High school football is underway in a number of states, including some where the Covid cases have spiked recently. But in California, where by and large we have done a good job of controlling the pandemic, the date everyone is looking forward to in early December is now in jeopardy. This is a result of the November 16 announcement by Governor Newsom and the state health department that the updated youth sports guidance has been postponed.
Hopefully, at some point we will get underway so we’re releasing our pre-season Northern California rankings over the next couple of weeks despite the total uncertainty at this time of if and when we may have a season.
We open with Nos. 16-25 and after that we will begin the countdown to number one. All told, and including a long list of Others Considered, 48 teams grace this initial feature.
16. Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove (8-4)
This is where we disagree with the Sacramento Bee rankings based on who Cosumnes Oaks returns. The No. 6 team in the Sacramento Bee rankings falls into the No. 5 spot in these rankings although if we have a season they may end up higher. The buzz around the Sacramento area is the Wolfpack is loaded with athletic talent.
Some returners to look for that show up on the recruiting lists are Cal-committed senior linebacker Moses Oladejo, junior defensive tackle Tawon Sago, and dual-threat quarterback Anthony Grigsby, a senior who has three mid-major offers and is the No. 2 returning quarterback in the Sac-Joaquin Section after passing for 2,713 yards and 30 TDs and rushing for 360 yards and three more scores.
Another returner to look for is senior running back Christian Ridgeway, who rushed for 1,454 yards and nine touchdowns. There are several other outstanding returners including senior Isaiah Bobbitt-Byars, who led the team with 111 tackles last season.
17. Inderkum-Sacramento (11-1)
After a string of 11-win seasons, about the only thing Inderkum hasn’t done in the past few years is win a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section title. We have them at No. 6 in the Sacramento area but the Sacramento Bee pre-season No. 5 Tigers will get another chance this season. However, it will be with a new coach as highly successful Casey Taylor takes over for Terry Stark, who retired as one of the winningest coaches in SJS history with 231 career victories.
Taylor inherits a team that went 11-1 last year in a season that ended in a 56-21 loss in the SJS D1 semifinals to eventual champion Oak Ridge. Taylor inherits a team that lost almost all its skill players, but a name to look for is sophomore defensive back Carlos Wilson.
18. Jesuit-Carmichael (6-6)
Compared with the Sac Bee rankings, we're holding the Marauders back a bit despite the presence of solid senior returners like Cal-committed tight end Keleki Latu and San Jose State-committed WR/DB Nathan Lewis. Jesuit could be a sleeper team in the Sac-Joaquin Section this season.
19. Edison-Stockton (9-2)
In the cross-town battle in the CIFSJS Division I playoffs, the Vikings got the best of Lincoln with a 35-21 victory. The reason they start out below Lincoln and not higher in the rankings is because five-star junior running back recruit Raleek Brown transferred to Mater Dei-Santa Ana.
Even so, Edison still has some solid underclass talent. Junior dual-threat quarterback Safdar McCray looks to be the starter, and he has big size. Other players to look for include senior WR/DB Johnathan Taylor, junior wide receiver Dawan Short, and senior tight end Jayden Jones, who can also play quarterback,
20. Monte Vista-Danville (8-4)
The Mustangs tied with San Ramon Valley in the EBAL-Mountain Division at 3-2 and lost the league in double overtime before winning the playoff matchup in the NCS D1 semifinals. The reason Coach Matt Russi and his Mustangs start below San Ramon Valley is they don’t really have anyone that’s on any recruiting lists and there’s only one solid returner from last year with impressive numbers - senior running back Gavin Cribb. Don’t count Russi and his boys out as they always seem to be competitive.
21. McClymonds-Oakland (11-1)
The Warriors handled everyone on their schedule in Northern California for the first 11 games and easily bested Manteca in the CIF Northern Regional Division 2-A Bowl Game championship, but then the school of less than 250 students was no match for a Pacifica-Oxnard with 3,100 students and Mack lost decisively. Despite a small enrollment, McClymonds has had a reputation for rebuilding over the past several years and this season will be one of those years so we’re going to include them but not very high until we see what shakes out
22. Elk Grove (10-5)
The Sacramento Bee has the Thundering Herd at No. 7, and while they have two linemen on the recruiting radar screen, they will have a new quarterback - although they rarely throw the ball - and graduated over 5,100 yards of their 5,822 rushing yards from last season. The two linemen are junior Champ Ulufalu and sophomore Simione Pale, who has offers from Arizona State and Utah. We’re going to give Elk Grove a slice of the pie but it isn’t as big as the local paper.
23. Campolindo-Moraga (10-3)
The Cougars season was ended in the CIFNCS Division II title game in a loss to Clayton Valley but along the way they fought through injuries to still have a solid season that included a win over Rancho Cotate.
Like a lot of years, Coach Kevin Macy has a cupboard that looks a little bare, but Macy got to No. 7 all time in the NCS with 236 career wins because he builds teams and this year likely will be no exception. Macy has a new quarterback in Jacob Griessel but returns two of his top wide receivers, seniors Maxwell Weaver and Joey Schmidt.
24. Manteca (11-3)
The Buffaloes land a spot after tying with Oakdale and Central Catholic-Modesto for the Valley Oak League crown and then beating Placer in the CIF Northern Regional 2-A semifinals before falling to McClymonds in the NorCal title game. Manteca loses most of its offensive production so look for players like multi-purpose senior Aiden Nicolas to step up and fill the holes.
25T. Liberty-Brentwood (10-2)
Besides having a new coach the Lions have a whole lot of talent that graduated or transferred, so why we’re still giving them a decent spot in the pecking order, first-year Coach Matt Hoefs and his boys are going to have to show the pieces they have will make some noise. Two returners that make the National Preps list of top NorCal recruits are Cal-committed defensive end Akili Calhoun and senior long snapper Jamie Feldermann. Our sources tell us that Calhoun, who will ink his letter to Cal in signing day, will skip his senior season and enroll early at Cal, otherwise the Lions would be a little higher.
25T. Placer-Auburn (10-3)
The Hillmen don’t return as much talent as the Manteca team that beat them in the 2-A NorCal semifinals, but at this stage of the rankings they get a piece of the pie for their overall body of work last season, including a close loss at home to Cardinal Newman and a win over Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland. Senior quarterback Martin Haswell will be the top returner for Placer.
25T. Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park (11-3)
The defending CIF Northern Regional Division 3-A Bowl Game champions snag a portion of the final spot. The top returner is senior linebacker Mihalis Santorineos who holds several small school offers. Coach Gehrig Hotaling has some holes to fill, particularly on offense, so we’ll see who steps up.
Others Considered: Acalanes-Lafayette, Archbishop Mitty-San Jose, Benicia, Buhach Colony-Atwater, California-San Ramon, Capital Christian-Sacramento, Central Catholic-Modesto, Davis, De Anza-El Sobrante, Del Norte-Crescent City, Del Oro, Edison-Stockton, Encinal-Alameda, El Cerrito, Escalon, Granite Bay, Half Moon Bay, Hilmar, James Logan-Union City, Las Lomas-Walnut Creek, Los Gatos, Oak Grove-San Jose, Oakdale, Palo Alto, Ripon, Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton, St. Ignatius-San Francisco, Salinas, Sierra-Manteca, Sutter, The King’s Academy-Sunnyvale, Turlock, Vacaville, Vintage-Napa, Vista del Lago-Folsom, Wilcox-Santa Clara