Yes, we know it’s only May, but it’s never too early to talk about who might have the best high school football teams in the country this fall. Many of these teams will be playing in the 2019 GEICO ESPN High School Kickoff that will be announced soon.
Bearing in mind that transfers and injuries will change some of the likely favorites when teams begin practicing in August, here are the top 25 teams to watch for:
Why them: Last season, the Mustangs finished No. 2 in the final Super 25 Football rankings and is the early favorite to win the title next year.
The team has eight players who are rated three-star or better, including the No. 1 running back in the nation, Zach Evans, and four-star quarterback Dematrius Davis. Davis may be a dual-threat player, but don’t mistake him as a running quarterback: He completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 3,350 yards and 43 touchdowns, according to Rivals. As a reminder, he did that as a sophomore against elite Texas competition. What will his junior year bring?
Davis is aided by Dameion George, a 6-foot-6.5, 348-pound offensive tackle who has another year left, and four-star wide receiver/athlete Shadrach Banks, who is entering his junior year.
But perhaps the most telling piece of information that could point to another strong year is the school’s top-ranked 2019 graduate was Keeyon Stewart, ranked No. 180 in the state. In returning the vast core of the team, the sky is the limit for head coach Jon Kay and the Mustangs.
WAY-TOO-EARLY RANKINGS: Bubble Teams
RELATED: Final 2018 Super 25 Football Rankings
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2. St. John Bosco
Location: Bellflower, Calif.
18-19 Record: 13-1
Final Super 25 Rank:3
Why them: After dismantling Mater Dei in the regular season last year, St. John Bosco couldn’t hold them off in the Trinity League championship game. If they had, there’s a chance the Braves could have ended 2018 at the top of the Super 25.
They have a chance to avenge that this year as ALL-USA Offensive Player of the Year D.J. Uiagalelei returns for his senior season. Running back Keith Savage should have a larger role in the offense with the absence of leading rusher George Holani, and Uiagalelei showed good rapport last year with his likely top receiver in 2019, Oregon commit Kris Hutson. Bosco will also get a better look at Beaux Collins, a current sophomore WR who already has 20 offers.
The offense looks like it will be stellar, but the bigger question is defense. How will Bosco replace guys like Spencer Lytle (108 tackles, 12 tackles for loss), Cole Aubrey (17.5 sacks) and ALL-USA cornerbacks Chris Steele and Trent McDuffie? That will be a key determinate of if Bosco can compete for the National Championship.
Why them: St. Thomas Aquinas was ranked No. 7 last year before falling in the state championship game. Adding quarterback transfer Brady Dean to the 15 returning three-star or better players gives them a chance to get back and potentially win.
However, offensive line coach Torrian Wilson and head coach Roger Harriott were reprimanded and fined for committing recruiting violations, according to the Sun Sentinel, which means they could be under heavy scrutiny in offseason player movement. This is pure speculation, but it could be tougher for players to gain eligibility if there’s suspicion they moved to the school for pure football purposes.
But the team is so dominant historically — and currently — it shouldn’t be an issue. Top wide receiver Marcus Rosemy, who has offers from schools including Georgia and Ohio State, is one of four top-50 players in Florida at the school, and St. Thomas has dominant offensive tackle Marcus Dumervil. The Raiders did lose WR Xavier Restrepo to a transfer and need to figure out the running back room — maybe Jaedon Henry or Brian Brewton step up? — but the next year should be a bright one for STA.
Why them: The back-to-back National Champions are losing some key pieces, including ALL-USA First Team wide receiver Bru McCoy, who racked up more than a third of Mater Dei’s receiving yards; running back tandem of Shakobe Harper and Sean Dollars; and star cornerbacks Elias Ricks and Darion Green-Warren, who are transferring so they can graduate early.
But Mater Dei lost even more last offseason, when it graduated ALL-USA First Team quarterback JT Daniels, the ALL-USA Defensive Player of the Year, Solomon Tuliaupupu, a five-star wide receiver and almost all its starting offensive line. Instead of falling behind other Trinity League powers, the Monarchs finished No. 1.
Returning five-star quarterback Bryce Young is a key piece to retaining that spot. It’s not just him, though; Young is one of 13 players on the roster rated three-star or better. The team will return four-stars including safety Jeremiah Criddell and offensive lineman Myles Murao, the latter of whom missed the second half of the year due to a leg injury. Last year, it seemed inevitable the Monarchs would take a step back; instead, they were the best team in the country. Maybe Mater Dei is inevitable.
Why them: Three-star quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava and five-star wide receiver Rakim Jarrett have another year together, which means opposing teams will spend another year trying to defend a practically unguardable tandem.
St. John’s College has the top three 2020 recruits in D.C. — Jarrett and a pair of defenders in linebacker Mekhail Sherman and defensive tackle Tre Williams. In total, they have six of the top nine players in D.C. in the class. In the 2021 class is four-star DT Taizse Johnson, who will team up on the line with Williams and wreck havoc for opposing QBs.
All in all, St. John’s College has eight players rated three-stars or better. Based on pure talent alone, it’s tough to envision a team in the region outperforming the Cadets.
Why them: After knocking off Texas powerhouse Allen in the semifinals, it looked like Duncanville could finish in the top 5 of the Super 25. Then, a championship loss to North Shore placed them at No. 10, still a very respectable finish.
This year, Duncanville will be hoping to knock off its Texas competitors and assert itself as the best team in perhaps the best high school football state in the country. The Panthers return two players in the top 10 of the 2020 class in Texas, four-star quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson and safety Chris Thompson. They have four other three-star players or better.
But two players who might have even higher potential are in the 2021 class. Savion Byrd is a five-star offensive tackle rated as the No. 4 player in Texas in the class, and Kendrick Blackshire is a four-star linebacker ranked No. 20 in Texas. Duncanville will miss the services of 2019 graduates like Marquez Beason (No. 5 in state), but with a solid core moving forward, they look like they can remain a contender.
Why them: To get a full grasp of how good St. Frances Academy is, read this intro paragraph to a January article in the Washington Post: “This year, the St. Frances Academy Panthers almost didn’t have a season. No one in their private-school league would play them. They are just that good.” Check out the article for in-depth reasons that may or may not factor in teams boycotting SFA, but all of them go back to one thing: The Panthers don’t just win. They dominate.
Last season, SFA allowed six points in three games. They shut out their next five opponents, plus got a forfeit win. In the championship game, the Panthers won 43-14. They return eight of the top 15 players in Maryland, most notably five-star defensive end Chris Braswell. It’s hard to see the team slipping much from last year, as it only graduated two players rated four-stars by 247Sports.
In fact, all around the field are studs. SFA has two four-star cornerbacks, a four-star safety, a four-star running back, a linebacker corps with two four-stars and a three-star, and a trio of three-star seniors on the offensive line. With most of the Panthers now seniors, they will be expected to win every game they play — if they can find opponents.
Why them: Does No. 8 seem a little low for IMG Academy after finishing in the top five four years in a row? The Ascenders very well might begin next season higher than this, but they lost some of the top talent in the country with their 2019 graduates.
Nolan Smith, the top player in Florida and No. 2 in the Chosen 25, is off to Georgia. The No. 2 player in the state and top running back in the country, Trey Sanders, is going to Alabama and will be joined by Evan Neal, who was ranked by 247Sports as the top offensive tackle and No. 7 prospect in the country. Sanders’ backfield partner Noah Cain, the No. 6 RB, will play at Penn State. Those are just four of the 10 losses that ranked among the top 50 players in Florida who attended IMG.
But by no means is the cupboard bare. The Ascenders bring back 11 players rated three-star or better. Transfers have already started coming in, including five-star 2021 defensive end JC Latham. It would be no surprise to see IMG rise from here; they’ll just need to prove they can win without their 2019 class.
Why them: Marietta looks set to improve off a disappointing 2018 campaign that saw injuries to the quarterback, top wide receiver and ineligible players.
Defensive backs Rashad Torrence and Dawson Ellington were ruled ineligible last season due to transfer rules, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The return of those three-star players are expected to boost the defense. Leading rusher Kimani Vidal, a three-star RB, will be back for his senior season, as will three of the top four receivers — most notably Arik Gilbert, a five-star tight end rated as the No. 1 athlete and No. 10 player in the country. They will be led by four-star quarterback Harrison Bailey, a Tennessee commit back for his senior season.
On defense, four-star BJ Ojulari will be back after leading the team in tackles (104) and tackles for loss (18). Sacks leader Labarron Kennedy Jr., who played nine of 11 games, will also return. With six of the top 50 players in the state and 10 total three-star or better players, Marietta is in position to compete with the elite Georgia teams and potentially come out on top in the state.
Why them: Last year, Narbonne was solid but unremarkable. With an influx of transfer talent already, it would not be surprising to see the Gauchos end up as a top-five team in California.
Starting with Seven McGee, the No. 3-ranked running back in the 2021 class, Narbonne can include him in a trio that currently consists of Jack Brown (2020), Marceese Yetts (2021) and Jojuan Collins (2020) who all rushed for more than 650 yards last season. The Gauchos also got transfer athletes three-star 2020 safety Jared Greenfield, four-star 2021 athlete Anthony Beavers and three-star cornerback Macen Williams.
Narbonne now has a dozen three-star players or better, a list that also includes 2021 four-star quarterback Jake Garcia. Its top two receivers from last year will be back, as will four-star linebacker Jordan Banks, who finished with 20 tackles for loss and a team-high 13 sacks. Four-star cornerback Brandon Jones had a pair of interceptions and a tied-for-team-high eight passes defended.
With strong presence on both sides of the ball, Narbonne looks ready to make a run for it this season.
Why them: There could be major change coming to the Central team as Peter Parrish, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, graduates. If the next quarterback is one who’s already on the team, it would likely be a pro-style quarterback who has yet to prove he’s at the caliber of Parrish — maybe Tucker Melton, the No. 36 player in Alabama.
But the team has strengths outside the QB position. E.J. Williams is a top-20 receiver and rated the third-best player in the state. Javion Cohen has proven himself a capable offensive lineman, rated No. 21 in Alabama. Overall, the team has five players ranked in the top 40 of the Alabama high school 2020 class.
The Red Devils are 35-3 over the last three years under head coach Jamey DuBose, and they don’t shy away from scheduling tough opponents — according to Al.com, they will start the season again Hoover, one of the top teams in Alabama. That game should be telling of if Central is legit or not.
Why them: Miami Central could have a tough go trying to replace many of its statistical leaders, including three-star quarterback Maurice Underwood, running back Lexington Joseph, its three leading receivers and two defensive linemen in Tatum Bethune and Andre Auguste who combined for 125 tackles, 46 tackles for loss and 18 sacks.
But the pieces are still there. Linebacker Jesus Machado had nine sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 50 tackles. Four-star cornerbacks Henry Gray and Jalen Harrell form a very strong tandem who limit opposing quarterbacks’ options. Laurence Seymore is a four-star offensive guard already committed to Miami entering his junior year.
The offense could be lacking if leaders don’t step up, but the defense looks strong enough to keep them in games. If Miami Central can find a couple guys on the offensive end to carry the load, they could be dangerous.
Why them: St. Louis is the cream of the crop in Hawaii; the Crusaders have three straight championships, a winning streak of 26 games, and have won 37 of their last 40 games. They are as sure a bet as you can find.
St. Louis has four of the top five players in the state in the 2020 class and nine of the top 16. The 2021 class is no slouch either, with the top two recruits from the school, both of whom are four-star linebackers — giving them four four-star linebackers between the two classes.
The team also has one more year of Jayden de Laura, a solid quarterback with offers from Hawaii and Western Kentucky and at least some interest from Georgia and Oregon State, according to 247Sports. With that cast, it looks like St. Louis has at least one more year of dominating.
Why them: Pickerington Central is returning the dynamic duo of four-star wide receiver Lorenzo Styles and three-star quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw to lead the offensive unit. That familiarity will help the team continue its strong play as they try to get back to the Final Four and potentially win a championship.
To do so, they’ll have to replace the production of defensive tackles Karter Johnson, a four-star TCU signee, and DeWayne Carter, a three-star Duke signee. Three-star 2020 defensive end Ty Hamilton could step up to anchor the line as a senior, but the team will have to have pieces around him.
But with solid talent highlighting both sides of the ball, Pickerington Central is expected to be a tough out this coming season.
Why them: The only loss Eastside Catholic suffered last year was the first of the season. After that, they rattled off 13 straight, including the championship and a GEICO Bowl Series victory over Arizona powerhouse Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.). The Crusaders would like to keep that momentum going.
At the helm is the No. 1 prospect in the 2021 class, J.T. Tuimoloau. Listed at 6-foot-4.5, 277 pounds as a sophomore, the defensive tackle had 70 tackles — 17 for loss — and a team-high seven sacks. As a junior, he looks poised to become a true leader of the team.
Eastside Catholic returns top players all over the field. Starting quarterback, Michael Franklin, who has received some interest from three Pac-12 schools but is yet to be offered. His growth is instrumental for the team and his future. The top two running backs last year, Sam Adams (94 carries, 9.9 yards per) and Gio Ursino (95 carries, 8.2 yards per) will get the bulk of the running game in their senior year. The top three receivers, including four-star Ohio State commit, Gee Scott Jr, also return as seniors. With an experienced group that has star power, Eastside Catholic could be a top program this year.
Why them: Gonzaga went into the playoffs with stud 2021 quarterback Caleb Williams and took down then-No. 5 St. John’s in the semifinals. The Eagles then provided perhaps the best finish of any game last year in the championship, a Hail Mary to defeat powerhouse DeMatha. Could this be the beginning of an era for Gonzaga?
They do have to replace a couple players. Joseph Wete was an ALL-USA Washington, D.C. First Team selection on the defensive line, and linebacker Hunter Stewart was a three-star prospect and No. 4 player in D.C. But with five players rated three-star or better — including offensive lineman Olu Fashanu — the team has pieces to continue moving in a forward progression.
Why them: After winning six straight 4A state championships, Saguaro has the chance to earn a spot in Arizona’s first Open Division championship and take on teams in higher conferences that could include back-to-back 5A champion Centennial and three-straight 6A champion Chandler (Ariz.).
Is this the year Saguaro proves it’s the best team in the state? It has the chops to do so with players including five-star Kelee Ringo — the No. 1 CB and No. 9 player in the nation — four-star linebacker Damian Sellers and four-star cornerback Jacobe Covington. Saguaro returns 10 total players with three-star or better rankings.
Three-star quarterback Tyler Beverett returns two of his top four receiving options and running back Israel Benjamin returns after a 1,675-yard, 27-touchdown campaign. The Sabercats do lose elite defenders in Connor Soelle and Nate Polk, but the team is so stacked, it shouldn’t make much difference.
Why them: Bishop Gorman won the championship last year, but after losing three of its first four games of the season — all to out-of-state competition — the team was never able to capture the season that has come to be expected of the Las Vegas powerhouse.
The Gaels will look to rectify that image in 2019 as they return starting quarterback Micah Bowens, thee-star running back Ikaika Ragsdale and its top two receivers, who combined for 75% of all receiving yards. The defense will have to find ways to get pressure in the backfield after losing Treven Ma’ae and Falcon Kaumatule (combined for 27.5 TFLs and 15 sacks), but guys like three-star LB Bam Amina (73 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2.0 sacks) and Elijah Gilliam (59 tackles, 13 for loss, 5.0 sacks) can help. In total, Bishop Gorman has eight players rated three-star or better by 247Sports.
Additionally, the team has a couple intriguing players in the 2022 class. Safety Cyrus Moss already has an offer from Utah State and attention from BYU and a pair of Pac-12 schools while Cam Barfield rushed for 226 yards on just 19 carries as a freshman. Can one of them breakout as sophomores? With all the talent at Bishop Gorman, it’s tough to envision another Super 25 without them.
Why them: Coming off an undefeated season, Aledo returns a quarterback who completed 70.4% of his passes in Jake Bishop, a five-star running back who broke the 2,000-yard mark and had 47 touchdowns in Jase McClellan, a receiver who eclipsed 1,000 yards as a sophomore and two of its four leading tacklers.
It’s safe to say that things look bright for Aledo.
One thing to note: Aledo needs to find ways to get pressure into the backfield as it graduates its three sack leaders and four of its five leaders in tackles for loss. Perhaps 2021 defensive tackle Oliver Crow can make an impact after recording 42 tackles, seven for loss, as a sophomore.
Aledo doesn’t have as many highly-touted prospects as some of the other top Texas teams, but with underrated guys like Crow, 2021 cornerback DeMarco Roberts (three interceptions, nine passes defended) and 2020 DB Collin Johnson (10 passes defended), the team has the stats to back up its talent. It’s among the upper echelon of Texas football.
Why them: Losing players to graduation is typically tough to transition through. Grayson will undoubtedly feel the effects of losing its starting quarterback, top rusher and top receiver, but this opens the door for a few younger guys to come through.
CJ Dixon appears primed to be the next starting quarterback. A four-star pro-style passer, Dixon already has offers from schools including Alabama, Florida and Georgia. He threw 41 passes last year; look for him to make his mark. As for the running back room, losing Jonathan Halyard is unfortunate, but four-star Phil Mafah actually averaged more yards per carry on 89 touches. He could breakout this season. The receiver room has a couple question marks, but keep an eye on 2021 WR Jamal Haynes, who had 15 receptions for 221 yards.
The defensive side has larger losses that will be tougher to overcome. Grayson is graduating its nine leading tacklers from last season, most notably five-star Owen Pappoe. The Rams had four players with at least 13.5 tackles for loss and five with at least four sacks. All are graduating. Can Grayson find defensive players to step up too?
Why them: Coming off its second undefeated championship season in the last three years (and coming one 2017 title game victory away from having three in a row), St. Joseph’s Prep looks poised to make one of the more remarkable four-year runs in high school history.
The Hawks are returning a trio of players on the offensive side who were named to the ALL-USA Pennsylvania Second Team: four-star quarterback Kyle McCord, a 2021 Ohio State commit; three-star running back Kolbe Burrell, who has a handful of offers primarily from mid-majors; and Marvin Harrison Jr., a 2021 four-star receiver with 17 offers already.
But St. Joseph’s has an extremely difficult schedule. Over its first three weeks, the Hawks will take on Marietta (Ga.), St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), all of whom are ranked in the Way-Too-Early preseason Super 25. We’ll be able to tell early in the season if St. Joseph’s is truly among the best teams in the country.
Why them: With four consecutive championships — two in Div. III and two in Div. II – Archbishop Hoban is becoming as safe a bet as any team in the country.
Everybody is still trying to figure out 2021 quarterback Shane Hamm, from opponents to scouts and even recruiting sites ( 247Sports lists him as a pro-style QB and Rivals as a dual-threat), but the one thing we do know is this kid does not get fazed. He had four touchdowns in the first half of the championship game.
The team will have to find a new offensive guard after losing ALL-USA Second Team selection, Nolan Rumler, who is signed with Michigan. But with three of the top 20 Ohio players in the 2020 class (No. 5 RB DeaMonte Trayanum, No. 12 TE Caden Clark, No. 18 LB Devin Hightower), they look set to push for their fifth straight championship, which would tie Saint Ignatius for most in state history.
Why them: Riley Dodge appears to have the Southlake Carroll back on song. The son of legendary former Carroll coach Todd Dodge, Riley led the Dragons to an undefeated campaign before they ran into the Duncanville (Texas) playoff buzzsaw. That success felt more like a legitimate system change than a one year bump. If they’re to compete with the Texas powers of Duncanville, Allen, North Shore and Lake Travis, the Dragons will have to do so with their defense.
Led by the No. 1 safety commit in the nation, Clemson commit RJ Mickens, and the two team-leading tacklers last season in 2020 graduates Preston Forney (120 tackles, 11 for loss, four sacks, one INT) and Graham Faloona (119 tackles, two for loss, one sack), they look like they can get over the loss of 2019 grads such as sacks leader Michael Parrish.
The offense is a bigger question mark. How will the Dragons fare without quarterback Will Bowers or running back TJ McDaniel, who ran for 2,000 yards and 33 scores last year? The remaining players from last year who had any carries combined for 13 rushes, MaxPreps shows, and none of them were running backs. Southlake Carroll has potential, but there are problems that need to be solved in the upcoming months.
Why them: DeMatha finished 8-3, but the team was one Hail Mary stop away from winning its fifth championship in six years. How the team reacts emotionally will be telling in if they’re able to come back and get five titles in seven years.
They have some key losses from the 2019 class, primarily on defense. Nick Cross and DeMarcco Hellams were top-10 safeties and will be tough to replace. The team also graduated a pair of three-star cornerbacks and quarterback Eric Najarian.
But its 2020 class is incredibly strong. Headlined by five-star running back MarShawn Lloyd, the No. 6-ranked RB in the country, the class also has a trio of three-stars on the offensive line. They’ll protect whoever the quarterback is; maybe transfer Malakai Anthony? Or maybe a 2021 player already rostered like 6-foot-3 Trace Campbell or 6-foot-4 Jaden Bradley. And the losses on defense will sting, but DeMatha has players like 2020 four-star defensive tackle Coziah Izzard, four-star 2021 defensive end Colin Mobley and four-star 2021 linebacker Greg Penn III.
Why them: The Crusaders are 49-6 with three championships over the last four years. The problem that sometimes arises after a dominant four-year stretch: your stars graduate.
King’s 2019 class has five players ranked in the top 50 and seven in the top 100 of Michigan recruits, including quarterback Dequan Finn. Among other three-star Crusader graduates were two receivers, a linebacker and a cornerback.
There appears to be a player to take the role of four-star 2019 safety Marvin Grant Jr. Jaylen Reed, a 2021 four-star safety, is already six feet tall and 190 pounds. The team also has Rashawn Williams, a four-star Indiana commit, four-star running back Peny Boone, and 6-foot-5, 265-pound offensive tackle Deondre Buford. All three are in the top 13 of the 2020 class.
With a strong core in place, if King can replace Finn adequately at quarterback, it has a strong chance to win another title.
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