Here’s the Daily News’ Top 5 preseason football rankings. The list was put together by my predecessor, Andrew J. Campa:
1. LA HABRA
Strengths: There aren’t many holes with a defense anchored by
UCLA-bound linebacker Aaron Porter, especially given the growth of
the defensive line, last year’s Achilles Heel. The Highlanders have a
stout kicker in Sean Wale and an offense that should score enough
Obstacles: Like many area teams, the Highlanders are
breaking in a new quarterback.
Unlike several area teams, there isn’t much room for a learning curve
with Orange Lutheran, Servite and St. John Bosco laying in wait in
the area’s toughest nonleague schedule.
Outlook: The Highlanders will finish the nonleague season
either 3-2 or 2-3 and will be angry enough at their record to storm
through the Freeway League unscathed and likely win their fifth
straight CIF-Southern Section title.
2. ST. PAUL
Strengths: It’s been a while since the Swordsmen started the
season so highly ranked and rightly so.
The Swordsmen return a seasoned quarterback in Paul Telles, a strong
ground attack with Michael Ortega and David Cabral and a solid
defense with Gabriel Gonzalez and Cabral at linebacker.
Obstacles: The offensive line has question marks and the
kicking game looks weaker this year than last. Let’s face it, the
Mission League is even tougher this year, which makes it difficult
for a good squad to reach the postseason.
Outlook: The Swordsmen are tired of being out of the
postseason loop and should make it to the playoffs (probably as a
wild card) in what is the final season of coach Marijon Ancich’s
historic 34-year career.
3. SANTA FE
Strengths: Health. The Chiefs lost their top running back,
quarterback and wide receiver to injuries last year before the start
of Week 2. The Chiefs appear healthy and their team size (63) is
bigger than anyone else in league. This team has depth at every
position and is hungry to recapture a league title.
Obstacles: Complexity. The Chiefs have a propensity to
outthink themselves. They’re faster than everyone else in league but
have difficulty utilizing their speed.
Santa Fe’s preseason schedule of Hamilton, Charter Oak and St. John
Bosco is no joke and the Chiefs will need to be on their toes.
Outlook: Like St. Paul, Santa Fe is also playing for a
well-respected coach in Jack Mahlstede, who is also stepping down.
There’s nothing the players and coaches want more than to give
Mahlstede one last league championship.
4. EL RANCHO
Strengths: Finally. This team has some size. Senior Alfred
Villanueva (6-foot-2, 265 pounds) highlights an offensive line that
averages close to 240 pounds, which is up about 15 pounds from last
The Dons have a solid blend of dynamic skilled and blue-collar,
hard-nosed players and have improved the last two years under head
coach Rick Zepeda.
Plus, they’re as hungry this offseason as they’ve ever been.
Obstacles: Will the passing game concern opposing teams
enough to keep them honest. El Rancho has an explosive back in Ronnel
Lone but inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver to prevent
teams from loading the box.
The linebackers are also young and lack a true playmaker like Jake
Outlook: Everything seems stacked in El Rancho’s favor.
The Dons could finish 4-1 or maybe 5-0 this preseason and catch a
visiting Santa Fe team in the league opener that has been through a
brutal preseason. While El Rancho missed its chances versus La Serna
last year in the league opener, this year’s Dons seem much more
Strengths: The Titans are bigger than normal and certainly more
ornery, which is a good thing.
Too often, Pioneer’s complex offensive schemes led the team to the
development a finesse type of attitude. This summer, the Titans’
offensive and defensive lines didn’t hold back in mixing it up during
passing league and even had a memorable victory over Santa Fe in the
Tournament of Champions Tug-O-War competition.
The Titans also return experience at quarterback and running back and
at most positions.
Obstacles: Quarterback Daniel Castro averaged 60 passing
yards per game last year and will likely need to up that production
if the Titans are going to protect running back Tony Botello.
While the team is confident, it’s still going to hit a rough spot in
the season and will need to stay disciplined and away from negative
Before this team wins, it needs to believe it can.
Outlook:The Titans are definitely a playoff contender and
certainly have the ability to wear down teams behind their bruising
running attack. If this team can start off the preseason strong, look