(After games of Saturday, Dec. 15)
(Previous ranking in parentheses)
(Writeups by Mark Tennis, Ronnie Flores, Harold Abend, Paul Muyskens)
1. (1) DE LA SALLE (CONCORD) 15-0
Why This Ranking: California’s Open Division champion for the fourth straight year will continue to reign in the Golden State until another team from the state proves it can win in a head-to-head contest. That hasn’t happened since 2008. We couldn’t believe it when just about every national ranking under the sun did not start out the Spartans No. 1 among California teams last August. It’s not like they didn’t have anyone returning from 2011, either. Just watch. It will happen again next summer. Those from 3,000 miles away who don’t know how to do national rankings that make sense will never learn.
2. (2) CENTENNIAL (CORONA) 14-2
Why This Ranking: As the first CIF Southern California Open Division regional champion, it’s also obvious that the Huskies should be the state’s No. 2 team for the season. They beat teams with records of 12-0, 13-0 and 14-0 heading into the CIF Open Division bowl game and against De La Salle outscored the Spartans 28-20 after falling behind 28-0. If all of those early mistakes didn’t happen, it could have been a much closer game. It was announced earlier this week that Centennial will play Long Beach Poly on Sept. 13 at the Mission Viejo Kickoff Classic.
3. (3) NARBONNE (HARBOR CITY) 14-1
Why This Ranking: The Gauchos stay put after losing by only seven points in the CIF Southern California open division regional bowl to No. 2 Centennial, which gave a valiant effort against top-ranked De La Salle in the CIF Open Division Bowl Championship Game. It would have been interesting to see how Narbonne’s high-powered offense would have fared against De La Salle’s defense, but any errors similar to the ones suffered against Centennial and the outcome probably would have been the same. With the quality victories on its schedule, Narbonne secured the highest final rating by an L.A. City Section program since Birmingham of Lake Balboa finished No. 3 for the 2007 season. At least five seniors will earn D1 scholarships, including Mr. Football candidate Troy Williams, so some rebuilding will be in order next season.
4. (4) VISTA MURRIETA (MURRIETA) 13-1
Why This Ranking: The Broncos suffered their only loss in a 30-28 shootout with Corona Centennial in the CIF Southern Section Inland Division championship. It also was their only on-the-field loss in two seasons, including last year’s CIFSS Inland final vs. those same Huskies. Vista Murrieta’s best wins came against South of Anchorage, Alaska (which ended up winning the Alaska state title) plus Murrieta Valley, Chaparral of Temecula and Rancho Cucamonga.
5. (5) SERRA (GARDENA) 14-2
Why This Ranking: The Cavaliers stay put in the ratings after dispatching Oakdale 42-15 in the CIF Division II state bowl game. Behind three touchdowns from senior running back Marques Rodgers and three more from explosive junior Adorre Jackson, Serra took a 42-0 lead before Oakdale could blink. Serra only lost in back-to-back games to No. 3 Narbonne (22-9) and Chaminade (28-20) and were able to avenge the loss to ‘Nade in a close CIFSS Western Division title tilt. Coach Scott Altenberg’s club also defeated No. 14 Edison, No. 19 Notre Dame and No. 32 Lompoc behind a group that not only included Rodgers and Jackson, but junior quarterback Jalen Greene and sophomore running back Malik Roberson. With some added depth, this team could challenge for top preseason billing among SoCal teams next season.
6. (8) FOLSOM 14-1
Why This Ranking: Led by Mr. Football finalist Jake Browning, the Bulldogs have earned the nod as the No. 2 team in NorCal behind state No. 1 De La Salle as their season ended against the Spartans in the CIF NorCal Open Division regional game with a 42-15 loss. There are some who may feel that Granite Bay deserves to be ranked higher after capturing the Division I state championship but if there was no regional games it would have been Folsom playing for the Division I state title and not the Grizzlies and there is no shame in losing to the Spartans in a game that could be repeated next year. On their way to capturing the Delta River League championship, Folsom defeated an Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills squad by 28 points that made the CIFSJS Division I finals, and lost to Granite Bay by 12. The Bulldogs should start next season as the top team in the Sacramento area with multiple starters back on both sides of the ball, including Browning.
7. (11) GRANITE BAY 13-3
Why This Ranking: After a 1-3 start to the season, you wouldn’t have expected the Grizzlies to finish as the No. 3 team in NorCal and inside the state top 10, but that’s where coach Ernie Cooper’s Grizzlies find themselves after capturing the CIF Division I state championship with a 21-20 win over Long Beach Poly in the final minutes. The team’s 12-game win streak to end the season began against Lincoln of Stockton, continued in the tough Sierra Foothill League and then in the section playoffs the victims included unbeaten Franklin of Elk Grove and Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills in the section final. Granite Bay also dominated CCS Open Division champ St. Ignatius of San Francisco 45-17 in the CIF NorCal D1 bowl game. The only negative about those three early losses is that Folsom’s only loss was to De La Salle and that’s why we have Folsom just in front for the final rankings. The two Sacramento area powerhouses will meet to start the 2013 season.
8. (6) LONG BEACH POLY (LONG BEACH) 12-4
Why This Ranking: The Jackrabbits fall two spots after losing by a single point to Granite Bay in the CIF Division I bowl game. Poly outgained Granite Bay in total yardage, 308-254, but missed a key extra point with 3:47 remaining in the game and had three different players throw interceptions. Poly was ranked outside the final top 20 for three consecutive seasons and it looked like the Jackrabbits were headed for another underachieving year, especially after a 29-6 loss to Bakersfield left them at 1-3, but the emergence of John “JuJu” Smith as the biggest threat on both sides of the ball coincided with Poly’s run to the CIFSS Pac-Five Division title. Despite two crushing losses in bowl games the past five seasons, Poly will continue to play a tough schedule behind the backdrop of sky-high expectations. Fortunately for Raul Lara and his staff, the school’s talent level is on an up cycle right now.
9. (7) ST. JOHN BOSCO (BELLFLOWER) 12-1*
Why This Ranking: Coach Jason Negro’s squad drops two spots in the final ratings to make room for Folsom and Granite Bay after Long Beach Poly lost to the Grizzlies in the CIF Division I bowl game. Bosco, of course, lost to Poly in the CIFSS Pac-Five semifinals 13-10. The Braves get major ratings credit for winning their first 12 games on the field, including an unbeaten run through the tough Trinity League, and will be one of the top candidates to open next season No. 2 in the state behind kingpin De La Salle. Negro will have the luxury of 15 returning starters in 2013.
10. (9) MATER DEI (SANTA ANA) 11-3
Why This Ranking: The Monarchs, similar to St. John Bosco, are dinged a spot after Poly lost in its bowl game versus Granite Bay. The Monarchs fall right behind St. John Bosco in the SoCal pecking order because of the head-to-head 27-19 loss. Mater Dei did defeat No. 11 St. Bonaventure, No. 14 Edison and No. 18 Alemany and should field a strong team in 2013. After missing the playoffs for the first time in his tenure in 2011, Bruce Rollinson should be rolling again next season behind quarterback Chase Forrest, two-way star Jonathan Lockett and with players from his lower level programs moving up.
11. (10) ST. BONAVENTURE (VENTURA) 11-2
Why This Ranking: Coach Todd Therrien’s club also has to drop one spot for the final rankings to make room for CIF Division I state bowl champion Granite Bay. The Seraphs won their second game 40-35 over No. 2 Corona Centennial, but they have to be behind the Huskies since they ended up as the CIF Open Division titlist from the south. St. Bonaventure advanced to the CIFSS Pac-Five Division quarterfinals with a 27-21 win against Santa Margarita. That win also avenged an earlier loss. After that, however, Mater Dei of Santa Ana shut down the offense in a 21-0 loss in Ventura. While running back Zach Green will be gone next season, sophomore quarterback Ricky Town will be back. He already has an offer from UCLA.
12. (12) CHAMINADE (WEST HILLS) 12-2
Why This Ranking: After a 35-27 win in the fifth game over Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks (which was in the State Top 20 at the time), the Eagles never looked back. They went on to beat No. 5 Serra of Gardena in the Mission League before losing by just two points in a rematch that decided the CIFSS Western Division title. The only other loss was to Oaks Christian (which was No. 4 at the time). The close nature of the two games against Serra shows that coach Ed Croson’s team was basically just a handful of plays from being in the top five this season itself.
13. (13) MISSION VIEJO 11-1
Why This Ranking: With Long Beach Poly getting edged in the CIF Division I bowl game by Granite Bay, and with the closeness of the Diablos’ 21-16 loss to Poly in the CIFSS Pac-Five quarterfinals, and the fact both teams and everyone that advanced further in the Pac Five are already ahead of coach Bob Johnson’s boys, Mission Viejo stays put. Had Poly beaten Granite Bay by a bigger margin than five points, the Diablos probably would have moved up a spot and ahead of Granite Bay. Even so, a one-loss season is a fine effort by the boys from Southern Orange County. Several starters return next year, led by the junior duo of quarterback Ian Fieber and running back Alex Suchesk.
14. (14) EDISON (HUNTINGTON BEACH) 13-2
Why This Ranking: The Long Beach Poly win the Chargers needed to move up didn’t materialize so coach Dave White and his boys stay put behind Mission Viejo. After the way Serra demolished Oakdale in the CIF Division II bowl bame 42-15 in a game that very nearly went to a running clock, compared to Oceanside’s early season 34-14 win over Oakdale, makes the decision to move Edison ahead of Oceanside about a wash. Edison gave Serra a good game (especially in the first half) and did nothing to show it doesn’t belong finishing among the top 15 in the state. Next year is a question mark, however, with almost every top offensive and defensive player graduating.
15. (15) OCEANSIDE 12-1
Why This Ranking: The Pirates enjoyed another successful season under veteran coach John Carroll, but felt slighted when No. 5 Serra and No. 14 Edison were chosen for the CIF SoCal Div. II regional bowl game and they were not. Oceanside supporters were particularly interested in Serra’s bowl game outcome against Oakdale since the Pirates were at one point leading that club 34-0 in their 34-14 victory. Serra led Oakdale 42-0 before the Mustangs scored the last 15 points of the game. Oceanside could be a better team than Edison, but the Division II bowl game outcome gives no evidence of how Edison might have fared against Oakdale or Oceanside. With the criteria in place to select bowl bound teams, it was evident the loss to Chaparral of Temecula would hurt Oceanside in an otherwise championship season. Another plus is that Carroll’s program has now won eight section titles in nine years and for most of those years also has been the No. 1 team in the San Diego Section.
16. (16) UPLAND 12-1
Why This Ranking: Winners of their first 12 games, the Highlanders’ season ended in the CIFSS Inland Division semifinals with a 38-28 loss to No. 2 Centennial of Corona. With just one loss and it coming to the Huskies, you could make a case for Tim Salter’s team to be even higher but during the season they defeated just one team that won more than eight games and that came against Rancho Cucamonga during Baseline League play. Senior Nate Romine led the offense as he passed for 2,728 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for a team-high 1,039 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior linebacker Taloa Otuafi led the defense with 103 tackles while defensive end Joe Mathis led the way with 10 sacks.
17. (17) SANTA MARGARITA (RANCHO SM) 9-3
Why This Ranking: The Eagles hang onto the one-spot bump they got last week, but just like the five teams above them, coach Harry Welch and his boys hold tight for the final rankings, since none of the formulas speculated upon last week happened. That would have included Granite Bay and Folsom dropping down. The scourge of losing quarterback Johnny Stanton to injury early this past season could possibly pay benefits next season since sophomore Kyle Sweet, who filled in admirably for Stanton, will have the benefit of almost a year’s experience as a starter coming into his junior season.
18. (19) ALEMANY (MISSION HILLS) 9-3
Why This Ranking: The big win of the year for the Warriors ended up being the one over Notre Dame in the Serra League. They won the league title for the third straight year, then rolled over Moorpark in the CIFSS Pac-Five playoffs before losing in the quarterfinals in a 53-42 scorefest with Mater Dei. One of Alemany’s losses also was by just 36-32 to No. 2 Corona Centennial. It’ll be interesting to see how next year’s team comes back without All-American receiver Steven Mitchell as well as multi-purpose quarterback Devon Dunn.
19. (22) NOTRE DAME (SHERMAN OAKS) 8-4
Why This Ranking: This is as high as we could put the Knights in the final rankings at 8-4 and right behind league rival Alemany (which they lost to 49-42). The main reason we wanted to nudge them higher is that one of their wins – against Hamilton of Chandler, Ariz. – wound up being against a state champion. The other losses – one to Chaminade, one to Serra and one in the CIFSS Pac-Five playoffs to St. John Bosco – were all involving higher-ranked teams. Running back Khalfani Muhammad will now turn his attention to college recruiting (he recently committed to Cal) and defending his 100 and 200 state sprint championships.
20. (18) CRENSHAW (LOS ANGELES) 11-2
Why This Ranking: The Shaw drops two spots in the final ratings behind Alemany and Notre Dame, as the Golden Knights lost by only three points to No. 5 Serra and defeated state champ Hamilton of Chandler, Ariz., in their first two games. Those results gain significance when the whole season is factored into the final ratings. Still, the L.A. City Section runner-up also beat the Oaks Christian team that Notre Dame edged in the playoffs and next season could be strong again with quarterback Ajene Harris and linebacker Corey Walker as building blocks.
Note: For teams ranked between No. 21 and No. 50, see Part II of this post.