It’s a soft opening across the Bay Area this weekend with a handful of games on the schedule. Next weekend nearly everyone is back or at least scheduled to be back.
It’s undeniable. Everyone around California knows the big dog on the farm is the Southern Section, especially when it comes to high school football.
With 581 schools, the Southern Section is more than three times the size of the next largest of the 10 sections, the Sac-Joaquin Section with 174. Only eight states boast more schools.
But well beyond numbers, the Southern Section demonstrates yearly its quality in athletics, including football. Especially at the top. St. John Bosco is the defending MaxPreps National Champion with Mater Dei ranking No. 2 in 2019.
Those two programs have hovered around the nation’s top for the past half-decade and have separated from the talent-rich Southern California pack. The two schools seem to produce approximately 10 FBS prospects per class.
Lately, it’s been a case of which school is No. 3 in the section. For more than a decade, public school power Centennial (Corona) has battled for one of the top three spots, however in an abbreviated 2023, a new team has emerged as the No. 3 contender.
With so many athletes opting out of the two-month, five-to-six game season, picking a Top 25 is clearly unclear. No playoffs in section, regionals or state will be played. But here’s our best shot.
File photo by Larry Gasinski
DJ Harvey, Sierra Canyon
MaxPreps Top 25 Southern Section football rankings
1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana), 12-1 (2019 record)
Ranked No. 1 or 2 nationally the last three seasons, these Monarchs would have very likely made it season No. 4. And with all the highly ranked sophomore and juniors, 2023 and 2023 look more than promising as well. Ten Monarchs made Zack Poff’s preseason All-State squad, including the top-rated running back, junior Raleek Brown, and linebacker, Raesjon Davis.
2. St. John Bosco (Bellflower), 13-1
There’s no more DJ Uiagalelei, but his 6-5, 263-pound sophomore brother Matayo Uiagalelei is even bigger and plays tight end. The defending national champs and Mater Dei could be 1A and 1B every season it seems. Preposterous collection of FBS talent, including the state’s top-ranked offensive (Earnest Greene) and defensive (Nathan Burrell) linemen.
3. Servite (Anaheim), 7-4
When you have the top ranked quarterback (Noah Fifita), wide receiver (Tetairoa McMillan) and tight end (Keyan Burnett) in the state, chances are you’ll have a strong squad.
4. Centennial (Corona), 9-3
It’s difficult for public schools to keep up with the privates, especially during a pandemic, but Centennial has with big rosters and one of the best coaches in the state, Matt Logan. They’ll be without the nation’s No. 1 recruit Korey Foreman, who opted out, but the Huskies should continue their 55-game win streak in league.
5. Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth), 14-2
The Trailblazers have loads of talent, led by Virginia Tech-bound DJ Harvey, a superior all-around athlete, and four-star safety Kamari Ramsey.
6. Mission Viejo, 11-1
The Diablos will be without Peter Costelli under center after he opted out of the spring season, but they return a lot of talent led by California-bound receiver Mavin Anderson and Oregon State-bound linebacker Easton Mascarenas.
7. Serra (Gardena), 6-5
Texas-bound quarterback Maalik Murphy takes over as the full time starter for Serra and the five-star recruit checks in as the fourth-rated pro style quarterback in the Class of 2023.
8. Alemany (Mission Hills) 9-3
Defense is the strong point of these Warriors, with linebacker Niuafe Tuihalamaka, cornerback Ephesians Prysock and safety RJ Jones, all 4-star recruits.
9. Loyola (Los Angeles), 6-7
USC-bound cornerback Ceyair Wright is one of the top at his position in the country. The Cubs have much more than Wright.
10. Bishop Amat (La Puente) 9-2
Back-to-back seasons of 9-2 and coach Steve Hagerty definitely feels like team is moving in the right direction.
11. San Clemente, 0-12
The Tritons went 10-2 on the field and reached the Division 2 semifinals, but had to forfeit all 10 wins for using an ineligible player. Leading rusher James Bohls (6-3, 210) and tackler Cole Batson (6-4, 190) return from last season.
12. Grace Brethren (Simi Valley), 12-2
Mikey Zele (1,998 yards passing, 18 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 531 yards rushing) is back at quarterback but will be without top rusher Julien Stokes (1,365 yards, 18 touchdowns) who opted out of the spring season and recently committed to Penn.
13. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village), 5-6
Semaj Freeman and Derek Boyd combined to runs for almost 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns and should be workhorses in 2023. Leading receiver Kaylin Moore (35 catches, 408 yards) also is back. The state’s top-rated punter Brenden Segovia was selected to the 2023 All-American Bowl.
14. Long Beach Poly, 8-4
Junior quarterback Shea Kuykendall appears ready to take over the reigns. A pair of talented receivers in Keyonta Lanier and Kyren Racheal should be at the other end of those passes.
15. Los Alamitos, 4-7
With the state’s third rated quarterback, sophomore Malachi Nelson, running the show, the program is in good shape. Another sophomore, Makai Lemon, is ranked the eighth-best sophomore in the state overall after hauling in 800 yards of passes and adding four interceptions as a freshman.
16. St. Bernard (Playa del Rey), 4-6
Former Narbonne (Harbor City) head coach Manuel Douglas starts first season and with Arizona State-bound Larry Turner-Gooden as a centerpiece, he’s in good shape. Defensive lineman and UNLV signeee Nick Dimitris (6-4, 245) also transferred in.
17. Orange Lutheran (Orange), 5-6
A very young and promising squad brings back junior quarterback Logan Gonzalez. Another junior Malik Blackmon was the team’s top receiver. Senior Ashton Logan is one of the best punters in the nation. He has scholarship to Colorado.
18. Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita), 3-8
California-bound defensive end Derek Wilkins will lead the way for a very talented defense.
19. JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano), 6-5
One of the nation’s top offensive lineman Mason Murphy (USC signee) anchors the team and sophomore quarterback Jaxon Potter is a name to keep tabs on from the Class of 2023.
20. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach), 16-0
With home grown kids, CDM brings in a new crop of kids who largely backed up a stellar senior group. Some of the key returners, however, are running back Jason Vicencio and top defenders Michael Wein and Kevin Ledezma.
21. Oxnard, 10-2
Quarterback Jaden Jones builds off a tremendous junior season when he threw for almost 2,000 yards, 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also rushed for six touchdowns. The team’s two two tacklers Anthony Lopez (110) and Tytus Hutchison (91) also return.
22. Paraclete (Lancaster), 6-5
Coach Dean Herrington hopes to get back to 2016 and 2017 when the Spirits won a combined 25 games and won a state crown in 2016.
23. Murrieta Valley, 8-3
Quarterback Brandon Rose completed almost 70 percent of his passes for 3,087 yards and 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions last season as a sophomore. DJ Watts had 656 yards rushing and seven scores last year as well and Kaden Damico led the team in tackles with 102. Sophomore wide receiver Tiger Bachmeier has already landed offers from Arizona State, Boise State and Pittsburgh.
24. San Juan Hills (San Juan Capistrano), 11-4
Hudson Jones had a monster junior season with 207 completions in 291 attempts for 2,599 yards and 33 touchdowns with just five interceptions. Few other skill players return but receiver Cole Monach showed lots of promise in 2019. Billy Hester (84) is the most active returning tackler.
25. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), 6-5
Starting quarterback Zachary Siskowic transferred to Crespi, but back is leading receiver Mason Cotton.
MaxPreps national football editor Zack Poff contributed to this report.
File photo by Louis Lopez
Brandon Rose, Murrieta Valley
WEEK 1 HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Note: Some of these games may be contested instead as scrimmages if both teams have not completed the requisite number of practices.