameron Judge, LB Cole Taylor, DL Marcus Piechowski, DL Marcus Jones.

Difference maker: Jordan Payton. The senior wide receiver will shoulder the load on the offensive side of the ball. He caught 61 passes for 840 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior. Only Blair Holliday, now playing at Duke, had better numbers than Payton last season. Payton will also see considerable time at defensive back. He was committed to USC, but had second thoughts. According the Redell, Michigan is the leader in the clubhouse on the recruiting trail for Payton.

Newcomers: QB Luke Falk, WR Zack Hernandez, WR Zack Bornstein.

Not to be missed: Oaks Christian vs. Bellevue, Wash., Sept 3 at Mission Viejo High. Oaks Christian and the rest of the Marmonte League teams have only one preseason game. Oaks Christian scheduled one of the toughest teams in the country in Bellevue, the reigning 3A state champions from Washington. Bellevue enters the 2011 season as the top-ranked team in Washington and No. 42 team in the country as ranked by ESPN Rise.

Coach’s comment: "There’s great tradition here that the kids feel they need to continue. In fact we have a T-shirt that says Tradition Never Graduates. I think they want to keep up the tradition of a winning program.”

Final analysis: Oaks Christian has been quarterback prep for the past few years. The school has produced Jimmy Clausen, Nick Montana and continued the tradition of sending quarterbacks to major college programs when last year’s starter Richie Harrington made it on the Oregon State football team. Bill Redell said the starting quarterback job at Oaks Christian is still up for grabs between junior Luke Falk, a transfer from Utah, and sophomore Brandon Dawkins. The defense, led by linebacker Carlos Mendoza, who is headed to Arizona State, might be the strength of this team. Eight players return on defense, including Ishmael Adams at corner back, one of the top college prospects in the country. Oaks Christian made the jump from the Southern Section Northwest Division to the Northern Division and won a CIF championship. The Lions were slow out of the gate in 2010, going 2-2 to start before winning 10 games in a row including four in the playoffs. Oaks Christian will most certainly be shooting for another Northern Division championship and perhaps a berth in a CIF state bowl game.