Week 1 Ranking

After all the preseason debate and anticipation, the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School football ranking enters Week 1.

It was business as usual for St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.). Two victories in the month of August means the Braves are firmly anchored at No. 1 in the CAC Top 25 rankings, which are presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football.

Nine teams that were ranked in the preseason top-10 retain their positions, while No. 10 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) Eastside Catholic moves up one spot after dispatching two Florida schools already this season. Six of the eight teams that absorbed losses stay in the CAC Top 25 but that’s a trend we’ll track. The biggest movers this week are No. 14 Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and No. 11 St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.), who leap eight and six slots, respectively. Both schools are preparing for a difficult regular season slate and are near the top of their state’s large-school rankings.

Conversely, No. 23 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) and No. 19 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) took the biggest hits. DeMatha slips nine spots while DLS dropped six from our preseason poll.

The CAC Top 25 welcomes two additions from the West Coast and Midwest: No. 17 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.) and No. 21 Cardinal Ritter College Prep (St. Louis, Mo.). Both teams enter following victories over nationally-ranked teams last weekend. A spot-check of both teams’ schedules this weekend sees a continuing trend of powerful opponents. We’ll be watching.

Before moving onto the first batch of superlatives this season, we need to recognize one of the nation’s best. In the lead-up to the season, iconic Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.) coach Tony Severino announced the 2019 campaign would be his last as he will step down in December after 38 years in charge and a half century overall.

Severino, a member of five different Halls of Fame, entered the season with a 338-88-1 mark with seven titles and 11 trips to the Missouri large-school final. He also won football and baseball state championships in Kansas.

The veteran coach told his team on August 13 of the move in a teary-eyed meeting. Severino had his chance to coach in college but instead chose his family, having coached all three sons at Rockhurst.

All the very best from the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 to a class act!

Triple Option

This week we celebrate a signal-caller from Missouri and a coach that registered a key victory, and then we preview five sites for the upcoming weekend for some must-see football.

Player of the Week: Quarterback Mekhi Hagens of No. 21 Cardinal Ritter College Prep (St. Louis, Mo.). Hagens and his teammates traveled north to then-No. 20 Nazareth (LaGrange, Ill.) last Saturday and came away with a 32-21 victory. Surprised? Shocked? If you live in Chicagoland, perhaps, but if you knew that Ritter is one of the nation’s top small-school teams, the result was within reach.

Hagens, a 6-feet, 3 inch, 195-pound dual-threat QB, shredded Nazareth’s defense for 335 passing yards and four touchdowns of 21, 56, 28 and 5 yards on 23-for-33 accuracy and ran for a two-point conversion in the first quarter. Three of his TDs went to sophomore wide receiver Luther Burden III. Hagens outdueled Nazareth junior QB JJ McCarthy, a Michigan recruit, who threw four interceptions and one TD. Nazareth is the reigning Illinois Class 7A state champion, while Ritter lost in the Missouri Class 3 final (this fall the Lions reclassified to Class 2).

Ritter jumped to leads of 14-0 after one quarter and 26-14 at halftime. When Nazareth cut the deficit 26-21 in the third, Hagens put the game out of reach with a 21-yard scoring strike to Keavion Long with 7:06 left in the contest.

As a junior, Hagens threw for 4,511 yards and 54 TDs and only 5 INTs when the Lions went 14-1. According recruiting websites, the strong-armed Hagens holds offers from programs such as Purdue, Missouri, Indiana, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Kansas, Florida Atlantic, Syracuse and others.

Coach of the Week: Sean Doyle of No. 17 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego, Calif.). When the Dons pieced together a schedule, the early portion featured two games against opponents with a national name. Well, last Saturday, the Dons passed the first test in defeating nationally-ranked Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), 18-10, at the Honor Bowl, an event that spotlights the military.

Saguaro (0-1), ranked No. 9 by one national outlet, was Arizona’s top-ranked preseason team and winners of six straight state titles. That obviously did not faze Doyle, his staff and the home field fans as Cathedral Catholic moved to 2-0. A year ago, Doyle guided the Dons (12-2) to the CIF-San Diego Section Open Division crown before advancing to the CIF Division 1-AA state final, losing to Folsom, 21-14.

Doyle’s Dons recorded a quality win and needed a goal-line stand in the final minute to ice their second win of the young season. The Dons unleashed a punishing running game that produced 251 yards and three TDs from Zavien Watson (160 yards rushing), who is off to play baseball next year at the University of Arizona.

Cathedral Catholic can not to savor this one very long because another titan, Corona (Calif.) Centennial, comes to town on Friday.

Games of the Week (All times are local): This is the first “true football’’ of the year when high school, college and the NFL all are scheduled. The football bonanza on the schoolboy level screams quality. Here’s an assortment of early season games that will help shape the CAC Top 25.

Cathedral (Indianapolis, Ind.) at Elder (Cincinnati, Ohio), Friday, 7 p.m.: The Pit is the venue and considered the top high school stadium for this interstate matchup. The Cathedral Fighting Irish (2-0), No. 2 in Indiana’s Class 5A rankings, makes the 110-mile trek to the Queen City for a second straight weekend after crushing Archbishop Moeller, 28-0, on Aug. 31. Elder and Moeller are members of the power conference GCL South.

No. 4 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) vs. No. 12 St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia), Friday, 8 p.m.: This is the marque game of The Rumble on the Raritan, a two-weekend series that started on Aug. 31, at Rutgers University’s HIS Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. Clearly, this is the national game of the week. SJC is 2-0 and The Prep dropped their opener last weekend in heartbreaking fashion at nationally ranked Marietta (Ga.). The game features quarterback prospects, SJC’s Sol-Jay Maiava (BYU recruit) and The Prep’s junior sensation Kyle McCord (Ohio State early verbal). The games continue Saturday noontime with a tripleheader, opening with Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.) vs. Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.). Stepinac is the reigning New York State Catholic Class AAA champion.

Polynesian Football Classic, Friday and Saturday at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nev.: It’s four games with the host school playing No. 1 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) Friday at 7 p.m. Saturday’s tripleheader kicks off at 12 p.m. and ends with the third game, No. 13 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) facing Servite (Anaheim, Calif.) at 8 p.m.

Aquinas Institute (Rochester, N.Y.) vs. McQuaid Jesuit (Rochester, N.Y.), Saturday, 1 p.m.: Rochester’s top Catholic rivalry is renewed at Frontier Field, home of the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings (Minnesota Twins affiliate). It will be the first high school football game at the downtown stadium. Aquinas ran amok over its rival in recent meetings and are the defending New York Class AA champions and favored to repeat.

No. 21 Cardinal Ritter (St. Louis, Mo.) vs. Lutheran North (St. Louis, Mo.), Saturday, 5 p.m.: This is a District 2 showdown between Missouri Class 2’s current top two teams. It will be played at the Gateway Scholars Classic in Clyde C. Jordan Stadium in East St. Louis, Ill. (just across the Mississippi River). Ritter QB Mekhi Hagens is a joy to watch and Lutheran’s LB Antonio Doyle and WR/LB Itayvion Brown (Minnesota commit) are a handful. There are four games scheduled, starting at 11:30 a.m.

Siena Heights Preview

If you aren’t familiar with the Siena Heights football team here’s a primer for this year’s team. For the duration of the season, we’ll give a weekly update on how the Saints fared and what’s ahead for the NAIA school that is the presenting sponsor of the CAC Top 25, which is celebrating its centenary in 2019.

In a preseason poll, the Saints were picked to place fourth in the Mid-States Football League (MSFA) Mid-East League (MEL). A year ago, Saints finished regular season with a 3-3 league mark for fourth in the standings as well as a place in the Top 25 at No. 25.

Siena Heights (7-3 overall) competes in the MSFA along with schools from Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. The Saints head coach is Matt Kohn, who enters his third season at the Michigan school. Under Kohn, the Saints established school records for wins in a season (7), highest national ranking (20th) and overall cumulative team GPA (3.02 on a 4.0 scale). Kohn coached First Team Academic All-American defensive tackle Izayah Newsom. Last year the Saints had 10 players named the All-Mid-States Football teams.

Siena Heights opens on Saturday against Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) at 12 p.m. ET.

So, we shift back to high school football on the international stage.

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.

This is the fourth time Global Football has organized a high school spectacular alongside college football games played in Ireland. Those high schools interested in this unique cultural and educational 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 and Instagram at @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 11. 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. God Bless. –- Christopher Lawlor

Catholic Athletes for Christ High School Football Top 25, September 4, 2019

1. St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (2-0)
Previous Rank: 1.
In the Huddle: The nation’s top-ranked team started the season with a dose of the East Coast. QB DJ Uiagalelei tossed five touchdown passes to carve up Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.), 56-21. Uiagalelei rang up four TD passes and rushed for another when the Braves led, 42-14, at the break. In the season opener, the Braves routed then-No. 14 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.), 35-7. The Clemson-bound Uiagalelei hit on 17 of 37 passes for 322 and two TDs as the Braves were up 21-7 at halftime. The Braves travel to Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) at the Polynesian Football Classic on Friday.

2. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (2-0)
Previous rank: 2.
In the Huddle: The Monarchs overwhelmed two opponents by a combined score of 111-19. USC-bound QB Bryce Young totaled five TDs to stop Villa Park, 63-7. Young threw for four scores and added another on a quarterback keeper in the third quarter. In the season opener, they defeated then-No. 10 Corona Centennial, 48-12, as Young completed 19 of 26 passes for 191 yards and three TDs. It’s back on the road for coach Bruce Rollinson’s team on Friday at Centennial (Phoenix, Ariz.).

3. St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Md. (2-0)
Previous rank: 3.
In the Huddle: Defeated Simeon (Chicago), 55-0, behind another strong defensive effort. Last year, the Panthers surrendered only 32 points and pitched five shutouts. Also crushed then-No. 11 Central (Miami), 49-13, as Michigan-bound RB Blake Corum put on a show with four TDs and had a fifth called back on a penalty. Next is Friday versus American Collegiate Academy (Clearwater, Fla.).

4. St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (2-0)
Previous rank: 4.
In the Huddle: The Cadets passed two early tests against Florida competition. QB Sol-Jay Maiava passed for two TDs and dashed for two more in a 52-30 victory over Deerfield Beach (Fla.). The BYU-bound Maiava ran 24 and 30 yards for TDs and tossed a pair to LSU-bound WR Rakim Jarrett and one to Jamell Overton. In the second half, Overton added his second score of the afternoon on a pick-six from 23 yards. SJC also topped Southridge (Miami), 48-0. The Cadets scored 34 points by halftime. The schedule picks up at neutral site against No. 12 St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, Pa.) in The Rumble on the Raritan in Piscataway, N.J.

5. St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1-0)
Previous rank: 5.
In the Huddle: A game with No. 15 Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) last weekend was cancelled due to Hurricane Dorian. A state of emergency was declared in the state of Florida. The Raiders also stopped then-No. 13 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), 24-14. Sophomore QB Zion Turner threw for 100 yards and two scores. The Raiders visit South Plantation (Plantation, Fla.) Friday.

6. St. Joseph Regional, Montvale, N.J. (1-0)
Previous rank: 6.
In the Huddle: Defeated JSerra (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), 24-13, at the Honor Bowl in San Diego, Calif. Sebastian Tasko’s 22-yard field goal with 37 seconds left iced the contest. The game turned on back-to-back possessions late in the first half when SJR’s Logan Rivera had a 35-yard pick-six for a 14-10 lead and moments later following another interception, QB Michael Alaimo threw a 50-yard TD strike to Albert Serrano and a commanding 21-10 edge. The Greens Knights enter their bye week and next play on Sept. 14 against Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, N.Y.) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

7. Saint Louis School, Honolulu, Hawaii (3-0)
Previous rank: 7.
In the Huddle: The Hawaiians passed their biggest test over the week, topping then-No. 23 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), 31-19. The offensive rolled up 443 yards and Wisconsin-bound LB Nick Herbig returned a fumble 11 yards for a defensive TD. They also beat local teams Campbell (Ewa Beach), 48-27, and Kapolei, 34-6, as QB Jayden de Laura threw for 274 yards and two scores and Kainalu Tumpap ran for two six-pointers in the latter game. The Crusaders play rivals Kamehameha School (Honolulu) Friday at Aloha Stadium.

8. Eastside Catholic, Sammamish, Wash. (0-0)
Previous rank: 8.
In the Huddle: Coach Dominic Daste’s squad kicks off the season Friday when Grant Union (Sacramento, Calif.) pays a visit to the Pacific Northwest.

9. Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (1-0)
Previous rank: 9.
In the Huddle: Coach Tim Tyrrell’s team defeated Harrisburg (Pa.), 42-12, as the Knights rolled to a 35-6 lead in the second quarter and then coasted. Michigan State-commit LB Devin Hightower had a pick-six in the second quarter to make it 28-0. Next up is eastern Ohio rivals Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown) Friday.

10. Gonzaga, Washington, D.C (1-0)
Previous rank: 11.
In the Huddle: The defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title holders stopped American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.), 33-14, kicking off their 131st season on the gridiron. Junior QB Caleb Williams ran for three TDs and RB Aaron Turner rumbled 80 yards for six points in the second half to put the game out of reach. Friday sees the Eagles traveling north to Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.).

11. St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, N.J. (1-0)
Previous rank: 17.
In the Huddle: Junior QB Tahj Bullock threw for three TDs and sped for another score during a 48-0 pasting of Millville at The Rumble on the Raritan in Piscataway, N.J. On the first play from scrimmage, Bullock connected with junior Jalen Sanchez for 47-yard TD reception. The Marauders are back at it Friday hosting Erasmus Hall (Brooklyn, N.Y.) at Caven Point.

12. St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia (0-1)
Previous rank: 10.
In the Huddle: Lost to then-No. 21 Marietta (Ga.), 21-17. Malik Cooper caught a 29-yard TD pass from QB Kyle McCord in the second period, but it wasn’t enough for coach Tim Roken in his debut with the Jesuit school. The Hawks have a must-see neutral site game against No. 3 St. John’s College (Washington, D.C.) Friday.

13. Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas (1-1)
Previous rank: 12.
In the Huddle: The Nevadans split their two games in August. Last weekend, they lost No. 7 Saint Louis (Honolulu, Hawaii), 31-19. QB Micah Bowens, a Penn State recruit, passed for two TDs and ran for another. The Gaels beat Orem (Utah), 40-7, after seizing a 27-0 lead in the first quarter. The schedule continues Saturday with Servite (Anaheim, Calif.).

14. Central Catholic, Pittsburgh, Pa. (2-0)
Previous rank: 22.
In the Huddle: QB Dom Pieto scored late in the fourth quarter from two yards out and the Vikings held off Seneca Valley (Harmony), 10-7. The result avenged CC’s season ending loss to same side in the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs last November. The Vikings opened with a convincing 42-7 win over William Penn (York) in Western Pennsylvania vs. Everyone Showcase. Next up is WPIAL rivals North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) Friday.

15. Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (0-0)
Previous rank: 15.
In the Huddle: A game at No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). was cancelled due to Hurricane Dorian. The Crusaders travel to Imhotep (Philadelphia, Pa.) on Saturday evening.

16. JSerra Catholic, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (1-1)
Previous rank: 16.
In the Huddle: It was mixed results for the Lions. Last weekend, they fell to No. 6 St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.), 24-13, at the Honor Bowl in San Diego, Calif. On opening weekend, the Lions bested East (Salt Lake City, Utah), 24-14. California-bound RB Chris Street carried the offense with 23 carries for 132 yards and two TDs and junior New Zealand Williams made 12 tackles to pace the defensive effort. Friday night coach Pat Harlow’s team hosts Bishop Amat (La Puente) in the third of five non-league games before entering Trinity League play.

17. Cathedral Catholic, San Diego, Calif. (2-0)
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the Huddle: The Dons enter the CAC 25 after knocking off nationally-ranked Saguaro (Scottsdale, Ariz.), 18-10, at the Honor Bowl in San Diego. RB Zavien Watson led the ground-and-pound attack, rushing for 171 yards and all three TDs on 27 carries, and the defense made a goal-line stand in the final minute to record a second straight win. There’s no rest for the weary as the Dons play nationally-ranked Corona (Calif.) Centennial Friday.

18. Salpointe Catholic, Tucson, Ariz. (1-0)
Previous rank: 19.
In the Huddle: The Lancers scored 35 unanswered points in the first quarter and cruised by Dobson (Mesa), 63-6. Hours before the game head coach Dennis Bene announced this season, his 19th at Salpointe, would be his last and will step down. The Lancers play at Desert Edge (Goodyear) Friday.

19. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (1-1)
Previous rank: 13.
In the Huddle: Following an opening night loss, the Spartans rebound by beating Central Catholic (Modesto), 49-14. QB Dorian Hale threw for 231 yards and a score. This weekend the Spartans entertain St. Francis (Mountain View) Friday. That’s a warm-up for the Northern California showdown at Folsom on Sept. 13.

20. Cathedral Prep, Erie, Pa. (2-0)
Previous rank: 23.
In the Huddle: It was a productive two weeks for Prep’s offensive against teams from Ontario, Canada. Jaelen Carson scored three TDs and Luke Sittinger scored twice during a 47-12 victory over West Toronto Prep. Jaheim Howard also scored two TDs, including one on a pick-six. On the opening weekend, the Ramblers crushed Clarkston North (Mississauga), 53-34. Next up is a tricky road game Friday at McKeesport.

21. Cardinal Ritter College Prep, St. Louis, Mo. (1-0)
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the Huddle: The Lions made the trip north to the Chicago suburbs and shocked then-No. 20 Nazareth Academy (La Grange Park, Ill.), 32-21. QB Mekhi Hagens threw for four TDs. Nazareth entered as Illinois’ top-ranked team and won the Illinois Class 7A title last November. Ritter’s schedule intensifies on Saturday with Lutheran North (St. Louis), Missouri’s top-ranked Class 2 team.

22. St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio (0-1)
Previous rank: 18.
In the Huddle: It was a rocky start for Ohio’s defending Division I champions in a narrow 29-28 loss to local rivals Mentor. RB Joseph Formani ran for 168 yards and scored a TD in the second quarter off a 24-yard screen pass. The Eagles look to rebound at home Saturday against Cass Tech (Detroit, Mich.), considered one of Michigan’s top programs.

23. DeMatha Catholic, Hyattsville, Md. (1-1)
Previous rank: 14.
In the Huddle: Veteran coach Bill McGregor’s squad went 1-1 as he began his second stint in charge of the Stags. First, they lost at No. 1 St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), 35-7, in a game televised by ESPN. In spite of the setback, McGregor had the Stags firing on all cylinders on Aug. 30 during a 34-6 rout of Imhotep (Philadelphia, Pa.). DeMatha is off this weekend and next plays Avalon (Wheaton) on Sept. 13.

24. Bishop Dunne Catholic, Dallas, Texas (0-0)
Previous rank: 24.
In the Huddle: The waiting is over for the Falcons whose season opener is Friday at Skyline (Dallas).

25. Bishop Kelley, Tulsa, Okla. (0-0)
Previous rank: 25.
In the Huddle: The Comets open the season Friday entertaining Booker T. Washington (Tulsa).

Dropped: No. 20 Nazareth Academy, LaGrange Park, Ill.; and No. 21 Cardinal Gibbons, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Special Consideration: Jesuit (Tampa, Fla.); Chaminade-Madonna College Prep (Hollywood, Fla.); Trinity (Louisville, Ky.); Jesuit (Portland, Ore.); Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines, Iowa); 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.); La Salle (Cincinnati, Ohio); Elder (Cincinnati, Ohio); St. Ignatius (Cleveland, Ohio); Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.); Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.); Aquinas Institute (Rochester, N.Y.); Archbishop Stepinac (White Plains, N.Y.); Christian Brothers College (St. Louis, Mo.); McGill-Toolen Catholic (Mobile, Ala.); Rockhurst (Kansas City, Mo.); Bishop McGuinness Catholic (Oklahoma City, Okla.); Cathedral (Indianapolis, Ind.); Nazareth Academy (LaGrange Park, Ill.); and Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.).

About: Entering its third season in 2019, the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School Football Rankings, presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, are released on Wednesdays from September until the conclusion of the high school season in December. Criteria include the quality of the team and its players, strength of schedule, tradition, and quality of the team’s league, conference, region or district. The rankings are compiled by Christopher Lawlor, an award-winning writer, who is a voting committee member and advisor for several major national high school events. All Catholic high schools from the United States that feature only four-year players on 11-man teams are eligible for consideration. Catholic Athletes for Christ chapters and presenting sponsors provide input into the weekly rankings, including Global Football Founder & President Patrick Steenberge, who benefited from 16 years of Catholic education at University of Notre Dame, Erie Cathedral Prep and St. Luke’s School, Erie, Pa.