The countdown of the Rivals.com Fab 50 concludes with the release of the nation's top 10 high school football teams heading into the 2007 season, and it should come as no surprise that these elite squads represent many of the traditional powerhouse states for prep football.
Fab 50 Top 5 States
Texas, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California are among the prep football hotbeds represented in the top 10 list, led by No. 1-ranked Carroll High School of Southlake, Texas.
"There appear to be three teams that, with perfect seasons, could justify a Fab 50 No. 1 ranking at the end of the season," said Student Sports' rankings editor, Doug Huff, who compiled the Fab 50 in tandem with Student Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis.
"Southlake Carroll, Northwestern and St. Xavier all could be ranked No. 1," Huff said. "Given that No. 1 Carroll and No. 2 Northwestern face each other as well as other key interstate matchups, the Fab 50 rankings throughout the season will be determined on the field more so than in the past."
For regional rankings and bubble teams that include all Fab 50 teams plus more than 50 additional top-flight teams, check out StudentSportsFootball.com.
10. Katy (Katy, Texas) 2006: 13-1 First game: Klein
Gary Joseph has racked up a 39-4 record in his first three years as Katy's head coach, but he's still looking for that first state title after taking over a program that had won three titles in the previous seven years. This team might have a shot, returning EA SPORTS Player of the Year candidate Aundre Dean, a UCLA commit, at RB and seven other starters on offense, including Rice pledge Eric Ball upfront and savvy QB Bo Levi Mitchell. Four starters are back on defense, which should feature a strong secondary led by Kansas State commit Trent Hunter. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 21 at A&M Consolidated of College Station.
9. Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) 2006: 10-2 First game: Northmont of Ohio
The Vikings return 14 starters from one of the top WPIAL teams of 2006, led by Louisville recruit QB Tino Sunseri. Sunseri, whose father played for Pittsburgh, passed for 2,000 yards and 18 TDs last season. This team is built around skill-position players, which include FB/DE Dan Vaughan, TE/DE Quintin Williams and WRs Casey Totten and Emmanuel Matthews. Williams, the No. 26 prospect in the Rivals.com Pennsylvania state ratings, had 22 catches for 424 yards with six TDs last season. Look for sophomore RB Dom Timbers to emerge this season as well. On defense, Central Catholic features LBs Jon Petrigac and Terrell Anderson, DB Andrew Tagleinetti and OL/DL Liam Krahe. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 at Erie Cathedral Prep.
8. Roswell (Roswell, Ga.) 2006: 13-1-1 First game: Brookwood of Snellville
Sixteen starters -- eight on each side of the ball -- remain from a Hornets team that shared the state Class 5A championship in 2006. Roswell and Peachtree Ridge tied at 14 in last year's final, which should make the Hornets hungry for a title all to themselves. All-State QB Dustin Taliaferro and touted RB Alex Daniel give Roswell a potent offensive punch. Taliaferro passed for 2,048 yards and 17 scores last season, while Daniel rushed for 1,800 yards. Top WRs P.J. Beidel and Garrett Embry are back as well. The blockers include Brandon Reynolds, Matt Haney and Scott Lippencott. The defense features LBs Bele Okakpu and Zach Waddell plus DE Curtis Hazelton. Jim Broadway is a weapon as a PK/punter. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 1 vs. Brookwood of Snellville.
7. St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.) 2006: 10-2 First game: Santa Margarita
With incoming transfer RB Darrell Scott from nearby Moorpark, the Seraphs have the elements in place to win a California Div. III state bowl game title and duplicate the feat of being overall No. 1 in the state. With 14 returning starters plus one of the nation's best backs, new coach Todd Therrien's club is a solid No. 1 in California at the start of the season. The 6-foot, 205-pound Scott rushed for over 3,000 yards and scored 46 TDs last year and will be complemented in the backfield by junior Patrick Hall, a capable pass-catcher who should be one of the state's top backs in '08. The Seraphs have been dominating their league this entire decade, but the non-league slate, which includes two California state bowl champions (Oaks Christian and Div. I champ Canyon of Canyon Country) is tough enough to merit this spot in the Fab 50. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 21 at Oaks Christian of Westlake Village. -- CalHiSports.com
6. South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) 2006: 15-0 First game: Warren Central of Vickbsurg
A new head coach will steer the Tiger football ship in an effort to extend a state-record 60-game win streak and capture a fifth consecutive state Class 5A championship. Former Eupora mentor Lance Pogue takes over for 2005 EA Sports National Coach of the Year Ricky Woods, who departed for the same position at Bainbridge, Ga. Pogue and staff inherit a squad that includes 14 returning starters. The most touted player is four-year two-way back Darius Barksdale, who earned all-state honors at DB last season. On offense, the Ole Miss recruit rushed for 1,042 yards and 10 touchdowns. On defense, he charted 35 tackles and had four interceptions. The offensive line is anchored by all-state honoree Cameron Wagner. The Tigers could face their toughest regular season test in the second game when they meet Clarksdale, last season's state Class 4A runnerup. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 vs. Clarksdale.
5. Jenks (Jenks, Okla.) 2006: 13-1 First game: Bixby
This could be one of the best teams ever for this perennial Sooner State power. The Trojans, who have won nine of the last 13 largest-classification state crowns under head coach Allan Trimble, will be bolstered by the return of 13 starters. Eight of those are on offense, led by QB Mark Ginther, who is also one of the state's best baseball players. RB Chris Adkins also comes back as a three-year standout, while DT Tony Gillespie is regarded as one of Oklahoma's top prospects. OT Corey Dorris and two juniors who are likely to be highly recruited -- OL Brian Mincher and DB Gabe Lynn -- also are returnees. Often, when Jenks has this kind of returning talent, it is in the hunt for the No. 1 national ranking, and while we think the Trojans deserve their current lofty status, it will be difficult for them to move much higher because they have no out-of-state games on their schedule. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 vs. Union of Tulsa in annual Backyard Bowl.
4. Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) 2006: 16-0 First game: Mandeville
Head coach Tommy Knotts and his crew will head into the 2007 campaign with the nation's longest current winning streak at 108 games and will be seeking their eighth straight Class 4AA state championship. Seniors Makiri Pugh (DB) and Mario Carter (TE) are two major returnees who have committed to Georgia and N.C. State, respectively. Other standouts are seniors Javon Rembert (WR), Lawrence Williams (DT), and junior Devonte Hollomen (DB). The Patriots did lose QB Darryl McFadden and RB Daquan Leak to graduation, but hit the jackpot with two transfers. Senior RB Rod Chisholm led West Charlotte to the Class 4A state finals last year. Chisholm, Mecklenburg County's Offensive Player of the Year, ran for over 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. QB Anthony Carrothers also will step in as the Patriots' signal-caller. Carrothers transferred from Vance High. First Game: Aug. 24 at Olympic of Charlotte. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 2 vs. Butler of Charlotte. -- NCPreps.com
3. St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio) 2006: 10-2 First game: Winton Woods
If the Bombers survive their brutal schedule unscathed, they could have an argument for being chosen No. 1 in the land. The 2005 Ohio Division 1 champions came up short last season by falling to city rival Colerain in the regional finals. The only regular-season loss was in overtime to Fab 50 national champion Lakeland, Fla. This season, the Bombers will face two Fab 50-ranked teams in the regular season -- DeMatha (Md.) and Trinity (Ky.) -- as well as Cleveland-area powers St. Ignatius and St. Edward and their annual regular-season finale against Cincinnati Moeller. Eight starters on each side of the ball return for the experienced Bombers. The featured offensive player is three-year RB Darius Ashley. The All-Ohio honoree rushed for 1,450 yards last year and 1,634 as a sophomore. Ashley is joined in the backfield by returning starters in QB Jon Hurley, FB Luca Romeo and RB Patrick Berning. Other key offensive returnees include TE-WR Stephon Ball and OLs Max Bauman and Andrew Carpenter. On defense, all-state back Fred Craig returns as do LBs Nick Schneider and Evan Miller and junior DE-LB Pat Muldoon. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 2 vs. FAB 50-ranked DeMatha of Maryland at Herbstreit Classic.
2. Northwestern (Miami, Fla.) 2006: 15-0 First game: Carol City
The Bulls were one of the nation's dominant teams last season en route to a state Class 6A title, but they never had to venture outside Dade County. This season, they want to showcase the best the Sunshine State has to offer with a Sept. 15 clash in Texas against Southlake Carroll, the best in the Lone Star State and the No. 1 team in the Fab 50 preseason ratings. If the winner of that game, which will be televised on a national cable network, runs the table with another state crown, it would present a good argument for the final No. 1 ranking. The Bulls do enter the season with a new head coach, Billy Rolle, but about everything else is familiar from last season. Twelve starters -- six on each side of the ball – return, and four seniors have already committed to the University of Miami: All-state QB Jacory Harris, WR Aldarius Johnson, DT Marcus Forston and LB Sean Spence. Harris, who impressed at the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp, completed 194 of 285 passes for 2,920 yards and 38 TDs last season. Johnson had 72 catches for 1,361 yards and 19 scores. Another WR, Tommy Streeter caught 14 TD passes. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 15 at Fab 50 No. 1 Carroll of Southlake, Texas.
1. Carroll (Southlake, Texas) 2006: 16-0 First game: Lake Highlands
The Dragons are no stranger to the top of the Fab 50 rankings. Riding a 48-game winning streak, Carroll ended at No. 2 last season after back-to-back No. 1 national rankings. With a new head coach, they will be seeking a fourth straight state Class 5A-1 title while also taking on preseason Fab 50 No. 2 Northwestern of Miami, Fla., in a televised showdown on Sept. 15. The new pilot is former assistant Hal Wasson, who replaced new North Texas University coach Todd Dodge. The Dodge family didn't sever all Dragon ties as QB Riley Dodge returns for his senior season. He was the EA Sports National Junior of the Year and state Class 5A Offensive Player of the Year last season when he passed for 4,184 yards and 54 TDs while rushing for 1,119 yards and 13 scores. Other veterans include WRs Blake Cantu and Chris Brainard and OLs Jake Jackson, Sam Schwartzstein and Nick Leppo. If Carroll, which has won 79 of its last 80 games, runs the table, the Dragons will be in a solid position to claim a third Fab 50 national championship in the last four years. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 15 vs. Fab 50 No. 2 Northwestern of Miami.
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.