Everyone has a top 10 list. Or a top 20 list. Or a top 25 list. As the high school football season dawns, why should Patch be any different?
Martin Henderson, who in the past has compiled top 10 and top 25 lists for the Los Angles Times and contributed to the media voting for the Orange County Top 10 that appears in the O.C. Register, presents the Patch Preseason Top 10 for Orange County schools.
1. Santa Margarita (13-2 in 2011)—As good as the Johnny Stanton-led team will be, it’s going to be tough going. Remember, these guys play in the Trinity League where you can ill afford an off night. Both those losses last year came in league play.
2. Servite (10-2)—It would be easy to place the Friars further down, even below Tesoro, but this program has won or shared seven straight Trinity titles. Name another program on this list that could go undefeated in the Trinity League for three straight years.
3. Mission Viejo (10-3)—At the outset, we’ll hold off on placing the Diablos higher until they can break through that Trinity League gantlet. They are the best public school program going right now, and recent transfers Sean Modster and Alex Suchesk will make Max Redfield and company even tougher.
4. Mater Dei (4-6)—The word on the street is that the Monarchs are back after missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1980s. They have a returning quarterback, Ryan McMahon, and a great target, Thomas Duarte. The Monarchs, along with Servite, were the only teams to beat Santa Margarita last season.
5. Tesoro (8-5)—Finished third in the South Coast League, then did something no one had done since 2008—beat Servite on way to the semifinals. Matt Adam and Nate Tago key a team with 17 returners, but despite all that talent dropped Santa Margarita from their schedule; the Rumble at the Ranch trophy gathers dust after only two seasons.
6. Edison (8-3)—The class of the Sunset League goes looking for trouble every year with its schedule. The Chargers are solid at the skill positions, led by QB Aleks Torgerson, and solid on defense, too. They'll need to be with nonleague games against Villa Park, Servite, Mater Dei and San Clemente leading into league play.
7. El Toro (12-2)—QB Conner Manning lit up opposing defenses last season. Four of six nonleague opponents had winning records last season, but it still feels a little soft heading into South Coast League, where we learn how good the Chargers really are. They should put up huge numbers and be one of the more interesting teams to follow.
8. Orange Lutheran (6-4)—Will the Lancers be revitalized with new coach Chuck Petersen, formerly of Air Force? The prevailing theory is yes, and if OLu plays for him like it did for years for Jim Kunau, then football in O.C. got an upgrade.
9. Tustin (11-3)—By the time the playoffs roll around, you can be sure that Tustin will be ready; everything else is just an appetizer ahead of the entrée. Tillers play physical, and will beat up teams with lineman David Maka and Southwest Championship hero Edward Tandy.
10. La Habra (9-4)—Highlanders won four section titles but lost in semifinals a year ago. The key, though, is that this is a program that has consistently upgraded, and having a returning QB of Sean Sparling’s caliber will help maintain the excellence.