Area football fans will get a state Top-10 football matchup in their own back yards when Oaks Christian of Westlake Village plays Del Oro in the Battle of the Veterans showcase season opener Aug. 24 in Loomis.
Cal-Hi Sports has Oaks Christian ranked No. 4 and Del Oro at No. 9 in its Top 50 Preseason rankings, released Tuesday night. The two teams play 7:30 p.m. at Del Oro after a 5 p.m. matchup between Thousand Oaks and Franklin of Elk Grove.
The Del Oro (13-2) vs. Oaks Christian (11-3) contest will be the top Zero Week matchup in the state, according to Cal-Hi Editor Mark Tennis.
Although Oaks Christian's long-time coach Bill Reddell has retired, the Lions return seven players on offense from a unit that averaged 37 points and 420 total yards. Included are junior quarterback Brandon Dawkins, the Cal-Hi Sports State Sophomore of the Year (2,844 yards passing, 33 touchdowns) who is following in the footsteps of former Lions star Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame and the Carolina Panthers. Dawkins has received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame.
Oaks Christian lost 49-42 to neighboring rival Westlake (which plays Granite Bay in the 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25 Battle of the Veterans marquee finale) in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship game last season.
Tennis said he went with Del Oro at No. 9 because the Golden Eagles are the two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions (and CIF State Bowl Division II runners-up) and return five starters on defense plus four on offense, including 2011 all-state underclass running back Brandon Monroe (1,662 yards, 22 touchdowns), who committed to San Jose State on Monday.
Cal-Hi, which is releasing its state preseason top 50 in segments, has De La Salle (13-1) of Concord, the defending CIF State Bowl Open Division champions, at No. 1, and Santa Margarita (13-2) of Rancho Santa Margarita, the CIF D-I Bowl champs, at No. 2.
Other than De La Salle and Del Oro, Bellarmine of San Jose is the only other Northern California team in Cal-Hi's top 10. The returning CIF D-I Bowl runners-up are No. 6.
The Bells (12-2) will play De La Salle Aug. 31 at San Jose City College. The Bells lost to De La Salle in two overtimes in last year's season-opener in Concord.