After years of wondering whether Corona Centennial could hold its own if it ever played in the Pac-5 Division, the Huskies were finally placed in the state's toughest football playoff division last season and won it all.
"It was amazing," Coach Matt Logan said. "Each playoff game was like a CIF championship game."
What everyone learned was that the Huskies' no-huddle offense could take on any and all challengers. And the same goes for the 2015 season that kicks off this weekend.
"If you want to win a Pac-5 championship, you have to go through Centennial," St. John Bosco Coach Jason Negro said.
Centennial is ranked No. 1 in the Los Angeles Times' preseason rankings. St. John Bosco is No. 2. They met in last year's Pac-5 final and Centennial won, 48-41. Both teams return numerous top skill-position players.
Centennial's secret to success is improvement over the course of the season. Last year, the Huskies started 1-2, but by season's end, their offense was putting up 68 points on Gardena Serra.
Quarterback Anthony Catalano, running back JJ Taylor and receiver Javon McKinley give the Huskies a strong group to build around. The defense should be much improved, led by a talented secondary. But inexperience on the offensive and defensive lines could leave the Huskies vulnerable early in the season.
St. John Bosco will be better than ever thanks to an improved defense and more depth. Of course, the Braves must replace quarterback Josh Rosen (UCLA), but backup Quentin Davis looks well prepared to take over.
Harbor City Narbonne is ranked No. 3 and capable of making a run for No. 1. The Gauchos play Long Beach Poly and Serra in nonleague games, giving them the chance to prove their ability.
The Trinity and Mission leagues will battle it out for top leagues in Southern California. Six Mission teams — Serra, Bishop Amat, Crespi, Alemany, Notre Dame and Loyola — are ranked in the top 25. Five teams from Trinity are ranked — St. John Bosco, Mater Dei, Santa Margarita, Orange Lutheran and JSerra.
Here is The Times' top 25 high school football teams in the Southland:
Rk. School | Comment
1. CORONA CENTENNIAL | No-huddle offense will continue to score points in large numbers.
2. ST. JOHN BOSCO | Improved defense means beware of the Braves.
3. NARBONNE | Everything in place to make bid for No. 1 in California.
4. GARDENA SERRA | The Cavaliers place their trust in QB Khalil Tate.
5. BISHOP AMAT | If the offensive line is as good as expected, watch out.
6. MATER DEI | Improved speed, strong defense will help overcome inexperience at QB.
7. VISTA MURRIETA | When Coach Coley Candaele says his team is good, take notice.
8. ALEMANY | Improved defense and sophomore QB Brevin White lead Warriors.
9. LONG BEACH POLY | Count on Jack Jones making big plays.
10. NORCO| QB Victor Viramontes is the real deal.
11. CRESPI | Veer attack and RB Jalen Starks must be stopped.
12. MISSION VIEJO | Diablos opened in Hawaii with 63-7 win.
13. SANTA MARGARITA | Eagles building around QB K.J. Costello.
14. REDLANDS EAST VALLEY | Lots of veterans return from state championship team.
15. WESTLAKE | WR Theo Howard will be exciting player.
16. OAKS CHRISTIAN | Sophomore QB Matt Corral is a star in the making.
17. LOS ALAMITOS | Lots of talent on both sides of the ball.
18. TESORO | As QB Devon Modster goes, so go the Titans.
19. ORANGE LUTHERAN | Looking for a few breakthrough wins in Trinity League.
20. SHERMAN OAKS NOTRE DAME | RB Leo Lambert III is ready for big season.
21. RANCHO CUCAMONGA | Lots of players with college offers.
22. UPLAND | Is there life after Tyler Hilinski? New players ready to step up.
23. EDISON | Line play will be critical in rise of Chargers.
24. JSERRA | A new QB must step up for Lions.
25. LOYOLA | DB-WR David Long gives Cubs top weapon.