Depth charts have yet to be determined. Playbooks have yet to be mastered. Even the first suicides have yet to be run.
But high school football is back, with teams across the Central Coast Section set to begin practice today.
As training camps kick into gear, here is an early glance at the San Mateo County programs – where they’ve been and where they may be going. Teams are listed alphabetically.
Aragon: The Peninsula Athletic League’s dominant program of the 2000’s has taken big steps backwards, and the Dons now find themselves in the mid-tier Ocean Division. Can Aragon regroup and return to its winning ways in what has been a deep and talented Ocean?
Burlingame: Denied a piece of a league title in their final game each of the last two years, the Panthers hope they can start fast and finish strong this year. Finding a way to replace the production of departed RB’s Lesov and Pessah would appear to be a daunting task.
Capuchino: Battling rival Mills is supposed to be fun for the Mustangs … but not when the competition is for cellar-dweller status in the entire PAL. Cap hasn’t managed so much as a .500 season since 2005, going 13-36 in the last five years. Will a new year yield greater player turnout and better attention to detail?
Carlmont: Selli’s first year at the helm was a success on several levels. In 2010, the Scots built a sturdy defense and benefited from some sensational games from RB Johnson, and finished within an OT loss to rival Sequoia from a shared PAL Lake title. Look for further improvement, even without the graduated Johnson.
El Camino: After its historic run to the Ocean title in 2007, the Colts have drifted back to the pack. This year, the Lake doesn’t appear to have a true favorite at the outset. Can El Camino be a contender? With run-heavy offenses dominating the Lake, the key factor may be developing a reliable defensive front.
Half Moon Bay: Record-setting RB Sena is gone, but don’t look for the Cougars to shift philosophies. HMB has proven that it can be a real threat in the CCS playoffs (where it is matched against fellow small-school teams), but the trick is to get there. Once again, that pursuit bears watching.
Hillsdale: One of the more entertaining teams in the County to watch in the last two years, the Knights have put the long seasons of the recent past firmly in the rearview mirror. Hillsdale won the Lake in 2009 and was a solid contender last year. Three straight strong seasons seems a good bet.
Jefferson: Speaking of a program that has benefited from a facelift, witness the Indians’ meteoric rise. Two years removed from being in the Lake, Jeff will now test itself against the big boys of the PAL Bay. And the Indians gave Terra Nova all it could handle in the CCS Division III semis last year. Big losses are a concern; the team’s mind-set is not.
Menlo: The Knights’ aerial attack will have its third signal-caller in three years. But Newton has guided Menlo to five straight winning seasons, and the program has done a fine job of weathering heavy losses to graduation in the past. The downer? Rival Sacred Heart may continue to steal a lot of the Knights’ thunder.
Menlo-Atherton: There’s always plenty of talent on campus. But getting those players out and molding a cohesive unit isn’t always easy (e.g. 2009). Despite losing their first three games and starting 2-6 overall, the Bears responded well to Taufoou last year, including a comeback win when down 27-0 to Burlingame to clinch a CCS spot. Goals this year? Finishing above .500 and winning a playoff game.
Mills: Overmatched at each turn in 2010, the Vikings endured a 0-10 campaign in which their closest margin of defeat was 21 points (twice). This year can’t be that bad … can it? Poor player turnout has been devastating. And even when Mills has top athletes, they’ve had to play an exhausting combo (every snap at RB/LB).
Sacred Heart: Lavorato has the program in a golden age. The Gators are 30-7-1 in the last three years and are fresh of their first CCS title. Another good sign? Finishing second to Terra Nova – another section champ last year – for two straight years in the Bay should give SHP plenty of motivation this fall.
San Mateo: The Bearcats followed a banner year in 2009 (Ocean title, Little Big Game victory and CCS semifinal appearance) with a dud last year (0-5 in the Ocean). Now San Mateo drops to the Lake, where it hopes to regroup. If the talent base is similar to that of recent years, the Bearcats’ stay in the Lake may be brief.
Sequoia: The fast-climbing Cherokees look well-positioned to make their jump to the Ocean a success. QB Beekley and RB Lauese bring talent and experience at skill positions, and Sequoia will be infused with able bodies from a frosh/soph team that went 8-2 last year. Contending in the Ocean seems likely.
Serra: Walsh always sets the bar at the highest rung – winning championships in the West Catholic Athletic League and CCS Open Division. The Amanams and Marshalls of the WCAL have derailed those pursuits of late – sometimes in heartbreaking fashion. But the always-contending Padres have experience in some key positions, including fleet RB Wilson.
South San Francisco: The Warriors hope this is the season they break an extended slump. A perennial threat in the Bay in the early 2000’s, South City hasn’t had so much as a .500 record in league since 2005. The Warriors continue to dominate the Bell Game – winning seven straight. But back-to-back 2-3 showings in the Ocean are more telling.
Terra Nova: Will the rich get richer? The defending CCS Division III champion Tigers are loaded with playmakers again. Talent and depth at QB and WR means Terra Nova has a solid shot at a Bay three-peat. Playing Sacred Heart Cathedral and Wilcox out of the gate should again pay dividends – and a signature early victory may be in the offing.
Woodside: The program that has taken the sharpest slide in the last two years hopes a long 2010 season was the low point. The Wildcats, a power in the Bay as recently as 2008, are coming off a 1-9 season in which they got hammered in their final four Ocean games. Woodside seems due to have a moderate bounce-back season, if history is any guide.