Keeping in mind ranking high school football teams at this time of the year is foolhardy at best, here’s an early, preseason ranking of the area’s Top 5 high school teams:
1. La Habra: This one is easy. Coach Frank Mazzotta’s got a good thing going, and despite losing key players like RB Ronnie Hillman (San Diego State) and QB Randall Nygren (Southern Utah University), for the Highlanders, each season seems to be more a matter of reloading than rebuilding.
From here on, you can just about take your pick:
2. Santa Fe: The Chiefs regained their Del Rio League title in 2008, and figure to be better this year with QB Alex Flores a year older, wiser and faster, WR Andrew Jackson a legitimate post-season honors candidate, and up-and-coming RB Jonathan Pineda showing the way.
3. La Mirada: No question the Matadores will throw the ball, most likely with QB Daniel Poncedeleon at the controls, but can they complement him with a ground game? A new attitude and enthusiasm overall are a big plus, but will they carry over to the field and be enough?
4. St. Paul: Another surprise here. Most observers expect the Swordsmen to struggle because of their very challenging schedule, but it would be foolish not to respect coach Marijon Ancich’s return to the program. No team will play harder than will the Swordsmen, and being undersized on a weekly basis is nothing new for them.
5. Schurr: Although inexperienced at quarterback, nevertheless, still it is difficult to ignore the Spartans, who seem to be filling holes every preseason, then winning the Almont League title (six in a row, seven in eight years) and challenging in the CIF-SS’ postseason tournament (2006 champion). They are 27-3 in league the past six seasons.
For the sake of argument, ranking the remainder of the area teams:
6. California, 7. La Serna, 8. Pioneer, 9. El Rancho, 10. Montebello, 11. Whittier, 12. Cantwell, 13. Whittier Christian.