Day 2 of the Rivals.com and StudentSportsFootball.com Fab 50 countdown looks at teams 30-11 among the top high school football squads nationally, as compiled by Student Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis and Rankings Editor Doug Huff.
This group boasts some of the highest ranked players at the state level, including A.J. Green, Will Hill, and Covaughn Deboskie, along with other rosters filled with Division I-A prospects.
"Cardinal Mooney is loaded with talented players. You have kids headed to the Big Ten, the Big 12 and Notre Dame, and that's just the senior class," said Steve Hare, publisher of OhioVarsity.com, about the No. 30 team.
"Defensively, there isn't a team in the state that can match up with the linebackers at Mooney. (Mike) Zordich and (Brandon) Beachum are two of the state's best and Taylor Hill can play outside linebacker and rush end. Then you have (Danny) McCarthy patrolling the secondary and he's one of the biggest hitters out there."
Tim O'Halloran of EdgyTim.com knows a good team when he sees one, and his home state of Illinois' defending 7A state champion, St. Rita's, certainly fits the bill.
"They return 12 starters and a junior class that has never lost a game," said O'Halloran. "They have an offensive line that averages 265 pounds."
Read on as we count down the nation's elite prep squads en route to Wednesday's release of the Fab 50's top 10.
30. Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown, Oh) 2006: 14-0 First game: Mentor
Several key players return from an unbeaten team that won its second state Division IV title in the last three years and sixth overall. Mooney's title bid, however, has gotten tougher because two-time unbeaten Division III champion Steubenville, riding a 40-game regular-season win streak, has dropped down to Division IV. Leading the Cardinals again will be QB-DB Dan McCarthy, a Notre Dame recruit. He rushed for 1,921 yards and 21 TDs and also passed for 780 and eight scores last season. Other major contributors include a trio of FB-LB types in Brandon Beachum, Michael Zordich and Taylor Hill. Beachum and Zordich are both Penn State commits. The offensive line is anchored by Jarod Emerson and junior two-way smasher John Simon. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Aug. 31 vs. Gateway (Monroeville, Pa.) at the Herbstreit Classic in nearby Canton.
29. Smithson Valley (Spring Branch, Tx) 2006: 9-2 First game: The Woodlands
An upset loss in the first round of last year's playoffs has coach Larry Hill's Rangers motivated for 2007. Twelve starters return, six on each side of the ball, and opponents will face one of the best ground attacks in the state as Trent Rios (21 TDs rush as a junior) runs behind a terrific line that features LSU commit Thomas Parsons and all-district returnees in James Fry and Shawn Wyatt (6-5, 305). LB Zac Russell leads a workmanlike defense. A starter needs to emerge at QB and district foes Converse Judson, San Antonio Reagan and San Antonio Madison in particular will pose tough tests. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 2 vs. Converse Judson.
28. Columbine (Littleton, Co) 2006: 12-1 First game: Lakewood
Though All-America lineman Ryan Miller is gone, just about everybody else who led the Rebels to last year's Class 5A state title is back. Head coach Andy Lowry's program repeated in 1999 and 2000 and will be looking to duplicate that feat. The Rebels also are going for their fifth state crown in nine years. Jeff Cicchinelli, who ran for one TD and threw for another in Columbine's 13-10 upset win over Mullen in last year's state final, returns to lead the offense along with RB Chad Korodaj (1,400 yards, 19 TDs). Two of Colorado's top 12 college prospects -– DT Curtis Cunningham and TE Matt Birkeness -– also are back, along with D-I recruit Ben Tedford at DE and big-time rising junior LB Jacob Wright. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 26 vs. Bear Creek.
27. Booker T. Washington (Miami, Fl) 2006: 12-2 First game: Summerville
Coach Tim "Ice" Harris and the Tornadoes have been snake-bitten the past few years in the playoffs, but this could be the year Booker T. breaks through in the tough Class 4A field. One of the nation's fastest teams returns 17 starters from a team that went 14-2 last fall. National recruit (and the coach's son) Brandon Harris leads nine starters back on defense. The CB was an all-state pick after intercepting eight passes last fall. The aerial attack should be potent as well, as underrated Sancho McDonald will throw to Harris and a pair of Miami commitments in Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Aug. 25 at FAB 50-ranked Summerville (S.C.) broadcast nationally on ESPN.
26. Poly (Long Beach, Ca) 2006: 11-2 First game: Glenville of Cleveland
Raul Lara has led the famed program to CIF Southern Section titles in 2001 and 2004, so if the trend continues, Poly could be walking away with its 16th section title in tow come December. A lot has to fall into place for that to happen, but Lara loves his mix of returnees and talented newcomers. Jurrell Casey led the defense in shutout wins over No. 15 Mater Dei and No. 32 Notre Dame last year, and Vaughn Telemanque continues Poly's tradition of standout safeties that includes 1990 NFL Rookie of the Year Mark Carrier. Poly has won 67 consecutive league games, two off the state record, but its recent trend of slow starts could be devastating this season as it opens with Glenville (Cleveland, Ohio) and regionally ranked Birmingham (Lake Balboa, Calif.). Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 at Birmingham of Lake Balboa. -- CalHiSports.com
25. St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) 2006:11-1 First game: Delbarton
Led by the state's returning Offensive Player of the Year and Mr. Do-Everything QB/DB Will Hill, St. Peter's Prep gets the nod as preseason No. 1 in Jersey following a state runner-up performance last year. St. Peter's has won 23 of its last 24 games, a streak that ended with a lopsided loss to Don Bosco Prep in last year's Non-Public Group 1 state final. Hill is the state's No. 1 prospect and accounted for 3,800 yards and 47 TDs last season. He rushed for 1,024 yards and 14 scores while passing for 968 yards and 21 touchdowns. In addition, he caught four TD passes, returned eight kicks for scores and recorded six interceptions. Hill will play behind a massive offensive line that includes Khalil Wilkes, Shawn Pearson and Ed Rodger. Defensively, watch for NG Darryl Greene and DE Anthony Blake. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 8 vs. Delbarton at Giants Stadium.
24. John Curtis (River Ridge, La.) 2006: 14-0 First game: Mandeville
Gone are many of the players that made up arguably the best team ever assembled at the River Ridge, La., school, but there is still enough talent returning to keep Curtis on top in the state and among the best nationally. It all starts, of course, with head coach J.T. Curtis, who is 441-48-6 in 38 years of leading the Patriots. There are also 12 starters returning, the highlight being a defensive secondary that features three Division I-A prospects in P.J. Smith, Robby Green and Alex Lauricella and one budding star in Jonathan McKnight -- a sophomore and younger brother of 5-star USC signee Joe McKnight. Matt Saucier shared time at QB last season, but the job is all his this year. He will be handing off to Kenny Cain, a talented junior who is also expected to excel at LB. Neither the offensive or defensive lines are as massive and as talented as last year's, but the units are still deep and led by C Bryan Munch, OT Ray Grubbs and DLs Chris Nickolson and Mike Henry. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 21 at Longview, Texas. --PelicanPreps.com
23. Bellevue (Bellevue, Wash.) 2006: 14-0 First game: Skyline
It's going to be the same power running game for the Wolverines, who have a good shot at winning their sixth state title in seven years. They've certainly proven in recent seasons that they can beat the best from other states, but this year no such matchup looms on the regular- season schedule. After rushing for 1,239 yards and 19 TDs in '06, RB Ladell Carroll should shine once again behind the blocks of C David DeCastro, who has committed to Stanford. Two other key returnees are DT JoJo Freeman and OL/DE Eddie Mills. If head coach Butch Goncharoff can fill the void left by the graduation of three-year starter Eric Block at QB, it could be a "sky's the limit" season for Washington's No. 1 program. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 at Mount Si.
22. Northside (Warner Robins, Ga.) 2006: 15-0 First game: Houston County
The Eagles appear well fortified to defend their state Class 4A title. Fourteen starters return, including QB Marques Ivory, the state 4A Offensive Player of the Year, and top rusher Tijuan Green. Another returning all-stater is OL Jerome Bibbins. Other offensive veterans include C Jordan Dooley, OL Vashaun Oats and WRs Kevin Cooper and Nick Bass. Four juniors are among five returnees on defense: LB Eric Fields, DBs Randall McBride and K.J. Martin, and DT Abry Jones. An early-season showdown against rival Warner Robins could set the tempo for the season. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 at Warner Robins.
21. Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.) 2006: 15-0 First game: Alcoa
Though they compete in Class 4A and not 5A, most in Tennessee are picking the Rebels as that state's No. 1 team to start the season. Maryville has won eight of the past 10 4A state championships, compiling a 118-9 record during that decade, and the Rebels boast a 45-game winning streak. QB Brent Burnette, one of the best in the state, passed for 1,928 yards and 18 touchdowns in '06. Senior Aaron Douglas is the best TE in the state and has committed to Tennessee. Keep an eye out for rising junior DL Justin Smith and senior WRs Stephen Shiver and Tyler Clendenen. With Tyler Maples now playing ball for the Vols, either Shiver or Clendenen should step up and be the go-to receiver this year. First Game: Aug. 31 at Alcoa. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Also Aug. 31 at Alcoa. --ETPreps.com
20. Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) 2006: 13-1 First game: Brophy Prep
The Huskies are loaded for a strong bid to win their fourth state title in the last five years. The only reason we don't have them higher nationally is a loss last year to Washington of Massillon, Ohio. Hamilton happens to have one of the nation's highest-rated RBs in Covaughn DeBoskie as well as one of the nation's highest-rated prospects in the athlete category in Gerell Robinson. DeBoskie rushed for 1,304 yards and 22 TDs last year and simply blew up in the spring and summer. Robinson played quarterback, running back and defensive back (he had eight interceptions) and already has committed to Arizona. Up front, the Huskies are experienced and big, led by Arizona State commit Patrick Jamison. Expect another run at the title for second-year head coach Steve Belles. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 2 vs. FAB 50-ranked Chandler High. -- ArizonaVarsity.com
19. Washington (Massillon, Ohio) 2006: 7-5 First game: Middleton
Is this the season the Tigers end the Ohio playoff championship drought? Washington is the winningest all-time program in the state and ranks second nationally to Valdosta, Ga., with 774 victories. But the Stark County school hasn't won a state title since playoffs started in 1972. Two years ago, the Tigers reached the title game, and last year the postseason run ended in the second round. However, an already talented squad was bolstered in the offseason when Ohio's top-rated college prospect, RB-LB DeVoe Torrence, transferred from Canton South. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ohio State recruit rushed for nearly 1,000 yards last season and recorded 130 tackles. He joins a veteran offensive backfield that includes Keith Herring and touted junior Justin Turner, plus junior QB Mike Clark. The OL is anchored by Reggie Comeaux. One of Ohio's top placekickers is Steve Schott. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 27 at FAB 50-ranked Canton McKinley.
18. Muskegon (Muskegon, Mich.) 2006: 14-0 First game: Creston of Grand Rapids
Losing two players to BCS conference schools might be a disaster at some schools, but not at Muskegon, as Michigan's preseason No. 1 team has as many as four or more players from this year's team who could end up at major college programs. A great group of juniors also supports the upperclassmen. QB Chris Crawford was MVP of the state title game in 2006 with 359 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. WR Corey Johnson also has multiple BCS conference offers. Another plus for the Big Reds is that there may not be a better coach anywhere than Muskegon's Tony Annese. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 19 vs. Rockford.
17. Summerville (Summerville, S.C.) 2006: 12-1 First game: Booker T. Washington
Any discussion of the Green Wave football program has to start with head coach John McKissick, who is entering his 56th season at the helm and is the nation's all-time winningest coach. McKissick, with 543 wins and 10 state titles, has an experienced team returning from last year's unbeaten regular season squad that was a playoff upset victim. The featured player is four-year starter A.J. Green, a WR-DB who was the EA Sports National Sophomore of the Year in 2005. The University of Georgia recruit caught 60 passes for 1,203 yards and 14 TDs last season and also ran for three scores. Throwing to Green will be veteran QB Reid McCollum, who passed for 2,787 yards and 25 scores last year. Other honored returnees include OL Richard Spain, DB Davon Ellington and fourth-year PK David Behr, who already owns a state record with 232 career kicking points. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Aug. 25 vs. FAB 50-ranked Booker T. Washington of Miami.
16. Pahokee (Pahokee, Fla.) 14-0 First game: King's Academy of West Palm Beach
The Blue Devils have won three Class 2B state titles in the past four years and could have their best squad yet in 2007 despite the resignation of head coach Leroy Foster in April. New coach Blaze Thompson shouldn't need much introduction to the team, having served as the offensive line coach at Pahokee for the past 12 seasons. Nine starters return, including three consensus Top 100 prospects in the state in CB/RB Janoris Jenkins, WR Martavious Odoms and DT Micanor Regis. Second-team all-state pick Anthony Sheppard is back at QB and junior Vincent Smith should be explosive at RB. Pahokee will step up out of 2B on a couple of occasions, and trips to 2A power Chaminade-Madonna and Muck Bowl rival Glades Central could be tough ones. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 21 at Chaminade-Madonna of Hollywood.
15. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) 2006: 8-3: First game: West Covina
The Monarchs were a staple in the FAB 50 during the 1990s and this just might be their most talented team since the turn of the century. Head coach Bruce Rollinson counts 14 returning starters, including junior QB Matt Barkley. Barkley, who will be a four-year starter next season, had an outstanding summer and is generally considered the top underclass signalcaller in California. The Monarchs have a solid group of WRs led by Robbie Boyer. Mater Dei competes in the Trinity League, arguably the massive CIF Southern Section's toughest, and back-to-back non-league games with traditional Orange County power Edison of Huntington Beach and FAB 50-ranked Centennial of Corona will set the tone for the rest of the season. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 4 vs. FAB 50-ranked Centennial of Corona. --CalHiSports.com
14. St. Rita (Chicago, Ill.) 13-1 First game: Chicago De La Salle
The Mustangs, who won the 2006 Class 7A state title last fall, are generally considered the top returning team in the Chicagoland area and in Illinois. Offensively, the Mustangs will feature six returning starters, including converted senior WR Jason Kafka under center this fall. Kafka is the younger brother of current Northwestern QB Mike Kafka. The Mustangs also return senior OL Kevin Galeher as part of an offensive line that will average 6-foot-2 and nearly 260 pounds. Defensively, the Mustangs also bring back six starters and feature senior four-star ranked DE Darius Fleming, who verballed to Notre Dame earlier this summer. The Mustangs have another serious weapon in senior two-star PK Stephen Flaherty, one of the top kicker prospects in Illinois. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 14 vs. Chicago Mount Carmel at Gately Stadium. -- EdgyTim.com
13. Prattville (Prattville, Ala.) 2006: 15-0 First game: North Gwinnett
Losing a state Player of the Year to graduation could be a major blow to some programs, but the Lions have replaced him with their best athlete at QB and are favored to repeat as state Class 6A champion this season. Taking over for Larry Smith at QB will be two-year standout WR Dekendrick Moncrief, one of 11 starters that return from an unbeaten team. Also back is top RB Justin Albert, who scored three TDs in the title game to halt a four-year stranglehold by Hoover. Moncrief's WR targets should include his brother, junior Quaylon Moncrief, and seniors Emanuel Davis and Lewis Haley. The defense is anchored by LBs Terrence Williams, Terrell Jackson and junior Lalo Albright plus DB veterans Marlow Marshall and Reggie Dozier. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 29 vs. Opelika.
12. Warren Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) 2006: 15-0 First game: Already played vs. Merrillville
What can the Warriors do for an encore after last season? They won an unprecedented fourth straight state Class 5A title, finished at No. 3 in the FAB 50 national rankings, and had the EA Sports National Player of the Year in RB Darren Evans. This season, the Warriors will reload with a different cast, including Jewell Hampton Jr. as the primary RB. As a wingback last season, he rushed for 508 yards on only 49 carries. Other RBs will be juniors Eric Williams and George Cheeseborough. QB duties will be handled by Logan Worley. A touted DB is JaJuan Harris. One of the nation's largest tight ends also returns in 6-foot-9, 255-pound Ed Hazelett, also a standout basketball player. Returning veterans on defense include Harris, DT Steven Barnett and LB Anthony Weather (6-1, 205). Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 at Ben Davis of Indianapolis.
11. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) 2006: 12-0 First game: St. Xavier of Ohio
The perennial state power in Maryland carries a 22-game win streak into its Herbstreit Classic showdown against St. Xavier (Ohio) on Sept. 2. The Stags are guided by coach Bill McGregor, who sports a a 25-year coaching record of 239-32-3 at the D.C. area private school. This year's team is led by WR Kenny Tate, who was a consensus All-State pick last year after catching six TD passes and returning three kickoffs and punts for scores. Other top players include Virginia commit DB Rodney McLeod, DL Nick Rivers, and OLs Sheldon Sellman and Tony Dzikowski. DeMatha has won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title the past four years and only Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) figures to give the Stags a run among those teams this season. First Game: Sept. 2 vs. FAB 50-ranked St. Xavier of Cincinnati. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Same as opener. --MDVarsity.com
The Rivals.com Fab 50 is compiled by the staff of StudentSportsFootball.com and is co-edited by Student Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis and Rankings Editor Doug Huff. Student Sports has tracked and ranked the nation's top high school football teams for more than a decade, and Doug Huff has more than 35 years' experience covering prep football nationally.