Joe Davidson

How deep does region’s football talent run? Our rankings hint at a loaded field.

Returning starters Spencer Webb, left, and Tyler Green lead Christian Brothers' hopes of repeating as Capital Athletic League champions.
Returning starters Spencer Webb, left, and Tyler Green lead Christian Brothers' hopes of repeating as Capital Athletic League champions. Sacramento Bee file

Picking the best high school football teams – in order – to kick off The Sacramento Bee’s rankings is not as easy is selecting the greatest presidents, or the worst Rocky sequels.

So many good teams, so few spots. But here we go. Rankings are based on returning starters, recent playoff success, tradition and strength of schedule. Today, we take a close look at teams ranked Nos. 16-20. We will break down five more teams in each of the coming days.

The season starts on Aug. 25. Or, actually, it starts now with this list. Dig in:

The Bee’s Top 20 countdown

16. Christian Brothers (11-3 in 2016)

Coach: Tyler Almond

League: Capital Athletic

Enrollment: 1,110

Division: III

School opened: 1876

Opener: vs. Manteca, Sept. 1

Pedigree: Ten playoff berths since 2005, the previous three under Dan Carmazzi, The Bee’s Coach of the Year in 2016 who has retired. CB has won league titles since the 1920s and did so last season.

The skinny: Almond spent the last seven seasons on the Sacramento State football staff and takes over a program that last fall reached its first section final in 30 years. The leaders include Oregon-bound tight end Spencer Webb, who caught 660 yards worth of passes and five touchdowns, defensive back Tyler Green (12 interceptions) and linebacker Jake Regino (94 tackles).

The Whitney Wildcats have made the playoffs nine times in ten years. Steve German Sacramento Bee file

17. Whitney (6-5)

Coach: Paul Doherty

League: Capital Valley

Enrollment: 1,910

Division: II

School opened: 2003

Opener: vs. Davis, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Nine playoff teams in 10 years, the first seven under program-founding coach Mike Gimenez (the last two under Doherty), including a 13-0 Sac-Joaquin Section title team in 2008.

The skinny: The Wildcats lost quarterback Jake Cruz via transfer to Capital Christian but return Preston Eklund, who passed for 678 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games before getting injured. All-Metro receiver Justin Kraft returns after catching 67 passes for 1,174 yards and nine touchdowns, as do running backs Mark Clark and Jason Sanchez.

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Greg Cabral of Del Campo led the Sac-Joaquin Section in rushing in 2016 with 2,417 yards, one of the greatest single-season rushing marks in regional history. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

18. Del Campo (6-6)

Coach: Mike Dimino

League: Capital Valley

Enrollment: 1,810

Division: II

School opened: 1963

Opener: vs. Merced, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Fourteen playoff teams in the last 15 years under coach Dimino, including a 13-1 Sac-Joaquin Section title team in 2009.

The skinny: The Cougars are wiser now, having lost close games last season that they expect to win this time around. Greg Cabral rushed for a section-leading 2,417 yards last season with 21 touchdowns and vows even more yards. Tyler Dimino, son of the coach, passed for 1,782 yards and 18 touchdowns. His top receivers – Trevor Brouhns and David Joseph – are also back.

Placer coach Joey Montoya, an alum of the school, seeks his 10th consecutive playoff berth and sixth league championship. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Sacramento Bee file

19. Placer (7-6)

Coach: Joey Montoya

League: Delta

Enrollment: 1,360

Division: III-IV

School opened: 1897

Opener: vs. Pleasant Grove, Aug. 25

Pedigree: Nine consecutive playoff berths, including five league championships, under coach Montoya, an alum of the school.

The skinny: For a school that won its first conference title in 1903 and basked in its heyday in the 1970s under coaches Bill Miller and Tom Johnson with state-ranked powers, tradition abounds at Placer. It’s a family affair here, too, with lineman Joey Capra (6-4, 260), following brothers Jake (now at Oregon) and Johnny (now at Utah). Twelve starters return, and the junior varsity team went 9-1 last fall.

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Vista del Lago running back Dominick Norris is one of a host of returning starters for an Eagles program that has won five league championships in the last seven seasons. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

20. Vista del Lago (8-4)

Coach: Mike Struebing

League: Capital Athletic

Enrollment: 1,620

Division: III

School opened: 2007

Opener: at Oak Ridge, Aug. 25.

Pedigree: Seven consecutive playoff berths and five league championships, the last four seasons under coach Struebing.

The skinny: The Eagles have been prolific and fun, first under founding coach Chris Jones and now under Struebing, who relies on offensive balance to stretch defenses. Nine starters return, none larger and stronger than 6-4, 275-pound lineman Andrew Cokley, who will block for running back Dominick Norris. If this is our No. 20 team, and it’s a very good one, then this is a clear indication of how deep the area is this season. Vista finds out in a hurry what it has in its opener.

Coming Sunday: Nos. 11-15

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD, JoeDavidsonMedia on Instragram, sacbeepreps on Facebook.