PALO ALTO VIKINGS
Coach: Earl Hansen
2012 record: 8-3, 6-1
CCS playoffs: Lost to Serra 52-35 in Open Division first-round game.
Outlook: Stanford-bound quarterback Keller Chryst, a three-year starter and one of the top high school passers in the nation, leads an offense that includes returning receivers Malcolm Davis and Keesean Johnson and tackles Jack Anderson and Justin Rittman. Chryst, the first-team All-Mercury News quarterback in 2012, threw for 2,489 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading the Vikings to the De Anza Division championship. Davis, who caught 33 passes for 675 yards and nine touchdowns last season, also was a first-team All-Mercury News defensive back. Andrew Frick, a second-team All-Mercury News linebacker in 2012, also is back for a Palo Alto team that should again be in the thick of the De Anza race. "We'll contend, but you've got to stay healthy," coach Earl Hansen said. "You can't get guys banged up." The team also returns Connor Scheel, a senior defensive back and athlete.
Coach: Dan Brown
2012 record: 8-4, 5-2
CCS playoffs: Lost to Los Gatos 21-20 in Division II semifinal.
Outlook: The Chargers are big and fast, which easily qualifies the run-oriented team as a contender for the De Anza championship. Back is sprinter Delshawn Mitchell, who rushed for 1,640 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. He showed up for the first practice of his senior season with a lightning bolt shaved into the side of his head and said, "I'm really excited to go play again. I was dying for this opportunity right now." Asked what kind of season this could be for Wilcox, Mitchell added, "I hope we're going to go all the way, go to state." The Chargers also return all-league lineman Jimmy Leatiota, who is 6-foot-3, 280 pounds. He said he can't wait to play under the Friday night lights and believes 2013 could be special for his team. Leatiota noted that the De Anza is competitive but added, "With our squad, we can beat anybody. Our goal is 13-0." Coach Dan Brown said the division championship ultimately will be determined by defense. "We're fired up," Brown said. "We believe we could be pretty good."
LOS GATOS WILDCATS
Coach: Mark Krail
2012 record: 8-5, 5-2
CCS playoffs: Lost to St. Francis 17-0 in Division II final.
Outlook: The Wildcats didn't just lose their senior class after last season. They lost the man who called the shots on the sideline for the past 26 years when Butch Cattolico, just seven wins from becoming the Central Coast Section's all-time winningest football coach, announced that he was retiring. Mark Krail, who built programs at Pioneer and Santa Clara, takes over this season and inherits a roster that includes San Diego State-bound quarterback Nick Bawden and running back Joey Wood, the most outstanding sophomore in the De Anza last fall. Defensively, nose tackle Bailey McNally, all-league middle linebacker Jack Tittle and defensive backs C.J. Butcher and Corey Olivet are back. "The transition has been good," Krail said. "I can't complain one bit about the kids. The kids have just been super positive. We were all ready to get pads on and get started." Last season, Bawden (6-foot-3 and 220 pounds) threw for 1,636 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Wood rushed for 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns. The team's biggest area of inexperience, Krail noted, is on the offensive and defensive lines. "But skill-wise, I think we'll be pretty good," the coach added. "Linebacking position I think we'll be all right. DBs we're going to be all right." Los Gatos' first game under Krail is Sept. 6 against West Catholic Athletic League contender Archbishop Mitty at Foothill College.
Coach: Kelly King
2012 record: 9-4, 5-2
CCS playoffs: Lost to San Benito 35-28 in Division I final.
Outlook: Milpitas returns a trio of talented players from a team that nearly won the De Anza Division championship last season. Back are quarterback Ronnie Reed, running back Squally Canada and receiver Tre Hartley. Reed threw for 1,509 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012. Canada rushed for 987 yards and averaged 7.77 yards per carry, and Hartley caught 32 passes for 709 yards and seven touchdowns. Jesus Gonzalez, the first-team All-Mercury News kicker last fall, blew out a knee in club soccer and won't be available, King said. So Gonzalez's twin, Antonio, will take over the kicking duties. The Trojans were in position to reach the Open Division playoffs in 2012, but a late-season loss to Saratoga vaulted Palo Alto to the De Anza title and automatic Open Division berth. Despite losing standout linebacker/running back Vita Vea, Milpitas should be back in the hunt for a title this season. "We've got to come to play every week," King said.
Coach: Tim Lugo
2012 record: 6-5, 3-4
CCS playoffs: Lost to Aptos 28-24 in Division III first-round game.
Outlook: One year after finishing 2-8 and winning just one De Anza Division game, Saratoga bounced back last fall with a spread-passing attack that generated eye-opening numbers. The Falcons reached the CCS playoffs behind the arm and leadership of Jonathan Walters, who threw for a section-leading 3,503 yards and 39 touchdowns and was named the division's most outstanding quarterback. Walters, who received second-team All-Mercury News honors, is back for his senior season. His presence, coach Tim Lugo said, is the biggest thing in the world. "I'm trying to find a fifth year of eligibility for him, if I can," Lugo said. "He's our heart and soul. Not only is he a phenomenal quarterback, he's one of the greatest kids you ever want to coach. He's humble, he's unselfish. He's the team leader. Whatever he says, goes. He's a coach's dream." Kyle Dozier, the team's leading receiver and a first-team All-Mercury News player last season, has graduated. But Grant Faylor (69 catches, 789 yards, seven touchdowns) is back. "People always ask me, 'How are you going to replace Kyle Dozier,'" Lugo said. "Well, Grant's going to replace Kyle. But we have to have somebody step up and replace Grant -- his catches." In all, the Falcons return seven starters on offense and seven on defense. "I like the fact that our guys know our system now," Lugo said. "We're a year into this thing, and they really, really understand it now. I'm kind of excited to see where it takes us." Lugo also noted middle linebacker Christian Lee, calling him the team's defensive leader, and running back/linebacker Jacob Marr, whom Lugo said "has had the best summer of any kid in our program."
SANTA CLARA BRUINS
Coach: Hank Roberts
2012 record: 5-5, 2-5
Outlook: Santa Clara started 5-0 last season before a five-game skid prevented the Bruins from advancing to the CCS playoffs. Coach Mark Krail left after the season for Los Gatos and was replaced by Hank Roberts, the offensive coordinator at Sequoia. Roberts has stressed being physical in practice, noting that Los Gatos is not "soft" and Milpitas put several Santa Clara players in the hospital last season. "Friday night can't be the most physical thing," Roberts said. Santa Clara has a lot of players "who are fresh to our program," Roberts added, including six sophomores on the varsity. Back are running backs Adam Garza, who rushed for 822 yards and nine touchdowns last season, and Orlando Rivera. Keenan Smith, who had a big season on the ground for Fremont last fall, has transferred to Santa Clara but won't be eligible until the team plays Mountain View on Oct. 11. Until then, Roberts said, "he's everybody's best football player" in practice.
Coach: Jake Messina
2012 record: 8-3, 5-1 El Camino
CCS playoffs: Lost to Salinas 49-0 in Division I first-round game.
Outlook: Jake Messina takes over a program that won the El Camino Division last season but lost seven starters on offense and seven on defense, including running back Keenan Smith, who transferred to Santa Clara after leading the team with 1,738 total yards and 25 touchdowns in 2012. Fremont's top players are quarterback Ricky Teo, running back Kahileigh Creamer, fullback Devante Sanchez, defensive end Sam Kanongata and middle linebacker Elijah Aguilar. Another player to watch is defensive tackle Afa Prescott. Messina said the team's goals are "that we finish games" and "that we are competitive for four quarters" -- "all the things that good, fundamental teams do." As for the move up to the De Anza, Messina said, "I feel that's where we belong and where we need to be."
MOUNTAIN VIEW SPARTANS
Coach: Shelley Smith
2012 record: 3-7, 1-6
Outlook: New coach Shelley Smith, defensive coordinator at Saratoga last season, likes the players on his team but said the Spartans are rebuilding. The roster has only 10 seniors and half have never played football, Smith noted. FB/LB Jake Butters tops the list of returners. "He's our leader," Smith said. "He thinks like a coach. He's a great guy." Other players to keep an eye on are RB/S A.J. Johnson and tight end Frank Kapp, grandson of former Cal coach Joe Kapp. The team's line will include a transfer from Montana, Dylan Fluckinger, and Matt McCarthy.