Eric Sondheimer has been covering high school sports for the Los Angeles Times since 1997 and in Southern California since 1976. Get his latest from the field and follow all our prep sports coverage and analysis here.
It's time to offer an early evaluation of the top teams in City Section football. Scrimmages are set for this week, with zero week games on Aug. 25.
1. Narbonne. The Gauchos ended summer play with a dud. The passing game was inconsistent, and players hardly looked motivated. Things better change with pads on because nonleague games against Gardena Serra, Long Beach Poly and Corona Centennial will require an improved performance. Running back Jermar Jefferson is a highly regarded transfer from Redondo who should take heat off quarterback Jalen Chatman. The offensive line should be outstanding. The defense has the best City Section linebacking trio in Raymond Scott, Darien Butler and Julian Lewis.
2. Dorsey. The Dons gave Narbonne a scare in last year’s final and will embark on a challenging nonleague schedule that starts with Calabasas on Aug. 24. Their focus is on getting back to the final. There’s top individual players in running back Charles Mincy Jr., defensive end Tim Mosley and tight end Isaiah Smalls.
3. Crenshaw. It’s tough to get a preseason rundown on the Cougars because their veteran coach, Robert Garrett, isn't enthusiastic about welcoming people to practice. In spring passing competitions, the Cougars showed good potential with Los Angeles transfer Isaiah Johnson at quarterback. Rayshawn Williams, a standout as a freshman, is expected back at receiver after missing 2016 because of a knee injury. Jared Greenfield was a star at defensive back as a freshman. Patrick Willis should be a star at linebacker, and lineman Ahmir Crowder has several scholarship offers. Crenshaw also has a much easier nonleague schedule than recent years.
4. San Fernando. Experience on the offensive and defensive lines, experience at quarterback and five solid running backs make the Tigers the best team from the San Fernando Valley and capable of being a City Section disruptor. The Gill brothers, Trevor and Trenton, transfers from Crespi, should add speed to the team.
5. San Pedro. Coach Corey Miller was a longtime assistant to Mike Walsh, and Walsh is still around to offer words of wisdom when needed. That kind of stability always makes the Pirates tough. Corey Fausto will be a three-way starter at receiver and safety. Junior Gafa is a hard-nosed middle linebacker. Sean Davenport is a top running back and tackler on defense. The Pirates get Narbonne at home on Oct. 20, and winning at San Pedro is no easy task.
6. Carson. First-year coach Arnold Ale returns to his alma mater, but you’ll have to wait until Oct. 2 to see how good the Colts might be. They have 17 transfers, according to the City Section, and many have to sit out the first five games. Jaja Bellinger has been starting at quarterback since his freshman season, so the Colts have a veteran to build around.
7. Birmingham. The Patriots are capable of being a surprise team if their young players develop quickly. Sophomore safety-receiver Mason White would have been good enough to start on varsity as a freshman, but he was 13 and didn’t turn 14 until the playoffs. Receiver-defensive back Marcos Moran was an All-City selection.
8. Venice. With the availability of quarterback Luca Diamont uncertain after he suffered a head injury falling off a golf cart, the Gondoliers are expected to turn to receiver Dion Moore, who could add a running dimension to the offense at quarterback. They still have talented running back in Justin Cauley.
9. Westchester. The Comets return quarterback Jonathan Murphy, who passed for 2,705 yards and 25 touchdowns. Also returning is running back Estabon Bozeman, who gained 1,370 yards.
10. Palisades. Several transfers should provide a lift for the Dolphins, who need to get solid play at quarterback to thrive in Division I. Windward transfers Campbell Geddes (kicker) and Baraka Beckett (line) should be All-City players. The best player is 325-pound lineman Syr Riley.
Garfield and South Gate should battle it out in the Eastern League, with the winner having a chance to do something in the playoffs.
This will be the first season the City Section has an eight-team Open Division for the playoffs.
All 24 teams in Division I will qualify for the post-season. Eight go in the Open Division and 16 in Division I.
Huntington Park, Reseda and South East would be considered the favorites in Division II.
Granada Hills Kennedy and Torres are the teams to beat in Division III.