1. (1) De La Salle (Concord) 13-0
At the beginning of the season we said the key to the Spartans continuing to be No. 1 in the state and nation was whether new QB Britt Cecil would be able to throw effectively in major games against St. Louis of Honolulu and Long Beach Poly. He did in both and the rest of the wins fell into place.
2. (3) Los Alamitos 13-0-1
Randy Estes, one of the top juniors in the country, set the tone in Saturday's win over Mater Dei with a monster hit on the opening kickoff. The Griffins also have one of the nation's top sophomores in wideout Jeremy Childs.
3. (10) Mission Viejo 14-0
We don't do ties in our rankings (never have, never will) but the Diablos vs. Los Alamitos comes about as close to one as possible. Coach Bob Johnson promises all the younger players on the team will be ready to keep up the winning ways next season. Another 14-0 mark, by the way, would put the school's winning streak at 42 games.
4. (8) Hart (Newhall) 13-0-1
The Indians got one miraculous tie vs. Los Al but weren't able to duplicate those heroics in the final minutes vs. Mission Viejo. QB Sean Norton and company posted other notable wins over St. Bonaventure, Birmingham, Westlake, Canyon, Valencia and Ayala.
5. (2) Poly (Long Beach) 11-2
We don't deny that the Jackrabbits could have been overrated all year. The loss to De La Salle was convincing, there's the upset loss to Mater Dei and they really didn't beat anybody significant all season long. Still, the talent level and recent track record says not to put Poly too low, either.
6. (21) Monte Vista (Danville) 13-0
Offensively, the Mustangs are on the same level as De La Salle, Los Al and Hart with Kyle Wright at QB, junior Tom Haug at running back and Sam DeSa and Kale Turner as the primary wideouts. This team also kept moving up in recent weeks as others have lost, the most recent being last week as previous No. 6 Taft of Woodland Hills laid an egg in the L.A. City finals.
7. (nr) Jesuit (Carmichael) 13-0
Anytime a Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I champ runs the table without a loss it's almost a guaranteed high state ranking. The Marauders also made their run with wins over Nevada Union and Grant, which at earlier times this season were both in the top 10 themselves. Jesuit was a bit overlooked even locally for most of the season as it was ranked behind NU, Grant and Oak Ridge until late November.
8. (nr) Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) 14-0
The Knights wound up as one of only three 14-0 teams this season and teams they beat early on (primarily Birmingham and Westlake) also turned out to be good, which in turn has helped them land a final top 10 spot. You never got the feeling Notre Dame had any star players, but then you watch the magical moves of quarterback Marcel Marceaux -- oops, make that Marcel Marquez -- and you change that opinion in a hurry.
9. (11) San Leandro 12-1
In reviewing all of the scores for the season to do this week's final rankings, it became clear that the Pirates needed to be ahead of Skyline. They beat Foothill of Pleasanton, 28-9, in the North Coast Section playoffs and earlier in the season it was Foothill playing to a tie against Skyline. Sure, they had another lopsided loss to De La Salle in the NCS final, but how many other teams in the state would have suffered the same fate?
10. (nr) Skyline (Oakland) 11-0-1
Coach John Beam makes great points when he calls to lobby for a high final ranking, but we're not sure how he'll react to how it all turned out. On one hand, the Titans moved up from No. 12 to No. 10 on the overall list and also went from No. 4 to No. 3 in Division II. On the other hand, we flip-flopped them with San Leandro on the NorCal list and jumped up Notre Dame for both overall and Division II.
11. (7) Oceanside 11-2
One of the two biggest shockers on the final week of the season was the Pirates winning by such a wide margin (42-14) over Helix in the San Diego Section Div. II final. This team started 0-2, but one of those losses was to Helix in a close game to open the season. The season started turning around with a 33-21 win on October 4 over Vista, which was in the state top 10 at the time.
12. (24) Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 10-4
It's hard to rank a team this high with four losses, especially since one of them was by 19-0 to Santa Margarita. But the Monarchs offset that with a win over Long Beach Poly as well as an impressive win over Esperanza. They also posted wins over J.W. North, Loyola, Servite and Bishop Amat and lost by just 21-19 to Mission Viejo.
13. (15) St. Bonaventure (Ventura) 13-1
Who's got the best record of any program in Southern California in the 2000s? It's the Seraphs at 41-1. They've also been led by two of the most dynamic talents not just in the state but in the nation -- Lorenzo Booker (last year) and Whitney Lewis (this year). The only loss in the last four years has been to Hart.
14. (48) Nevada Union (Grass Valley) 12-1
Now that the sting of losing to Jesuit in the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I semis has passed, the Miners can focus on the positive. This year's team had one of the top offensive lines in school history and there were several major victories, none bigger than the one on Nov. 15 at Grant of Sacramento in a battle of unbeatens.
15. (16) Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 12-1
Coach Chris Jones (sorry we goofed up his name last week) became the youngest coach to win a Sac-Joaquin Section crown when his club downed Granite Bay, 20-17, on Dec. 7 in the Div. II final. The team's only loss was by just 13-12 to Grant.
16. (28) Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) 13-1
Dropping the Mustangs seven spots from last week's No. 9 position seems harsh, especially considering how they almost pulled off the most miraculous come-from-behind win we've ever seen, but we determined they had to go behind Oak Ridge in the Div. II rankings and therefore also behind the Trojans in the top 20.
17. (32) Centennial (Corona) 13-1*
If the Huskies had not dropped one in week five to Redlands, it would be interesting to see how high they'd be ranked right now. Coach Matt Logan's offense certainly stacks up well against anybody's, particularly with Shaun Lewis at QB and junior sensation Terrell Jackson at RB.
18. (36) Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 11-3
Last week's other shocker (we mentioned Oceanside-Helix earlier) was the Patriots knocking off previous No. 6 Taft of Woodland Hills, 35-7, in the L.A. City Section final. That avanged an earlier loss to the Toreadors and since the other two losses were to Hart and Notre Dame it's easy to push up Birmingham into the final top 20.
19. (16) Taft (Woodland Hills) 13-1
Before the game with Birmingham, a lot of people were making the case for the Toreadors to be considered as the top team in Southern California, even ahead of Hart and Los Alamitos. After losing by four touchdowns, they're lucky they didn't drop all the way out of the top 20.
20. (nr) Valley Christian (San Jose) 12-1
It's now been confirmed that the Warriors have become the first Christian private school to win the top division of a CIF sectional playoff. They won the Central Coast Section Div. I title on Dec. 6 with a 19-7 triumph over Bellarmine. Valley Christian's only loss was by one point to Serra of San Mateo and the team's defense, with LBs Ryan Abbott and Casey Furtado leading the way, was one of the best in the state.
21. (nr) Kaiser (Fontana) 13-0-1
The Cats couldn't quite sneak into the final top 20, so we hope their No. 1 finish in Div. III will suffice. If they hadn't tied in their opener to Rancho Cucamonga, they would have been closer to the top 15. The best win wasn't the one just attained over Serrano of Phelan in the CIFSS Div. VIII final, but was the one in week two over J.W. North.
22. (33) Esperanza (Anaheim) 10-2
Coach Gary Meek ended his career in excellent fashion as the Aztecs lost to only Los Alamitos and Mater Dei. Best win was 41-7 over Santa Margarita in the opening round of the CIFSS Div. I playoffs.
23. (41) St. John Bosco (Bellflower) 9-3
Too bad the Braves lost by just a large margin to Loyola (38-8) in the CIFSS Div. I playoffs. They still have to get a ton of credit for going 5-0 in the Serra League, which this year was the toughest league in the state.
24. (14) Grant (Sacramento) 9-2
The Pacers were the No. 1team in the Sacramento area from the preseason until week 10 when they lost a close game to Nevada Union. That put them on the road the next week against Jesuit and they lost in overtime. Jesuit went on to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I title.
25. (5) Loyola (Los Angeles) 9-4
Based on preseason expectations, the 2002 season would have to be called a disappointing one for the Cubs. They sure looked good in their 38-8 playoff win over St. John Bosco, but fell back to reality the very next week in a 31-7 loss to Los Alamitos.
26. (35) Carlsbad 10-2-1
Bob McAllister of the Lancers is one of our favorite coaches and here's why: the Lancers just beat Vista, 14-13, in the San Diego Section Div. I finals, and earlier in the year it was Vista winning over the Lancers, 45-7. Now that's the sign of some outstanding coaching.
27. (42) Foothill (Pleasanton) 9-2-1
Speaking of great coaches, Matt Sweeney of this school comes to mind quickly as well. The Falcons, despite a roster of mostly juniors, were good enough this year to tie Skyline, lose a close game to Monte Vista and defeat San Ramon Valley. In the playoffs, Foothill fell to No. 9 San Leandro.
28. (27) Clovis 11-2
We can't remember the Central Section with a Yosemite Large division champ ranked this low. The Cougars aren't even the consensus choice as the section's No. 1 overall team, but their 20-0 win in the semis over Central and their 17-10 win over Clovis West in the final probably merits the honor. Edison of Fresno and Garces of Bakersfield won lower division crowns and also seem to be the pick of some.
29. (25) J.W. North (Riverside) 10-4
The Huskies came within a play or two of winning their second straight CIFSS Div. V title, but came out on the short end of a 57-55 triple-overtime loss to Centennial. Two of the other losses were in close games to Kaiser and Mater Dei. Two of the wins were against Canyon Springs and Murietta Valley, both of which were unbeaten at the time.
30. (nr) Lincoln (Stockton) 12-2
After losing their first game, 41-40, to Granite Bay, the Trojans kept improving and wound up as the dominant team in the southern half of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. They also lost by just 9-6 in the section final to Jesuit and won in the semis by 41-0 over Turlock.
31. (50) Edison (Fresno) 11-2*
Coach Ray Reyes has already resigned following a tumultuous but eventually successful season. The controversy surrounded four forfeit losses that almost cost the Tigers a playoff berth. Once it looked like they'd get in, though, the team surged. With all-state lock Clifton Smith leading the way, Edison rolled to the Yosemite Division Small crown.
32. (4) Helix (La Mesa) 11-2
The Highlanders were banged up with some injuries when they lost their first game of the season to Vista, but everybody was healthy this time in their surprisingly one-sided loss to Oceanside in the CIFSD Div. II final. Based on the players who were coming back from last season, Helix might be our pick as the most disappointing team of the year.
33. (nr) Rancho Cotate (Rohnert Park) 13-0
They're saying the Cougars might be one of the best teams ever from the Redwood Empire. Those kinds of proclamations plus the perfect record equals this ranking. We just never know for sure about the Redwood Empire since teams from there rarely go far to find the toughest competition possible.
34. (nr) Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) 13-1*
Coach Greg Cano's program has now won three CIFSS section titles in the last four years and most of the key players, including WR-DB Daniel Drayton and DE Brigham Harwell, will be back in 2003. The Conquerors' only loss on the field came to league rival Charter Oak, which was more than made up for in the playoffs. Los Altos had a forfeit loss and a key nonleague win over Ayala.
35. (12) Vista 10-3
After surviving a triple-overtime game in the semis vs. Torrey Pines, the Panthers weren't able to find the same magic vs. Carlsbad and lost in the San Diego Section Div. I final to the Lancers, 14-13. A big win over Helix in September helped Vista climb to as high as No. 8 in the state, but a loss to Oceanside revealed some weaknesses that other teams also exploited later in the season. The Panthers were going for their second straight section title.
36. (46) San Ramon Valley (Danville) 10-3
Although the Wolves didn't really beat anybody of real significance, two of their losses were to Monte Vista and the first one was in a classic 46-44 thriller that none of the 9,000 who were there will ever forget. QB Sam Keller and his team also lost in a close game to Foothill of Pleasanton.
37. (40) Westlake (Westlake Village) 11-3
The Warriors got Whitney-ed in the CIFSS Div. IV final, but that they made it that far with a young team is a testament to the continued good coaching of Jim Benkert and staff. Westlake's other two losses were to Notre Dame and Hart and it won the Marmonte League by downing Moorpark, which was unbeaten at the time.
38. (nr) Los Gatos 12-0-1
Oh, the debate within the CCS of where to rank the Wildcats would have been intense had they won their third straight Div. III title instead of tying in the final against St. Francis. It's still tricky as to where to slot them, but they did beat St. Francis, 21-0, the first fime they played. Los Gatos also will take a 38-0-1 unbeaten streak, one of the longest such streaks in the nation, into the 2003 season.
39. (19) San Clemente 9-4
Notable wins for the Tritons were over Edison of Huntington Beach, Foothill of Tustin, Valencia and Chino. Three of the losses were to Centennial of Corona, Mission Viejo and Hart. And the Hart game was won by the Indians by just a one-TD margin.
40. (nr) Marian Catholic (San Diego) 13-0
So how impressive were the Crusaders in their 49-21 win over St. Augustine for the San Diego Section Div. III title? They were being compared afterward to the very best teams in the section, including the Div. I finalists. The San Diego Union-Tribune didn't place Marian ahead of Div. I champion Carlsbad in its final rankings, but did go with the Crusaders in front of Vista. We didn't go that far, but we did reward the team's showing with a top 40 state ranking as well as the No. 2 spot in Div. III behind Kaiser.
41. (nr) Woodland 9-3
The Wolves would clearly be the next team out of the Sac-Joaquin Section. Their three losses were to Grant, Nevada Union and Jesuit and none of the three were complete blowouts. Woodland also posted a significant early-season triumph over Div. II finalist Granite Bay.
42. (nr) Claremont 9-3
The Wolfpack opened with a win over eventual CIFSS Div. VII champ South Hills and eventually made it all the way to the Div. II semis where they lost to Mission Viejo. One of Claremont's regular season losses was to Damien of La Verne, a result that was reversed in the Div. II quarterfinals.
43. (nr) Garces (Bakersfield) 12-0
Support seemed to wane for the Rams being considered the No. 1 team overall in the Central Section after they won a crazy, high scoring game in their final vs. San Joaquin Memorial while Clovis and Edison took care of business in the higher divisions. Still, it may be coach John Fanucchi's best team ever, although we're still partial to the 1987 squad.
44. (nr) Granite Bay 11-2
The Grizzlies made another run at the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II title and for the second straight year came up just a little short in a 20-17 loss to Oak Ridge. The team's only other loss this season was to Woodland and that also was in a close game. Granite Bay's biggest win turned out to be in its opener, 41-40, over eventual Div. I finalist Lincoln of Stockton.
45. (nr) Canyon (Canyon Country) 10-2
It sure hasn't taken long for coach Harry Welch to return the Cowboys to prominence. This year's team lost only to Hart and Mission Viejo. The only reason they aren't higher in the rankings is that both losses were a little too lopsided. Canyon's best wins were over Valencia and Etiwanda of Rancho Cucamonga.
46. (6) Chino 11-2
The best wins for the Cowboys turned out to be against Damien in league and against eventual CIFSS Div. X champ Lompoc in a nonleaguer on Nov. 8. It's just after last year's 13-1 showing and with so many players back, the year has to go down as a disappointment.
47. (nr) Moorpark 11-2
We can remember the days when the Musketeers were synonymous with losing and once went about 50 years before they could beat Carpinteria. Well, times and demographics, are a changin'. This year's team put together a terrific run in the Marmonte League before losing a close game to Westlake. Then when you consider the Musketeers lost by just 46-40 to St. Bonaventure in the playoffs, this spot in the top 50 starts to make sense.
48. (nr) Damien (La Verne) 9-3
We like the Spartans for their win over Claremont in the first game between the two, for their win over Ayala in their last league game and for their win over Rancho Cucamonga in week two just after the Cougars had tied Kaiser.
49. (nr) Ayala (Chino Hills) 9-3
The two wins we liked for coach Lou Randall's club in the regular season were over Bishop Amat and Chino. The two losses were to Los Altos and Damien (also top 50 teams). In the playoffs, the Bulldogs beat Rancho Cucamonga and then got crushed by Hart.
50. (nr) Murrieta Valley (Murrieta) 11-1-1
The Nighthawks got all the way into December before they lost and that was by just a touchdown to J.W. North in the CIFSS Div. V semifinals. Their tie was against Canyon Springs, but we would rank Murrieta Valley higher based on the fact Canyon Springs was beaten more convincingly in its semifinal game against Corona Centennial.
Here's 25 more we considered for the top 50:
Bellarmine (San Jose) 8-5
Bishop Amat (La Puente) 6-6
Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 10-2-1
Castle Park (Chula Vista) 9-3
Central (Fresno) 9-2-1
Clovis West (Fresno) 6-6-1
Eisenhower (Rialto) 7-5
Florin (Sacramento) 10-2
Foothill (Tustin) 11-3
La Habra 13-1
Lassen (Susanville) 12-0
Logan (Union City) 8-3
St. Francis (Mountain View) 7-5-1
San Lorenzo Valley (Felton) 13-0
Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 6-5
Serrano (Phelan) 13-1
Servite (Anaheim) 7-4
South Hills (West Covina) 11-3
Torrey Pines (San Diego) 8-4