Last season: 7-5
Coach: Leigh Cole, 8th year
Key players: Jack Schneider (QB), Ty Olsen (WR), Esteban Limon (OL-DL), Mateen Bhaghani (PK-P), Mason Gizicki (MLB), Jake Warren (DB), Nick Wells (DB), Oliver Heintz (WR -DB), Griffin O’Connor (OL-DL), Terry Hou (OL-DL).
Scouting report: The Nighthawks are bolstered by the return of three All-Palomar League players in Schneider (first team), Olsen (second team) and Limon (first team). Schneider was 153 for 237 for 2,327 yards, 32 TDs and only four interceptions. He also rushed for four TDs. Olsen caught 38 passes for 658 and eight TDs. Limon is a three-year starter. RB Chris Guzman is also back after rushing 61 times for 332 yards and six TDs in five games. Bhaghani could be among the section’s best kickers.
Last season: 10-2
Coach: Drew Westling, 2nd year
Key players: Josh Bell (QB), Colson Montgomery (FB-LB), Ron Pearcy (TE-LB), Eddy Villa (DL), Drew Ventimiglia (WR-DB), Justin Ruivivar (OL-DL), Aidan Smith (RB-LB ), Jerald Caccam (OL), Conor Bananal (WR), Griffin Ramos (DB).
Scouting report: The league co-champion Sundevils are coming off their first 10-win season since ’92. Bell takes over at QB with just 37 passes on his résumé. Ventimiglia caught 31 passes for 426 yards and four TDs as a junior. Bananal had 38 catches for 385 yards and four TDs last season. Montgomery is the top returner on defense with 51 tackles.
Last season: 7-4
Coach: Kyle Williams, 3rd year
Key players: David Clifford (OL-DL), Dylan Curry (QB), Raiden Gonzales (TE-LB), Luke Gonzalez (RB-LB), Makai Herrero (WR-DB), Brandon Myers (OL-DL), Conner Rath (RB -DL), Payton Spratt (WR-DB), Gabe Taylor (RB-LB), Brady Tremble (TE-DE).
Scouting report: The league co-champion Titans reloaded from last season with 17 returning starters to go with players off a 9-1 junior varsity team. Curry was 73-for-137 passing for 892 yards and eight TDs. Rath carried 141 times for 1,163 yards and 12 TDs, including 17 carries for a school-record 358 yards and five TDs against Vista. Luke Gonzalez rushed 77 times for 347 yards and five TDs while also catching 19 passes for 198 yards and a score. On defense, Poway returns Spratt (50 tackles), Raiden Gonzalez (44 tackles, two sacks), Taylor (34 tackles, four sacks) and Tremble (32 tackles).
Last season: 7-6
Coach: Tristan McCoy, 12th year
Key players: Mark Sladack (QB), Jordan Nodarse (OL), Eli Ogles (WR), Eli Edwards (ILB), Wes Hoehner (DL), Terrick Fisher (RB), Lucas Richmond (WR-DB).
Scouting report: Despite injury woes at quarterback last season that forced the use of four at the position, including a 5-foot-5 wide receiver, the Broncos moved up from Division II after losing to eventual state champion Scripps Ranch in the section semifinals. Sladack, who was 30-for-52 passing for 369 yards and five scores before tearing an ACL, is back after an offseason of learning more about the offense. Fisher is a speedy back who rushed 30 times for 176 yards late in the season as the Broncos hope to return to more of a physical nature on offense. Ogles is the top receiver back with 15 catches for 157 yards. On defense, Hoehner returns after collecting 65 tackles and Edwards had 47. This will be McCoy’s final season as the Broncos’ head coach. Former NFL defensive back Eric Weddle will take over next season.
Last season: 3-7
Coach: Dave Bottom, 7th year
Key players: Derek McClintic (RB-DB-KR), Russell Chavez (QB), Nathan Porter (WR-DB), Richard Trujillo (OL-NG), Jimmy Ware (FB-LB), Dylan Graham (WR-DB), Jonah Weevie (OT-DE), Felipe Corona (OT-DT), Jordan Douglas (RB-LB), Mario Salazar (TE-LB).
Scouting report: The Panthers are hoping to contend again like they did in 2019 when they claimed a league title. That means running the ball and picking their spots to pass. McClintic rushed 133 times for 1,183 yards had 13 TDs last season but he has more in the tank. He also caught 29 passes for 425 yards and three TDs. Chavez passed for 1,351 yards and eight TDs. This year’s team should be stronger up front behind Trujillo, Weevie, who added 25 pounds, and Corona. The DL should show more strength as well with Trujillo, Corona along with LBs Douglas, Salazar, who skipped 2021 to play baseball, and Ware.
Last season: 2-9
Coach: Mitch Donnelly, 2nd year
Key players: Ian Baker (LT), Ryan Herrod (QB), Daniel O’Connor (OL), Patrick McCullough (OL), Kevin Wilde (WR), Madyx Perovich (TE), Mark Woodard (TE-DL), Nathan Simpson (WR ), Amare Gomez (RB-LB), Mason Walsh (WR-QB-DB).
Scouting report: With only nine seniors, the Wolverines may start five sophomores as they move to a ball-control running attack. The top returner is QB Herrod, a USD commit as a baseball pitcher who was 160 for 271 for 2,004 yards and 16 TDs. WR Simpson is back from shoulder surgery. O’Connor returns from knee surgery and checks in at 6-foot-5, 315. Baker holds down the other side of the line at 6-3, 260. Jalen Gonzalez will get the first crack at running back. Sophomore LB Lukas Ho-Sing-Loy has a knack for finding the football.
Monahan is a freelance writer.