With next weekend's bowl blitz officially capping the high school football season, is it too late to peek ahead to next year?
Here's a look at who should be some of the top teams coming into the season and some top players, too. As for returning players, we invite input from readers. We have only so many eyes and ears, and some coaches down play their returning guys as to keep a low under-the-radar profile.
Top Sacramento-area teams in 2012, based on returning players, lower-level success, the coaching word on the street (no exact order, certainly, but a rough educated guess):
1. Elk Grove 12-1
Robert Frazier, Noah Letuligassenoa, Waddus Parker, OL/DL among many returning talents back for another title run
2. Grant 8-4
Pacers lose Shaq Thompson but return 6 of 7 top OL/DL linemen and a wealth of others; Pacers traditionally bounce back from "off" seasons (7-4 in 2007 then state champs in 2008).
3. Franklin 8-4
Wildcats were very young this year and could have best team in school history with great team speed; Trent Spallas back at QB.
4. Del Oro 13-1
Still a lot of young talent, including RB Brandon Monroe; lower level success was there; murderous early schedule includes Westlake, Oaks Christian, Grant.
5. Granite Bay 12-2
D-I champion Grizzlies have a lot of defenders back, up-and-coming talent, and seek 14th consecutive playoff berth.
6. Nevada Union 7-4
Miners return Hank Humphers, Tanner Vallejo, Kyle Cota for terrific leaders, play makers.
7. Pleasant Grove 12-2
Lose a ton, return a lot, including linemen, Isaiah Saunders, Brandon Lewis, Tyree Hanson, excellent coaching staff.
8. Inderkum 10-2
Tigers had 4 senior starters on team that started 10-1; two 1,000-yard backs return, DL Dedric Allen.
9. Placer 9-3
Hillmen return perhaps area's No. 1 recruit in NG Eddie Vanderdoes; wing-T will score in bunches again.
10. Oak Ridge 7-5
Return of healthy QB Jason Samuels will inject program used to playoff success; coach Eric Cavaliere likes future of program.
11. Jesuit 5-6
Marauders lower-level teams have been dominant; Thomas Sperbeck a star at QB; if team gets more team speed, look out.
12. Del Campo 8-4
Cougars were junior-dominated, pushed loaded Buhach Colony into fourth quarter of playoff loss; will be tough in trenches again.
13. Burbank 9-2
Titans return two 1,000-yard runners, some linemen, some LBs and DBS; need a stronger league.
14. Woodcreek 5-5
Return of RB Mitchell Layton, new QB Stephen Nogosek makes for intrigue SFL team; beat Casa Roble this season with Nogosek at QB.
15. Folsom 11-3
Bulldogs could emerge higher, certainly, but we'll see how 8-2 JV and strong freshmen team players impact varsity that returns quite a few defenders.
Others: Cosumnes Oaks, Roseville, Casa Roble, Whitney, Union Mine, Liberty Ranch, Antelope, Rio Linda
* Note: Vacaville, just outside our immediate coverage area and not in a Sacramento-based league, will also return a lot for a D-II section title repeat run, including RB Curtis Goins.
Top returning players:
Thomas Sperbeck, Jesuit
Excellent spread leader who can run, pass, lead, and is now ready to win; passed for 1,311, ran for 585.
Kyle Cota, Nevada Union
Terrific skills, timing, touch, would excel in any system with his football IQ, passed for 1,768 yards.
Stephen Nogosek, Woodcreek
Was superb in filling in due to injury; a play maker at any position with a great arm.
Jason Samuels, Oak Ridge
Was impressive in six games before season-ending injury; next fine QB leader for Trojans.
Peter Denham, Placer
Yes, wing-T teams can unleash fine passers, too. Could really excel next fall.
Trent Spallas, Franklin
Quick, smooth in the spread; Trevon Lampley also plays some mean QB.
Josiah Johnson, Sacramento
Quietly passed for 2,146 yards, 22 TDs; athletic, tough.
Jonah Lessard, El Camino
Tough, leader, skilled, passed for 1,339 yards, 15 TDs.
Daniel Kniffin, Rocklin
Was very effective at times during tough Thunder season; will grow with experience.
Ben Walls, Florin
Will really flourish when he becomes the leader his coaches think he can be (same in hoops).
Jacob Tibbetts, Liberty Ranch
Didn't toss a pick for 10 straight games; 1,654 yards passing.
Nick Modar, McClatchy
Kept Lions competitive, won two games with late big moments; 1,344 yards.
Mark Lyon, Rio Americano
Very effective in close games and wins; passed for 1,155 yards, picked off just 3 times.
Tyler Elkins, Yuba City
Here's tough: doubles as a DE; passed for 1,303 yards, 10 TDs
Tyrel Anderson, Center
Just a sophomore this season, keyed upset win over Bear River to salvage season; passed for 1,135 yards.
Caden Noon, CBS
Was a bright spot for an otherwise tough season for Falcons; just 4 picks.
Anthony Castaneda, Woodland Christian
Never mind small-school status, the guy can throw it; 1.753 yards, 21 TDs.
Tommy Sawyer, Foresthill
Small-school rising power; passed for 1,350 and only 4 picks.
Brandon Monroe, Del Oro
Excellent speed, tough, durable; also play maker on D and special teams; has 1,605 yards, 22 TDs
Robert Frazier, Elk Grove
Fast, strong, big key to 12-0 start despite missing games with ankle; ran for 1,494 and 21 TDs
Sean Tow, Union Mine
Shifty, diminutive, quick, prolific; rushed for 2,217 yards, 20 TDs in 9 games.
Isaiah Saunders, Pleasant Grove
Could be Eagles next prolific ground gainer; had 625 yards, 13 TDs on just 88 touches; fast.
Marquise Carter, Grant
Played hurt, including taking handoffs with hand cast the size of fire extinguisher; fast, tough.
Cole Hannum, Marysville
Bulldozing back rushed for 1,827 yards, 16 TDs
D.J. Myart, Inderkum
Can break the long one, such as the 98-yarder against Monterey Trail; can take hits, too.
Brandon Lewis, Pleasant Grove
As a sophomore, the blur ran for 557 and 7 TDs; excellent DB as well.
Winfred Roberson, Davis
As a sophomore, broke some records held by all-time Davis great Marc Hicks; had 938, 10 TDs
Kody Jones, Casa Roble
Ideal balance piece for spread; ran for 1,500 and 16 TDs.
Steven Rogers, Franklin
A blur on field turf; shifty, quick, and also a play maker on D.
Isaiah Williams, Burbank
Ran for 1,496 yards and 23 scores for Metro League champs.
Josh Montes, Inderkum
Will be lead back after rushing for 1,016 and 7 TDs; excellent speed.
Christian Fonbuena, Franklin
Another quick blur back out of spread for coach Mike Johnson
Lamar Bible, Rio Linda
Had some monster games and has great upside.
Mitchell Layton, Woodcreek
Ran for 749 in nine games, 6 TDs as a sophomore.
Dillon Paris, Foothill
Will share load with another rising back in Robert Dotson, Jr., son of former Grant great by same name.
Bellaire D'Juan, Center
Another young piece to young, upstart team; rushed for 1,173 yard, 10 TDs.
Vince Heffington, Delta
Next small-back grinder in Saints history; ran for 1,169 and 12.
Eddie Vanderdoes, Placer, DL
We call him "Floor Safe" because he's as heavy as one and about as easy to push around; national recruit
Sterling Powell, Monterey Trail, LB
Stud play maker since his sophomore year; flies on special teams, D and at FB.
Tanner Vallejo, Nevada Union, LB
Tackling machine, tough, instinctive, an all-time Miners great
Abnor Toma, Grant, LB
Missed entire 2010 season with knee injury; as good a LB as Grant has had in years, coaches say.
Trayvon Henderson, Grant, DB
Led Pacers with 141 tackles as a junior; instinctive, hitter, can make picks, too.
Jeff Camilli, Ponderosa, LB
Excellent size, strength, a big recruit with big numbers (126 tackles)
Hank Humphers, Nevada Union, LB
Joins Vallejo for a terrific 1-2 LB punch; coach's son is smart, tough.
Tyree Hanson, Pleasant Grove, LB
Made plenty of stops on a D that will return strong and fast again
Dalton Hudec, Del Oro, DL
Two-way lineman ace; had eight sacks
Noah Letuligasenoa, Elk Grove, LB
The next in a great line of brothers from this family (Lefi, Josh); will get better with age.
Davonte Castex, Laguna Creek, LB
Bright spot on a defense that was stretched a time or two; 125 tackles.
Tui Lopa, Grant, LB
Stepped in and played beyond his years; 10.3 tackles a game.
Moses Moala, Grant, LB
Kid brother to Vei Moala, now at Cal, showed he can play as a sophomore.
Sam Smith, Cosumnes Oaks, DL
Great size at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds with a lot of recruiting interest already.
Wadus Parker, Elk Grove, LB
Excellent speed at RB, too, and a stopper on D with nine sacks.
Jalen Walker, CBS, FS
Can play WR, special teams, defend (had school-record 103-yard pick six).
Nick Terry, Pleasant Grove, DL
Excellent in the trenches all season for team ranked No. 1 by Bee much of season
Kameron Schroeder, Cosumnes Oaks DL
Excellent size, strength - a rising-fast recruit.
Jake Lewis, Placer, DT
Will line up next to Vanderdoes again for formidable front
B'won Canada, Elk Grove, DL
Just a sophomore, the relentless Canada wowed coaches from Del Oro scrimmage through the playoffs.
Taron Johnson, Sheldon
Was a team captain as a sophomore for a reason; play-maker will head the unit next season.
Derek Stiles, Folsom, LB
Came on strong down the stretch of the season; coaches rave about upside.
Dedric Allen, Inderkum, DL
Had terrific junior season with 9 stops a game, 13 total sacks; will be leader next season.
Joey Banks, Franklin, LB
Was in on sacks, stopped the run, broke up passes; excellent speed.
Tanner Woods, Del Oro, DT
Just a sophomore this season, and highly regarded by teammates, coaches
Edwin Fautua, Burbank, DE
So quick and gifted, also played QB and could man the position next season; 12.5 sacks this season.
Nifae P. Lealao, Capital Christian, DL
Blocked five kicks, knocked down five passes, had five sacks, and just a sophomore
Tony Suverkropp, Placer, LB
Was in on 10.3 stops a game for Hillmen, who will have a very strong D in 2012.
Ben Jones, Burbank, LB
Only a sophomore this season and still made 10 stops a game.
Quincy Capel, Folsom, DL
Another young stopper that returns; D may be stronger than O next season.
Tyler Winston, Antelope, DB
Had six interceptions, tied for third most in entire section; great athlete.
Dionte Young, Franklin
Burner in the secondary; had 5 picks.
Wyatt Demps, Pleasant Grove, DB
Excellent at WR, too; had 3 picks for Eagles.
Alex Shanlev, Mira Loma, LB
Star for a program trying to come of age; 135 tackles as a junior
Beau Hershberger, Granite Bay, LB
Showed his wheels when chugged 97 yards for pick 6 against
Josh Cardoza, Woodland, LB
Made 9 stops a game for a team that started 8-2
Sateki Polaulu, Burbank, SS
Hitter, fast, play maker for typically tough Titans D
Torre Watson, Mira Loma, LB
Playmaker like his dad a generation ago by the same name at Mira Loma
J.R. Calton, Granite Bay, DL
Had some big moments, big plays during regular season
Justin Singh, Elk Grove
Plucked from the soccer field, Singh had a sensational season.
Skyler Rand, Del Oro
Missed just one of 7 FG attempts
Braaten Sill, Nevada Union
Made six field goals
Tyler Masterson, Rosemont
Also the QB, Masterson averaged nearly 40 yards a punt
Andrew Endicott, Jesuit
Also a kicker, Endicott averaged nearly 38 yards a punt