There will be a more thorough breakdown of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s preseason Top Ten Rankings in Thursday’s PrepXtra Preview Magazine, but it’s time to unveil the teams, and you shouldn’t be surprised who I gave top billing.
1. Bishop Amat — There are other teams with better chances of winning league titles and CIF championships in their respective divisions, but No. 1 to start the season simply comes down to who you think is the best if everyone played each other, and Amat is still the best until an area team dethrones them, or has bigger wins on the resume when the season is over. It’s that simple. Aram can argue other teams all he wants, but until teams like Charter Oak, Chino Hills or West Covina beat Amat, the Lancers are still tops in the Valley. And guess what, Charter Oak and Chino Hills will get their shot. That’s how this works, you want No. 1, earn it on the field, not against a weaker schedule. Just a fun fact here, Aram has Monrovia No. 1 in his all encompassing ranking. On my list Monrovia would be No. 6 behind the Tribune’s Top 5. Who you schedule and who you beat means everything.
2. Chino Hills — I’ve never seen senior quarterback Matt Simko, the transfer from Colony who is supposed to revitalize the Huskies and make them instant Sierra League contenders. Chino Hills has a great coaching staff. They have a great program. In terms of numbers and demographics, nobody in the SGV can compete. But can they put it all together? We’re going to find out, but it looks good on paper.
3. West Covina — The back-to-back Southeast Division champs have the potential to be better than the previous title teams because it has a bonafide quarterback, a guy you can rank with the best in the area, something the Bulldogs haven’t had in a long, long time. The Bulldogs can run, they’ve always been able to run. They’re physical on defense and swarm at you like no other. Now, with Jonathan Najera at QB, they could be more dangerous than ever and having a legitimate QB gives them a much better shot at Loyola next week.
4. Damien — Gano’s last hurrah? Ok, just joking, but it might feel like that if the Spartans don’t do something special like win the Sierra League title and get past the first round of the Inland playoffs. Quarterback Gage Pucci is as good as advertised, they have receivers and backs to potentially be one of the best offense’s in the area. If the defense holds up, watch out.
5. Charter Oak — Here’s the deal, I thought so highly of quarterback Travis Santiago I can’t imagine life for the Chargers without him, particularly because there was no Santiago incumbent waiting in the wings. The QB spot is a huge question mark as is the running game with Kurt Scoby now at St. Paul. But on defense, the Chargers are as solid as anyone in the area, arguably even better than Amat. But in the Sierra and Inland you have to score points and I’m not convinced the Chargers can do that on a consistent level yet.
6. Bonita — The drop-off from 5 to 6 is huge, and I mean huge, but I’m comfortable with the ‘Cats in this spot because of Sunshine, junior quarterback Tanner Diebold and a solid running game with Reggie Turner. That’s a one-two punch that few teams ranked below have, so I’m rolling with it.
7. South Hills — If I’m being completely honest with myself, I made this ranking BEFORE watching last week’s scrimmage against Covina. I thought the Huskies had size on the line, but speedier players ran by them. There also wasn’t the super impact players that Huskies teams always have, but like I said, the gap between the top five and the rest is huge, so maybe the Huskies do live up to this ranking.
8. San Dimas — Once again the favorite to win the Valle Vista League because they return eight starters on defense and everyone knows in Bill Zernickow’s Wing Z, they score points. The Saints averaged 36 points a game last year and got to the Mid-Valley semifinals. Can they do it again? They probably can.
9. Ayala — This is the year when the great freshman class from 2009 are seniors. That freshman class went undefeated and ever since have talked about 2012. Well, it’s here now. You probably think they should have been better last year if they’re going to make a dramatic turnaround from 3-7, but sometimes a fresh start is all you need.
10. El Monte — The Big sleeper. I’m going to take some abuse for this, but of all the teams in our top ten, the Lions have the best shot at going 10-0. They also have a quarterback in Brandon Martinez that IS the next Steven Rivera. Martinez could play and be a standout anywhere, both with his arm and his legs. Trouble with El Monte is reputation, they don’t have one. They’re being hyped for the first time in a long time, so how will they answer the bell?