As we inch closer to Thursday’s season kickoff, today we look at teams from around the state that you might look to see in Carson in mid-December.
What SoCal teams and other NorCal teams can we expect to be in the hunt for state titles late in the season?
Well, let’s start up north since it’s closer to home. Here are a few teams to watch from outside the NCS.
Grant: Easy choice, huh? The Pacers are the defending Open Division champions, and despite losing guys like QB Kipeli Koniseti and WR Darvin McCauley, they’re going to be right in the discussion again. RB Devontae Butler is a great talent, and DL Viliami Moala is a nationally-recruited athlete. Give the Pacers credit too, they’re taking on Bellevue early in the season. That should tell us what we need to know about Grant’s title aspirations this year.
St. Mary’s-Stockton: Want to see the high school equivalent of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald? Look no further than Stockton, where Josh Harper and Louie Lechich are both back at WR. Having only seen one St. Mary’s game last year, I know I thought Lechich was one of the best players I saw all year. Replacing QB Cody Vaz (now at Oregon State) won’t be that easy, but I think St. Mary’s is certainly the front-runner for that Division II title game spot.
Now, let’s head a little further south.
Oaks Christian-Westlake Village: Gotta start with the team ranked No. 1 in CalHiSports.com’s preseason rankings. There are collegiate prospects abound on this team, starting with RB Malcolm Jones and QB Nick Montana. I personally am going to do my best to tune in to ESPNU on Sept. 18 when Oaks Christian takes on Skyline of Washington, led by QB Jake Heaps.
Long Beach Poly: Ever since De La Salle played Poly, there seems to be a great deal of interest in these parts about what Poly is up to. The Jackrabbits lose QB Morgan Fennell but they do return RB Cory Westbrook and WR Kaelin Clay, two potential star players. The hallmark of any good Poly team is always defense, so if the Jackrabbits are up to snuff on that side of the ball (and they lost a ton of talent, so turnover will be high), they could be in the discussion for the Open and Division I games.
Centennial-Corona: Gotta throw the Huskies in there, right? They were bigger, faster and stronger than De La Salle in last year’s Division I title game, but a bunch of those guys have moved on to the collegiate ranks. I do remember, however, that we said that exact same thing after they met DLS the first time and the Huskies came back bigger and better. Matt Logan is a heck of a coach, the spread offense is dangerous no matter who’s playing QB, and the Huskies will likely be in the mix come season’s end.
Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks: I’m going to finish this off with a team, or more accurately, a player, I think everyone needs to know about. QB Ryan Kasdorf was off the charts good last year and he’s back for his senior season. Now, from what I’ve read, this could be a little like the situation Mater Dei’s Matt Barkley was in during his senior season. A bunch of receivers have graduated, leaving some instability at the position. If Kasdorf can find some consistent targets, you’ll want to watch the Knights closely.
Now, I’m certainly leaving out a ton of good teams from SoCal. There are just so many to choose from. St. Bonaventure-Ventura opens the season ranked No. 2 in the state, and Orange-Lutheran (No. 4) and Lakewood (No. 8) aren’t far behind. If you’d like to see capsules on the top 50 teams in the state, check out the rankings at CalHiSports.com.