It has been more than 100 years since a California high school football game was played in March. That happened on March 8, 1919, when Fullerton defeated Coronado 18-0 in the Southern Section championship game that had been delayed because of an influenza pandemic.
There will be no rings, no CIF championship games and no playoffs when the twice-delayed football season begins this week. Teams will play five or six games, then call it a success for just getting the chance to play during a pandemic that shut down all youth sports for 11 months.
Not every school will play, but for those that do, Santa Ana Mater Dei starts out ranked No. 1 in The Times’ top 25. No. 2 is Bellflower St. John Bosco. Those two Trinity League teams have met four consecutive years to decide the Southern Section Division 1 championship. They play each other on April 16 at Santa Ana Stadium.
Both will be replacing quarterbacks, but Mater Dei has a defense filled with so much speed and talent that coach Bruce Rollinson feels it can be one of his best. St. John Bosco has plenty of size and strength up front. Both have prolific running backs. Junior Raleek Brown and senior Marceese Yetts will lead the Monarchs while junior Rayshon Luke returns for the Braves.
The one school that could give Mater Dei and St. John Bosco problems is fellow Trinity League member Anaheim Servite. Loaded with top players from the class of 2022, the Friars return the most veteran quarterback in the league in Noah Fifita and the top talent in Tetairoa McMillan at receiver.
The team most likely to go 6-0 is Corona Centennial, which won’t be playing nonleague games. The Huskies have dominated in the Big 8 League and don’t figure to lose any league games.
Games begin Friday and Saturday. The Saturday game between Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and host St. John Bosco is expected to be the first television game for Fox Sports West.
THE TIMES’ PRESEASON HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RANKINGS
A look at the top 25 high school football teams in the Southland:
1. MATER DEI | DB Domani Jackson is a man among boys.
2. ST. JOHN BOSCO | Beware of the Braves’ offensive line.
3. SERVITE | Friars making progress under coach Troy Thomas.
4. SIERRA CANYON | Veteran team with outstanding defense.
5. CORONA CENTENNIAL | Will go unbeaten and roll up points.
6. OAKS CHRISTIAN | Good young talent but tough schedule.
7. GARDENA SERRA | QB Maalik Murphy has committed to Texas.
8. SAN CLEMENTE | RB James Bohls is a big-play weapon.
9. LOYOLA | Best talent in years with veteran players.
10. SO NOTRE DAME | Knights have two talented QBs.
11. BISHOP AMAT | Coach Steve Hagerty always brings out toughness.
12. LOS ALAMITOS | Time for QB Malachi Nelson to shine.
13. ORANGE LUTHERAN | QB Logan Gonzalez is a leader.
14. LONG BEACH POLY | QB Shea Kuykendall is locked and loaded.
15. VALENCIA | New QB Tyler Voss will ignite offense.
16. BISHOP ALEMANY | Player defections but plenty of young talent.
17. PARACLETE | RB Amir Bankhead is 200 pounds and healthy.
18. MISSION VIEJO | WR Mavin Anderson, LB Easton Mascarenas lead Diablos.
19. GRACE BRETHREN | QB Mikey Zele is tough and effective.
20. SANTA MARGARITA | Good defensive line anchors the Eagles.
21. CORONA DEL MAR | There’s plenty of new talent to develop.
22. MURRIETA VALLEY | Watch out for versatile WR Tiger Bachmeier.
23. SAN JUAN HILLS | QB Hudson Jones will be three-year starter.
24. EDISON | Lots of veteran players to lead Chargers.
25. JSERRA | Sophomore QB Jaxon Potter is game changer.