For the second straight year, the CAC Top 25, presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, crowns top-ranked Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) as the CAC Top 25 National Champions. The Monarchs reigned supreme throughout the season and bounced back from their one on-field loss to No. 2 St. John Bosco (Bellflower) to win the sectional title en route to the CIF Open Division Bowl Game championship.
Overall, CAC Top 25 teams accounted for 18 state or postseason conference championships and two wins in the GEICO Bowl Series.
This week there’s an addition from the Keystone State and one from the state of Washington that soared upward in the CAC Top 25.
First, No. 25 Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.) breaks into the final rankings after capturing a third straight PIAA Class AAAA championship last month. The Ramblers closed on a six-game win streak, improving to 13-3 overall and completed a state championship hat trick.
No. 18 Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.) vaults seven spots in the CAC Top 25 after shutting out nationally ranked Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.), 17-0, in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series on Dec. 22. The Crusaders (13-1) lost their opening game of the season but recovered to peel off 13 consecutive victories and are likely to be in the CAC Top 25 preseason rankings in 2019.
There were two coaching changes that we are aware of involving the CAC Top 25. Both men are moving up to the collegiate level.
No. 21 Columbus (Miami, Fla.) lost in the Florida Class 8A state final and saw their head coach, Chris Merritt, leave for Bryant University, an FCS school in Rhode Island.
Columbus wasted little time elevating offensive coordinator Dave Dunn to the head position for a second stint at the helm of the program. Dunn, who was the Columbus head man in 1999 and 2000 (winning two district titles), coached on the college level and at other high schools before returning to Columbus two years ago as the OC.
In Philadelphia, Gabe Infante, who guided No. 3 St. Joseph’s Prep to their fourth PIAA Class AAAAAA state championship last month, left the Jesuit college preparatory school to become the linebackers coach at nearby Temple University.
In nine seasons, Infante went 91-22 with four state titles and moved Prep into the upper echelon of high school programs on the East Coast. Infante came to Philadelphia after successful coaching stints in New Jersey. Infante’s move opened the door for OC Tim Roken to take over as head coach of the Hawks.
The Triple Option section touches on recent superlatives. In Georgia, there’s a student-athlete who made a difference in his team’s biggest game of the season. Ditto for his head coach, who made the right calls in capturing a second straight state championship.
Player of the Week: Ryan Davis of No. 8 Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.): The two-way senior contributed on both sides of the ball in Blessed Trinity’s 23-9 triumph over previously undefeated Cartersville in the Georgia Class AAAA final on Dec. 12 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Smith will graduate with two state championship rings and helped the Titans with his stellar play at wide receiver and free safety.
Leading 16-6 in the fourth quarter, the Titans were need of a game-changing play when Davis hauled in a 54-yard touchdown from QB Jake Smith to close out the scoring with 9:27 left and clinch the state title. Just for good measure, Davis then delivered the kill shot on Carterville’s ensuing possession, forcing a fumble. Davis had seven receptions for 135 yards and made five tackles on defense. A year ago in the Class AAAA second round, Davis caught the game-winning, 26-yard TD from Smith with 12 seconds remaining in the game as Blessed Trinity halted Carterville’s winning streak of 41 games in a 21-17 win.
For the season, Davis had 55 receptions for 975 yards and 10 TDs, averaging nearly 18 yards a catch. He also had two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and made 33 tackles.
Coach of the Week: Tim McFarlin of No. 8 Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.): McFarlin and his Titans completed a remarkable season after defeating Cartersville, 23-9, for the program’s second straight Georgia Class AAAA state championship on Dec. 12. The victory upped Blessed Trinity’s season record to a perfect 15-0 and 90-18-1 in nine seasons since McFarlin was hired.
In the last six seasons, McFarlin shepherded the move from Class AA to AAA to AAAA. In that stretch, the veteran coach is 65-6-1 with the two state crowns. McFarlin’s team was at a disadvantage in the state final when he decided to sit Notre Dame-bound defensive ace JD Bertrand, who injured his knee in the state semifinals.
Cartersville entered the game beaten in 14 games and averaging over 38 points. McFarlin’s defense held the Hurricanes to a season-low point total and flustered their offense with an array of looks and fronts as Cartersville failed to score a TD for the first time in four seasons.
Game of the Week (All times Eastern): Before we sign off, there is a game of note this weekend other than the NFL Wild Card games.
2019 All-American Bowl, East vs. West: Saturday, 1 p.m.: Here’s a chance for the top players from the Class of 2019 to close out their illustrious schoolboy careers at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on NBC. It’s interesting to watch the future stars of the game display their talent on national TV.
Sixteen players, including 11 on the West squad from schools that qualify for the CAC Top 25, are playing in the senior all-star game. Those from ranked teams are: Steele Chambers of Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.), Khris Bogle of Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and Keontra Smith of Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood, Fla.) for the East. Bru McCoy of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), Isaiah Foskey and Henry To’oto’o of De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), Trent McDuffie and Chris Steele of St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and Faatui Tuitele of Saint Louis School (Honolulu, Hawaii) line up for the West.
So that’s a wrap, now for a few personals.
Here’s a special shout out to Siena Heights University of Adrian, Michigan whose belief in this ranking makes the CAC Top 25 possible and is one of the finest Catholic universities in the country. Additional kudos goes to Patrick Steenberge of Global Football and Michael Preston of Preston Consulting. The CAC Top 25 was Patrick’s brainchild and Michael is the editor that pulls it together each week. Cheers, gentlemen!
To all the clergy, players, coaches, cheerleaders, band members, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, booster club members, team managers, volunteers, students, high school fans, teachers, members of law enforcement, and first responders—we cannot thank you enough for the support in our second season. Each week you emailed us ideas and made us aware of teams from your area. We read each one of your correspondences and carefully weighed them.
Fans, coaches, players and parents are encouraged to follow the CAC Top 25 through social media at www.Facebook.com/CACTop25 and on Twitter @CACTop25. If you want to nominate a player or coach for CAC recognition get us the information no later than each Monday morning during the season by 11 a.m. ET.
Additionally, Global Football will celebrate a quarter of a century as the world’s leading exporter of the sport outside of the United States, by again organizing the showcase spectacular as a partner event of the 2020 Aer Lingus College Football Classic on August 29, 2020. Twelve high schools can experience the Irish culture and to compete in a series of games, with multiple venues in Greater Dublin, Ireland hosting American football games.
Global Football has established a web page dedicated to the 2020 event, which includes tour options for travelers, pricing, and how high school coaches can request an invitation. Visit www.GlobalFootball.com/Ireland-2020 for more information.
The CAC Top 25 might be headed to the offseason but we’re already looking ahead to the 2019 season. Please follow us on the various social mediums. We’ll have news to spread.
Well, until next August, God Bless and a Happy 2019. – Christopher Lawlor
Christopher Lawlor is an award-winning writer, who is a voting committee member and advisor for several major national high school events.
2018 Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 Final rankings January 2, 2019
1. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (13-2) ! # *
Previous rank: 1.
In the Huddle: Won the 2018 Catholic Athletes for Christ National Championship for a second straight year. Also captured a second consecutive CIF Open Division Bowl Game championship.
2. St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (13-1)
Previous rank: 2.
In the Huddle: Won the Trinity League championship, splitting two games with No. 1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana).
3. St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, Pa. (13-0)*
Previous rank: 5.
In the Huddle: Won the Class AAAAAA state championship. It was the fourth state title for the Hawks in six years.
4. Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (15-0)*
Previous rank: 3.
In the Huddle: Won the Division II state championship.
5. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (12-1)
Previous rank: 4.
In the Huddle: Won a 27th straight CIF-North Coast Sectional title. Advanced to the CIF Open Division Bowl final.
6. Saint Louis School, Honolulu, Hawaii (11-0)*
Previous rank: 6.
In the Huddle: Won a third straight Hawaii Open Division championship.
7. St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Md. (10-0)
Previous rank: 7.
In the Huddle: The Panthers showed no rust after a 36-day wait in a 43-14 victory at
nationally-ranked Lee County (Leesburg, Ga.) in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series on December 22. Lee County had won Georgia’s Class AAAAAA state title and entered the game unbeaten. Junior RB Blake Corum was named the game’s co-Most Valuable Player after carrying 17 times for 210 yards and two scores, averaging 12.4 yards per rush attempt.
8. Blessed Trinity, Roswell, Ga. (15-0)*
Previous rank: 8.
In the Huddle: Won a second straight Class AAAA state championship, defeating previously unbeaten Cartersville, 23-9. The defense kept Cartersville out of the end zone allowing only three field goals and recorded a safety. QB Jake Smith tossed two TD passes and ran for another in the fourth quarter to clinch it.
9. St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (13-2)
Previous rank: 9.
In the Huddle: Advanced to the Class 7A state final, going 4-1 in the playoffs.
10. Christian Brothers College, St. Louis, Mo. (12-1)*
Previous rank: 10.
In the Huddle: Won a second consecutive Class 6 state championship.
11. Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev. (11-3)*
Previous rank: 11.
In the Huddle: Won the Class 4A state championship. It was the 10th straight Nevada state title for the Gaels.
12. Charlotte (N.C.), Catholic (15-1)*
Previous rank: 12.
In the Huddle: Won a second straight Class 3A state championship, beating Jacksonville, 17-14. QB Chris Walton tossed a 22-yard scoring strike to Michael Neel with 5:55 left in the contest to rally the Cougars to the program’s sixth state title. The Cougars trailed 10-7 at the intermission as George Griggs III nailed a 34-yard field in the first quarter and RB Lamagea McDowell dashed 5 yards in the second. McDowell rushed 17 times for 78 yards. Brian Jacobs was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, after intercepting a pass, making two tackles and one tackle for a loss.
13. Gonzaga, Washington, D.C. (9-3)*
Previous rank: 13.
In the Huddle: Won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship for the first time since 2004.
14. St. Joseph Regional, Montvale, N.J. (10-2)*
Previous rank: 14.
In the Huddle: Won the Non-Public Group 4 state championship; the program’s 19th state title.
15. St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (9-1)
Previous rank: 15.
In the Huddle: The Cadets captured the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season title.
16. Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (10-2)
Previous rank: 16.
In the Huddle: Advanced to the Non-Public Group 4 final.
17. Chaminade-Madonna College Prep, Hollywood, Fla. (12-2)*
Previous rank: 17.
In the Huddle: Won a second straight Class 3A state championship.
18. Eastside Catholic, Sammamish, Wash. (13-1)*
Previous rank: 25.
In the Huddle: The Crusaders, who won the Washington Class 3A state championship, shut out Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.), 17-0, in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series on Dec. 22. Sophomore DE Jaylahn “JT” Tuimolau recorded five sacks and added several tackles for loss and QB hurries. He’s considered the top prospect in the Class of 2021. Centennial entered with a perfect 14-0 mark and having gone 27-1 over the last two seasons with two Arizona 5A state championships. Sam Adams II buoyed EC’s ground game with 88 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
19. Cardinal Gibbons, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (13-2)*
Previous rank: 18.
In the Huddle: Won the Class 5A state championship.
20. Xavier, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (13-0)*
Previous rank: 19.
In the Huddle: Won a second consecutive Iowa Class 3A state championship.
21. Columbus, Miami, Fla. (14-1) @
Previous rank: 20.
In the Huddle: Advanced to the Class 8A championship game.
22. St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio (11-3)*
Previous rank: 21.
In the Huddle: Won the Division I state championship; the program’s fourth overall.
23. Nazareth Academy, LaGrange Park, Ill. (13-1)*
Previous rank: 22.
In the Huddle: Won the Class 7A state championship.
24. Dowling Catholic, West Des Moines, Iowa (11-2)*
Previous rank: 23.
In the Huddle: Won Iowa’s Class 4A championship—the Maroons sixth straight state title.
25. Cathedral Prep, Erie, Pa. (13-3)*
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the Huddle: The Ramblers are back in the CAC Top 25 after winning a third straight PIAA Class AAAA state championship.
Dropped: No. 24 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.).
Special Consideration: Bishop Dunne (Dallas, Texas)*; Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.)*; Catholic Memorial (Waukesha, Wis.)*; Skutt Catholic (Omaha, Neb.)*; Calvert Hall College (Baltimore, Md.)*; St. John’s Prep (Danvers, Mass.)*; St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.)*; De La Salle Collegiate (Warren, Mich.)*; Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.)*; JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.); McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.); DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.); Memorial (Evansville, Ind.); Salpointe Catholic (Tucson, Ariz.); Trinity Catholic (St. Louis, Mo.)*; Bishop Dwenger (Fort Wayne, Ind.)*; Marist (Atlanta, Ga.); St. Joseph (Trumbull, Conn.)*; Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.); Malvern (Pa.) Prep; Strake Jesuit (Houston, Texas); Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic*; Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.); Marist (Chicago, Ill.); St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.); Conwell-Egan (Fairless Hills, Pa.); St. John Vianney (St. Louis, Mo.)*; Aquinas Institute (Rochester, N.Y.)*; San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno, Calif.); Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.); Mount Carmel (Chicago, Ill.); Bishop Chatard (Indianapolis, Ind.); St. Anthony’s (South Huntington, N.Y.); Clearwater (Fla.); Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.); Brother Rice (Chicago, Ill.); Covington Catholic (Park Hills, Ky.) and St. Pius X Catholic (Atlanta, Ga.).
! Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 National Champions
* Won a state or conference postseason championship
# Includes a forfeit loss
@ Includes a forfeit win