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Preseason high school power rankings: Who's the team to beat in the North?

High school power rankings
High school power rankings. (Graphic by Jenna Holland/NSN)

The Northern 5A high school football season is upon us, but not without a lot of changes as COVID-19 protocols have ravished the week one schedule, with several games being impacted. While that dampers the first Friday night of the high school football season a little, it doesn't douse the flames of excitement completely. Here are our week one power rankings of Northern 5A football teams, which we will update each week of the season.

5A high school power rankings

1. Damonte Ranch (0-0): The Mustangs were the best team in the state last season and the only undefeated team in the Northern 5A. Unfortunately, Damonte Ranch was unable to play the regional bowl championship game due to COVID issues within Spanish Springs' program. The Mustangs waived goodbye to a number of talented players in the offseason, including Ethan Kulpin, the 5A player of the year. But coach Shawn Dupris never leaves his cupboard bare. His program is a well-oiled machine. Dupris is 30-7 in league games during his decade at Damonte Ranch, and hasn't lost a regular-season league game since 2015. It might take some time to gel, but the Mustangs deserve to start this season atop our rankings. Full season preview

2. Bishop Manogue (0-0): The Miners have a similar dilemma as a lot of teams in the region in that it must replace its starting quarterback. Bishop Manogue lost three-year starter Drew Scolari, who is now at Nevada, but the Miners should be elite in the trenches. The group is anchored by Cal commit Sioape Vatikani, who is as good as any high school offensive lineman to come through Northern Nevada. Linebacker/tight end Malcolm McClure could be an FBS player, too, and two-way lineman Salesi Manu, who was only a freshman last year, will be a stud in due time. After a 3-2 season last year, Bishop Manogue should rebound and will challenge Damonte Ranch in what has become the area's top rivalry the last couple of years. Full season preview

3. McQueen (0-0): No team has a better 1-2 punch than McQueen, which boasts four-star recruit Robby Snelling, who is committed to LSU for baseball, and three-star recruit Ashton Hayes, who is committed to Nebraska. Snelling is expected to step into the quarterback position and defensive coordinators must dread trying to stop read-option runs between him and Hayes, who rushed for 2,429 yards and 30 scores as a sophomore at Damonte Ranch. McQueen needs to be better in the trenches than last season, but that should be the case given a more normal offseason. The Lancers haven't won a regional title since 2010, but this group could return McQueen to the top of the North, where it reigned under Ken Dalton. Full season preview

4. Reed (0-0): Reed was one of the better teams in the region last season and beat two of the teams ahead of it in these rankings (Bishop Manogue and McQueen). The Raiders lost two-way star Elijah Tau-Tolliver to Sac State. He was the Gatorade state player of the year last season and won't be easy to replace. But Reed does return its starting quarterback, Armaan Barjwa, which is a huge plus considering most of the teams in the area don't have much varsity playing experience at that position. Second-year coach Garrett Hughes did a tremendous job in year one, so despite some losses and a relatively young roster this year, we'll give the Raiders the benefit of the doubt and slot them in the top half of the preseason rankings. Full season preview

5. Spanish Springs (0-0): Spanish Springs lost more than a half-dozen all-region honorees to graduation, so no team short of Damonte Ranch will be asked to replace as much production as the Cougars. There's still a lot of talent on the roster, including LB/RB Jake Penney and TE/DE Trace Patterson, but coach Rob Hummel, who has been excellent in his first two years as Spanish Springs' head coach, will be challenged with keeping his program near the top of the North. The Cougars were a pass-heavy team the last three years with quarterback Tristan Szabo as the triggerman, but he's gone along with two-way standout Parker Luthy and LB Hunter Parsons, who signed with FCS school Montana State. Full season preview

6. Douglas (0-0): The Tigers are the only Northern 5A team with a new head coach, and it's a shock whenever the Tigers change coaches considering three men held this position for 40 years. But Kyle Mays now has the gig and inherits a solid roster that includes Nevada commit Christopher Smalley, who is one of the best defenders in the region and was among the area's top scorers last season. Aiden Flory returns at quarterback after starting as a sophomore in the spring, so he should be better as long as he beats Anthony Menzer for the job. This is one of the better rosters in the area, so Douglas could over-achieve this mark if it quickly acclimates to Mays' system. Full season preview

7. Reno (0-0): Coach Jason Ehlen enters his second season with the Huskies, which are accustomed to being one of the best teams in the region year in and year out. Ehlen's first season at Reno began with a blowout win and ended with a blowout win, but the Huskies had issues with turnovers in between those victories, losing to Spanish Springs, McQueen and Douglas by a combined 70 points. There's not a lot of experience at some key positions, including quarterback and in the secondary, so there's a lot of work to be done for Reno to peak its head above .500. After having three head coaches in three years from 2018-20, Reno should get continuity with Ehlen, who is highly respected in the region. Full season preview

8. Carson (0-0): Following a seven-year run of excellence in which Carson was the best program in the Sierra League from 2009-15, the Senators have struggled over the last half-decade, bottoming out with last spring's 0-5 record. The Senators used a lot of young players in the spring and should be better off for it this year. Carson trimmed its roster in an attempt to put together a team that was fully bought in. The Senators have good experience on offense, with many of its key players from last year back, including quarterback quarterback Vinny Ferretti and wide receiver Decarlo Quintana. Blair Roman's squad will be improved, but it's hard to predict a huge jump up the Northern 5A standings. Full season preview

9. Galena (0-0): The Grizzlies struggled mightily in Aaron Cook's second season as head coach, going 0-4 and being out-scored 120-6 in the process, so there's nowhere to go but up. Galena is the area's youngest team, so it might take some time for the Grizzlies to find a rhythm and gain confidence after last year's winless season. The big key is improving on offense. Galena really struggled to move the ball last season, which put a lot of pressure on a defensive group that was OK but continually put in difficult positions. Quarterback Ben Primka got substantial snaps as a sophomore last season, so he could take a step forward during his second season with the varsity team. Full season preview

Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMurray.

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