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Prep football power rankings: Who's the team to beat in the Northern 5A?

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HS_Football_Power_Rankings_Final.png

Nevada's high school football season begins Friday as the state grinds through a truncated season that was shifted from the fall to the spring due to COVID-19. A five-week regular season will culminate with one weekend of bowl games April 9-10, plus the large-class division in Northern Nevada has a new look. For starters, it's called the Northern 5A rather than the Northern 4A. Additionally, Hug and Wooster moved down to the 3A level, trimming the northern large class to nine teams. Here is NSN's week 1 power rankings heading into the season.

High school power rankings

1. Bishop Manogue: After winning back-to-back Northern large-class championships, the Miners enter this shortened season as the team to beat in the North. The Miners lost two FBS players in the offseason (OT Joey Wright, LB/RB Vai Kaho), but return two players already signed at the FBS level (QB Drew Scolari, DB/RB Michael Schneider) and two more who will play FBS ball (OL Sioape Vatikani and DE/LB Malcolm McClure). Manogue did lose offensive playmakers RB Zeke Lee and WR Mateo Reviglio, but it has a Nevada-bound quarterback, is strong in the trenches and has a winning culture bred by fourth-year coach Ernie Howren, who has won nine regional championships in his career (seven at Reed and two at Manogue).

2. Damonte Ranch: The Mustangs had the biggest of loss of any potential returning players in the state when RB Ashton Hayes transferred to McQueen, citing financial reasons. Hayes led the state in rushing as a sophomore with 2,429 yards and 30 touchdowns. But QB Ethan Kulpin (2,000 yards, 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions) is back along with his top-three pass-catchers, led by the region's top returning WR Nick Vargas (46 catches, 969 yards, 12 touchdowns). LB/RB Carson Smith is one of the region's best two-way players, as is Kulpin, who had 119 tackles last season in addition to playing quarterback. Coach Shawn Dupris needs to find a new star running back, but his team is 46-6 over the last four years.

3. McQueen: In terms of top-end talent, it's hard to match McQueen, which added Hayes and boasts four-star prospect Robby Snelling. Both are class of 2022 recruits (making them juniors this season), but they should form one of the best duos in recent Northern Nevada prep football history. After splitting time at quarterback last season, Cody Ciglar and Tyler Brantner both return. The Lancers' quarterbacks completed only 46.9 percent of their passes last season and tossed 13 interceptions, so that's an area that needs to improve. McQueen didn't have a rusher surpass 460 yards on the ground in 2019, so Hayes will upgrade that position. The Lancers' top-13 tacklers from 2019 also return. This should be an improved squad.

4. Spanish Springs: The Cougars lost the region's reigning defensive player of the year, Jackson LaDuke, who left for the Oregon Ducks. First-team all-league receivers Trey Hummel and Mason Bebout also graduated. So some big pieces are gone for second-year coach Rob Hummel, who was the region's coach of the year in 2019. QB Tristan Szabo, a second-team all-region pick last season, is back after throwing for 2,700 yards, 37 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year. He's signed with McPherson College. RB Parker Luthy (1,163 yards, 12 TDs) also returns, so the offense, including one of the region's top offensive linemen in Wyatt Lallement, should be good despite Spanish Springs losing its top-four receivers.

5. Douglas: The mighty Tigers last posted an above-.500 season in 2016, but return three all-region players in WR/DB Isaiah Geilenfeldt (who made it both offensively and defensively), RB Trevor Kruger (1,292 yards, 13 TDs) and LB Christopher Smalley (multiple FBS offers after his sophomore season). Also back is quarterback Isaac Shaver (1,412 yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions), who started as a sophomore last season. This was a young team in 2019 that appears to be ascending and should be a popular darkhorse for a playoff run.

6. Reed: The Raiders are under the direction of a new coach Garrett Hughes, who has been an assistant at Reed for the last three seasons, so there's continuity there. He inherits an elite running back in Elijah Tau-Tolliver, who signed with Sac State. Tau-Tolliver rushed for 1,404 yards, 10.9 yards per carry and 21 touchdowns last season. He'll carry a big load after the graduation of QB Jack Franz (1,925 yards, 21 TDs). The Raiders also lost their top-six tacklers, so a lot will be asked of Tau-Tolliver, who is a stellar two-way player.

7. Reno: The Huskies also will be run by a first-year coach in Jason Ehlen, the program's third head coach in three years. Ehlen was most recently an assistant at McQueen, although he's been a head coach in the area, running North Valleys' program from 2005-08. His staff includes former Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo. The Huskies did lose Northern Region player of the year, RB/SS Drue Worthen, as well as their starting quarterback, top-three receivers and top-five tacklers. Ehlen has some major pieces to replace in his debut season at Reno.

8. Galena: The Grizzlies went 3-6 last season under first-year coach Aaron Cook and last posted a winning season in 2015. Offense was a major issue last year after Galena was held to 14 points or fewer in seven of its nine games. The defense, meanwhile, allowed 30.2 points per contest. Galena's three all-region players from 2019 graduated, so there aren't a lot of known qualities heading into this season, but Galena has some cohesion on the coaching staff after new coaches were broken in during the 2018 (Hank Roberts) and 2019 (Cook) seasons.

9. Carson: Once one of the region's top teams, Carson has struggled in recent years, going 2-8 last season, including 0-5 in league. It was the second straight 2-8 season for the Senators, who last posted a winning campaign in 2015. QB William Breeding, who is 6-foot-5, is back after splitting the starting duties last season, but Carson's top-three running backs (who also served as the team's top-two pass-catchers) graduated. Also gone are six of the team's top-seven tackles in 2019 off a unit that allowed 32.5 points per game.

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


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