More than ever, the elite teams in high school football want to be challenged in the regular season. Once it was fashionable to seek regional games or an in-state home-and-away matchup when the situation fit. Nowadays, teams are flown coast to coast for appetizing matchups that wind up on television. It applies to the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School football rankings, presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, and thankfully it gives us a prospective on who truly is the best team out there.
Take this weekend when the there’s an East vs. West matchup between No. 3 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) and No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in a neutral site game at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif. Well, Bosco’s stadium is free after all because the top-ranked Braves take their show to South Pacific, a mere 2,558-mile trip, to Hawaii for a game on Saturday.
In Pennsylvania, No. 11 St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia) faces nationally ranked IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday on ESPN2. The Prep (1-1) opened with three significant opponents in preparation for the Philadelphia Catholic League. No. 11 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) will travel to nationally ranked Duncanville (Texas) for a televised game on Saturday.
Wait, there’s more because when the nation’s three toughest leagues start up their all-out war. We’re talking about the Trinity League (CAC 25 Top ranked members include St. John Bosco, Mater Dei and JSerra), New Jersey Super Football Conference United Red (St. Joseph Regional, St. Peter’s Prep and Bergen Catholic) and the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (Gonzaga, St. John’s College and DeMatha Catholic). All three conferences have three teams in the CAC Top 25 and will likely see each other up to two times, including the postseason.
That’s a mouthful to digest but it gives a clear picture of where the high school landscape is and going and how advanced it has become.
This week the CAC Top 25 welcomes two familiar programs back to the fold. No. 23 Chaminade-Madonna College Prep (Hollywood, Fla.) debuts with a perfect 3-0 record as does No. 25 Trinity (Louisville, Ky.). Chaminade-Madonna is Florida’s top-ranked Class 3A team and is favored to repeat as state champions. In the Blue Grass State, Trinity is No. 1 in Class 6A and has captured 25 state titles in its storied history. Bob Beatty is one of the hardest working coaches in the nation and annually schedules aggressively to prepare the Shamrocks for the rigors of Kentucky’s postseason.
OK, that leads to the superlatives of the previous week and a look ahead to the action on the gridiron.
This week we have co-players of the week from the West and it’s easy to see why that decision was made. In Rochester, N.Y., a veteran coach extracted a painful thorn against a crosstown rival and we preview some of the best CAC Top 25 games this weekend.
Co-Players of the Week: Running back Bijan Robinson of No. 17 Salpointe Catholic (Tucson, Ariz.) and quarterback Bryce Young of No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). There must have been something in the Arizona air on Sept. 6 when two Superman-like performances from players on CAC Top 25 teams lit up the scoreboard.
Let’s start with Texas-bound Robinson, who established school records rushing for 489 yards and six touchdowns as the Lancers pummeled Desert Edge (Goodyear), 68-34. Last season, Robinson (6-0, 205 pounds) rushed for 301 yards but this time out, shattered his personal best by 188 yards.
Robinson ripped off long scoring runs of 72, 62 and 54 yards in the first half when the Lancers were up 40-13. Salpointe opened the season with a 63-6 blowout of Dobson (Mesa) as Robinson ran for 111 yards and scored five times, giving him 11 TDs for the season. According to reports, he’s at 5,410 career-rushing yards and needs 469 yards to become Arizona’s all-time large-school rushing king.
On the same night near Phoenix, Young seemed like he was at the joystick of a video game in the dismantling of Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.), 71-21. The USC-bound Young riddled the two-time Arizona 5A champions to the tune of 528 passing yards and seven TDs on 31-for-38 accuracy. The passing yardage set a school record while the TDs tied the school mark and that’s supreme considering QB alums include 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley, Colt Brennan, JT Daniels and 1964 Heisman winner John Huarte.
Young sprayed the ball around the field as the chemistry with his receivers is locked in. However, it was WR Kody Epps who had 10 receptions for 197 yards and three TDs. The Monarchs (3-0) will need the quarterback and receivers on the same page this weekend against No. 3 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.), which boasts a stifling, stingy secondary.
Coach of the Week: Bobby Bates of McQuaid Jesuit (Rochester, N.Y.). Folks in Western New York might have done a double take when they saw McQuaid upended its rivals Aquinas Institute (Rochester), 27-21, on Saturday before a sizeable crowd at Frontier Field. So, what’s the story within the story?
The Knights (1-0) had not beaten the Li’l Irish in nearly 13 years or since October 14, 2016 to be exact. Aquinas has dominated the series over the years and especially since the turn of the century. Aquinas is the reigning New York State Class AA champion, but for a day, the Knights prevailed.
Bates and his staff maximized their efforts running the ball, while McQuaid’s offensive line punctured holes in the Aquinas defense. McQuaid rolled to a 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Aquinas rallied late but the 20-point hole was too much to overcome.
Bates in his second stint as head coach at the Jesuit school. He compiled a 25-12 record (2009-12) with two appearances in the sectional finals. Bates then began his second go-around on Clinton Avenue South in 2017 and has a 16-4 mark. Aquinas won both meetings in 2018, including the sectional final, and the two could play again in the Section 5 postseason in November.
Bates and the Knights can’t rest on their laurels with Pittsford on tap Saturday.
Games of the Week (All times local): There are a wide variety of games this week involving CAC Top 25 teams. The matchups range from the Oklahoma plains to an NFL stadium in New Jersey to the nation’s capital, where a rivalry raises much-needed education funds for low-income urban families.
No. 21 St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) at No. 19 Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.), Friday, 7 p.m.: Dollinger Stadium in Erie, Pennsylvania will be rocking with another addition of Friday Night Lights. It’s a 107-mile journey for St. Ed’s on I-90 along the shoreline of Lake Erie in a meeting of two titan programs who are defending state champions from Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively. It will be Prep’s Homecoming, adding to the pageantry.
Bishop Kelley (Tulsa, Okla.) at Bishop McGuinness Catholic (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Friday, 7 p.m.: Oklahoma’s version of the Vatican Bowl is on full display in the state’s capital city. Both teams are 0-1.
Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.) vs. North Little Rock (Ark.), Friday, 8 p.m.: This is second of five games over two days at the Battle on the Border played in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Friday’s opening game is West Monroe (La.) vs. C.E. Byrd (Shreveport) at 5:30pm. Last weekend, the Catholic Bears (1-0) defeated Parkview Baptist (Baton Rouge), 62-7, behind strong running game that produced 258 yards, led by Josh Parker’s 102 yards and TD on eight attempts.
Metro Team Sports Battle for the Bridge, Saturday, 11 a.m.: It’s a New Jersey vs. New York Catholic high school football showcase at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., featuring No. 5 St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.). The tripleheader lineup is: St. Anthony’s (Mehlville, N.Y.) vs. Delbarton School (Morristown, N.J.), 11 a.m.; Iona Prep (New Rochelle, N.Y.) vs. Pope John XXIII (Sparta, N.J.), 2 p.m.; and St. Joseph Regional (1-0) vs. Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.), 5 p.m. SJR returns to the venue where they were crowned New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 state champions in 2018. Hayes makes the short trip from the Grand Concourse, located only a few blocks from Yankee Stadium.
Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.) at No. 9 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.), Saturday, 2 p.m.: The 17th annual Jesuit Gridiron Classic between local rivals is contested at Buchanan Field on Eye Street in Washington. Gonzaga won last year’s game, 40-0. All proceeds benefit the Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA), which educates young boys from low-income families in Washington.
No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) vs. No. 3 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.), Saturday, 7:30 p.m.: Undoubtedly this is the marquee game of the week nationally and one of the best the regular season offers. Credit both teams for scheduling this neutral field game, which will be played at St. John Bosco High School’s state-of-the-art 5,000-seat Panish Stadium in Bellflower, Calif. For those not attending the game, it’s a webcast game on Fox Sports West Prep Zone.
Siena Heights win opener
This season we highlight the Siena Heights Saints football team with a weekly spotlight.
Siena Heights opened the season with a 20-18 win over Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) last Saturday at O’Laughlin Stadium in Adrian, Mich. The Saints’ defense starred late in the fourth quarter as Olivet Nazarene lined up for a two-point conversion following a TD but the pass fell incomplete.
Junior LB Nick Stalworth had 14 tackles to pace the defense. QB Tyler Knecht hit on 11 of 14 passes for 89 yards and a 27-yard TD pass to Timothy Brown in the first quarter. RB Jordan Brown, who rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries, gave the Saints a 13-12 lead on a 1-yard run in the fourth. Three minutes later, Kaleb Jefferson’s 11-yard score with 2:39 left made it 20-12 before ONU closed within two points, but could not force overtime.
The Saints are back at it, hosting Robert Morris (Ill.) Saturday at 1 p.m. EDT.
Switching topics, the topics focus is high school game with an international twist.
Don’t forget that Global Football will host the Dublin High School Football Showcase in Ireland on August 28, 2020 when teams from the United States head across the Atlantic to play competitive and regular season games in Dublin, Ireland.
Limited spots remain for schools to commit to this adventure of a lifetime. All traveling players, coaches and supporters will attend the college football game between Navy and Notre Dame at the Aviva Stadium on August 29—the hottest ticket on the Emerald Island.
For those high schools interested in this unique cultural experience please contact Patrick Steenberge at Patrick@GlobalFootball.com.
We encourage fans, players, parents and coaches to follow the CAC Top 25 through social media at www.Facebook.com/CACTop25 and on Twitter @CACTop25. If there is a team, coach, player or story idea that we may have overlooked, reach out with the details.
The CAC Top 25 rankings will return on September 18. Keep those affected by Hurricane Dorian that could wreak havoc in the target states Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia in your prayers.
In the meantime, this weekend support your local high schools and enjoy a game, and God’s Blessings to all. –- Christopher Lawlor
Catholic Athletes for Christ High School Football Top 25, September 11, 2019
1. St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (3-0)
Previous Rank: 1.
In the Huddle: The Braves keep rolling. Clemson-bound QB DJ Uiagalelei passed for 290 yards and four TDs on six completions during a 49-7 victory over Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) at the Polynesian Football Classic in Las Vegas. WR Beaux Collins had four receptions for 178 yards and four scores. It took Uiagalelei just 16 seconds to make it 7-0 after connecting with Collins on an 80-yard scoring strike. Rayshon Luke later sped 65 yards in the first half when the Braves led 35-7. Next is Good Counsel (Wheaton, Md.) Friday.
2. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (3-0)
Previous rank: 2.
In the Huddle: The Monarchs throttled Centennial (Phoenix), 71-21. USC-bound QB Bryce Young was on fire in the Arizona desert heat, completing 31 of 38 passes for 528 yards and seven TDs. WR Kody Epps had a monster game with 10 receptions for 197 yards and three scores. The Monarchs face their biggest challenge to date on a neutral field in their backyard on Saturday versus No. 3 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore). The game is will be played at St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif.
3. St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Md. (3-0)
Previous rank: 3.
In the Huddle: The Panthers blanked American Collegiate Academy (Clearwater, Fla.), 64-0. The Panthers have shut out two opponents and outscored the three by 168-13. This weekend will be co-coaches Hank Russell and Biff Poggi’s biggest challenge with a national matchup at No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
4. St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1-0)
Previous rank: 5.
In the Huddle: Idle. Next up is South Plantation (Plantation, Fla.) Friday.
5. St. Joseph Regional, Montvale, N.J. (1-0)
Previous rank: 6.
In the Huddle: Idle. The Greens Knights face Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.) on Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
6. Saint Louis School, Honolulu, Hawaii (4-0)
Previous rank: 7.
In the Huddle: Overwhelmed Kamehameha School (Honolulu), 42-7. QB Jayden de Laura has thrown for 1,012 yards and four TDs in four games. His favorite target is WR Koali Nishigaya with 25 receptions for 274 yards and three scores. The rivalry stretch of games continues Saturday with Kahuku at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
7. Eastside Catholic, Sammamish, Wash. (1-0)
Previous rank: 8.
In the Huddle: The Dominic Daste coaching era opened successfully with a 47-20 blowout of Grant Union (Sacramento, Calif.). RB Gio Ursino rushed for three TDs from 1, 40 and 20 yards. Junior QB Lohgan Muasau threw two TDs and DB Ayden Hector had a pick-six in the first quarter. The Crusaders visit Oregon powerhouse Central Catholic (Portland) Friday at Hillsboro Stadium in Hillsboro.
8. Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (2-0)
Previous rank: 9.
In the Huddle: The Knights routed Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown), 49-0. Arizona State-commit RB DeaMonte Trayanum ran for 250 yards and four touchdowns on eight carries. Trayanum scored on runs of 25, 73, 35 and 64 yards and Devin Hightower returned an interception 32 yards for six points. Another local rivalry game is slated with 0-2 St. Ignatius (Cleveland) Friday, but don’t let that record fool you, because coach Tim Tyrrell his staff are laser-focused for this one.
9. Gonzaga, Washington, D.C (2-0)
Previous rank: 10.
In the Huddle: Rolled Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), 35-21. The game was 14-all at the break before the Eagles tallied the final 21 points of the contest. Junior QB Caleb Williams showed why he’s a dangerous dual threat, tossing three TD passes and busting loose for an 81-yard scoring run. Next is the Jesuit Gridiron Bowl in the nation’s capital Saturday versus Georgetown Prep (North Bethesda, Md.).
10. St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, N.J. (2-0)
Previous rank: 11.
In the Huddle: The Marauders pitched their second straight shutout, topping Erasmus Hall (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 20-0. Next up is league rivals No. 14 Bergen Catholic (Oradell) on Sept. 21.
11. St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia (1-1)
Previous rank: 12.
In the Huddle: The Hawks recorded a huge victory last weekend, defeating then-No. 4 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.), 34-30. Ohio State-bound junior QB Kyle McCord went 17-for-35 for 284 yards and three TDs. Next is Friday versus nationally ranked IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) to be played at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday on ESPN2. Additionally, junior LB Jeremiah Trotter, Jr. verbally committed to Clemson over the weekend. He chose the Tigers over a host of offers that included Temple, Tennessee, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Michigan State and Miami. Trotter’s dad played for the Philadelphia Eagles.
12. Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas (2-1)
Previous rank: 13.
In the Huddle: RB Cam Barfield was a key offensive ingredient, rushing for 209 yards on 13 carries (16.1 yards per carry) and three TDs (10, 3 and 69 yards) in a 42-21 pasting of Servite (Anaheim, Calif.) at the Polynesian Football Classic in Las Vegas. Penn State-bound QB Micah Bowens (13-for-18, 229 yards, three TDs) teamed with WR Rome Odunze (10 receptions, 217 yards) for three TDs of 32, 34 and 54 yards. All told, the Gaels had 571 yards on offense. The final non-conference game is Saturday at Long Peak (Highland, Utah).
13. St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (2-1)
Previous rank: 4.
In the Huddle: Lost to then-No. 12 St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia), 34-30, in the Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. The Cadets have their work cut out this weekend with a road game at Texas’ top-ranked Class 6A team and Duncanville (Texas) Saturday.
14. Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (1-0)
Previous rank: 15.
In the Huddle: The Crusaders’ defense was the star last weekend in a 25-6 win at Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, Pa.). Davien Vernon picked off a pass and junior DE Tywone Malone posted two sacks. QB Andrew Boel and RB Esquire Boyce each found the end zone once apiece. BC enters its bye week before hosting No. 10 St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City) on Sept. 21.
15. JSerra Catholic, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (2-1)
Previous rank: 16.
In the Huddle: Sammy Greene set the tone early returning the opening kickoff 100 yards and the Lions defeated Bishop Amat (La Puente), 38-14. RB Chris Street, a Cal commit, had a solid all-around game rushing for 30 yards and had 44 receiving yards, including a 23-yard scoring pass from QB General Booty. The Lions head to Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.) on Saturday night.
16. Cathedral Catholic, San Diego, Calif. (3-0)
Previous rank: 17.
In the Huddle: The Dons polished off their second straight nationally ranked opponent in as many weeks. QB DJ Ralph’s 1-yard TD run with 46 seconds left was the decisive score in a 44-41 back-and-forth win over Centennial (Corona). Ralph was a one-man wrecking crew having a hand in five scores, including three TD runs and two more passing. Coach Sean Doyle takes his team to Helix (La Mesa) Friday.
17. Salpointe Catholic, Tucson, Ariz. (2-0)
Previous rank: 18.
In the Huddle: For the second consecutive week, the Lancers tallied more than 60 points in a game by doubling up Desert Edge (Goodyear), 68-34. RB Bijan Robinson rushed for a career-high 489 yards and six TDs. Robinson and his teammates will get a week off after that performance and go again against Cactus (Glendale) on Sept. 20.
18. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (2-1)
Previous rank: 19.
In the Huddle: QB Dorian Hale rushed for 159 yards and the Spartans crushed St. Francis (Mountain View), 48-0. The Spartans visit Folsom Friday in a game between Northern California’s top two teams.
19. Cathedral Prep, Erie, Pa. (3-0)
Previous rank: 20.
In the Huddle: The Ramblers chalked up an impressive 33-14 road win at McKeesport. Cole Constable’s 28-yard field goal in the third quarter gave them a 16-14 lead they would not relinquish. RB Luke Sittinger ran for 166 yards and two TDs, and Jaheim Howard’s pick-six in the waning minutes iced it. The quality of opponent is ratcheted up as Prep hosts No. 21 St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) Friday on Homecoming Night.
20. Cardinal Ritter College Prep, St. Louis, Mo. (2-0)
Previous rank: 21.
In the Huddle: QB Mekhi Hagens, last week’s CAC Player of the Week, threw TD passes of 3 and 31 yards and totaled 139 passing yards in a key 27-13 victory over district rival Lutheran North (St. Louis). The win means the Lions are Missouri’s top-ranked Class 2 team heading into the Friday’s home game with St. Dominic (O’Fallon).
21. St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio (1-1)
Previous rank: 22.
In the Huddle: RB Joseph Formani returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a TD and rushed for 92 yards and two scores on 18 carries in a 41-20 victory over Cass Tech (Detroit, Mich.). QB Conor O’Malley hit 9-for-13 passes for 148 yards, including two TDs to WR Montorie Foster. The Eagles travel to No. 19 Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.) Friday.
22. DeMatha Catholic, Hyattsville, Md. (1-1)
Previous rank: 23.
In the Huddle: Idle. The Stags host Avalon (Wheaton) Friday.
23. Chaminade-Madonna College Prep, Hollywood, Fla. (3-0)
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the Huddle: Defeated Miami Christian, 34-13, for a third straight win to open the season. The Lions entertain state power Carol City (Miami Gardens) Friday.
24. Bishop Dunne Catholic, Dallas, Texas (2-0)
Previous rank: 24.
In the Huddle: The Falcons edged Skyline (Dallas), 16-13. Junior QB Simeon Evans rushed for a 1-yard TD and tossed one 18 yards to Jordan Crook in the first quarter. The defense held Skyline to minus-2 yards rushing. In two games, Evans has thrown for 363 yards and three scores and rushed 32 times for 118 yards and two more scores. Next up is DeSoto Friday.
25. Trinity, Louisville, Ky. (3-0)
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the Huddle: For the third straight week, the Shamrocks defeated an out-of-state opponent. This time they shellacked Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio), 41-0. In the opening two weeks, coach Bob Beatty’s team stopped Indiana schools Carmel, 41-14, and defending Class 6A champion Warren Central (Indianapolis), 17-14. Before opening district play, Trinity hosts Waubonsie Valley (Aurora, Ill.) Friday.
Dropped: No.14. Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and No. 25 Bishop Kelley (Tulsa, Okla.).
Special Consideration: McGill-Toolen Catholic (Mobile, Ala.); La Salle College (Wyndmoor, Pa.); Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.); Jesuit (Portland, Ore.); Catholic Memorial, (Waukesha, Wis.); Columbus (Miami, Fla.); Catholic Central (Novi, Mich.); Archbishop Rummel (Metairie, La.); Brother Rice (Chicago, Ill.); Serra (Gardena, Calif.); Covington Catholic (Park Hills, Ky.); Xavier (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); Good Counsel (Olney, Md.); St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio); La Salle (Cincinnati, Ohio); Elder (Cincinnati, Ohio); Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.); Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.); Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.); Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.); Central Catholic, (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Mount Carmel (Chicago, Ill.); Bishop Dwenger (Fort Wayne, Ind.); Nazareth Academy (LaGrange Park, Ill.); Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.); Catholic Memorial (West Roxbury, Mass.); Marist (Atlanta, Ga.) and Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.).1