In a world of uncertainties, one of the few sure things is that Carson and Banning will fight it out for supremacy in the city as well as South Bay high schools.
Football coaches who voted in The Times' informal South Bay Top 10 were nearly unanimous in picking Carson and Banning to finish 1-2, with Carson getting nearly every first-place vote. Gardena, the perennial bridesmaid to those two in the Pacific League, apparently has enough talent to place a strong fourth in the poll.
Palos Verdes, the favorite in the Bay League, was a solid third and the top-rated CIF school. If the poll is an indication, PV's top competition in league play should come from No. 5 South Torrance and No. 10 West Torrance.
Leuzinger placed sixth and Redondo eighth. Those two are, not coincidentally, expected to battle for the Pioneer League title, along with Morningside (which tied Miraleste for 12th in the poll).
Bishop Montgomery placed seventh and Hawthorne ninth. Bishop Montgomery hopes to be in playoff contention in the tough Angelus League, where Servite is the favorite. Hawthorne is a talented squad that could challenge favorites Santa Monica and Beverly Hills in the Ocean League.
One South Bay team that didn't make the Top 10 but should be in the hunt for another Camino Real League title is Serra, the defending CRL champ. At the City 3-A level, Locke and San Pedro have some great talent and are expected to challenge defending 3-A champion Franklin in the Freeway League.
Here is a league-by-league look at South Bay schools:
CIF-L.A. City Section
COACH: John Hazelton, first year
LAST YEAR: 11-1 overall; 5-0, first in Pacific League
FIRST GAME: Sept. 25 vs. Muir at Pasadena City College
Outlook: A new era begins at Banning with first-year Coach John Hazelton having to replace 20 graduated starters. But no opponents are feeling sorry for him. Among those returning are major college prospects Titus Tuiasosopo (6-2, 240), doubling at tight end and linebacker, and offensive lineman Mike Alexander (6-4, 235). Hazelton said "a host of big, fast and strong Banning types are vying for the 20 spots."
The lines are huge. Offensively, there are juniors Bob Witfield (6-7, 275) and Andy Gonzales (6-4, 240) on the "weak" side. Linebacker Jagade Freeman (6-4, 245) anchors the defense.
In the tradition of Banning, the running game looks powerful, featuring Merle Williams (5-11, 205) at fullback and tailbacks Zachariah Davis (6-1, 185) and Keith Mims (5-8, 180). Quarterback is a three-way competition with junior Robert Kapu hoping to follow brother Eddie as the starter.
The defensive secondary, Banning's strength last year, is entirely new but very fast. The standout may be cornerback Cedric Washington.
Offensive and defensive sets: multiple, veer; 4-3-4.
Players to watch: Alexander and Tuiasosopo are listed on many preseason All-America teams. Both were all-league as juniors. Tuiasosopo is the brother of Navy and cousin of Manu, both former Banning stars.
Running back Williams, who was injured as a junior, is powerful and is tabbed by Hazelton as "another Stanley Wilson type." Tailback Davis runs a 4.5 40-yard dash.
Tight end Charlie Clark (6-1, 205) is so good he may push Tuiasosopo to another position on the offensive line. Clark, who's also the baseball team's center fielder, is "a super talent," Hazelton said.
COACH: Gene Vollnogle, 25th year
LAST YEAR: 11-1 overall, L.A. City 4-A champions; 4-1, second in Marine League
FIRST GAME: Sept. 25 at Lynwood
Outlook: Last year, on their way to their third city title in five seasons, quarterback George Malauulu played hurt and the team leaders were record-setting running backs Alvin Goree and Calvin Holmes. This year Malauulu tops the show, leading what should be a productive passing attack. There are four outstanding receivers in Brian Treggs, Bryan Reeves, Royce Washington and John Lark, plus a returning starter in tight end Cephus Robey. But the Colts have good enough running backs to maintain offensive balance, particularly Tyrone Bland, Alfred Lowe and Charles Varrie.
The linebackers and defensive secondary are also an outstanding group. Middle linebacker Rick Tiedemann, an all-city candidate, is flanked by preseason all-star Arnold Ale and Robert Warren. Charles Gardner returns at strong safety and the Colts have three strong cornerbacks--Dion Lee, Daryl Wilson and Che Womack.
Kicker Louis Perez is another returning starter.
The team's only question mark is inexperience on the lines, especially on defense. "We have a lot of good people, we just have to get 'em in the right spot," Vollnogle said.
Are the Colts the favorites for the city title? "Oh, yeah," Vollnogle said, adding with a laugh, "Of course, I think that every year. I thought that the year school opened."
Offensive and defensive sets: veer-T; 4-3-4