CIF league preview

DOWNEY - The 2009 CIF Southern Section football season will officially get underway this weekend, following a three-week practice period.Most schools opened workouts Aug. 17 for a three-day conditioning session. Unrestricted football practice began Aug. 20. A total of 395 member schools will compete in 11-man football, while 57 eight-man schools will compete. Seventy-seven leagues will compete for 15 CIF Southern Section titles. The following is a preseason preview: WESTERN DIVISION: The top spot in the Western Division goes to 2008 semifinalist Palmdale. The fightin' Falcons, coached by Jeff Williams, return a talented team that also captured the Golden League title the last season for the seventh consecutive year. Leading the way are All-CIF-SS players WR Josh Shaw (6-1, 185, Sr.) and DB Vincent Neilson (6-1, 185, Sr.) Mira Costa gets the No. 2 ranking. Coach Don Morrow welcomes a bunch of talent from a team that advanced to the divisional finals in 2008. Leading that group is All-CIF-SS UT Kellen Lockwood (6-2, 195, Sr.) and DL Jr. Tavai (6-1, 230, Jr.). Quartz Hill is the division's third-ranked team. Coach Pat Degnan's Rebels will battle for the Golden League crown with the help of 2008 Western Division Offensive Player of the Year Kyle Brooks (5-8, 170, Sr.) and 10 other returning starters. Defending Mission League champion Alemany gains the No. 4 ranking. Coach Dean Herrington's Warriors have 12 starters back from the 2008 league championship and semifinalist team. Returning for Alemany is All-CIF-SS standouts RB Malcolm Marable (5-9, 170, Sr.), OL Sergio Figueroa (6-1, 225, Jr.) and LB Anthony Espinoza (5-9, 190, Sr.). Culver City claims the No. 5 spot. The Ocean League favorite Centaurs, coached by first-year coach Jahmal Wright, returns 13 starters from a team that advanced to the divisional quarterfinals in 2008. Included in that mix is All-CIF-SS LB Victor Burnett (6-0, 210, Sr.). St. Francis of the Mission League takes the No. 6 position. The Golden Knights hope to advance through the Southern Section playoffs this season after finishing with a first-round loss last year. Coach Jim Bonds returns All-CIF-SS RB Dietrich Riley (6-2, 175, Sr.) to lead the way. The 7th spot goes to Ocean League contender, Santa Monica. First year head coach Travis Clark looks to return the Vikings to the playoffs after exiting from the first round in 2008. QB Garrett Safron (6-0, 170, Sr.), WR/LB Luke Zelon (6-3, 208, Sr.) and DB Jared Onouye (5-10, 170, Sr.) return for the Vikings. San Gabriel Valley League favorite Warren gains the No. 8 ranking. Coach Chris Benadom's Bears have 11 starters back from the 2008 league championship team. Returning for Warren is All-CIF-SS RB players Jesse Callier (5-11, 180, Sr.), DB Bailey Cowins (6-1, 170, Sr.) and DL Augafa Vaaulu (6-3, 260, Sr.). Leuzinger ranks No. 9. Coach Deon Toliver returns 13 starters from a team that finished tied for 3rd in the Ocean League but, missed the playoffs. Returning are All-league SS Taumoelau Kaveinga (6-0, 205, Sr.) and QB Teshon Burton (6-3, 195, Sr.). The No. 10 ranking goes to Lynwood of the San Gabriel Valley League. The Knights, coached by Mark Williams, look to advance in the 2009 playoffs past the quarterfinal round this season. Lynwood finished second in league last season. All-league QB/S Deshawn Fox (5-11, 190, Sr.) returns for the Knights. Beverly Hills, Eastside, Inglewood, Peninsula, Redondo Union and St. Paul are other teams to watch. SOUTHERN DIVISION: Pacific Coast League top pick and defending divisional champion Laguna Hills claims the No. 1 spot in the 2009 preseason poll for the second-consecutive year. Coach Bruce Ingalls returns a talented group led by All-CIF-SS DB Ryan Urr (5-9, 155, Jr.) and All-league RB Matt Martindale (6-0, 208, Sr.). The Hawks return a combined 11 starters and 26 lettermen. Suburban League favorite Mayfair holds the No. 2 spot in the preseason poll. The Monsoons look to win a championship behind All-league LB Josh Gavert (6-0, 180, Sr.) and DT Filo Fonoti (6-4, 270, Jr.). Co-Head coaches Mike Fitch and Woodie Grayson hope to lead Mayfair to the title in 2009 after a runner-up finish in 2008. Norwalk is the No. 3-ranked team. Coach Jesse Ceniceros's Lancers are led by QB/DB Dominque Diaz (5-10, 180, Sr.). Norwalk advanced to the semifinals in 2008. Corona Del Mar, 2008 semifinalist from the Pacific Coast League, is looking for a divisional crown in 2009. The fourth-rated Sea Kings, coached by Jason Hitchens, look to All-CIF-SS LB Alex Swigert (6-0, 185, Sr.) for more this season. Artesia, coached by Vince La Rosa, takes the No. 5 position. With key veterans such as All-CIF-SS LB T.J. Taimatuia (6-2, 190, Sr.), QB/LB Anthony Johnson (5-10, 170, Sr.) and David Lasisi (5-10, 176, Sr.) they should be able to advance past the first round in 2009. Garden Grove holds the No. 6 spot in the preseason poll. The Argonauts look to win a championship behind All-CIF-SS LB Zach Huff (6-1, 210, Sr.) for Coach Joe Hay. Pacific Coast League challenger Irvine is the No. 7 rated team. All-league WR/DB Jake Day and LB Andrew Hills lead Terry Henigan's Vaqueros (in his final year as coach) in their quest for a title. Garden Grove League contender Santiago/Garden Grove is ranked No. 8. Based on the return of 12 starters and 23 lettermen, the Cavaliers should make another run at the league title this season. Top returnees for Santiago are All-league OL/DL Anthony Caballero (5-11, 240, Sr.) and All-league TE/DB Juan Sanchez (6-2, 190, Sr.)

********** Published: September 4, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 20

SportsEric Pierce