Joe Davidson

Teams that showed promise in 2017 kick off The Bee’s preseason prep football rankings

Del Campo expects to return to the playoffs for the 16th time in 17 seasons under coach Mike Dimino, whose team will be led by running back Levi Markey, left.
Del Campo expects to return to the playoffs for the 16th time in 17 seasons under coach Mike Dimino, whose team will be led by running back Levi Markey, left. Sacramento Bee file

A newcomer, three regulars and one program making its return in the rankings mix make up the bottom of The Bee’s Top 20 high school football rankings, each with lower-division championship hopes after promising 2017 seasons.

Since opening in 2005, River Valley has advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs five times, but the Yuba City school is still seeking its first postseason victory.

The Falcons are headed by co-coaches Brennan McFadden and Dave Humphers, who led Nevada Union to championship heights in the 1990s and 2000s. McFadden was on some of those rosters.

Del Campo enjoyed a football breakthrough with its first playoff team in 1995 under then-coach Steve Kenyon, and the Cougars have been a regular since, including a 12-1 run last season under longtime coach Mike Dimino, a retired California Highway Patrol officer.

Del Campo competes in a revamped Capital Athletic League that figures to be a powerhouse for Division III programs. The CAL includes Capital Christian, Christian Brothers, Sacramento and Vista del Lago, among others.

Christian Brothers won its first league championship in the 1920s and fielded dominating D-I section title teams in 1981 and ’83, then dipped for awhile. Now the Falcons have been a playoff regular over the last two decades. It produced one of the region’s all-time great tight ends last fall in Spencer Webb, now on scholarship at Oregon.

Bear River had 1,200 students in the 1990s, but the school has dwindled to half of that with declining enrollment reflective of lack of housing growth in Grass Valley, Lake of the Pines and parts of Placer County. But the Bruins remain a football powerhouse, a testament to the will of co-coaches Terry Logue and Scott Savoie.

Casa Roble has experienced it all since opening in 1966 — horrific, winless teams and dominating, unbeaten ones. The Rams are back on track with a return to the playoffs last fall.

Here are Nos. 16-20:

20. Casa Roble (6-6)

Coach: Chris Horner

League: Golden Empire

Enrollment: 1,250

Division: III/IV

School opened: 1966

Opener: vs. Bella Vista, Aug. 17

Pedigree: Twelve playoff teams since 1990 and eight since 2006, including a 13-0 team in 2008 under then-coach Norm Ryan.

The skinny: Horner in his first year as coach after junior varsity success got equaled the win total of the previous two seasons combined and has 17 returning starters from a playoff team. The defense figures to be especially formidable with LBs Devin Carmona, Luke Triplett and Ruben Voznyuk.

Bear River has been a playoff regular in part because it plays swarming defense. The Bruins have won two Sac-Joaquin Section championships in three seasons. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

19. Bear River (10-4)

Coach: Terry Logue/Scott Savoie

League: Pioneer Valley

Enrollment: 610

Division: V

School opened: 1986

Opener: at South Tahoe, Aug. 17

Pedigree: 28 consecutive non-losing seasons and three section titles, including two in the last three seasons under longtime coaches Logue and Savoie.

The skinny: Thirteen starters return from a section championship team, none more dynamic than Calder Kunde, a skill player who will be joined in the secondary by Tre Maronic. The lines are strong, headed by Sam Davis for a program that defies logic as it rolls on despite declining enrollment.

20170909_holy bowl 0909_036.JPG
Christian Brothers is part of a revamped new Capital Athletic League that includes playoff regulars Capital Christian, Del Campo, Sacramento and Vista del Lago. Brian Baer Sacramento Bee file

18. Christian Brothers (10-3)

Coach: Tyler Almond

League: Capital Valley

Enrollment: 1,110

Division: III

School opened: 1876

Opener: at Burbank, Aug. 17.

Pedigree: Eleven playoff teams since 2005 for a program that has been winning league titles since the 1920s, with a surge the past two seasons.

The skinny: All-Metro stars Spencer Webb (Oregon) and Gunnor Faulk (UC Davis) are gone, but three-year starting defensive back Tyler Green is back for second-year coach Almond, who also praised defensive backs Andrew Dettling and Freddie Fiske.

17. Del Campo (12-1)

Coach: Mike Dimino

League: Capital Athletic

Enrollment: 1,800

Division: II/III

School opened: 1963

Opener: vs. Merced, Aug. 17

Pedigree: Fifteen playoff showings in 16 years under Dimino, including a 13-1 team in 2009 which won a section banner.

The skinny: Eight starters return for a program used to winning, led by bruising RB Levi Markey and offensive linemen Denman Brinkman and J.J. Jimenez. A 9-7 loss to Granite Bay in the section D-II semifinals still stings.

16. River Valley (7-4)

Coach: Brennan McFadden/Dave Humphers

League: Capital Valley

Enrollment: 1,750

Division: II/III

School opened: 2005

Opener: vs. Woodland, Aug. 17

Pedigree: Building fast with five playoff showings since 2012, but no postseason victories yet.

The skinny: The Falcons return 16 starters from their best team, headed by three-year starting QB and top scholar Dawson McPeak along with fellow three-year man Dean Rice at OL/DL. He is fielding recruiting interest.

The Bee’s top 20 high school football teams

The Sacramento Bee is ranking its top 20 high school football teams heading into the 2018 season. Here’s the schedule for the series:

Tuesday: Nos. 16-20

Wednesday: Nos. 11-15

Thursday: Nos. 6-10

Friday: Nos. 1-5

Related stories from Sacramento Bee