A look at the CalHiSports/ESPN Top 25, with Grant at No. 2 and several other local teams in the Top 25 as well...
1. (1) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 12-0
As we move into the final two weeks prior to the CIF state bowl games, the dynamics at the top of the overall state rankings has not changed. The Lions, who have been No. 1 since the preseason and have done nothing to deserve to get dropped, continued to roll last week in the CIF Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs with a 45-10 win over Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood. Nick Montana had a career-best 316 yards passing, completing 22 of 32 passes, with two TDs and another 40 yards rushing. He had the most success going to super soph Jordan Payton, who caught eight passes for 174 yards and both scores. The best news of the weekend, however, may have come from Washington as Skyline of Sammamish captured a Class 4A state semifinal game over Bothell, avenged an earlier loss and now is favored to win its third straight state title this weekend. Skyline, which is now back up to No. 40 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national rankings, is the feather in the Oaks Christian hat that could be the difference in eventually getting a CIF Open Division state bowl bid due to a 28-23 win by the Lions over the Spartans back in September. This week, head coach Bill Redell's team plays 11-1 Cathedral of Los Angeles in the section semifinals and then it's likely unbeaten Serra of Gardena in the final.
2. (2) Grant (Sacramento) 12-0
Due to Del Oro of Loomis knocking off previous state No. 8 St. Mary's of Stockton, the Pacers may in effect be playing their CIF Sac Joaquin Section Div. II championship in this week's semifinals against unbeaten and No. 12 Rocklin. The game has been moved to Saturday at Folsom High since Folsom itself has a home game on Friday in the other semi against Del Oro. Grant followed up its 65-0 playoff-opening win with a 66-12 manhandling of Fairfield in last week's quarterfinals. It was another monster effort by senior Devontae Butler as the state player of the year candidate rang up six touchdowns and rushed for 292 yards on 18 carries. Speaking of monsters, 6-3, 335-pound junior Vei Moala was just that against Fairfield as well. He had eight tackles, including three sacks. He also blocked a punt and even scored a touchdown when he grabbed another blocked punt out of the air and ran it in for score. Unlike No. 1 Oaks Christian, which could win out and not get picked for the CIF Open Division bowl game, if Grant wins out, the Pacers are a virtual lock to get the CIF Open Division bowl bid from Northern California.
3. (3) Crenshaw (Los Angeles) 12-0
Strength of schedule is often a reason many are saying Crenshaw is in the favorite's role to get the CIF Open Division bowl bid from Southern California instead of Oaks Christian. Looking at the L.A. City Section, though, the only other top 25 team in these rankings is No. 24 Carson (which just went in this week) while Serra of Gardena is ranked No. 13 and is a likely opponent of Oaks Christian next week. Like the Lions, Crenshaw also is leaving no chinks in its armor so far in the playoffs and is crushing inferior opponents as expected. In last week's L.A. City quarterfinals, the Cougars blanked Westchester, 55-0, and advanced to this week's semifinals vs. Dorsey. DeAnthony Thomas had seven carries for 53 yards and one TD plus three catches for 52 yards and another TD to lead the way. If Crenshaw doesn't get into the Open Division for the bowl games, the team still would be favored to get the Division II South spot, although even that could get a challenge if Servite of Anaheim were to win the CIFSS Pac-Five crown.
4. (4) Edison (Huntington Beach) 12-0
We'll find out this weekend if the Sunset League might have been overrated this year in strength or if the Chargers are indeed an elite squad that deserves to be even higher in state and national rankings. After disposing of Dana Hills (Dana Point) by 46-16 in last Friday's CIFSS Pac-Five quarterfinals, Edison is taking on No. 6 Lakewood in this week's semis. It was more of a passing attack in the team's latest win as QB Matt Viles completed 18 of 28 passes for 262 yards and four TDs. He connected with Jeff Trojan for two of his scores with the other two going to Dylan Leener. A 14-0 Charger team at the end of the playoffs with a CIFSS Pac-Five title is certainly going to be tough to deny at the CIF state bowl game selection meeting.
5. (5) Oceanside 11-0
In their first game since getting flipped with Edison in the state rankings and after having a bye in the first-round of the San Diego Section Div. II playoffs, the Pirates were fired up against Mt. Carmel of San Diego last Friday and stormed out to a 38-0 lead at halftime in an eventual 38-14 win against the Sundevils. Quentis Clark hit on 13 of 16 passes for 153 yards and two TDs in the win. Rene Siluano added 81 yards rushing on 13 carries and scored twice. This week, Oceanside will take a 35-0-1 unbeaten streak into the section semifinals where it face Mission Hills of San Marcos. That tie from last year continues to be a thorn even now. If the Pirates had won that game instead of tying, it's likely they would have gone to the CIF Div. II bowl game and maybe they would have come into this season as a two-time defending state champ.
6. (6) Lakewood 11-1
While Elite 11 quarterback Jesse Scroggins gets most of the attention, what should not be overlooked is Lakewood's overall balance on offense, completeness on defense and explosiveness on special teams. That was evident in last week's 34-17 CIFSS Pac-Five quarterfinal victory over previous No. 16 Bishop Amat. Kevin Anderson's 64-yard punt return for a score swung momentum towards Lakewood, but an earlier 39-yard punt return by sophomore Darius Powe set up Lakewood's first touchdown of the game. In the secondary, Dion Bailey is the rock, but Andrew Diaz and Brennan Kelley are underrated defenders. Up front, there may not be a healthy defensive lineman in the Pac-Five better than Justin Utupo, who sacked Amat quarterback Jerry McClanahan four times. "What was the Edison score," Lakewood head coach Thad MacNeal asked a throng of reporters about the state's No. 4 ranked club and this week's semifinal opponent. "I was an assistant for eight years at Los Al, so I know all about Dave White's club. I think they have been the best team in the Pac-Five since week one."
7. (7) De La Salle (Concord) 10-2
As the funnel narrows in the race to Carson, it would seem that the other remaining teams in the North Coast Section Division I playoffs have only a small chance to derail the Spartans in their effort to be the only squad to appear in all four modern era CIF State Football Championships. It certainly wasn't Foothill of Pleasanton and its Pac-10 bound QB Sean Mannion, as Sparta easily tossed aside the Falcons, 56-14, using a combination of its powerful running game and patented bone-crushing defense to dismantle the visitors while holding them to minus-31 yards on the ground. Now comes what most consider the real D1 title game in a re-match with Danville Monte Vista in the semifinals on Friday night in Concord. The last meeting was a 28-21 victory on the road in East Bay Athletic League play that featured a 20-minute delay during the game due to lights failing. It didn't bother Terron Ward. When the lights came back on he finished with a school record 398 yards rushing. On the other side of the bracket, Pittsburg is favored over Fremont Washington. Pittsburg beat De La Salle in 1991; the last time a Northern California team has accomplished that feat.
8. (9) Mission Viejo 12-0
The Diablos move up a spot after throttling bubble squad Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks in the CIFSS Pac-Five quarterfinals. Mission Viejo was the favored club coming in, but the final score (40-14) and the manner in which it manhandled one of the state's most highly-regarded teams coming into the season was a bit of a surprise. Mission Viejo led 21-0 at halftime and began the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive to take complete control of the game. Exavier Edwards-Ford led a strong ground attack with 155 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries while junior Tre Madden added 49 yards on six carries as a threat in the Wildcat formation. Madden is also a linebacker on one of the state's best defenses that harassed Notre Dame quarterback Ryan Kasdorf all night and held Kenny Boggs to 17 yards on 10 lugs. Up next in the CIFSS Pac-Five semifinals is No. 9 Servite. Mission also is now up to No. 44 in this week's ESPN RISE FAB 50 national rankings.
9. (10) Servite (Anaheim) 11-1
The Friars were able to preserve a 21-18 victory over Long Beach Poly by blocking a 39-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds remaining in the game. With the win, Servite moves on to the CIFSS Pac-Five Division semifinals, where it will take on No. 8 Mission Viejo. Squeaking out a win over a team that finished with a .500 record doesn't seem to warrant a ratings move upward, but almost everyone with any interest in this game coming in figured it would be close even though Poly lost its opener to the Friars, 30-7. Not only did Poly make some personnel changes since then, Servite was without the services of tight end Troy Niklas and the most dominant player in the first win over Poly, Karifi Leuta-Taula, was banged up. Not to mention highly-recruited lineman Matthew Jakubiec never suited up for Servite this season. As long as Servite has QB Cody Fajardo in its lineup, who found an open Chris Nicholls for the game-winning score on a fourth and two from the 10-yard line with two minutes remaining, it will have a shot this week against No. 8 Mission Viejo. He's the one player for coach Troy Thomas that is indispensable.
10. (12) Westlake (Westlake Village) 12-0
After picking up a 54-24 win against Hueneme of Oxnard in the CIFSS Northern Division playoffs, the Warriors move up two spots and into the top 10 of our state rankings. With wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour according to the Ventura County Star, the Warriors featured the run game early and often as Tavior Mowry led the rushing attack with 223 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, all in the opening half. Westlake opened up a 34-0 lead by the halftime break and never looked back. Dallas Clayton also went over the 100-yard mark on the ground as he rushed for 148 yards on just six carries. Quarterback Nick Isham played a big part in five touchdowns on the night as he passed for three scores and reached the end zone with the ball twice. A tough matchup on Friday against No. 14 St. Bonaventure is now all that stands in the way of a championship game appearance by Westlake.
11. (11) Norco 11-1
Having to battle Arlington of Riverside into overtime in the second-round of the CIFSS Inland Division playoffs doesn't cost the Cougars a spot in these rankings, but they did get hopped by new No. 10 Westlake. The 26-20 win actually went to a second overtime and was clinched on a 22-yard TD pass from Taylor Villoria to Carl Bradford followed by the Norco defense denying Arlington. For the game, Deantre Lewis topped the Norco offense with 180 yards, including a 20-yard TD in the first overtime. This week, while the CIFSS Pac-Five semis are more in the spotlight, the Inland Division semis are stacked as well. Norco plays No. 16 Vista Murrieta in one of them while the other is Corona Centennial vs. Chaparral of Temecula.
12. (19) Rocklin 12-0
This week's highest mover is the Thunder. They go up this high due to their CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II playoff performances so far, due to a team they beat (Del Oro) ending the unbeaten hopes of Stockton St. Mary's and because they will get to take a crack at No. 2 Grant on Saturday at Folsom High. In the 35-6 win last weekend against Atwater in the quarterfinals, Jackson Cummings got going in the second half and ended the night with 135 yards and five TDs. Chris Clowdus led the defense with two interceptions as the Thunder defense held the opposition to seven points or less for the fifth time this year. Rocklin will be the underdog when it goes up against Grant, but Del Oro was in a similar situation against St. Mary's and had to play on the road. While Rocklin won't be at home, the team will be at a neutral site.
13. (13) Serra (Gardena) 12-0
Playing in the CIFSS Northwest Division, Serra coach Scott Altenberg figured his team might have to travel up California's coast for a playoff game, so he put together a strict travel itinerary for his team to stick to. The plan worked, as Nipomo went down in defeat, 48-18. The early departure from L.A.'s South Bay included a walk-through at a local junior college. For the locals playing Serra, it probably felt like strapping it up against Allan Hancock or Cuesta College as Robert Woods got Serra on the board by taking a slant 82 yards for a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage. Junior George Farmar also played well, catching two touchdown passes from QB Conner Preston, who accounted for four scores, and added 34 yards rushing on four carries. This week, it will probably be another military-like regime for Altenberg and his boys as they face 12-0 St. Joseph of Santa Maria in what should be a much more hostile battle in enemy territory.
14. (14) St. Bonaventure (Ventura) 11-1
Despite playing on the road, the Seraphs continue to look like they're playing on their own field as they defeated Newbury Park, 39-0, in the CIFSS Northern Division quarterfinals. Devon Blackledge carried the ball 16 times for 162 yards and scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion while also adding another score on a 33-yard toss from Logan Meyer. In the win, Meyer also passed for 230 yards and three touchdowns with the majority of those passes going to Christian White, who caught seven passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. As the regular season has wound down and now into the playoffs, the Seraphs' defense has shined as it has now recorded shutouts in three of the last four games after a six-sack performance on Friday against the Panthers. In order to make the section championship game, St. Bonnie will have to hand Westlake its first loss of the season this Friday when they meet in the semifinals.
15. (17) La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad) 11-0
Garrett Krstich hit on 14 of 19 passes for 160 yards and rushed 11 times for 45 yards and two TDs as the Mavericks moved on in the CIF San Diego Section Div. I playoffs with a 21-7 win over Torrey Pines of San Diego. The other big news was that wideout Kenny Stills set a new section record when he upped his career pass reception yardage total of 2,954. Stills caught seven passes in the game for 103 yards. The Mavs hope leading rusher Seth Hanson comes back this week after missing the Torrey Pines games. His replacement, Weston Manor, did well with 20 carries for 148 yards. Up next for the defending Div. I section champs is a matchup in the semifinals this week against Vista.
16. (20) Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 12-0
After getting a four-spot jump in this week's rankings, the Broncos will be looking to go much higher next week since they are playing No. 11 Norco in the CIFSS Inland Division semifinals. They come into that game after impressing in a 33-6 victory over Redlands. Derrick Brown continued to star on offense with 17 carries for 111 yards and two scores plus 72 yards through the air and another touchdown. Eddie Lackey's 21-yard TD run was another key play in the contest. A plus for Vista Murrieta's ranking is that league rival Chaparral of Temecula was the one that knocked out previous No. 15 state-ranked Redlands East Valley in another Inland Division quarterfinal.
17. (21) Valencia 12-0
The Vikings also get a four-spot bump this week and continue on a collision course with perhaps No. 10 Westlake or state power St. Bonnie in the CIFSS Northern Division finals after a 49-22 thrashing of Ventura Buena in the quarterfinals. Darrol Mitchell's 22nd sack of the season set up Valencia's fifth first half TD, as the boys from the Santa Clarita Valley led 35-7 after two quarters. Quarterback Alex Bishop had four TDs and 284 yards passing on a pinpoint 12-of-14 attempts before he and his mates took a halftime break. The 5-10, 166-pound signal caller added a touchdown run and threw a 50-yard TD pass to wide receiver Zach Tartabull in the second half before coming out midway through the third quarter. Running back Steven Manfro had 99 yards rushing and one score to go with two receptions for 109 yards and a receiving touchdown. Before Coach Larry Muir and his charges can think about anyone in the finals, of course, it will have to deal with No. 19 Moorpark in the semifinals at home on Saturday night.
18. (23) Bullard (Fresno) 11-0
It's a five-spot move upward for the only Division I team in the Central Section left undefeated, as the Knights took care of business in a 35-9 drubbing of Fresno Clovis West. Bullard used a vise-like defense and quarterback Kerr Taubler was very efficient, completing 12 of 16 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Jajuan Hammond was on the other end of 10 of those passes for 161 yards and both scores. With top-seeded Clovis Buchanan losing on the other side of the bracket in the Central Section Division I playoffs, second-seeded Bullard, with its best record ever, would seem to be in a good position to win its first-ever section title in the 54-year history of the school. Before the fans get too excited, however, head coach Donnie Arax's boys must still win two games. First, they have to get past a Bakersfield team in this week's semifinals that beat them in the section title game four years ago.
19. (22) Moorpark 11-1
Austin Edmonson reached the end zone three times in the second quarter alone and finished with 175 yards rushing as the Musketeers blasted Camarillo and recent state boys athlete of the week Jeff Mathews, 49-7, in the second-round of the CIFSS Northern Division playoffs. Brian Blechen also had a nice game running the ball as he scored on an eight-yard run to tie the game in the first quarter and then opened the scoring after the halftime break with a 45-yard touchdown run. The best case scenario for Moorpark over the next two weeks is to beat No. 17 Valencia in this week's semifinals and then hope for rematch and the possibility of an avenging win over No. 10 Westlake in the finals. A CIF Div. II state bowl could even in the cards if that happens as well, especially if Crenshaw were to nab the Open Division berth and if Servite of Anaheim and Norco lose in the Pac-Five and Inland Division playoffs.
20. (24) Nevada Union (Grass Valley) 11-1
A week after making their debut in our state rankings, the Miners have now mined their way into the top 20 after a 41-7 victory over Sheldon of Sacramento in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinals. With top seed and previously unbeaten Tracy ousted, NU looks like a slight favorite to us to win the title in that division. Broughan Jantz led the Miners to scores on their first four possessions, as he was 7-for-11 for 146 yards and three touchdowns while also contributing on the defensive side of the ball with an interception. Arizona-bound tight end Dan Pettinato was the go-to guy for Jantz, as he was on the receiving end for the first two touchdowns of the game while Drew Hoskin rushed for 126 yards and two scores. Pettinato and Chad Knight each recorded two sacks on defense as they held the Huskies to just 147 total yards on the night. NU, which has lost only to Rocklin, goes up against Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove in this week's semifinals.
21. (NR) Del Oro (Loomis) 10-2
Head coach Casey Taylor hopes we continue to predict losses for his team this season since the Golden Eagles are 2-0 in those games, including last Friday's 30-29 upset of previous No. 8 St. Mary's. Del Oro still has an ugly loss to Woodcreek of Roseville on its resume, but the win against St. Mary's still jumps the team into this week's overall state rankings. After Taylor's defensive coaches had to figure out ways to slow down the St. Mary's offense (they did), the midnight oil will be burning again this week as the Golden Eagles are playing 11-1 Folsom in the semifinals. The Bulldogs run a no-huddle spread often with an empty backfield and it's been almost impossible to stop so far this season, especially with magician Dano Graves running it from the QB position.
22. (8) St. Mary's (Stockton) 11-1*
In one of the most talked about results of the weekend, the Del Oro Golden Eagles went to Stockton and ended the Rams' season in a back-and-forth 30-29 contest that came down to the final minute. After a surprising scoreless first quarter, the Rams quickly showed why the offense was considered to be one of the best in the state this year as Marcus McDade tossed two touchdown passes which included a 20-yarder to Louie Lechich for the game's first score. With a 14-0 lead, the Rams gave up a late score right before half and Del Oro continued the momentum in the third quarter. McDade managed to rally the Rams back to retake the lead after running for a score and passing for a third touchdown on the night, but he was unable to lead a last minute rally after the Rams gave up the game-winning score with just over a minute remaining. Due to a 34-10 win over Bellarmine Prep of San Jose, which is still going in the Central Coast Section, St. Mary's did not drop out of this week's rankings. To stay in, the Rams need the Bells to win the CCS title.
23. (25) Bellarmine (San Jose) 10-1-1
In a battle of running attacks, it was the Bells who had the more potent weapons in a 20-10 CIF Central Coast Section Open Division semifinal victory at San Jose City College over West Catholic Athletic League rival Serra of San Mateo. Kyle Olugbode scored twice on short runs and finished with 129 yards on 21 carries. Quarterback Mike McGovern had 122 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a 51-yard TD run that closed out the scoring after Serra had closed to 13-10. The defense also came up big, limiting six Serra runners to a combined 159 yards on 35 carries. Coach Mike Janda's boys now go for a second-straight CCS Open Division title this Friday night against league rival St. Francis of Mountain View in an all WCAL title game matchup once again at San Jose City College.
24. (NR) Carson 10-2
The Colts crack the top 25 this week following a 31-7 victory over L.A. Locke in a Wednesday quarterfinal matchup last week in the L.A. City Section Div. I playoffs. The Colts' victory over the Saints is not the particular reason why the Colts jump in this week as much as their overall body of work. They have lost to only one in-state foe, No. 13 Serra, by 10 points (27-17) and went through the rugged Marine League undefeated. Besides the three-interception performance by cornerback Dwan Gill, Carson coach Mike Christensen was not too thrilled by his team's performance against Locke. He knows his team will have to be firing on all cylinders if it is to have any chance to defeat state No. 3 Crenshaw in a probable city final matchup. First things first, however, as Carson has a semifinal date with a hot Narbonne of Harbor City team the Colts previously beat during league play, 41-28.
25. (NR) Centennial (Corona) 10-2
After losing in their regular season finale to Norco by one point, the defending CIF Division I state bowl game champs have ramped it up in the CIFSS Inland Division playoffs. In last weekend's game, the Huskies faced unbeaten Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley and impressed with a 52-21 win. The game wasn't even that close as it was 38-7 at halftime and 52-7 after three quarters. Denzel Hawkins led the ground game with 15 carries for 121 yards and three TDs while Dion Bass came up with 94 yards and two scores on 14 attempts. Coach Matt Logan's club faces 9-3 Chaparral of Temecula in this week's semifinals. It's a rematch of an opening game in which the Huskies topped the Pumas, 28-21. Chap is coming in after a 14-7 win over previous No. 15 Redlands East Valley.