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The top 10 high school football teams in California, plus Preseason Players of the Year and can't miss matchups.
California Preseason Top 10
1. De La Salle Spartans (Concord)
Coach Bob Ladoueceur has stepped down at 58, taking his 399-24-2 record to a less-stressed role of mentoring running backs. The new coach is Justin Alumbaugh, who played at De La Salle and has been a top assistant the last 13 seasons. The Spartans return quarterback Chris Williams (29 total TDs in 2012) and 1,000-yard rusher Das Tautalatasi.
2. Junipero Serra Cavaliers (Gardena)
The Cavaliers rolled to a CIF State D-II Bowl rout over Oakdale and have the core group back, including All-America candidate Adoree’ Jackson, a defensive back, return specialist and receiver/slot gamebreaker. The D-line is anchored by Rasheem Green (6'5", 275).
3. St. John Bosco Braves (Bellflower)
The Braves return nine starters on defense, including linemen Damien Mama, Malik Dorton and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and nationally recruited linebacker Chandler Leniu, with the makings of a dominant unit to completely negate the run. Quarterback Josh Rosen, just a junior, passed for 2,082 yard and 22 TDs.
4. Centennial Huskies (Corona)
The Huskies rolled all comers last season before falling to De La Salle in the CIF State Open Bowl game 48-28. Few teams in the land run the spread quite like this one, with Robert Webber returning at quarterback along with running back Tre Watson, wide receiver Barry Ware and impact transfer lineman Austin Maloata from American Samoa. A return to the State Open game is within reach.
5. Folsom Bulldogs
A fast-rising state power in Sacramento County, the Bulldogs are spread-option wonders, having won the 2010 CIF State D-II bowl with a win over Serra behind the MaxPreps National Player of the Year, quarterback Dano Graves. Next in line is junior Jake Browning, who passed for 5,248 yards and 63 touchdowns in 2012. He joins 13 other returning starters.
6. Granite Bay Grizzlies
A Week 1 opener against Folsom will be telling for a program coming off a CIF State D-I championship win over Long Beach Poly. The defense is headed by linebackers Cameron Smith and Dylan Keeney and the Fly offense by back Tony Ellison. State Coach of the Year Ernie Cooper stepped down on the eve of summer.
7. Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits
Poly reached the state CIF Division I Bowl game and returns a wealth of talent, including defensive backs Iman Marshall and John Smith, defensive lineman Jason Fao and quarterback Tai Tiedermann.
8. Vista Murrieta Broncos
The Broncos have just two on-field losses in the past two seasons amid the rough-and-tumble Southern Section, including the 2012 playoffs to Corona Centennial. Vista returns top running back Kishawn Holmes (1,109 yards, 10 touchdowns) and wide receiver Colin Baker (7 TDs) and sack leader Curtis Bolton (10.5).
9. Mater Dei Monarchs (Santa Ana)
The Monarchs will rumble again with quarterback Chase Forrest, two-way impact leader Jonathan Lockett and speed on defense for longtime coach Bruce Rollinson.
10. Mission Viejo Diablos
Veteran coach Bob Johnson, a quarterback guru, has his main cogs back on offense in quarterback Ian Fieber and tailback Alex Sushesk.
Five Can't Miss Matchups
9.6 – Oceanside at Junipero Serra
A playoff-like setting will help kickstart the academic year between programs that each have state titles in the past three seasons. Oceanside has gone 105-15-3 the last nine years, while Serra boasts a fast, explosive, heavily recruited program.
9.13 – Corona Centennial vs. Long Beach Poly (at Mission Viejo)
Speed kills, and it’ll scorch the field here with a unique showdown of Southern California heavies that are nationally ranked in a recruiting haven. Long Beach Poly has a speed-machine program that has sent more talents to the NFL than any other high school in the land — ever.
9.13 – Freedom at Granite Bay
All-America tailback candidate Joe Mixon of Freedom tests the D of the defending state Division I champion Grizzlies of Placer County, who are led by 6'3", 230-pound linebacker Cameron Smith.
9.14 – Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) at Mission Viejo
A titanic inter-state rumble brings the national power Ironmen from the East, sporting an 89-5 record since 2005, against a decades-long West Coast power.
9.20 – Del Oro at De La Salle
Tradition-rich and fear-no-one Del Oro of the Sac-Joaquin Section braces for a team that has gone 384-7-2 against NorCal foes since 1984. DLS has the talent to win its fifth successive CIF State Open championship in extending a remarkable legacy.
2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Joe Mixon, RB, Freedom (Oakley)
Senior, 6-2, 210
With a mixture of power, speed and burst, Mixon is a 5-star recruit with seemingly the entire country in pursuit, including USC, Oklahoma, Cal, Notre Dame, Texas and Oregon. He has a second gear, and then he has the end zone in sight. Mixon rushed for 1,134 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore and went for 1,443 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior last fall for a team that was often pass-heavy. Mixon went for 188 yards and four touchdowns against Castro Valley, and he scored in every game. He also had 18 receptions for 383 yards and six scores for a team that went 9-3, won the Bay Valley League championship and reached the second round of the North Coast Section D-I playoffs. Mixon knows the heat is on, and he embraces it, saying, “I’m ready for a big year. The whole team is. We’re excited.”
2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Dwight Williams, LB, Junipero Serra (Gardena)
Senior, 6-1, 205
Soft-spoken out of cleats and shoulder pads, Williams screams ability in heading a national powerhouse program. Able to move sideline-to-sideline and close in a hurry, Williams had 158 tackles, including eight sacks, and two interceptions to help propel the Cavaliers to a 14-2 season and a CIF State Division II Bowl rout over Oakdale. Williams dominated spring and summer combine events and is closing in on 40 scholarship offers. Heading the list as of June: LSU and Alabama. Surrounded by playmakers on defense, he’ll look to stout defensive lineman Rasheem Green to occupy blockers while he flies to the football. Williams says he and his teammate crave the challenge of 2013, “We’ve all got a target on our backs. We love it. I’m ready to help this team win.”
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