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High School Sports

Narbonne starts out No. 1 football team in City Section

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Narbonne linebacker Jordan Banks leads the five-time defending City champs on defense.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It should come as no surprise that five-time defending champion Narbonne is the heavy favorite in City Section football this season and starts out at No. 1.

Even though the Gauchos still don’t know if or when coach Manuel Douglas will be back (he has been reassigned while a district investigation takes place), most of their players have stayed and are being trained and prepared by an experienced coaching staff, led by interim coach Joe Aguirre.

Narbonne has standouts on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jake Garcia has the best collection of receivers in the City Section, led by USC commit Joshua Jackson. The only question is who will provide help running the ball. On defense, the Gauchos’ secondary should be outstanding, led by Stanford commit Brandon Jones. The linebackers are elite, led by Jordan Banks. And defensive tackle Jordan Berry will be tough to move out of the middle.

The big debate is which team will be able to face the Gauchos in the Open Division final during Thanksgiving weekend.

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I’m putting Birmingham at No. 2. The arrival of quarterback Jackson Dadich from Cathedral was the missing piece to put the Patriots in contention. He’s got weapons in receiver-defensive back Mason White and sophomore receiver-defensive end Arlis Boardingham. Lineman Carlos Rivera, a sophomore, is ready to become a star. Several transfer students won’t be eligible until Sept. 27 after sitting out the first part of the season.

Garfield, last year’s runner-up, is No. 3. Coach Lorenzo Hernandez is hoping his team can remain in stealth mode and sneak up on teams but the Bulldogs return quarterback Jonathan Bautista, running back PJ Garcia and sack man Anthony Ruvalcaba.

Carson is No. 4. The Colts always have the kind of physical linemen to compete in the tough Marine League. Quarterback Ui Ale showed good potential as a sophomore.

Others

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No. 5 Venice. Duke commit Luca Diamont has been starting at quarterback since his freshman year. If the Gondoliers can protect him and finally start to stop teams on defense, beware. But it’s still up to the defense. Until the defense begins to take charge, Venice will have a hard time facing the best in the City.

No. 6 San Fernando. The versatile Andrew Hernandez should lead the Tigers at running back, defensive back and returning kickoffs. Christopher Parker had five interceptions last season and is also a top receiver. There are some key linemen returning and 6-foot-4 quarterback Adrian Lopez has worked hard to improve his skills.

No. 7 Westchester. The Comets went 9-3 last season and return numerous starters but it could be tough going early on until standout quarterback Jeliun Carter becomes available in the fifth game after recovering from knee surgery. Nathaniel Adams rushed for more than 1,200 yards as a junior.

No. 8 San Pedro. The Pirates won the Division I title last season and always receive outstanding coaching and strong community support. Dylan Kordic will take over at quarterback. Josh Ward was a standout running back.

No. 9 Reseda. The Regents are feeling so confident they’re scheduled to open against Crenshaw. They went 10-2 last season and will rely on quarterback Trent Butler, all-league receiver Dranel Rhodes, safety Mario Martinez and defensive end Ayo Olobade.

No. 10 Palisades. The Dolphins broke through last season with wins over Venice and Westchester and were an Open Division team. The best player is linebacker Syaire Riley. Kicker/punter Tommy Meek will be a valuable contributor.

Among other teams, Eagle Rock is coming off a 10-1 season and have the Ayers twins. Axel is a junior quarterback-safety and Alex is a senior receiver-safety.

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