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 North Coast Section heading into summer 2020.
Burning hot take: De La Salle has a real chance of winning the North Coast Section in 2020. They’ve won it every year since 1992, and have a record of 300-0-2 against NorCal schools during that stretch. Needless to say, their eyes are set on a state title, as they’ve lost in the state championship to either Mater Dei or St. John Bosco the last four years since winning it all in 2015.
Senior dual-threat QB Dorian Hale threw for over 2,000 yards last season and was also the Spartans’ second-leading rusher. RB/WR Shamar Garrett, now at San Jose State, will be sorely missed, but RBs Mekhi Norfleet and Nico Torrez will be back as seniors. Also returning are second and third-leading receivers Lu-Magia Hearns and Zeke Berry.
The Ugly Eagles parlayed a Division 2 championship in 2019 into their first ever CIF State championship over scorching-hot Aquinas. And they’re returning QB Jake Kern, top rusher Omari Taylor (1,428 rushing yards), and top receiver Erik Christoffersen. Add in LBs Lukas Linkhart and Dylan Seeley leading the defense, and they might be the frontrunner to meet DLS in the Division 1 finals.
2019 was a great season for Pittsburg, knocking off Liberty twice to make the Division 1 finals. They could do it again in 2020, but almost every single starter is gone.
CB Lamont Fortenberry, DE Damaurye Canegan, and new UNLV commit LB Maurice Jamison will lead the charge on defense. On offense, the Pirates made a big splash by landing QB Eli Brickhandler from Whitney (Rocklin). He’ll be throwing to 3-star WR and rising sophomore Rashid Williams, who already has four offers and can play safety as well.
Newman is coming off a remarkable 2019 season that saw them capture the North Bay League-Oak crown, the NCS Division 4 title and their first-ever CIF State championship, a 31-14 victory over El Camino (Oceanside) in the Division 3-AA title game.
The Cardinals have plenty of talent returning, led by RB/FS Shane Moran who had over 1,000 yards of total offense and 100 tackles last season. WR/CB Tsion Nunnally and LBs Mitch Russell and Santino Acevedo are more returning stars.
The Lions will need to reload, but they should again be in the hunt for a Division 1 finals appearance in 2020. WRs Beau Dionio, Leo Reichhold, and Auki-Kapuha Flores will be ready to take on bigger loads after solid spot minutes last season. DL Clemone Williams, LB Colin Borrelli, and FS Brayden Holmes will anchor the defense.
The Wolves barely missed the Division 1 semifinals last season and should remain in the hunt in 2020. They’re returning QB Jordan Quigley, 3-star WR/ATH Tanner Salisbury, and 3-star TE JP Murphy, who recently committed to San Diego State. Murphy is also a star at defensive end.
Monte Vista has some holes to fill if they want to make it back to the Division 1 semifinals, but RB Gavin Cribb will be ready for an even bigger load in 2020. LB Josh Zeising will be one of the few returning stars on defense after making over 100 tackles last season.
Marin Catholic nearly knocked off Cardinal Newman in the NCS Division 4 finals, losing on a last-second field goal. Like Newman, they’ll be in Division 4 again, and with a lot of returning talent, they certainly have their eyes set on revenge.
Returning QB Michael Ingrassia is surrounded by future D-I players in RB/SB Matteo Perez, who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season, and TE Geordie Aarsheim. And considering that their defense was even better than their offense last season, they have a great shot at getting that section title.
The Dons are set for another big season after sweeping their league and making the Division 1 playoffs in 2019. Their top three rushers will be back, including Eric Hunter III. Future D-I WR/CB Josh Heverly also returns. Heverly will be a big part of a stout defense that returns nearly its entire core as seniors. If they can fill a hole at QB, they’re a Division 1 playoff threat.
While Campo doesn’t have many starters returning, they do have a strong history of reloading from within the program. They have holes at quarterback and running back, but are returning second and third-leading receivers Maxwell Weaver and Joey Schmidt. Their defense has several solid returners and should be strong up front.
Other teams in consideration: Rancho Cotate, California, Las Lomas, Del Norte, Vintage.