Mike Vogt is back as head coach of the Bears after a one-year stint at College of the Sequoias. This team has our eye because we've seen the last two JV squads against De La Salle. One of them was victorious (in 2000) and last year's was a lot closer to the Spartans than either Mater Dei's or LB Poly's sophs.
Clovis East (Clovis)
This will be the first senior class at Clovis East and Coach Tim Murphy showed what he could do when he was at Ygnacio Valley of Concord. The team is moving up to the Yosemite Division, but that might not make that much of a differance.
RBs Lynell Hamilton and Chris Henry plus WR Ruben Jackson give the Vikings more talent than they've had in a long time. But they could get banished from the playoffs due to rules violations. Those possible sanctions will be out soon. If it escapes any penalties, Edison looks like it might be able to go all the way to the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I final.
El Modena (Orange)
Daniel Dixon piled up 2,043 yards rushing and 21 TDs last year and his team won the Century League title. If the Vanguards do well in their first game against state-ranked Santa Margarita, watch out. LB Mike Pitre also looked real good at the USC Nike Camp.
The Sentinels are stepping up into the same league as No. 28 Mira Costa and could turn out to be the better team. Coach Kevin Moore has 12 starters returning, led by All-American DE Lawrence Jackson as well as top junior DB Brian Flowers.
Twelve starters are back for coach Dick Bruich. His team is the preseason No. 1 team for the CIFSS in Division VIII, but there's enough early season tests against teams from the top divisions so that if the Cats win those games they'll have the quality wins they need to be a possible top 20 overall team by the end of the season.
La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad)
Last year's team was good enough to beat Las Vegas High, the eventual state champs in Nevada, but was inconsistent. The Mavericks have the experience to correct that problem this year and might be unbeaten in Week 4 when they travel north to play De La Salle.
Probably will start out No. 1 for the Stockton-Modesto area despite heavy graduation losses in the skill positions. A good reason to stick with the Buffs, though, is that they'll have one of the best corps of linemen in Northern California. Steve Dunigan (6-0, 245), Mitch MacCready (6-5, 225), Andrew Fischer (6-1, 220) and friends should have the edge inside against everybody they'll play.
Most of the coaches who were at Johnson last year, a Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I semifinalist, are now at Natomas. And they're coming into a good situation, too, as the Nighthawks return one of the top RBs in NorCal in Emeka Nnoli plus several other standouts.
St. Paul (Santa Fe Springs)
The Swordsmen were a playoff team last year in CIFSS Div. I, but now they're in Div. III and they're a favorite to win it all. Longtime coach Marijon Ancich starts the season with 315 all-time varsity wins.
South Hills (Covina)
The Huskies looked good in passing camps at Sacramento State and in a three-way event at Mater Dei High. There also could be some strength to go with that skill with LB Chance Dunleavy, OL-DL Kyle Deal and OL David Dreisbach. RB Stephano Smith and jr. WR/DBs Bryan Payton and Jeremy Payton (they're twins) should be the best on offense.
Note: Later this week we will release our preseason state football rankings according to divisions. If there's a small school or medium school team you'd like to see in those lists or if you want to let us know about a team we didn't rank or mention above, feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.