With the 2016-17 school year approaching, Prep2Prep takes a look at some of the teams to watch for in each coverage area. This feature focuses on the teams within the North Coast Section. All records listed are from the 2015 season.
Analy (13-1, 6-0 SCL)
The Tigers return prolific quarterback Jack Newman, running back Osiris Zamora, and receivers Ross Simmons and Spencer Vogel from last year’s NCS Division III finalists.
Analy’s defense also returns a handful of playmakers from last season, with two-way lineman Connor Kearney, defensive end Jordan Parks, linebacker Nick Savage, and defensive back Kyle Johnson each anchoring position groups on that side of the ball.
The boys from Sebastopol have not lost a league game since 2011, and prepare for SCL action this year with a marquee non-league tilt against Cardinal Newman.
Antioch (11-1, 5-0 BVAL)
Everyone knows about the workhorse in the Panthers’ backfield, Najee Harris, but the rest of the cupboard is far from bare. The coaching staff is pretty sold on incoming sophomore quarterback Will Karnthong, while Omari Harris and Dalaan Green provide additional options in the backfield. Green will be the lightning to the thunder aspect the other two can provide.
Receivers Isaac Freytes and Gaudie Campbell provide two big weapons in the passing game, while Justin Kennard anchors the offensive line, with Sir Forbes, Neel Sahota, and Kyle Brown all providing returning experience up front. Defensively, Antioch could be as athletic as anyone in the linebacker and secondary corps. Isaiah Dunn and Antione Tanner are a lockdown combination in the secondary, while the linebacker trio of Cameron Nathan, Omari Harris, and Koby Williams all provide size and athleticism.
The target will be on Antioch this season after capturing their first BVAL title last year, by way of an epic win over Pittsburg in the Big Little Game. A tougher schedule includes a non-league game at De La Salle, and all league teams will be gunning for the Panthers.
Bishop O’Dowd (7-6, 3-2 WACC-Foothill)
After giving Campolindo everything it could handle in last year’s section semifinals, the Dragons return a majority of their playmakers from 2015. That includes now-sophomore running back Austin Jones, who ran for nearly 1,400 yards last season.
Bishop O’Dowd did graduate quarterback Nick Allen, but returns Joe Deluca, who saw extensive time behind Allen last year. And he will have explosive playmaker Ethan Baker-Greene and tight end Cooper Hagmeier as top returning targets. Offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker is one of the nation’s top recruits at his position.
Defensively, Jordan Jackson is tough to handle with his athleticism at defensive end, while linebacker Nate Shepherd can anchor the middle. Avery Bilensky can play opposite Jackson, and provides the Dragons with two stout bookends. The secondary is a huge strength, led by Cal commit Je’quari Godfrey and junior Jevon Holland, who led the team with five interceptions last year.
Non-league games against Freedom and James Logan can tell us a lot about this team before conference play starts.
Campolindo (14-2, 6-0 DFAL)
The two-time defending Division III champions move into a new league and up a playoff classification this season, but the outlook remains strong for the Cougars, especially with the return of senior quarterback Jacob Westphal.
Campo’s offense will also have the benefit of returning its top two leading rushers from 2015, as Niki Moore and Matt Ringquist are both back. Westphal’s top two weapons from last year, Max Flower and Madison Young, have both graduated, but Kannah Cruickshank is back at receiver and Ray Berzins is a top target at tight end.
The defensive front should be bolstered by the return of Berzins and junior Justin Ehrenberger, while Lev Garcia and multi-talented junior John Torchio should be formidable in the secondary.
The Cougars open with a few big tests on their non-league schedule, highlighted by trips to Valley Christian-San Jose and St. Ignatius-San Francisco, plus a home game against Oakdale.
Cardinal Newman (11-3, 7-0 NBL)
The Cardinals return one of the top playmaking duos in the section, with quarterback Jordon Brookshire and receiver Damian Wallace. Wallace is also one of the top kick returners, and earned first-team all-league honors last year both offensively and defensively, in the secondary.
Linebacker Irwin Mann spearheads the Cardinal Newman defense this year, along with fellow all-league linebackers Mike Daly and Jalen Dural. Returners Dino Kahaulelio and Joey DiMarco bolster the defensive line.
Offensive linemen Jake McElderry and Zion Vogt should provide the foundation for the Cardinals’ zone-read run game.
With Marin Catholic moved up to Division III this season, the Cardinals are seeking not only a repeat NBL title, but also a Division IV crown, which would be their first section title since 2010.
Clayton Valley Charter (13-2, 5-0 DVAL)
After having a 2,000-yard rusher for all four seasons under coach Tim Murphy, there is little doubt this year who will be counted on to keep that streak intact, as running back Akeal Lalaind returns after emerging over the second half of the 2015 season.
The quarterback position will likely come down to senior Zia Rahmany and junior transfer Kenny Gardner, but considering the Ugly Eagles put the ball in the air on less than 15 percent of all plays last season, it may not have a huge impact on the offense. Junior James Teofilo also returns in the backfield.
The offensive line will be anchored by top recruit Jalen McKenzie at the tackle position, but also returns all-league players Jack Fouts and Ryan Fischer.
Defensively, Koti Vaisima and Bryce Brand are easily among the top defensive duos in the section, joined by returning all-leaguer Jeff Williams, while linebackers Justin Roper and Aaron Fonseca, and defensive backs Ja’ron Jackson and Evan Barney are all back after productive 2015 season.
Clayton Valley opens the season with three out-of-area opponents, Reed (NV), Helix-San Diego, and Canyon Springs-Las Vegas.
De La Salle (13-1)
The Spartans return just four starters from last season, but reload with players who practiced against those starters last year, as well as members from their junior varsity team which went 9-1.
Defensive back Tre White might be the only senior currently getting strong interest from Division I colleges, but De La Salle will once again be deep, strong, and well-conditioned, aspects which are hard to match. Two-way lineman Isaia Taotua would be an elite college recruit if he were six inches taller, and he will play alongside junior Tuli Letuligasenoa, who holds offers from UCLA and Nebraska.
What De La Salle might lack in size this year, they will certainly make up for in ability. Tight ends Anthony Friedman, Luke Freeman, and Isaiah Foskey will all be weapons in both the running and passing game, and the backfield features Kairee Robinson and Jonathan Hackett. Isaiah Randle and Elijah Short bolster the secondary, and Randle could also be featured at receiver. The quarterback position is still undecided between senior Abel Ordaz and sophomore Andrew Jones.
The Spartans face five EBAL teams this season, but play another nationally acclaimed schedule outside of that. Games with Serra-San Mateo and Servite-Anaheim will certainly be early tests, and defending Utah 4A state champion East-Salt Lake City also comes to town.
Marin Catholic (12-2, 7-0 MCAL)
After one year spent back down in Division IV, the Wildcats find themselves right back in Division III due to the new NCS competitive equity model. That does not seem like a problem for a loaded Marin Catholic team, which should remain dominant in the MCAL despite the loss of dual-threat quarterback Darius James-Peterson, who will be at the University of Idaho.
The quarterback battle should be an intriguing one, as talented six-foot-five junior Spencer Petras will likely start early in the season, as senior Jack Harris will presumably have to sit for the first five games after transferring from Tamalpais. The second half of the season will showcase coach Mazi Moayed’s juggling ability, but he has been in this situation before, when he had both Morgan Mahalak and Jared Goff at the same time.
Whoever is behind center can once again hand the ball to junior Kenneth Fitzgerald-Evans, while senior receiver Jack Hogeboom could emerge as one of the top playmakers in the section. They are joined by tight end Sebastian Olver, who is committed to Colorado, and also wreaks havoc on opposing offenses from his defensive end position. Senior Chantz Russell anchors the offensive line.
The defense lost standout Nick Gernhard to graduation, but linebackers Mack Roesner and Tom Jacobsen are players to watch, as are defensive backs Hogeboom and Hunter Juarez.
The Wildcats open the season with Central Catholic-Modesto, after the Raiders ended their 2015 season in the CIF Small School Open division regional final.
Monte Vista (7-4, 4-2 EBAL)
Despite losing to Pittsburg in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last season, the Mustangs are the trendy pick to win the EBAL with the return of multiple Division I college prospects, led by University of Washington commit Jake Haener at the quarterback position.
Joining Haener in the backfield again is senior Shane Perry, the team’s second-leading rusher last season. Monte Vista did graduate its top five targets in the passing game from last year, but the return of tight end Erik Krommenhoek, a USC commit, should definitely help. Getting Corey Luciano and Zach Zeising back on the offensive line is another boost.
Defensively, Krommenhoek and Landman are a formidable duo within the front seven, with Landman as the type of linebacker who can plug holes and run sideline to sideline.
Pittsburg (10-3, 4-1 BVAL)
The Pirates will be plugging in a new quarterback following the graduation of single-season record-setter Christian Young, but return many of the pieces around that position to once again breed optimism for a league title in Pittsburg.
The big debate revolves around who will take the reins behind center, a battle that will likely wage into the opening scrimmage, as senior Seu Kuka and sophomores Trey Turner and Willie Harts are all candidates for the job. Whoever wins the position will be able to again hand the ball to senior Montaz Thompson, after he ran for 1,766 yards last year, and throw the ball to one of the top returning athletes in the section, junior A’jae Boyd.
Both lines should definitely be a strength for the Pirates. Seniors Devon Taylor, Jason Harmon, DJ Wright, Tariq Wright, and Jacob Avilla all return up front, and have looked good in summer action. They will have depth as well, as sophomores Jacob Bandes and Gio Spinelli add to the talent base, and junior Nick Martin adds another big body to the mix. The defensive line also has a wealth of speed coming off the edge, with ends Iffy Joyner, Jaden Tuanau’u, Michael Pryor, and Floyd Burrell.
Pittsburg tests itself early with CCS foes Mitty and Serra, sandwiched around James Logan. All three games, however, are in the friendly confines of Pirate Stadium.
Five more to keep an eye on . . .
Berean Christian (11-2, 6-0 TCAL-Stone)
The Eagles return starting quarterback Chandler Davis and Washington State commit Isaiah Hodgins at receiver and defensive back. They move into a new league, playing in the Foothill division of the Diablo Athletic League, but could benefit from the loss of St. Bernard’s in Division V, the team which beat them in last year’s section title game.
Concord (10-4, 4-1 DVAL)
The runner-up in each of the last two seasons in Division II is part of the loaded Valley division of the DAL, with Clayton Valley, Campolindo, and Miramonte, but with Clayton Valley now in Division I for the post-season, the Minutemen will be gunning for a section title behind the arm of junior Nick Nunez and receivers Damaria Capers, Deandre Morgan, and Alex Cruz.
Miramonte (11-2, 5-1 DFAL)
The inclusion of the Matadors on this list means there are four teams from the DAL-Valley who could all be threats to win the league and do well in the post-season. Quarterback Tim Tague once again leads Miramonte, after a tremendous 2015 season, and receiver Nick Foster could be poised for a breakout campaign.
Moreau Catholic (11-2, 5-1 MVAL)
The Mariners reached the section semifinals for the first time in school history last season, giving Marin Catholic a battle to the wire. Running back Jullen Ison returns for his senior year, but he will operate behind five new offensive linemen. Trent Ramos, Richard Therman, Alex Johnson, and Adi Anderson are among the names to look for this season if Moreau is going to build on last year’s success.
St. Bernard’s-Eureka (14-1, 6-0 HND-Little 4)
The Crusaders are moved up to Division IV this season, despite an enrollment which hovers around 165 students, after winning section and state titles last season. Multi-talented athlete Jack Rice returns at quarterback for St. Bernard’s, which also returns nearly every playmaker from last season, including Isaac Drake and Micah Fontenot-Cornely.