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Narbonne coach Manuel Douglas is taking his team to Hawaii this week for its season opener.
Narbonne coach Manuel Douglas is taking his team to Hawaii this week for its season opener. (Luis Sinco)

Never before in Southern California has the high school football season started so early, but ready or not, it officially begins this week with zero week games.

The best opening game on Thursday night has Chaminade taking on Oaks Christian in Westlake Village. These two top 25 teams teams have produced exciting matchups in recent years. Oaks Christian will be making its debut under first-year coach Charles Collins. Both teams have solid senior quarterbacks in Ryan Stevens for Chaminade and Josh Calvert for Oaks Christian. The big question is, who’s going to block Oaks Christian’s Kayvon Thibodeaux?

Another intriguing Thursday opener has Servite playing Bakersfield at Santa Ana Stadium. It marks the return of Troy Thomas to the Friars. Blaze McKibbon, who started at Gardena Serra last season, will take over at quarterback for the Friars.

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Junior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei leads No. 1 St. John Bosco.
Junior quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei leads No. 1 St. John Bosco. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

With 14 returning starters and more than 45 players back on varsity, St. John Bosco is ranked No. 1 in The Times’ preseason high school football rankings. The Braves open their new stadium on Friday night.

1. ST. JOHN BOSCO. It is size and strength up front that make the Braves the team to beat.

2. SANTA ANA MATER DEI. An exceptional secondary and strong skill position players, led by wide receiver Bru McCoy.

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Narbonne starts out as the No. 1 team in City Section football. The Gauchos have won four consecutive championships.
Narbonne starts out as the No. 1 team in City Section football. The Gauchos have won four consecutive championships. (Eric Sondheimer)

After watching some scrimmages and taking into account transfers and other information, here’s my preseason list of the top 10 prep football teams in the City Section.

1. NARBONNE. Even though the Gauchos still don’t know yet which of their transfers are going to be cleared for their trip to Hawaii next week, they will have plenty of weapons available. Quarterback Jaylen Henderson will get the start for the first five games, then face competition from Jake Garcia. The defense has been better than expected in early practices, and the offense should produce lots of big plays. The Gauchos have won four consecutive City titles.

2. CRENSHAW. As long as Robert Garrett keeps coaching, the Cougars are always a team to reckon with. A new all-weather field and lots of quality young players should make the Cougars dangerous by season’s end.

Athletic trainers are in need at high schools throughout Southern California, and Providence St. Joseph Health Southern California has decided to fund trainers for six high schools in the San Fernando Valley.

Burroughs, Burbank, Taft, Sierra Canyon, Alemany and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame will receive funding for trainers under the project. Several of the schools already have trainers, so the funds will pay for an assistant.

Taft will be the most closely watched school. It’s part of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and negotiations have been ongoing because of liability concerns. If the lawyers sign off as expected, Taft would join the relatively few LAUSD schools with an athletic trainer.

Birmingham-Fairfax scrimmage highlights

Football teams that open their seasons next week are having scrimmages this week.

On Thursday, Birmingham took on host Fairfax, and the Patriots showed off good offensive potential.

Veteran quarterback Jason Artiga can be very effective this season. He has a 220-pound running back in DJ Banks and promising receivers in Mason White, Lateef Audu and freshman Arlis Boardingham, who finished second in the long jump this summer at the Junior Olympic championships. All three receivers also play in the secondary.

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It’s win or go home time at the Junior NBA World Championship in Florida for the Southern California-based California Storm girls’ basketball team.

The single elimination playoffs begin on Friday. California Storm, representing the West, went 2-1 in pool play and will face the Midwest in a 2:30 p.m. game. It needs three consecutive wins to advance to the championship game on Sunday that will be nationally televised.

Hannah Stines, who plays at Fullerton Troy, has averaged 14.3 points in the first three games.

Former Oaks Christian star Lauren Rain Williams, shown at the World U20 Championships, is leaving Oregon for USC.
Former Oaks Christian star Lauren Rain Williams, shown at the World U20 Championships, is leaving Oregon for USC. (Getty Images)

Lauren Rain Williams, one of the top female sprinters in California during her high school days at Oaks Christian, is transferring to USC and has signed with the Trojans, a school spokesman confirmed Thursday.

Last season as a freshman at Oregon, she ran a 22.51 200 meters and was part of a second-place 4x100 relay team at the NCAA championships.

She was a silver medalist in the 200 at the World U20 Championships.

Culver City’s football team is going to be heard from this season in both Division 7 and in the Ocean League.

An Oct. 5 game at Lawndale should produce lots of entertainment.

On offense, the Centaurs showed off a promising passing attack in seven-on-seven summer competitions, with sophomore quarterback Zevi Eckhaus making steady improvement. He’ll have standout receiver Jamal Glaspie.

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Fox Sports West’s Prep Zone has released its early schedule of Southern Section football games that will appear on the web or be broadcast on TV.

The Arizona Chandler at Corona Centennial game on Aug. 17 will be shown on Prime Ticket.

The Prep Zone games on the web will be Utah Timpview at St. John Bosco, Westlake vs. Sierra Canyon at Granada Hills, Antelope Valley at Grace Brethren and Upland at La Habra.

Michael Burnett, a former lawyer, has come from Virginia to take over the Harvard-Westlake football program
Michael Burnett, a former lawyer, has come from Virginia to take over the Harvard-Westlake football program (Eric Sondheimer)

When Michael Burnett came from Leesburg, Va., a town of 52,000, to interview for the Harvard-Westlake football coaching position last December, he was driving down Coldwater Canyon Boulevard in Studio City on a weekday morning. To say he was reintroduced to Los Angeles traffic would be an understatement.

"I only had to go a mile and it took me 15 minutes,” he said.

Luckily, he didn’t turn around. Perhaps it brought back memories of coaching at Santa Monica High from 2002 to 2005 before he left for Virginia to be closer to his wife’s family.

At Broad Run High, he taught social studies and coached football. A team that had rarely made the playoffs won two state titles. In 2010, he moved to a newly opened school, Tuscarora, where in 2015 he was named the Don Shula high school coach of the year by the NFL.

Now he has come to Harvard-Westlake, a school with strong academic and athletic success but little tradition and low player numbers in football. He welcomes the challenge.

“What I’ve done is mostly built programs,” he said. “I’m a pretty high-energy, positive person and try to get all the kids out.”

Burnett, a Massachusetts native, has quite a back story. He was a lawyer and litigator back east when he quit his job at age 27 to become a teacher and coach.

“How did you get lost?” I asked him.

“I think I got found,” he said. “I always joke that the only people who ask me why I stopped being a lawyer are my lawyer friends. For me, I was going to do something I loved even if it didn’t make financial sense. It made me happy.”

With three advanced college degrees, he also has an interesting philosophy on practices. His players will always be in shorts and no one is allowed to tackle someone to the ground.

“We’re trying to make it safer for kids and a lot of concussions are happening when kids hit the ground,” he said.

He’s teaching players to go full speed, have fun and learn fundamentals. It seems to be working.

“I love coach Burnett — just the positive vibe he brings and getting more players out and making practice fun,” quarterback Jameson Wang said.

The Wolverines didn’t have enough players for a junior varsity program last season. They will have a JV team this season. They are shooting for 60 players in the overall program after being in the low 40s last season. Burnett has helped grow the program with his sophomore son, Jack, a center. He also has a seventh-grade son who plays football.

Burnett will teach three AP economics classes. He’s the first football coach at Harvard-Westlake to not teach P.E. since 2004. He welcomes being an academic teacher.

“I’m going to see them when they come to gym anyways, but I’m also going to see them at a different level. It’s worked very well for me. I always felt for me as a teacher I got to them all day long and find kids and let them know the program we’re going to run.”

The head of athletics, Terry Barnum, a former USC running back, said Burnett is “a great fit” for the Wolverines.

“He’s a teacher first,” he said. “He teaches through his coaching.”

Barnum is hoping a buzz is created by Burnett that will excite parents and students alike, increasing participation in the football program.

Burnett coaches the offensive line and will also call plays. He uses the pistol offense and wants more balance, saying being able to run the ball effectively will be a key to winning a playoff game.

He seems to have adjusted to L.A. traffic. The first test of his football team comes Aug. 17 at home against Birmingham.