I've been covering Bay Area football for the past 28 years – but today I step into new ground.
We're going to make this simple. The region will include simply the four California Interscholastic Federation sections in the region: Central Coast, North Coast, San Francisco and Oakland.
So, for the first time, I'm heading South of San Jose. And to do that, I'm leaning on some of scribes in the region to help. Without a further ado, here are the 2012 MaxPreps Bay Area Top 25 preseason rankings.
1. De La Salle (Concord) 13-1Who else? The Spartans haven't lost to a Northern California team since 1991, or three years before Justin Bieber was born. Defense, led by DE Austin Hooper, LBs Michael Hutchings, Victor Egu and David Moffitt, is the strength. Only question mark is at quarterback where three-year starter Bart Houston finally graduated. Chris Williams
has looked good in the early going.
2. Bellarmine (San Jose) 12-2
Gone is all-everything QB-K-P-leader-cheerleader-blocking back Travis McHugh. In comes K.J. Carta-Samuels
as his replacement and all the new quarterback does is accept a scholarship offer from Vanderbilt. The Bells, a two-time time defending WCAL and CCS champion, have it rolling. 3. Logan (Union City) 10-1
QB Jeffrey Prothro Jr. (6-2, 180) looked very good at a four-way scrimmage with De La Salle, California and Pittsburg on Friday. If he can play like that along with Northwestern-bound RB Warren Miles Long
, the new independent Colts might be playing in a NCS title game.4. San Ramon Valley (Danville) 10-4Cameron Birse
has thrown just six passes in his varsity career, yet he was picked on the USA Under-19 squad that played in Texas this summer. He has played behind Zach Kline, a two year starter now at Cal. Wolverines are loaded, with seven return on defense, including Arizona-bound linebacker Ryan Dunn
. 5. Palo Alto 10-3
Besides quarterback Keller Chryst
, one of the top juniors in the country and son of 49ers quarterback coach Geep Chryst, the Vikings have loads of talent at the skill spot and secondary. Three-year starting center Spencer Drazovich
anchors an inexperienced OL.6. Palma (Salinas) 11-1-1
Superior line play behind Spencer Seeley
(6-4, 260), Jack Powers
(6-6, 270) and Hildelv Manzur, plus super skills of Marcus Washington equals another super squad in Salinas.
7. Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 13-1
The Wildcats are blessed with one of the top quarterbacks in the country in 6-5 senior Jared Goff
, who threw 45 touchdowns last year and only six interceptions. Goff would love to erase a painful loss to Campolindo in the NCS finals, costing MC a state-bowl bid.8. Serra (San Mateo) 11-2
The Padres broke every rushing record imaginable behind current Washington RB Erich Wilson. Patrick Walsh's troops will even out the offense, but expect RB Eric Redwood
to approach 1,500 yards as the new featured back. Junior DB Hamilton Anoa'i
(6-2, 210) leads a defense that should be rugged, especially at LB. 9. Freedom (Oakley) 10-2
The passing combination of Dante Mayes
to Darrell Daniels
(6-3, 200), another Washington commit, is the most lethal in the region. Daniels is the No. 74 recruit in the country and Mayes was impressive at an Elite 11 Regional camp during the spring.10. St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 6-6-1
Some believe behind superb senior QB Jack Stinn (2,597 yards, 23 total touchdowns) and big contributors RB/DB Albert Waters, LB Noah Bull, WR Andrew Vollert and K Michael Capitolo, the Wildcats have what it takes to win a WCAL title. 11. Los Gatos 11-1-1
Coach Butch Cattolico always delivers and with LBs Kevin Tjon
and Tyler Perkins
, the defense should be nails. 12. Campolindo (Moraga) 14-1
Last year, the Cougars were picked to finish last in their league and the made it all the way to the CIF State Division III bowl game. Led by returning QB Brett Stephens
, Campolindo won't be picked last again but nobody is predicting a repeat performance either. 13. Oak Grove (San Jose) 11-1
The perennial San Jose power returns 11 starters including standout TE-OLB Will Ossai
14. Concord 14-1
Washington State-bound RB Olito Thompson
can't possible repeat his Northern California record-breaking rushing year. Or could he? Brian Hamilton continues to work wonders with teams that annually average only 25 boys to the roster. 15. Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 9-3
The Dragons have some serious talent, led by returning quarterback Dominic Miroglio (2,644 yards, 34 touchdowns) and Cal-bound WR-DB Kevin King
. 16. Pittsburg 9-4
Every year there's high expectation and every year, it seems, the Pirates run into De La Salle during the playoffs. As usual great skill players, plus Div. I DL Motekiai Maile gives Pittsburg great hope to upset favorite Freedom and win a BVAL title.
17. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 7-4
WR/DB Jacob Wesson is everywhere and the perennial WCAL mainstay is always dangerous. 18. Foothill (Pleasanton) 4-6
Don't be fooled by the record. The Falcons, coached by Matt Sweeney, can't wait to turn things around. Led by Cal-bound TE Ray Hudson
and LB Grifith Gates, Foothill will be a strong NCS contender. 19. San Benito (Hollister) 7-3-1
According to George Watkins of the Salinas Californian, the Haybalers return "their leading rusher, receiver, quarterback and a bunch more top-notch talent."20. Valley Christian (San Jose) 6-6
After under-achieving last year, look for the perennial Bay Area power to respond behind all-everything Ryan Severson (5-11, 195) and superb junior QB Jay MacIntyre, son of SJS football coach. 21. Milpitas 8-4
Loads of talent always, this year's blue chip recruit is 6-4, 280-pound defensive line Vita Vea
, who had six sacks last season. 22. Monte Vista (Danville) 8-5
The new QB replacing Oregon freshman Jeff Lockie is Nikita Zamora
. Coach Craig Bergman, a former QB at Arizona, does wonders with the position. 23. Casa Grande (Petaluma) 8-5
FB-DL Elijah Qualls
is headed to Washington but before he does that, he'd love nothing more than to win a league and section title. 24. Salesian (Richmond) 13-0
The small-school power, coached by Chad Nightingale, has won 21 straight and though his top-end talent is gone, look for the Pride to find plenty of more firepower. 25. Monterey 8-3
More from Watkins: The Toreadors return 16 starters including their entire offensive backfield.
E-mail national MaxPreps columnist Mitch Stephens at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MitchMashMax.