With the hope of a 2020 California high school football season on the horizon, we’re taking a way-too-early look at the top teams in the state of California, section by section.
The major caveat with our way-too-early rankings is we still don’t know how COVID-19 will impact the 2020 season, and we don’t know when (or if) the season will start.
But we’re hopeful. And with that in mind, let’s talk some football. Here’s a look at the best high school football teams in the Northern Section heading into summer 2020.
Several impact players from the best defense in the section are returning as seniors for Sutter, including LB/SS Kyle Watson (154 tackles, 11 for loss) and LB Theo Bravos (94 tackles, 16 TFLs, seven sacks). The Huskies will need to replace over 2,400 rushing yards from Cory McIntire and Cory Dillabo in their Wing-T offense, but QB Landon Cooper and RB Daniel Cummings will be back to run the show.
In the wake of the Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town, the Bobcats pulled off an undefeated regular season, league title, and appearance in the Division III finals. Like Sutter, who beat them 20-7 in the finals, the Bobcats also run a Wing-T, and ran for over 5,300 yards last season. Reigning Northern Section Offensive Player of the Year Tyler Harrison ran for over 2,500 of them last season as a sophomore, and third-leading rusher Ashton Wagner will also be back as a junior.
Last season’s intra-section play ended as well as possible for the Vikings – blowing out rival Chico in the Section II championship game after the Panthers got them by 10 in the last week of the regular season. Dual-threat QB Ian Guanzon will be back as a junior to lead Pleasant Valley.
The Panthers will be looking to avenge the harsh ending to last season at the hands of their rival. Star QB Jake Hamman will be a senior, but will have a new O-line and receiving corps around him.
After falling to Paradise in the Division III semifinals last season, West Valley is returning enough talent to potentially make a run at the title game. The load will fall heavily on two-way starters, such as RB/LB Josh Aguilar, SB/DB Brandon Maroste, and TE/DE Tyler Bowman. Top receiver Hayden Boyes will also return.
When the Wolves were at their best last season, they were quite strong, with a win over Pleasant Valley and a loss to Lassen that came down to the end. They will return a number of starters as seniors, including star RB James Weaver, and much of their defense.
The Grizzlies, who fell to Sutter in the Division III semifinals last season, will look to get over the hump in 2020. A large offensive load will be placed on leading rusher Tavin Fowler, who will be a senior.
Even with the vast majority of their starters gone, the reigning Division IV champions will come into the season as the heavy favorite to repeat – they were that far ahead of the competition last season. Two of the few returners are LBs Garrett McCray and Jayden Bendure, who both recorded over 100 tackles last season as sophomores. McCray is also one of the top offensive lineman in the Northern Section.
Fall River, who was a cut above the rest in Division V last season, returns several key players in 2020. QB Ryan Osborne, RB2/WR2 Kenny Westlund, and WR1/LB Royce Knoch were all among the best in Division V last season as just sophomores.
10. Live Oak Lions
The Lions went 8-2 in the regular season in 2019 to sweep league and qualify for the Division III playoffs. They will be favored to do the same in 2020, and they might even have enough returning personnel on both sides to make a run to the semifinals. Top rushers Odin Moody and Hayden Langley will run the show as seniors.
Also considered: Foothill