The opening of the football season is still just over two months away, and with the spring season over, what a better time than to look at who should be the teams to beat in the 562/714/323 this coming fall. Can St. Paul, with a new coach and a new philosophy out duel La Habra, which has been the top dog in this parts over the last decade. And what about the Del Rio League teams, with four new coaches? Here’s a brief look of our rankings, which might change a bit by the end of the summer:
DAILY NEWS RANKINGS
1. St. Paul – The Swordsmen are already one of the top programs in the area. But this year can be special with first-year coach Elijah Asante, who has replaced legend Marijon Ancich. Asante has won wherever he’s coached, and most believe that will not change in Santa Fe Springs. He’s already attracted some top-notch transfers, including former Charter Oak running back Kurt Scoby. The newcombers combined with last season’s holdovers, including quarterback Paul Telles, gives St. Paul the early edge. The schedule is challenging, but look for this team to improve from week-to-week.
2. La Habra - The Highlanders, who saw their four-year reign atop the CIF-Southern Section Southwest Division end in the semifinals, were hit hard by gradutation, including the losses of Division i-bound Aaron Porter (UCLA) and Brett Bartolone. But there is still some good nuggets in the cupboard, including quarterback Sean Sparling. La Habra has always had the ability to simply reload, and this season is expected to be no different.
3. La Mirada – The Matadores were one of the top teams in the area by season’s end, and that progress is expected to improve with some key returners back, including quarterbacks Gerry Myres and Kevin Dillman, tight end Tyler Luatua and running back Johnny Hills. The schedule is challenging with Bishop Amat, La Habra, St. Paul and St. Francis on the schedule. But this is a team that will again be the favorite in the Suburban League, and make a solid run at the Southeast title.
4. La Serna – The Lancers made history the past two seasons, reaching the divisional semifinals and finals in respective seasons. La Serna will enter the 2012 season as the favorite in the Del Rio League. The main reason being junior quarterback Frankie Palmer. But La Serna’s strength lies in numbers, and the Lancers, who lost linebacker Craig Jones and running back OJ Medina to graduation, return a strong nucleus that could find their way back to the division finals.
5. Cantwell – The Cardinals big problem last season was inconsistency. That might be a thing of the past with the return of seniors Tim Walsh at quarterback and Jared Gonzales at running back. But Cantwell did suffer some big losses, including standouts Corey Collins, Adam Aguirre and Jacob Alaniz, all keys to the Cardinals up-tempo passing attack. If consistency becomes a trait, look out!
THE REST: 6. Whittier, 7. Whittier Christian, 8. Santa Fe, 9. Schurr, 10. California, 11. Montnebello, 12. El Rancho, 13. Pioneer.