2002 Northern California Preview & Predictions

Let the predictions begin! The 2002 Northern California Preview and Predictions piece is the first in a series of conference predictions articles. This is the culmination of research and analysis by Hank Ives (JC Grid-Wire), JCFootball.com, and input several other trusted sources. In this article you'll learn about each team in our NorCal Top 15: strengths and weaknesses; interesting facts, and a name to remember. *This story considers all teams in northern California. Enjoy...

1 CC of San Francisco What needs to be said? They're the most talented team in the state year in and year out. If there is a year for the mighty to fall, this could be it. The Rams will have an untested QB and TB, as well as some undersized defensive linemen. However, they have six of the state's top prospects.
Head Coach:
George Rush
Strengths: Great secondary, o-line, d-ends, and speed at WR.
  NorCal Conference Weaknesses: Lack of game experience at LB, RB, QB, DT and at P & K
  12-0 in 2001 Remember the Name: Chijoke Onyenegecha, Cornerback (6-3, 190), El Cerrito HS, California - Could be the most highly recruited player in the nation. All the tools. Track athlete as well. Will be the best cornerback in the state, if not the country at the JC level.
2 Fresno City The past two years, the Rams have gone 10-0 in the regular season, only to lose to CCSF in the NorCal Championship game. I'd guess you might see round three in 2002. Loaded with talent but have to get over the post-season hump.
Head Coach:
Tony Caviglia
Strengths: Experience at QB, RB, WR and in the secondary.
  Valley Conference Weaknesses: Game experience on the o-line and d-line
  10-1 in 2001 Remember the Name: Earl Charles, Tailback (6-0, 195), Canarsie HS, Brooklyn, New York - Was great sharing time in 2001. This season, it will be the Earl Show in Fresno. Had 1,035 yards and averaged 8 yards per carry in 2001.
3 Butte College The Roadrunners had a "down" year (by their standards) in 2001 but should rebound nicely in 2002. Their o-line and linebackers may be the best groups at those positions in Northern California.
Head Coach:
Craig Rigsbee
Strengths: Offensive line & linebackers are among NorCal's elite. Solid DE's.
  NorCal Conference Weaknesses: No experience at QB, RB, DT, or WR.
  8-3 in 2001 Remember the Name: Scott Lee, OL (6-4, 310), Kauai HS, Hawaii - Stud at Yuba in 2000. If he's still in good game shape, he will be a highly sought-after player (academics permitting).
4 Sacramento CC The team is loaded with talent but desperate for leadership. I expect Gary Garabato and staff to bring in a new attitude and get this program going in the right direction. He has the tools to work with.
Head Coach:
Gary Garabato
Strengths: New coach = New attitude. Great athletes at DL/DE, DB, and WR
  NorCal Conference Weaknesses: New LB's and new QB, only one returning starter on OL
  4-6 in 2001
(2 forfeits)
Remember the Name: Phil Goodman, WR (6-3, 210), Vallejo HS, California - Signed with Oregon out of high school. Should get the ball thrown to him a lot in Garabato's offense. Academics permitting, should be a big time recruit.
5 Santa Rosa This team should be the class of the Mid-Empire Conference. Lots of talent on both sides of the ball. Could probably compete in the NorCal Conference.
Head Coach:
Keith Simons
Strengths: Great athletes on defense at DL, LB, and CB. Experienced QB & WR's.
  Mid-Empire Conference Weaknesses: Not much returning on o-line
  8-3 in 2001 Remember the Name: Tony Keefer, QB, (6-2, 210), Cardinal Newman HS, CA - Led nation in total offense, averaging approximately 315 yards passing per game. Lowered his forty from a 4.9 to 4.6, squats 440, benches 340. Graduates in December and is being recruited by many D1s, including NC State which is on him hard.
6 San Mateo Experience and athleticism at key positions should allow the Bulldogs to continue to be among the most competitive teams in Northern California. This is a program building some momentum after being under .500 for several years prior to last season.
Head Coach:
Larry Owens
Strengths: Great overall team speed. Experienced o-line and d-line. Very athletic at off. skill positions.
  Golden Gate Conference Weaknesses: Inexperienced secondary. Untested linebackers.
  8-3 in 2001 Remember the Name: Kevin Keanaaina, DE (6-3, 285), Galileo HS, San Francisco, CA - Runs very well for a big d-end. Very athletic. First team All-Conf. in 2001. Should be a dominant player in 2002.
7 Reedley If the offense can play smart and not turn the ball over, the defense should be able to carry this team through the beginning of the season as the young offense matures. Once conference play starts, strap it on! The Valley Conference is among the state's toughest.
Head Coach:
Michael White
Strengths: Phenomenal athletes on defense! Defensive team speed will be outstanding.
  Valley Conference Weaknesses: Must find new offensive weapons with graduation of QB, WR's, and TB.
  4-6 in 2001 Remember the Name: Doug Langenfield, DE (6-4, 245), South Carolina - Big time prospect with great combination of speed, size, and football smarts. Highly recruited. One of many I-A prospects on Reedley's defense.
8 Foothill One of Northern California's top teams over the past several years, the Owls will have to develop some young players on offense and in the secondary in order to compete in the new NorCal Conference.
Head Coach:
Marshall Sperbeck
Strengths: Great players on the o-line and d-line and at linebacker and running back.
  NorCal Conference Weaknesses: Not much experience in the secondary and at QB and WR.
  8-3 in 2001 Remember the Name: Scott Jobe, DL (6-5, 320), Inglemoor HS, Seattle. Washington - Big, strong, and runs very well. Had a great freshman season at DT. Many four year coaches believe he is an o-lineman at the next level. Looked good at NorCal combine.
9 Modesto The Pirates lost some of their best players from last year's team. However, they return a great nucleus of players that should keep the team competitive in the Valley Conference.
Head Coach:
Sam Young
Strengths: Experienced offensive skill players. Good cornerbacks and DT's.
  Valley Conference Weaknesses: Many new faces on O-line and at linebacker and DE. Losing Estes could hurt.
9-2 in 2001 Remember the Name: Larry Hollins, CB (5-8, 175), Thomas Downey HS, Modesto, CA - Returning starter at cornerback for the Pirates. Had a great freshman season. Great speed and technique.
10 San Joaquin Delta Coach Barlow has this program going in the right direction. If the defense improves from last year and a young offense develops under Barlow's tutelage, the Mustangs should be very competitive in the new Mid-Empire Conference.
Head Coach:
Gary Barlow
Strengths: Return most of their starters on defense (9). Very athletic QB.
  Mid-Empire Conference Weaknesses: Need to replace 3 of 4 starting WR's.
  8-3 in 2001 Remember the Name: Jomo Wilson, WR (6-0, 200), Stagg HS, Stockton, CA - Top freshman receiver on team last season. 48 receptions in 9 games.
11 West Hills In the tiny town of Coalinga, players from all over the country come together and play a great brand of football for the Falcons of West Hills. Coach Gritton has been able to get these players to play well together in recent years. This season should be no different.
Head Coach:
Mark Gritton
Strengths: Team returns lots of talent all over the field, especially at OL, DB, WR, and RB.
  Valley Conference Weaknesses: A little undersized on the DL. Some untested linebackers.
  5-5 in 2001 Remember the Name: DeWayne Wright, RB (6-1 , 210), Lincoln HS, San Diego, CA - Redshirted in 2001 to prepare academically for transfer to Washington State. Big power runner with speed, should be a force in his one season playing for West Hills.
12 College of the Redwoods The Corsairs face a daunting task of joining the new NorCal Conference in which they'll have to play some of Northern California's top teams. The team could be great but still have a tough time during conference play.
Head Coach:
Dave Banducci
Strengths: Experience at QB, OT, WR, and DL. Great CB in John Fantroy.
  NorCal Conference Weaknesses: Tough move to NorCal Conference. Need to develop RB and LB's.
  8-3 in 2001 Remember the Name: Brandon Charter, OT (6-5, 300), Evergreen HS, Washington - Returning starter at left tackle for the Corsairs. Among the top freshmen linemen in Northern California as a freshman. Great feet to compliment big frame.
13 Laney College 2001 was a strong year for a Laney program that had struggled over the previous several years. The team graduated a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. However, veteran coach Stan Peters will have the Eagles ready to play come September. Should be competitive in Golden Gate Conference.
Head Coach:
Stan Peters
Strengths: Talented returning players at DB, LB, and WR.
  Golden Gate Conf. Weaknesses: Thin on o-line and d-line. Need to develop new QB and RB.
7-4 in 2001 Remember the Name: Jason Gaffney, WR (6-2, 180), Hayward HS, CA - Big receiver with great speed. Played a lot in 2001 despite two outstanding sophomore wideouts on the team. Should be the Eagles go-to guy in 2002.
14 Merced College The Blue Devils have been down for the past several seasons. I have a hunch that this could be the year that the team returns to being among the most competitive teams in Northern California. Its been a long time coming for one of the good guys in head coach Tony Lewis. Unfortunately, the Valley Conference is going to be very tough in 2002. They could be a great team and still find themselves in 5th place.
Head Coach:
Tony Lewis
Strengths: Talent returns on offense at each position. Defense also returns standouts at key positions.
  Valley Conference Weaknesses: Need to find one cornerback and two linebackers as well as three o-linemen.
  3-7 in 2001 Remember the Name: Kevin Oberlander, QB (6-5, 190), Atwater HS, CA - Has all the tools to be among the state's best QB's in 2002. His outstanding foot speed compliments his great vision and strong arm. One of the best all-around athletes playing QB in Northern California.
15 Sierra College Despite graduating most of their starters from last season, Jeff Tisdel has a great group of newcomers to complement a strong core or returners at a few key positions including TE, OT, DT, and CB.
Head Coach:
Jeff Tisdel
Strengths: Great transfers compliment a corps of strong returning players.
  Bay Valley Conference Weaknesses: Must replace most of their offensive starters from 2001.
  6-5 in 2001 Remember the Name: Antoine Williams, TE (6-3, 240), Grant HS, Sacramento, CA - Bounce back from Boise State, started every game as a freshman last season. Has all the tools to be a successful receiving tight end with great foot speed at his size, soft hands, and great football instincts.
Bubble Teams
Chabot (4-6) The program looks to be improving after being down the past two seasons. However, a move to the new NorCal Conference will make the road ahead tough for the Gladiators in 2002. Cornerback Adrian Ward will be one of the top cornerbacks in the state in 2002.
Contra Costa (7-4) Outstanding season in 2001, but the team must replace standout TB Lionel Arnold and improve their o-line. Some great athletes on the team should lead to success. Linebacker Todd Eagle will be a big time player for the Comets, as will cornerback Demetrius Williams.
West Valley (7-4) Coach John Vlahos inherits a program that has been competitive year in and year out. The Vikings should continue to be strong in 2002 as they move to the new Golden Gate Conference. This will be a step up from the Coast Conference schedule of the past two years. Will be tougher. OLB Shawntey Lopez (6-2, 215) has the potential to be a great player if he progresses from last year.
  Yuba (7-4) Despite low numbers on their roster, the 49ers are competitive every season. With many of their starters returning from a year ago, they should continue to battle every week in the Mid-Empire Conference. Replacing Hawaii-bound running back John West will be tough. Linebacker Mark Geyer is a good one.
The Others
American River (3-7) The team returns a lot of talent, especially on defense. However, the team has had difficulty with turning their talent into wins over the past couple of seasons. New Mid-Empire Conference is tougher this year.
Cabrillo (3-7) The team is back where they belong in the Coast Conference. They should return to being the top team in the conference. Could happen right away. Lots of talent on offense.
De Anza (2-8) Team has struggled over the past several years. The "buzz" is that Mike Mitchell has some talent to work with this year. I'd wait and see.
Diablo Valley (4-6) Competing for talent in the East Bay with many other JC's, DVC has had a tough time establishing consistency over the past several years. Will be tough in the new Golden Gate Conference. Linebacker Nick Quinones leads the defense.
Feather River (N/A) You never know how a team will play in their first season of football ever. Sounds like the Golden Eagles have some talent transfer students to work with and a strong group of incoming freshmen. Could be competitive in a wide open Bay Valley Conference.
Gavilan (1-9) This once strong program has fallen on hard times of late. Coach John Lango has some talent and leadership heading into 2002 which should lead to an improvement over the recent past. QB/Athlete Ajene Palmer will spark the offense.
Hartnell (4-6) Coach Larry Souza has some great talent at key positions, which could give the team a great chance to compete for the Coast Conference championship. It will be tough to replace standout QB Mike Souza, who ran the team's offense and put up huge numbers over the past two seasons. Huge OT Sam Vegas will anchor the o-line and safety Tyler Larick leads the defense.
Los Medanos (1-9) The Mustangs fell on hard times in 2001. Can the program rebound? Yes. Will it happen in 2002? Not very likely. The Mustangs offense struggled in 2001 and will have to redefine itself with a new OC in 2002. Tag McCurdy is one to watch on defense.
Marin (1-9) New head coach Tim Adams has the program going in the right direction, but the rebuilding process will take some time. Could win a few in the new Bay Valley Conference.
Mendocino (5-5) This is not an easy place to coach and win. Give credit to Gary Garabato for going 5-5 last season with so few local high schools from which to draw. In the BVC, its anybody's ballgame. Should compete. Fast linebacker Mark Paleafei (6-1, 245) is the anchor of the team's defense.
Monterey Peninsula (4-6) Coach Mike Rasmussen had two of the best offense weapons in NorCal on his team in 2001. Mann and Vaughns will be all but impossible to replace. Will need strong incoming group of freshmen in order to be competitive. QB Anthony Garnett returns to lead the offense.
San Jose (4-6) The team's M.O. for the past several years had been "Loaded with talent but can't find a way to win." With a change at head coach, can the team overcome this? Perhaps with the restructuring of the Golden Gate Conference. No more conference games against CCSF, Foothill, and Chabot. Keep your eye on LB Nick Fennell (6-2, 245) and TB Travis Booker (5-7, 175).
Sequoias (2-8) The Giants return some great players at key positions including QB (Jason Baca) and WR (Kevin Marrero). Unfortunately, the Valley Conference could be the toughest in Northern California in 2002. They'll have to play their "A" game in every conference game. There are no easy games in the Valley Conference.
Shasta (4-6) Coach Craig Thompson graduated a lot of his top players from last year's team. This will likely be a rebuilding year. Does this mean they cannot win? Not necessarily. Their new conference, the Mid-Empire, is not as tough as the old NorCal Conference. Should compete. Safety Brandon Swindlehurst (6-2, 190) will be among the top safeties in Northern California.
Siskiyous (2-8) Its been a tough past couple of years for Siskiyous. The Eagles have a good nucleus of returning players heading in 2002. With their new placement, with Shasta, in the Mid-Empire Conference, I expect they'll move in the right direction in 2002. Cornerback John Shields is a big time prospect for the Eagles.
Solano (N/A) After one year without football in 2001, the Falcons return to action in 2002. Don't be surprised if Coach Floyd Burnsed is competitive right away. If he can keep some of the local talent at home and draw a little from Sacramento and the East Bay, the Falcons could be competitive right away.

Conference by Conference Predictions

NorCal Conference
City College of San Francisco
Butte College
Sacramento City College
Foothill College
Chabot College
College of the Redwoods

Valley Conference
Fresno City College
Reedley College
Modesto Junior College
West Hills College
Merced College
College of the Sequoias

Golden Gate Conference
College of San Mateo
Laney College
West Valley College
San Jose City College
Los Medanos College
Diablo Valley College

Mid-Empire Conference
Santa Rosa Junior College
San Joaquin Delta College
Yuba College
American River College
Shasta College
College of the Siskiyous

Bay Valley Conference
Sierra College
Contra Costa College
Mendocino College
Solano College
College of Marin
Feather River College

Coast Conference
Cabrillo College
Hartnell College
De Anza College
Gavilan College
Monterey Peninsula College

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