Kearny is the favorite because of experience. Quarterback Ron Bradley and several other starters are back from last year's team that went 9-2-1.
And Kearny Coach Tom Barnett, starting his ninth year, agrees that his team should be the choice to finish first.
"I think we'll be able to run the ball well and pass well," Barnett said. "We have a lot of returning players on defense. So everybody is saying 'Kearny is favored. ' Yeah, I like to think so."
Coach Gene Edwards' La Jolla team, which hasn't advanced to the Section playoffs since 1980, should contend with either Rex Edwards or Eric Prior at quarterback.
Clairemont, which finished second last year, is now under the guidance of Nate Wright, the former San Diego State and Minnesota Viking defensive back. Steve Miner, who led the Chieftains into the Section playoffs for five straight years, has moved to neighboring Madison.
University's new head coach, Ron Hamamoto, has just four starters back. Hamamoto, quarterback coach and offensive coordinator last year at Servite of Anaheim, a perennial Orange County prep football power, replaced Dan Ritter, who is now an assistant coach at the University of San Diego.
Mission Bay Coach Willie Matson is optimistic that the Buccanners, who return 10 starters, will improve.
Here's a closer look at the City Western League:
CLAIREMONT 1984 record: 9-3-0, 4-1-0 in league
Coach: Nate Wright (First year)
Offense: Split I
Top returnees: Eddie Taylor (5-10, 160, Sr., WR), Brandon Watts (6-1, 190, Sr., OG), Brandon Wright (5-11, 195, Sr., LB), Billy Smith (5-9, 160, Sr., LB).
Top newcomers: Circy Moore (6-0, 190, Soph., TB), Chris Box (5-6, 200, Soph., LB/FB), Lewis Gibson (6-2, 218, Sr., LB).
Outlook: Nate Wright, in his first head coaching job, will have an inexperienced team with little depth. One-third of his starters will be sophomores--most of them from last year's junior varsity.
Sophomores Circy Moore, a transfer from Lincoln, and Chris Box, up from the JV, will start in the offensive backfield along with a senior quarterback, Greg Gibbons, who saw little action behind starter Jeff Sturch last year. Gibbons' main passing targets should be seniors Eddie Taylor, a returning starter, and Jumel Miller, a letterman.
Defensively, the Chieftains should be bolstered by their linebackers, a traditionally strong position at Clairemont. Back for another year are starters Brandon Wright and Billy Smith. Box will also see action at linebacker.
"We have a lot of team speed," Wright said. "I'm optimistic about doing real well. We have a nucleus of good players. We just don't have a lot of people."
KEARNY 1984 record: 9-2-1, 4-0-1 in league
Coach: Tom Barnett (Ninth)
Top returnees: Ron Bradley (5-10, 170, Sr., QB), Matt Epenesa (6-3, 210, Sr., FB/DE), Bobby Johnson (6-0, 175, Sr., S), Steve Daley (6-3, 205, Sr., OG/DE), Rob Skinner (6-1, 175, Sr., LB), Kevin Archer (6-3, 180, Sr., DE), Lupe Ford (6-0, 185, Jr., RB).
Top newcomers: James Courtney (5-11, 175, Sr., CB/WR), Darrell Hicks (5-9, 150, Jr., WR), Scott Welish (5-10, 170, Jr., WR/QB).
Outlook: The Komets have already reaped the benefits of last year's success, Coach Tom Barnett said. About 90 players tried out for both the varsity and junior varsity, compared to a total of 51 on the two squads last year. "I had to go down to the store and order more gear," Barnett said.
Among those not returning are the Western League's offensive player of the year, halfback Robert Ring, and its defensive Most Valuable Player, Larry Huff. Barnett thinks he can replace Ring with the combination of fullback Matt Epenesa, who gained 600 yards last season, and halfback Lupe Ford.
Returning quarterback Ron Bradley will again try to go for the big play whenever possible, said Barnett, who employs a wide-open offense. James Courtney, a transfer from Serra, and Darrell Hicks and Scott Welish, both up from the junior varsity, will be the wide receivers.
Defensively, the Komets have a big, experienced line led by returnees Epenesa, Steve Daley, John Corlett and Kevin Archer, and two returning linebackers, Rob Skinner and Marc Bonner.
LA JOLLA 1984 record: 4-5-0, 2-3-0 in league
Coach: Gene Edwards (25th)
Offense: I-formation, unbalanced line
Top returnees: David Pyatt (6-3, 225, Sr., OT/DT), Andre Liptay (6-6, 215, Sr., OT), Bradon Brush (5-11, 172, Sr., S), Leonard Richardson (5-8, 180, Sr., CB/TB), Rex Edwards (6-0, 175, Sr., QB).
Top newcomers: Eric Prior (6-1, 190, Jr., QB), Mike Cassidy (5-10, 230, Sr., C/NG), Brad Matthews (5-11, 171, Jr., TB/CB).