Santa Fe, which hasn’t won the Del Rio League title in three years, was the unanimous pick to finish first in a league coaches’ poll conducted as part of the Whittier Host Lions’ Del Rio League Kickoff Dinner Thursday night at the Whittier Hotel Radisson.
La Serna, which won the league last season, was picked second, with California third.
“You have to win it on the football field, and we won’t know where we are until we open league,” said Santa Fe coach Jack Mahlstede, who is retiring after 34 seasons with the Chiefs. “It’s good to know people like you. We have good comradeship in our league.”
Santa Fe, which advanced to the Southeast Division quarterfinals, returns 15 starters.
La Serna, which had its best season in 50 years after going 11-2 and a trip to the Southeast semifinals, still is expected to be a player despite losing a bulk of its roster to graduation.
“We lost a lot of guys,” La Serna coach Margarito Beltran said. “But at the same time, we have a lot of kids who have bought in and know the only answer is hard work.
“We expect to be young. But our young guys are going to have to step up.”
California is expected to be improved after a rare sub .500 season in 2010.
“I think we’ll be OK,” California coach Jim Arnold said. “I kind of like it that nobody is talking about us, so we’ll see what happens.”