We’re now in Week 13 of the California high school football season, and 17 teams across the state are left unbeaten. All of them have already secured league titles and undefeated regular seasons, and another couple wins will cement undefeated section title runs for all of them. Some of them, however, will have to go through each other in order to make it happen.
Every one of these teams has had a season for the books. Here’s a quick look at each of their seasons, ranked from bottom to top.
17. Woodland Christian (10-0)
Well, one of these 17 teams has to be at the bottom of our power rankings, and the Cardinals are that team. But this is still a celebration of the amazing accomplishment of being undefeated heading into Week 13, and Woodland Christian, after running the table during the regular season, is the top seed and favorite in CIFSJS Division 7 heading into the playoffs.
Relative to their division, the Cardinals aren’t on this list for having played a soft schedule. Numerous teams they’ve played have been able to push them, and they’ve had to prove that they can get it done in crunch time to keep the unbeaten streak going. Woodland Christian had to hold off a fierce comeback by Delta on Oct. 8 to spoil the Saints’ senior night, and that 42-36 victory would be its closest call of the season. The Cardinals have done a tremendous job getting off to hot starts and putting teams away early so that they can weather the storm of late-game surges.
Two different QBs have gotten in the mix every night. Pro-style QB Caden Pascoe has thrown for 1,079 yards and 15 touchdowns on only 92 pass attempts and three interceptions, good for a strong passer rating of 123.1. Billy Hinkle sees time as a dual-threat QB, RB, and receiver, and has 1,428 total yards between the three with 21 total touchdowns. He’s also a standout CB, and WR/DB Jonathan Jaime is another two-way lynchpin for the No. 1 team to beat in Division 7 of the Sac-Joaquin Section.
16. Tennyson (10-0)
The Lancers started the season with an eye-opening 33-29 win against James Logan, and they’ve never looked back. They swept their seven-team league by a ridiculous combined score of 265-40, and just blew out Vallejo 65-7 to open the CIFNCS Division 4 playoffs.
With 3-star prospects LB Salesi Moala and WR Taeshaun Lyons, Tennyson has two of the top prospects in the entire section running the show, and Moala doubles as one of the most dominant RBs in NorCal. He’s already up to 1,393 yards and 23 touchdowns rushing on just 108 carries, good for nearly 13 yards a carry, and he’s caught for 68 yards and a touchdown. Lyons has caught for 907 yards and has over 1,200 all-purpose yards, and RB James Mozon III is another special teams standout. And QB Jordan Hernandez has thrown for 1,247 yards and 20 touchdowns on just 67 pass attempts, good for a wild mark of 27.1 yards per completion, and an outstanding passer rating of 132.3.
Tennyson will be one of the biggest underdogs on this list to keep its undefeated season alive. Being in the North Coast Section’s Division 4 means you have to play Cardinal Newman, which remains a Goliath that often can’t be toppled. The odds are against the Lancers, but they’ve been too good this season to count out from going all the way.
15. Fall River (9-0)
How dominant have the Bulldogs been? They’ve beaten all of their opponents by a combined score of 340-52, and didn’t allow a single point through four whole games. That included a shutout win over Pierce (Arbuckle), one of the best teams in the Northern Section’s Division 4 – and the Bulldogs are in Division 5. Almost all of their wins have come in blowout fashion, including over some solid teams such as Biggs and Los Molinos.
Speaking of Los Molinos, Fall River cruised to a 43-14 win against them last time out, and Los Molinos is still the top-ranked team in the division right now behind Fall River. So calling them a heavy favorite in Division 5 is no stretch – the Bulldogs have one of the best chances of any team on this list to make their undefeated season culminate in section and state championships.
QB/LB Ryan Osborne should be one of the first names to come up in any discussion of best players in the CIFNS. 1,186 yards and 12 touchdowns passing with a passer rating over 100, 1,075 yards and 21 touchdowns rushing, and team-highs of 87 tackles and five pass break-ups? That’s ridiculous two-way dominance. And his strong supporting cast includes Cannon Oilar, Evan Bidwell, and Evan Dobson, all three of whom are threats both running and catching the ball while doubling as good defensive players.
14. University Prep (11-0)
Staying within the Northern Section, University Prep is in a similar advantageous spot as Fall River, but one division up. The Panthers parlayed a strong preseason, which included beating St. Bernard’s, into a dominant sweep of league. In their second conference game, they beat heavyweight Orland in a thriller, and they beat the other four teams in their league by a dizzying 206-21. There’s a good chance that they run off with the Division 4 title, and that would put them in great position to expand their success through the state finals.
With dual-threat QB Payton Henderson and star RB Carter Abel running the offense (no pun intended), University Prep’s ground attack is dominant, and they run much more often than not. But Henderson passes much better than just good enough to keep defenses honest, and with Scotty Jones, Chris Jimenez, and Riley Hays, he has some legit passing targets. Every one of them is a plus-defensive player too, and nationally ranked DE JC Gilbreath is one of the best defensive players in the section. DT Cedric Clark and LB/RB Caleb Friebel are also standouts.
13. Palisades (11-0)
Pali hasn’t had a ton of true tests to prove itself in this season. But it’s impressed in the tests it has faced, and has convincingly taken care of business against everyone else. The Dolphins beat Reseda and Venice by three scores each in the regular season, so they’re as much a frontrunner to win the City Section as anyone.
QB Sammy Silvia (1,712 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes, 131.8 passer rating), RB Daniel Anoh (1,367 yards and 20 TDs rushing, 11.2 yards per carry, 191 yards and two TDs receiving), and WR Moses Ross (1,027 yards, 14 touchdowns receiving) have been three of the best players in the City at their respective positions. And the Dolphins’ defense is already up to an absurd 113 tackles for loss this season, with DE Trinity Camden, LBs Toby Manheim and Jack Babala, and DB Marcus Brown all filling up the stat sheet. This week’s game against San Pedro could be an instant classic.
12. Santa Fe Christian (10-0)
The Eagles have had plenty of chances to falter this season, with the likes of Bishop’s, El Cajon Christian, and (in the playoffs) Brawley all on the schedule. But they haven’t, and now they might poised for a cinderella postseason run out of San Diego Section Division 3. Here’s the catch though: this week, they face what’s likely to be their biggest test yet by far. Should they pass it, and sustain that level of play for the rest of the season, they might be looking at state hardware. But they will certainly be a massive underdog to get through this week because of who they’re facing. (More on that later.)
Santa Fe Christian has a very unique spread of offensive touches. They run the ball much more often than not, but not one Eagle has as much as 500 rushing yards or 80 carries. When they do pass, Thomas Greupner is as steady as they come (143.9 passer rating), and 3-star WR/TE Zack Marshall (988 yards and nine touchdowns) is their only regular target, in addition to a standout LB/DB. The Eagles are deep with additional impact players on both sides of the ball, including DB/RB Kevin Olah, DB Brendon DeBont, and LBs Luke Heggie and Dante Rotchford.
Who is this formidable foe they face in the playoffs this week? You’ll find out soon.
11. Menlo School (11-0)
One of the top success stories of the year in the Central Coast Section, Menlo is a legitimate threat to win the Division 2 title. And its 47-28 win against Half Moon Bay to open the playoffs might be its best win yet. The Knights have also beaten the likes of Sacred Heart Prep and Terra Nova.
Dual-threat QB Sergio Beltran is having a season for the books, literally – he broke the section record with 42 touchdown passes in a regular season, and finished with 44. He’s also thrown for 2,929 yards, completed nearly 74% of his passes, and registered a massive passer rating of 141.7. As if that weren’t enough, he’s also rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. That’s all-state material.
San Benito might very well give them their biggest test yet this week in what should be a great game, and the finals won’t be any easier for anyone. All four teams left in the Knights’ bracket have legitimate chances to go all the way, but one could make a solid argument that Menlo School is the team to beat.
10. Antelope (10-0)
It’s hard to put into words the dominance of Antelope 3-star RB Curron Borders this season. He’s run for 2,039 yards and 30 touchdowns this season on over 10 yards per carry, and caught for 162 yards and a touchdown as well. With 2,201 yards of offense to his name, that’s more than of the team’s entire offensive yardage. But the Titans can pass quite well when needed, with QB Jasiah Bateman having a strong season with Damarion Williams and Brandon Seetahal, who’s also a standout DB, as his top targets.
They’ll be a major underdog against a dominant Central Catholic squad this week, but a win is not out of the question for the Titans. As good as the opposing Raiders have been, they’ve had some games where they struggled to pull away from teams that Antelope could beat, and on the Titans’ best days, they’re beating teams like Yuba City, Roseville, and Inderkum by lopsided margins. If Antelope pulls off the upset this week, they’ll be favored to complete the run next week against the winner of Monterey Trail and Elk Grove.
9. Mater Dei Catholic (9-0)
Since before the season even started, one of the top storylines in the San Diego Section has been whether or not anyone has a chance against Mater Dei Catholic in the Division 3 playoffs. The Crusaders would’ve been a legitimate candidate to make the Open Division had they been in Division 1, and they feature an eye-popping number of national recruits.
4-star LB Tre Edwards leads a robust, athletic front seven, which is bolstered by DEs Jason Harden and Luke Teskey, who is another 3-star prospect. The secondary, which features CB Isaiah Buxton, has also been lights-out. On offense, RB Anthony McMillan has an offer from Arizona and forms a strong tandem with Nico Mosley, but the air is where Mater Dei does the majority of its damage. QB Domonic Nankil is having an outstanding season with 3-star WR Jerry McClure leading a deep receiving corps that includes 3-star WR/DB Chris Snyder Jr.
With the Crusaders taking on Sante Fe Christian, at least one of the section’s three remaining unbeatens will fall. Mater Dei Catholic will be a heavy favorite against the Eagles, but will need to bring its A-game.
8. Etiwanda (12-0)
The 2021 calendar year has been the coming out party for Etiwanda football, as Nick Baiz‘ Baseline League champion Eagles are 17-0 since football resumed. We’ve liked their chances as a Division 3 favorite for a while now, and they could just as easily be ranked one or two spots higher after going through Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Damien, and Chino Hills for their first conference title since 2009. Since the playoffs started, they’ve knocked out previously unbeaten Oak Hills by 26 points and taken down Loyola 28-21 on the road.
The question for Etiwanda heading into the season was, who would step up offensively to complement high 3-star WR (and rushing threat) Jordan Williams, who has 1,281 yards of offense. The answer? It’s been a number of guys, but QB Zachary Congalton (2,199 yards and 22 TDs passing, 130.9 passer rating) and WR/DB Norion Espadron (970 receiving yards, 1,440 all-purpose yards) have emerged as two of the better players in the Inland Empire at their positions. And the Eagles defense has been as good as advertised, with 4-star DL Dejon Roney in a starring role and a deep group of impact players getting it done every night.
The Eagles have the unfortunate task of taking on Serra (Gardena) in the CIFSS D3 semifinals, as Serra has found its stride after dropping to Division 3 because of regular season injuries. But they aren’t an underdog – it should be one of the best games of the playoffs between two teams who could make noise in Division 2.
7. San Joaquin Memorial (9-0)
It was no secret that the Panthers were set for a good year coming in, but they’ve been so good that they’re a legitimate threat to emerge atop the entire Central Section. They’ll be largely considered an underdog against Central (Fresno) this week, but some computer rankings actually have them as the higher-ranked team. The 3-star WR/DB and RB/S combo of TJ Hall (688 yards and nine TDs receiving, three picks) and Brandon Ramirez (901 yards and 12 TDs rushing, team-high 80 tackles), respectively, is the best two-way duo in the section. And they’re surrounded by other outstanding players such as dual-threat QB Michael Bell, and a handful of very good defensive players.
While San Joaquin Memorial is yet to face a world beater, the Panthers have done nothing but make short work of good teams all season long. During the regular season, they blew out Clovis North, Bakersfield Christian, Garces Memorial, and Washington Union, among others. Only Bullard has been able to challenge them, and SJM still won that in its only one-score game of the year. Additionally, as if beating Garces 34-10 wasn’t enough in the regular season, the Panthers showed some flair in making it 35-10 to open the playoffs last week.
6. Carlsbad (11-0)
Since the very start of the season, the Lancers have been a clear contender for the top spot in the San Diego Section. Some wins haven’t been as convincing as they should’ve been for a team with Open Division title aspirations, such as a 28-14 win against El Camino, a 13-7 win against Mission Hills, and a 34-33 win against Torrey Pines. But they got it done every single time, and are also playing their best ball of the season right now when the lights are the brightest. For example, their last game and playoff-opener was a 44-7 win against Torrey Pines, which means they won by 36 more points than last time. So there is no need to nitpick on what’s been an outstanding campaign for the Avocado League champion, and potential section champion.
Carlsbad is led on offense by dominant 4-star QB Julian Sayin, who has thrown for 2,499 yards and 32 touchdowns to five touchdowns on 71.7% completion, and also run for 197 yards and another score. RB Paulo Burak is quietly having an outstanding campaign for the Lancers, running for 111 yards per game on a great 11.2 yards per carry. Josh Davis and Matt Moore round out the playmaking core as one of the best WR duos in the section. Carlsbad’s defense doesn’t get as much love, but when it’s on, it’s on, despite lacking huge names. LBs Anthony Ferrelli and Barrett Brennan have been two of their best players on that end.
5. Inglewood (11-0)
Inglewood’s 106-0 dismantling of rival Morningside in October made national headlines, and that’s understandable. But for all the people who opined on just how much of a blowout is too much, not nearly people have talked about how simply downright dominant the Sentinels have been this season. Inglewood, a CIFSS Division 13 team in 2019 after going winless in 2018, has a serious chance to win a Southern Section Division 2 championship and CIF State championship at the Division 1 level, which would cement them well inside the top 100 teams in the country.
They started the season with a solid 29-26 road win at Loyola back when Loyola was closer to full-strength, opened the playoffs by cruising past St. Bonaventure, and last week knocked off Edison to further establish themselves as contenders. Look at the roster, and it checks out. Just the day after committing to UCLA, 4-star QB Justyn Martin threw for 13 touchdowns in the Morningside game, which is a state record. Per 247Sports, the Sentinels have a whopping 10 3-star or 4-star commits on the roster addition to Martin, including ATH Clint Stephens, RB Tomarion Harden, and LB Taariq Al-Uqdah. And there are other players with D-1 offers yet.
So yeah, these guys are formidable, and their semifinals date with Alemany this week could be an L.A. County heavyweight clash for the ages.
4. Rocklin (11-0)
There are two teams in NorCal with a legitimate case to make as the area’s top team, and Rocklin is one of them. The Thunder came out blowing out very good teams week after week, such as Turlock and Capital Christian, only to keep it rolling through a shockingly dominant sweep of the Sierra Foothill League. Their 40-7 win against Folsom was one of the biggest surprise blowouts of the year, and now they’ve beaten Pleasant Grove and Sheldon by a combined 98-7 to start the playoffs. St. Mary’s (Stockton) will be one of their biggest tests yet, but Rocklin will be heavily favored against essentially anyone they’ll face for the rest of the season.
Amazingly, Rocklin’s magical season came despite some injuries to numerous key players. Nationally-ranked QB Kenny Lueth has been out since late September after a great start, and Joey Roberts has stepped up in a colossal way. The Thunder’s particularly well-rounded offense features major threats in RB Anthony Johnston and WRs Nathan Kent (3-star prospect), Elias Mullican (Sacramento State commit), and Kyran Bell. Nationally-ranked TE Peyton Smith is becoming a bigger factor by the week, and their O-line, which includes 3-star tackle Brad Baur, is top-notch. Rocklin scores 44 points per game, but its defense is probably even better than its offense. To give up 59 points all season in 11 games, playing the schedule they have, is something you just don’t see. Under-recruited star LB Derek Houston, 3-star two-way lineman Bobby Piland, DE Kaleb Larson, and LB Rio Patton anchor a truly dominant front seven, and Mullican, nationally-ranked DB Teeg Slone, and Austin Adams combine for 14 of Rocklin’s 23 interceptions in the secondary.
Crazy enough, the Thunder would have been in Division 2 had it not won the SFL title. But now, they’re the heavy favorite in Division 1, and certainly a threat to turn a section title bid into a Division 1 state championship.
3. Saint Francis Mountain View (10-0)
The consensus top-ranked team in Northern California, the Lancers have… well, you probably already know. They’ve taken NorCal by storm, breaking De La Salle’s 30-year unbeaten (in NorCal) streak in just their second game, and went on to sweep the West Catholic League. And they took care of business against a very dangerous Aptos team to open the playoffs. That pretty much sums it up.
Saint Francis is stacked, which was already the case coming into the season, despite the fact that a lot of people slept on them because the Central Coast Section has had a clear status quo for a couple years. While some of their national recruits have only emerged as such since the season started, the Lancers started the fall hiding in plain sight. 2-star RB Viliami Teu has a case to make as a first team all-state pick this winter, running for 1,993 yards and 25 touchdowns on nine YPC, and consistently stepping up in their biggest games. How he doesn’t have a D-1 offer yet (per 247Sports) is hard to grasp. Like a lot of other teams on this list, Saint Francis runs way more than not, but passes very well, with QB Joshua Perry at 796 passing yards on a 126.9 passer rating, and 3-star WR Andrew Atkinson and WR Tim Netane leading the receiving. The Lancers have two 3-star OLs in Uluakinofo Taliauli and Denaris DeRosa, and a 3-star TE in Dillon Golden who adds to the elite blocking unit. Their defense hasn’t been as dominant as their offense this season, but it’s still been great, with five national recruits in LB (and RB2) Camilo Arquette, S Keala Keanaaina, LB Clayton Lynam, CB Michael Artmore Jr., and DL Matthew Taliauli all in the mix.
How far can Saint Francis take this magical season? They’re nothing less than a major favorite to beat their familiar WCAL foes in the Central Coast Section playoffs. Should they succeed, a CIF 1-AA state playoff birth will be calling their name.
2. Corona Centennial (11-0)
After the Huskies got shocked by Norco in the spring for their first league loss since 2009, some said that this would be the season their step back becomes official. And that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even with a substantial number of underclassmen in big roles, Centennial has one of its best squads of the last few years, and once again finds itself ranked around the top 20 in the country. They started the season vigorously and emphatically, beating San Diego Section top dog Cathedral Catholic 57-14 and rolling to a 35-14 win against Sierra Canyon. The Huskies followed it up by blowing out JSerra, Long Beach Poly, and Citrus Valley before cruising to a Big VIII League title as usual, which included revenge over Norco to the tune of 48-24. The Roosevelt team they beat 64-0 turned out to be at least a Division 3 semifinalist. And last week’s playoff-opening blowout against Mission Viejo, 62-16, was probably their best win yet.
As is the case with all other great Centennial teams, the whole is more than the sum of the parts, but the parts are still elite. There are national recruits putting in work across the field, from QBs Izzy Carter and Carson Conklin to Jaden Mickey, Aaron Williams, and Eric Butler Jr. in the secondary. And RB Jayden Cortes is one of numerous Huskies who aren’t national recruits at this time, but are having huge seasons nonetheless. The list of names could go on and on for the top public school program in the state by a significant margin.
Is this the season Cen10 gets back to the finals for the first time since their championship run in 2015? Even though this Huskies team is one of their best since then, they’re actually the biggest underdog on this whole list to stay unbeaten for another week. That’s because they have to face…
1. Mater Dei (9-0)
Death, taxes, and Mater Dei being ranked in the top three in the country in late November. And to be sure, the Monarchs are far and away the consensus No. 1 this time around, with even more distance between them and the rest of high school football in the regular season than usual. They started the season by going to Texas and stomping Duncanville 45-3, they shut out rival St. John Bosco 21-0 in the second half to a game that was tied at halftime, they outlasted Servite in one of the best shootouts we’ve seen in years, and they’ve made numerous other world-class programs look completely helpless.
If you know Mater Dei, you probably know the names, and that there are too many great ones to list. If you don’t know, 4-star QB Elijah Brown, 4-star WR C.J. Williams, and 5-star RB Raleek Brown are some good ones to start with on offense, in addition to 4-star OLB David Bailey, 3-star ILB Malaki Te’o, and 3-star S Josh Hunter on defense.
Of course, the Monarchs were comparably on top of the world at this point in 2019, and one bad half in the section title game against SJB sent the season down the drain in heartbreaking fashion. Can Mater Dei reclaim the title of the best in the section, not just for most of a season, but for the whole thing? We’ll find out exactly what comes of the top-ranked team in the country in short order.