Breaking Down MaxPreps' Top 10 High School Football Teams
Who's in? Who's out? Who's No.1?
There are nearly 16,000 high school football teams across the country. Ranking these teams has become an American phenomenon thanks to RivalsHigh, ESPNHigh, CNNSI, PrepNation, USA Today, Scout and MaxPreps.
Here are 10 teams that the staff of MaxPreps Xcellent 25 feel are the country's elite.
In the overall Top 25, there are 16 states represented. Florida, Texas and California each boast three teams. Ohio, New Jersey and Georgia each landed two teams.
Let the debate begin with the BCS of high school football rankings. One thing is certain, these rankings are clear as mud.
No. 1 Manatee (Bradenton, Florida), 13-2 Last Season
Manatee High School holds the top spot in the preseason national rankings for the 2012 season.
The Hurricanes return 12 starters from last year's 7A state championship squad.
They are guided by 7A Player of the Year Cord Sandberg. This dual-threat quarterback passed for more than 2,000 yards and 19 TDs and rushed for 813 yards and 10 TDs.
He is committed to Mississippi State University, according to Rivals.com.
Manatee is led defensively by a pair of all-state tackles in Derrick Calloway and Demarcus Christmas.
Calloway recorded 55 tackles and eight sacks his junior season. The 6'1", 310-pounder has received 16 offers. On his short list, according to Rivals.com are: the University of Arkansas, Texas Tech University and the University of Southern California.
In order to maintain their lofty ranking, Manatee must defeat Miami Central High School—top-ranked in the USA Today High School Sports Super 25 preseason national rankings—on Sept. 14.
That game promises to be an early-season, high-stakes showdown.
No. 2 Grayson (Loganville, Georgia), 15-0 Last Season
Grayson High School went undefeated last season en route to a 5A state championship. The Rams are capable of an encore performance.
Grayson returns nine starters on defense, but the offense has holes to fill on the line and at quarterback. However, head coach Mickey Conn has a slew of capable running backs.
The Rams have become a pipeline for Clemson University with three commits, including one of the top prospects in the country in Rivals.com 5-star-rated DE Robert Nkemdiche.
This 6'5", 260-pound senior has tallied 38 sacks over the past two seasons.
The other two Clemson verbals are DB David Kamara and speedster RB Wayne Gallman.
DB Kasey Gaines adds support to a veteran secondary.
Grayson has a key matchup against Miami Central Aug. 31.
Miami Central has arguably one of the toughest schedules in the country.
No. 3 Skyline (Dallas, Texas), 14-1 Last Season
Skyline High School lost in the Class 5A-I state semifinals in 2011. With a bad taste of last year's finish, the Raiders are ready to take the next step.
Kincade passed for over 3,000 yards and rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in 2011. More impressive, the University of Mississippi commit, per Rivals.com, completed 186-of-263 passes for 70.7 percent.
Samples is a prime-time player and has committed to Receiver U.—Oklahoma State University. Somewhat undersized (6'0", 170 pounds), he caught 65 passes for 1,369 yards and 19 TDs last season.
The defense lost a dominant linebacker corps of Anthony Wallace (University of Oregon), Franklin Shannon (University of Oklahoma) and Michael Moore (Kansas State University), but look for Isaiah Williams, Justin Norton and Darnell Reed to fill their shoes.
Kerrick Huggins (6'4", 283) is a big, strong defensive tackle committed to Texas A&M University, according to Rivals.com.
Cedric Collins and Will Barrow anchor the secondary.
Skyline's schedule is favorable with no out-of-state ranked opponents. A key game is Week 2 against Martin High School (Arlington, Texas) Sept. 7.
No. 4 Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, California), 13-2 Last Season
Sounds like a nice sports bar.
Santa Margarita Catholic High School—the defending Division-I state champs—is loaded with 15 returning starters.
QB Johnny Stanton, a University of Nebraska commit per Rivals.com, directs a potent offense.
He passed for 2,439 yards and 13 TDs and ran for 1,528 yards and 25 TDs last year. Stanton is coming off an eighth-place finish at the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp—where the nation's Top 25 quarterbacks compete—this past July.
The Eagles boast a huge offensive line. Riley Sorenson (6'5", 320), University of California at Los Angeles' commit Erik Bunte (6'5", 320) and University of Washington commit Dane Crane (6'5", 305) should create plenty of real estate for RB Ryan Wolpin who romped for 1,629 yards and 31 TDs a year ago.
If the Eagles pass stern tests against Brophy College Preparatory (Phoenix, Arizona) Aug. 29 and Servite High School (Anaheim, California) Oct. 5, they could possibly contend for the top spot.
No. 5 Bellevue (Bellevue, Washington), 14-0 Last Season
Bellevue High School is the top high school football team in the state of Washington.
The Wolverines are coming off the most successful four-year stretch in school history after claiming their fourth consecutive 3A state title in 2011. In fact, Bellevue has won nine of the last 11 state titles, posting a 39-2 mark in state playoff action during that span.
Currently, the Wolverines are riding a 26-game winning streak.
Key returnees include junior RB/DB Bishard Baker and WR/DB Reuben Mwehla. Baker is a game-breaker who housed a kickoff in last year's state championship game.
Bellevue opens at home against Euless, Texas, power Trinity High School on Aug. 30.
No. 6 John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, Louisiana), 14-0 Last Season
John Curtis Christian High School's J.T. Curtis became only the second U.S. high school football coach to win 500 games last season.
The Patriots went unbeaten and have a stockpile of veterans. They return eight starters on offense and nine on defense from their 2A state championship team a year ago.
The quarterback position will be up for grabs between sophomore Abby Touzet and senior Patrick Morton, who returns from knee surgery after missing his junior year.
A solid offensive line is led by Brandon Godfrey.
The backfield provides plenty of punch with Sherman Badie and Raekwon Jones. Badie rambled for 1,239 yards and 19 scores, while Jones added 761 yards and 11 TDs.
The defense will lean on linebackers Duke Riley and Eric Thomas.
Curtis Christian will face 2010 4A state champion Franklinton High School Aug. 31. A week later, the Patriots will face another hurdle: Tampa's Plant High School will travel to Louisiana to play Curtis Christian in the Superdome.
No. 7 Carroll (Southlake, Texas), 16-0 Last Season
Carroll High School won its eighth state title last year. And it looks as if the Dragons will have another banner season.
It starts with dual-threat QB Kenny Hill. Last year, Hill threw for 3,006 yards and 25 TDs and ran for 1,383 yards and 24 TDs. He has given a verbal agreement to Texas A&M.
A.J. Ezzard is the lead back. He finished with 684 yards and seven TDs his junior year.
OL Cam Manning (6'3", 260) anchors the front. He is headed to Louisiana Tech University.
DBs Tanner Jacobson and Ray Crockett roam the secondary. Crocket has narrowed his college choices to Baylor University, Texas Christian University and Texas A&M.
The Dragons have a relatively soft schedule and should run the table.
No. 8 De La Salle (Concord, California), 13-1 Last Season
De La Salle High School has been dubbed a national champion seven times—ESPN (1994), USA Today (1998, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003) and the National Sports News Service (1999)—over a 10-year span.
With that being said, the Spartans are perhaps one of the greatest dynasties in sports history, having amassed a 151-game winning streak between 1992 and 2003 seasons.
Head coach Bob Ladouceur (384-25-3) returns another talented roster, but one that lacks a multitude of big-time recruits.
De La Salle has 12 returning starters. Among them are DL/TE Austin Hooper (10 sacks), OLB Victor Egu, RB Tiapepe Vitale (18 TDs) and USC Trojan-bound LB Michael Hutchings (56 tackles and two sacks).
Its schedule is front-loaded with games Aug. 31 against Bellarmine College Preparatory (San Jose) and Mullen High School (Denver, Colorado) on Sept. 7.
No. 9 Booker T. Washington (Miami, Florida), 12-2 Last Season
The city of Miami is a hotbed for talent and Booker T. Washington High School has its share of it.
The Tornadoes have 16 returning starters, including junior QB Treon Harris and OLB Matthew Thomas.
Thomas is a 5-star dandy, according to Rivals.com. The 6'1", 205-pounder recorded 117 tackles and 13 sacks last season. He has received 20 offers, including the University of Alabama, Florida State University, the University of Miami (Fla.), the University of Georgia and USC.
Another key player is OL Denver Kirkland, a 6'1", 333-pounder. He has narrowed his 15 offers down to Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and the University of South Florida.
If this team can survive a gauntlet start against Miami Central Sept. 8 and Cedar Hill High School (Texas) Sept. 15, the Tornadoes could contend for a national title.
No. 10 Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Maryland), 13-0 Last Season
Despite the loss of Stefon Diggs to the University of Maryland, QB Brendan Marshall will have plenty of weapons. This roster has a plethora of Division-I college prospects.
CB Kendall Fuller leads a strong defensive unit. He is a 5-star recruit committed to Virginia Tech. Fuller is a tremendous two-way player who had 26 tackles and three picks on defense and 26 receptions for 527 yards and five TDs on offense as a junior.
Kirk Garner is back at the corner position and has committed to the University of Virginia.
Senior LB Dorian O' Daniel is a Clemson recruit. As a sophomore, the 6'1", 200-pounder played running back and ran for 1,180 yards and 23 TDs. Last season, he registered 17 tackles for loss and five sacks in a defensive role. Expect O' Daniel to play both ways.
The Falcons play perennial Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, Nevada) Aug. 24 on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. and state rival Gilman High School Aug. 31.