20 TEAMS TO WATCH

Here is a look at the top-rated Southern Section and City Section teams:

1. SANTA ANA MATER DEI

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 14-0, defeated Loyola, 17-10, in Division I championship game.

* Coach: Bruce Rollinson

* Outlook: The Monarchs lost several talented players from last season's team that won USA Today's mythical national title. But six offensive and six defensive starters return for a school that never has a shortage of talent. Running back/defensive end Mike McNair, who had 1,222 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, will run behind an experienced line that features Joe Medlin, Scott Panique and Lenny Vandermade. Senior John Leonard is the new starting quarterback. Joey Boese leads a strong secondary and also plays wide receiver.

2. COMPTON DOMINGUEZ

(Southern Section Division II)

* Last season: 13-1, defeated Chino Hills Ayala, 42-16, in Division II championship game.

* Coach: Keith Donerson

* Outlook: Quarterback Jason Thomas rushed for five touchdowns in last year's championship game, after which he said, "This puts us on the map." With Thomas back, the road to the Division II title still runs through Dominguez. Receiver David Relf, running back Willie Hurst and cornerback Douglas Brumfield are only a few of the talented returning players for the Dons. Mark Oct. 10 on the calendar. That's when Dominguez plays Long Beach Poly.

3. LONG BEACH POLY

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 9-4, lost to Mater Dei in Division I semifinals, 42-13.

* Coach: Jerry Jaso

* Outlook: Running back Herman Ho-Ching, quarterback Chris Lewis and wide receiver Kareem Kelly are catalysts for an offense that includes three returning starters on the offensive line. Defensive ends Tino Tuiaana and Ryan Iata are returning starters and cornerback Darrell Rideaux is a game-breaker.

4. LOYOLA

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 12-2, lost to Mater Dei, 17-10, in Division I championship game.

* Coach: Steve Grady

* Outlook: Running backs Stephen Faulk and Wesley Willard will benefit from a big, experienced offensive line that will also protect quarterback Chris Peterson in his first season as the starter. Linebackers Derrigan Sheedy and Sloane Joseph lead the defense.

5. LA PUENTE BISHOP AMAT

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 8-4, lost to Fontana, 31-28, in double overtime in Division I quarterfinals.

* Coach: Tom Salter

* Outlook: Senior quarterback Sean Koelle and defensive lineman Justin Hayward are expected to provide leadership for a young team trying to earn the school's second division championship in three years. Junior running backs Dennis Wyrick and Mike Wagner give the Lancers an outstanding 1-2 punch. Nose tackle Jonivan Valle anchors the defense.

6. FONTANA

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 11-1-1, lost to Loyola, 16-13, in overtime in Division I semifinals.

* Coach: Dick Bruich

* Outlook: Andre Perry, who rushed for 1,117 yards last season and also plays defensive back, is the focal point of the offense. Running back Marquis Starks, wingback Cameron Spence and wide receiver/safety Tyrone Streeter also have big-play potential. Lineman Justin Brokaw and linebackers Brian Binks and Jason Dell are defensive standouts.

7. BELLFLOWER ST. JOHN BOSCO

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 9-2-1, lost to Long Beach Poly in Division I semifinals.

* Coach: Jerry Person

* Outlook: The Braves will be tested early by opening against Eisenhower then travel to play Mater Dei in Week 2. Eight starters return on offense, including running back Eric Ayers, who gained 993 yards and scored 13 touchdowns, and receiver Jamaul Montgomery. Linebackers Shane Minton and Irvin Picott and lineman Jason Camilleri are the only returning defensive starters.

8. SANTA MARGARITA

(Southern Section Division V)

* Last season: 13-1, defeated Newport Harbor, 38-0, in Division V championship game.

* Coach: Jim Hartigan

* Outlook: The Eagles have several key players back from a team that outscored playoff opponents, 158-6. Carson Palmer, who passed for more than 2,300 yards and 24 touchdowns, is regarded as one the best quarterback prospects in the nation. Wide receiver John Minardi caught 42 passes and averaged 24.8 yards a catch. Nine starters return on defense, including linebacker Andrew Holstein and lineman Shaun Jackson.

9. CHINO HILLS AYALA

(Southern Section Division II)

* Last season: 11-3, lost to Dominguez, 42-16, in Division II championship game.

* Coach: Mark Pasquarella

* Outlook: Quarterback Mike Frost, running backs Matt Johnson and Antoine Cameron and wingback Brian White will lead the Bulldogs to a possible third consecutive appearance in a Southern Section championship game. The defense features linebacker Tom Coburn and defensive back Richie Long.

10. SHERMAN OAKS NOTRE DAME

(Southern Section Division III)

* Last season: 12-2, lost to Camarillo, 23-14, in Division III championship game.

* Coach: Kevin Rooney

* Outlook: Justin Fargas, the state 100-meter champion, is regarded as one of the top high school running backs in the nation. Last season he gained 2,970 yards and scored 38 touchdowns, and he is the main reason the Knights are favored to win the division title.

11. REDLANDS

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 9-3, lost to Mater Dei in Division I quarterfinals.

* Coach: Jim Walker

* Outlook: The Bulldogs' only losses last season were to Bishop Amat, Fontana and Mater Dei. This season, they have 35 seniors, including all 11 defensive starters. Lineman Will Goff, linebacker Cody Beck and cornerback Steve Collins lead the unit. Winston Ellison gained 980 yards last season and is one of the top running backs in the Inland Empire.

12. LAGUNA HILLS

(Southern Section Division VIII)

* Last season: 9-2, lost to Pacifica, 17-13, in first round of Southern Section Division VIII playoffs.

* Coach: Steve Bresnahan

* Outook: Running back Michael Jones rushed for 2,131 yards and 29 touchdowns and has gained 5,021 yards in his career. He is one of 17 starters returning from a team that won nine in a row before losing its final league game to eventual division champ Aliso Niguel and its first playoff game.

13. LOS ALAMITOS

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 9-2, lost to Long Beach Poly in first round of Division I playoffs.

* Coach: John Barnes

* Outlook: The Griffins were supposed to be rebuilding last year, and all they did was go out and win a share of the Sunset League title. Receiver Blair Havens is one of several weapons in the always formidable Los Alamitos passing attack. Zack Blazek is in his first season as the starting quarterback.

14. PARAMOUNT

(Southern Section Division II)

* Last season: 9-3, lost to Highland, 32-18, in Division II quarterfinals.

* Coach: Ken Sutch

* Outlook: The Pirates knocked off Dominguez last year when Jason Thomas was sitting out a game and wound up winning the San Gabriel Valley League title. They might have enough to do it again with Dominguez at full strength. Terry Soolefai will start at quarterback and Danny McMullen is a returning all-league running back.

15. PASADENA MUIR

(Southern Section Division III)

* Last season: 10-3, lost to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 45-20, in Division III semifinals.

* Coach: Erick Johnson/Tony Crutchfield

* Outlook: The Mustangs, winners of five consecutive Pacific League championships, have at least five major college prospects and will contend for the division championship. Running backs Sultan McCullough and Ricky Crockett lead Mustangs.

16. ANAHEIM SERVITE

(Southern Section Division V)

* Last season: 11-2, lost to Newport Harbor, 23-10, in Division V semifinals.

* Coach: Larry Toner

* Outlook: The Friars would be the favorite to win the Division V title if Santa Margarita wasn't in the same division. Servite's strength is a defense led by Shane Ellis and Adrian Hinckley. Ryan Garko moves from receiver to quarterback, replacing Greg Cicero, who is now at the University of Texas.

17. MISSION VIEJO CAPISTRANO VALLEY

(Southern Section Division I)

* Last season: 8-4, lost to Loyola, 17-14, in Division I quarterfinals.

* Coach: Dave Brown

* Outlook: Linebacker Austin Allen leads a defensive unit that features seven returning starters and makes the Cougars the biggest threat to Mater Dei in the South Coast League. Ryan Brown is the top running back and Jeff Dixon the new quarterback.

18. SAN PEDRO

(City Section, 4-A Division)

* Last season: 14-0, defeated Taft, 22-20, in Division 4-A championship game.

* Coach: Mike Walsh

* Outlook: Another unbeaten season for the Pirates is unlikely, but a veteran offensive line and running backs Holman Wiggins and Tony Danelo give San Pedro enough offense to repeat as champion.

19. RANCHO CUCAMONGA

(Southern Section Division IV)

* Last season: 10-2, lost to Chino, 43-42, in overtime in Division IV quarterfinals.

* Coach: Pete Fotia

* Outlook: The Cougars are led by senior quarterback Jose Fuentes and have three talented running backs in Nathan Collins, Chris Davis and Jonathan Bean--all juniors.

20. WESTCHESTER

(City Section, 4-A Division)

* Last season: 12-1, lost to Taft, 15-8, in 4-A semifinals.

* Coach: Larry Wein

* Outlook: Receivers Eugene Childs and Jenaro Gilford and strong safety Terrell Golden have big-play ability for the Comets.

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