Today, I take a broader look at the Northern California prospects for the California Interscholastic Federation bowl series.
First off, if you want some quality statewide knowledge, check out the Cal-Hi Sports preseason Top 50. Mark, Harold, Paul and Ronnie do an awesome job. It’s a quality read.
Last year was a banner year for Northern California when it came to success in Carson. That discounts, of course, the pair of shoes I sacrificed to the Home Depot Center quagmire. Four of the five Northern reps brought home a title, headlined by De La Salle’s romp over Servite in the Open Division game.
So, what teams could find their way south this time around? Of course, it starts with the Spartans. If they run the table, there won’t be an argument as to the strength of their schedule thanks to their cross-country trip to Florida. But, I think the case still exists that even without a win in that game, if they win all their Northern California contests, they’re still the big favorite to reach the Open game. Tough games right off the bat against Bellarmine and St. Mary’s-Stockton loom, so even without a win at Aquinas, I think DLS is still a good bet to get to the Open game.
So, what teams could challenge for that spot? I really think Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove is the team to beat. The Eagles almost got there last year (they qualified but Palo Alto was selected), and return key players like DE Arik Armstead and RB Mark Jenkins. An Oct. 28 showdown with defending D-II champ Folsom could be high noon for Pleasant Grove.
We can’t forget Grant, led by ATH Shaq Thompson and QB Terry Shine. The Pacers lose some key pieces from 2010, but does anyone really think Coach Al won’t have them hungry again this year? I expect Grant to be good and in the conversation again.
I’ll be interested to see aforementioned Folsom, after last year’s team was so dang good. Even though we had some local guys up for the award, I completely agreed with the selection of Dano Graves as last year’s California Mr. Football. That kid did it all. What I think helps the Bulldogs this year is that Tanner Trosin, who replaces Graves at QB, saw a little time last year. I think he’ll be ready to keep that ball rolling. Also, local fans get to see Folsom as it has games against SRV (@ DVC) and Deer Valley this year.
There are some other teams that bear watching this year, like Granite Bay and Lincoln-Stockton. Lincoln and St. Mary’s battle for 209 area code bragging rights on Sept. 23. Del Oro is always good. In general, I think Sacramento-area football is still riding the upswing that it has of late. Really good quality.
Of course, if you’re talking bowls, you always have to respect the winner of the West Catholic Athletic League. Bellarmine and Valley Christian have gotten most of the pre-season buzz, and we’ll find out just how good the Bells are on Sept. 2 when they visit Owen Owens Field to take on the Spartans.
And, don’t forget about Palo Alto, last year’s Division I winner. Christoph Bono is gone, but the cupboard is far from bare. Paly will be in the mix again.
When it comes to the smaller divisions, I really think Cardinal Newman gets back to Carson this year. The Cardinals just have so much coming back. I’d have to flip a coin in the small-school division, so if anyone wants to drop some knowledge there, be my guest. The takeaway, at least to start the year, is that last year’s showing by NorCal probably isn’t a fluke.