Who’s the best of the best?
The quick answer is the Sierra Foothill League, with five schools in the The Bee’s Top 10: No. 1 Folsom, No. 3 Del Oro, No. 4 Oak Ridge, No. 8 Granite Bay and No. 9 Rocklin. But don’t dismiss the revamped Delta League with No. 2 Elk Grove, No. 5 Grant, No. 6 Jesuit, No. 7 Franklin, No. 12 Pleasant Grove and No. 19 Monterey Trail.
The SFL has four teams that have played in CIF state bowl games: Folsom, Del Oro, Granite Bay and Rocklin. In the Delta, Grant is the only to team that has played in a bowl game, winning the region’s first state title in 2008.
The SFL and Delta are “super leagues,” so four or more teams from each could advance to the postseason.
Trending: New stadiums and field turf
Five schools – Kennedy, El Camino, Del Campo, Rosemont and Capital Christian – will debut new football facilities this season, and it’s been long overdue for most. El Camino opened in 1950, Del Campo in 1963, Kennedy in 1968, Capital Christian in 1977 and Rosemont in 2003. New facilities always boost programs, attracting more players and fans, and all five schools expect to benefit.
Matching muscle and skill with the Bay Area
Is high school football in the Sacramento region now better than the Bay Area?
Concord’s De La Salle is the undisputed king of Northern California, beating every NorCal opponent since 1991, including Folsom in the last two Open Division NorCal title games. But the depth of this region trumps the Bay Area. In 2012, Granite Bay walloped St. Ignatius of San Francisco in the first NorCal Division I game, and last fall Del Oro beat the Bay Area’s second-best team, Serra of San Mateo, in the NorCal Division I championship.
For decades, this region’s teams have been eager to take a shot at De La Salle. This season, it’s Jesuit, which opens against the Spartans on Friday at Cal’s Memorial Stadium, and Del Oro, which hosts the Spartans on Sept. 19.
“Being a North Coast Section guy, growing up there, playing there, I’m very familiar with Bay Area football,” Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson said. “De La Salle has earned the rep. But in terns of depth, our section is incredible, and we keep improving. We’re as good an area as any.”
Ambitious scheduling still sets tone
Successful teams often schedule strong opponents, with coaches knowing the tougher competition will test their team and make them better in the playoffs. And scheduling strong opponents means more entertainment for fans – and increased gate receipts and concession sales.
Del Oro coach Casey Taylor again has the area’s most daunting schedule, hosting Hawaii power Kamehameha in the Honor Bowl in his team’s opener, then playing longtime state powers Helix-La Mesa, Vista Murrieta of Murireta and De La Salle.
Teams from this region that have played in state bowl games have benefited from rigorous scheduling, and the CIF bowl selection committee knows Sac-Joaquin Section champions are worthy of representing Northern California in state title games.
Beyond Top 20: 12 to watch
• Antelope: Coach Matt Ray has won or finished second in his league the past few seasons, and he could do it again in the Capital Valley Conference.
• Bear River: The Bruins have two top coaches in co-coaches Terry Logue and Scott Savoie, with Logue closing in on 200 wins.
• Capital Christian: The Cougars, a small-school power in most sports, will be led by quarterback Jacob Norville.
• Casa Roble: The Rams have made the playoffs regularly over the years under coach Norm Ryan. Despite a new cast of players, they can challenge for a spot again.
• Colfax: The Falcons have been a power for years under Tony Martello, the school’s winningest coach.
• Cosumnes Oaks: The Wolfpack needs to overcome the unexpected departures of Ryan Gomes, the school’s only varsity football coach, and wide receiver L.J. Reed, who transferred to Tokay in Lodi.
• Del Campo: The Cougars are talented enough to bounce back big from last season’s uncharacteristic 3-7 record; coach Mike Dimino raves about his new young players.
• El Camino: The Eagles are on the verge of a breakthrough season under coach Adam Reinking, an alum, and a new stadium will give them a boost.
• El Dorado: Quarterback Nick Bonniksen helped the Cougars go 6-5 last year and make the playoffs for the first time since 1987.
• Lincoln: Running back Chris Stimbert (1,444 yards, 16 touchdowns) leads the Fighting Zebras in the competitive Pioneer Valley League.
• Ponderosa: Under coach Jason Tenner, the Bruins have had some title teams and some down years; they no longer have to deal with the tough Delta League.
• Yuba City: Graduation and a big transfer (quarterback Isaac Lessard left for Jesuit) has hurt the Honkers, but coach John Ithurburn remains optimistic.