The count-up to No. 1 continues as we break into the Top 10 with a North Coast Section perennial small school powerhouse
10. Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa (14-1)
The Cardinals finished behind Monte Vista-Danville and Clayton Valley-Concord in the final Cal-Hi Sports rankings at No. 41. But we had the defending CIF state Division 3-AA Bowl game champion and CIF North Coast Section Division IV titlist at No. 4 in the final Prep2Prep NCS rankings behind the Liberty-Brentwood team that dealt Coach Paul Cronin and his boys their only loss of the season in a 17-13 defeat that was close all the way to the finish.
Cronin, who joined the list of NCS coaches with 200 career coaching wins last season and enters this season with 206 wins, can’t replace quarterback and Prep2Prep NCS Senior of the Year Jackson Pavitt, but he returns six star players that have had a lot of success in the playoffs.
The top returner is Tsion Nunnally. The senior wide receiver and defensive back had seven D1 offers before committing to Washington State. He had 45 catches for 770 yards and 10 TDs, plus an interception on defense.
At the National Preps Collegiate Showcase on November 21 at Vacaville Christian, Nunnally was the MVP for wide receivers and re-affirmed what everyone already knew, that he is the top player in the Redwood Empire portion of the NCS and one of the top senior prospects in all of Northern California.
Leading rusher Shane Moran also returns. The senior, who will play baseball at Long Beach State, had 750 yards rushing and 12 TDs, 318 yards receiving and an additional score, and on defense he was second on the team in tackles with 108 plus two sacks, two interceptions, two blocked punts and a fumble recovery. Moran should be a huge impact player for Cronin this season.
Shane’s twin brother Zack Moran has mid-major interest. Last year’s leading tackler and senior linebacker Mitch Russell (125 tackles) returns with some mid-major interest, as does senior lineman Conor Williams, who is starting to get some college interest as well. The sixth player with playoff experience is senior running back Luca Castello.
Last year’s backup to Pavitt, senior Jordan Cooke, will take over under center with some big shoes to fill. Although he was not a finalist for QB MVP, Cooke looked pretty solid at the National Preps Collegiate Showcase.
As we get closer to December 7 hopes of beginning official practices are fading a bit, but if all goes as scheduled, and Cronin and his boys can play out of the area on January 15, the Cardinals open on the road at a very solid Inderkum-Sacramento with its new head coach Casey Taylor.