3. Oakland Tech
OAKLAND -- For the second straight year, there's a clear favorite in the Oakland Athletic League as two-time defending champion McClymonds High has the most talented roster in the league.
The Warriors may lack depth -- as all teams in the OAL do -- but in terms of playmakers and experienced lineman, there's no equal to the Warriors.
"I accept the respect of being the favorite as a compliment of the players and the coaching staff of what we've accomplished over the last couple of years," Mack coach Curtis McCauley said.
The team returns three OAL All-City lineman, plus a sophomore in LaVance Warren who was an All-City pick last season as a freshman. The team should be scary fast at the skill positions.
The rest of the league is a toss up, with most teams just hoping to have enough to get into the playoffs.
Skyline, Oakland Tech, Castlemont, Fremont and Oakland should all be very competitive amongst each other.
Here's a look at the league:
COACH: Lloyd Johnson, first season
2011 RECORD: 3-7, 2-3 OAL
TOP RETURNEES: RB/DB Thomas Logwood, Sr.; RB/MLB Eddie Evans, Sr.; WR/FS Joshua Rice, Sr.; OL/DL Ricky Tavita, Sr.; P/DL/QB Ulysses Garcia, Sr.; WR/DB Stephen Garrett, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: QB Nelson Pita, Fr.
KEY LOSSES: RB/LB Devon Miller, WR Derrick Fuller, DT David Moore
OUTLOOK: Johnson takes over for Russell White, who left to become the new commissioner of the league. Johnson coached for nearly 20 years at Castlemont, mostly as an assistant but also had a five-year stint as head coach. Logwood was a second-team OAL All-City pick and will lead the offense, which welcomes a freshman signal caller to the mix in the 6-1 Pita, who Johnson said has an advanced grasp of the position. The Knights will rely on their speed more than their size, but feel good about their chances to compete and earn a playoff spot.
COACH: Terry Hendrix and Carlo Tateo, first seasons
2011 RECORD: 0-9, 0-5
TOP RETURNEES: RB/WR/DB/LB Bishope Apodaca, Sr.; RB/WR/DB/LB Sydnee Logan, Sr.; RB/LB/DL Sue Taugavau, Jr.; WR/DB/KR Tyshone Gaines, So.; OL/DL Penisimani Puafisi, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: TE/LB/DE Justin McDowell, Sr.; RB/DB/LB/KR Kesean Edwards, So.; OL/DL Sotiaka Havea, So.; DE Fehoko Faotusia, Jr.; OL/DL/LB Lati Moala, Jr.; WR/RB/DB/KR Sam Odom, Sr.; C/DL Diego Rivera, So.; DE/LB Mauni Pahulu, So.; OL/DL Fasi Vakalahi, Fr.; TE/LB Gevon Wheeler Sr.
KEY LOSSES: RB/LB Sione Moli, OL/LB Siliveinusi Tomasi, LB Majerle Taugavau, WR/DB Marcus Robinson
OUTLOOK: Hendrix and Tateo were hired Aug. 15 to replace Isamu Falevai and enter the season with modest goals of simply playing a full season after they were forced to forfeit three victories and cancel the final game of last season for repeated use of ineligible players. Apodaca is going to be the go-to player on both sides, along with Logan and Taugavau. The team is young and that could hold them back this year, but the coaches feel like they'll be well positioned in the next few seasons. Vakalahi may be a name to get familiar with. The freshman offensive tackle/guard and defensive tackle measures 6-4 and 360 pounds.
COACH: Curtis McCauley, fourth season
2011 RECORD: 10-2, 5-0
TOP RETURNEES: DB/WR Yusuf Sterling Lowe, Sr.; OL/DL Kevin Vaughn, Sr.; OL/DL Da'jon Ford, Sr.; RB/SS LaVance Warren, So.; TE/LB Jermaine McCann-Calusa, Jr.; RB/LB Jason Brooks, Sr.; OL/DL Kelton Runnels, So.
TOP NEWCOMERS: DB/WR Lavon Washington, Jr.; DB/WR Shaquan Washington, So.
KEY LOSSES: QB Eddie Heard Jr., RB Harold Halcomb III, RB/DB Lovell Samuels
OUTLOOK: The two-time defending champions are everybody's pick to win the league again. "I don't like being the favorite, I don't want to be the favorite," McCauley said. "I like going into season with no expectations on us." The team must replace Heard, its team leader, and Halcomb, the team's top rusher. McCauley said he has a couple players trying out for quarterback. The team's speed should be its strength, with McCauley calling it the fastest team he's ever coached. Warren, Lavon Washington and Shaquan Washington were part of Mack's 400 relay team that reached the state track meet in the spring. Vaughn, Ford and Runnels were All-City picks last year and anchor what should be an effective line.
COACH: Jayce Goree, second season
2011 RECORD: 1-9, 1-4
TOP RETURNEES: OL Clifford Goodwin, Sr.; TE/LB Tyler Reynolds, Jr.; OL/LB Mikail Meador, Jr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: QB/S Kevin Iem, Jr.
KEY LOSSES: LB Hyowon Lihanag-Tam, RB Dwayne Riley
OUTLOOK: The Wildcats have only one win on the field in the past two years, so they'll need to make some vast improvements to make a run at a playoff berth. Goree expects his team to play disciplined, committed football and be hungry to win. "We're building," he said. "We should progress instead of regress." Even last year, the Wildcats showed potential when they tested Silver Bowl champion McClymonds in a 14-13 loss. Nearly every coach in the league spoke highly of Oakland and the type of program Goree is building.
COACH: Delton Edwards, 17th season
2011 RECORD: 4-7, 3-2
TOP RETURNEES: TB/DB Lamarr Davis, Jr.; WR Jahi Davis, Jr.; OL/DL Alem Amores, Sr.; QB James Lewis, Jr.; WR/DB Kenyon Jackson, So.; RB/LB Jeremiah Varnedoe, Sr.; TE/SS Michael Adams, Sr.
TOP NEWCOMERS: OL Henry Haung, So.; QB Noah Suszckiewicz, So.
KEY LOSSES: OL/DL Simeone Havea, OL/LB Luc Dark Fluery, G/DT Cameron Manning, RB/LB Evan Williams
OUTLOOK: Edwards, the longtime Bulldogs coach, liked his team's chances better before losing 10 players to the OAL's eligibility rule that bars players who aren't on track to graduate, even if they have a grade point average over 2.0. The cupboard isn't bare though, with Lamarr and Jahi Davis serving as the team's offensive playmakers. Lewis was a second-team All-City quarterback last year as a sophomore and is back, although sophomore Noah Suszckiewicz is good enough to push to take away his starting job, Edwards said. Amores is 6-3, 305 pounds and anchors the line. Edwards said he has a 4.52 GPA and SAT score of 1,500, which should make him an interesting recruiting prospect.
COACH: Jamaal Kizziee, fourth season
2011 RECORD: 7-4, 4-1
TOP RETURNEES: WR/DB Kendrick Payne, Sr.; RB/DB Tyrone Campbell, Sr.; OL/DL Isaiah Clethen, Sr.;
TOP NEWCOMERS: RB/LB Jaquese Steen, So.
KEY LOSSES: QB/S Jamal Mayo, RB Dewayne Ewing, OL Rod Haynes, DB Nate Harris, LB Austin Chao, LB Alex Bibbens
OUTLOOK: After reaching the Silver Bowl last season, the Titans have to replace a lot and none bigger than Mayo, one of the OAL's best athletes and a great dual threat quarterback. Payne caught touchdown passes in the last six games of the season in 2011 and he'll look to continue that momentum. Steen, who earned some experience as a freshman, could be a key piece this year and for the future while Clethen anchors a line that has three returners.