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2018 Preview

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The 2018 season is upon us, which means the nation’s Catholic high school football programs will soon be checking to see where they rank in the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 preseason poll.

But they’ll have to wait until Wednesday, August 15, to discover the provisional order of merit, which last year was led throughout the season by undisputed #1 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), as the Monarchs posted a 15-0 record.

The CAC Top 25, presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, was first established on the football landscape in 2017 and returns with some new features and a true sense of anticipation as teams, players and coaches kick off the new campaign.

In addition to the CAC Top 25 Player of the Week, which proved to be a popular award with the stars of the Catholic high schools, a new CAC Top 25 Coach of the Weekrecognition will be introduced in 2018.  Last season, Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.) head coach Mike Mischler was named Coach of the Year as he led the Ramblers from not being ranked in the preseason poll to third overall.

In all, 49 different Catholic high school football programs were ranked throughout 2017.

Now as we head into 2018, as a teaser for our August 15 preseason poll, CAC Top 25 analyst Chris Lawlorconsiders these Terrific 10teams who will be included in the ranking (teams are listed in alphabetical order), along with three games to watch when the season gets into full swing on August 25.

Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (#19 in final CAC Top 25 ranking of 2017)
Coach Tim Tyrrell’s teams have won three straight state titles – last year in Division II and the two prior titles in Division III. There’s a trio of all-state players returning, starting with LB/WR Matt Salopek (Miami of Ohio recruit). RB Tyris Dickerson is off to Eastern Kentucky and junior OT Nolan Rumler (6-4, 300) will sign with Michigan.

Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (#12 in 2017)
The Crusaders (10-2) bagged their first state title in 13 years, but with success there comes change as coach Vito Campanile inherits the head gig after his brother, Nunzio, bolted for Rutgers University. The talent begins with TE Tyler Devera, shifty RB Josh McKenzie and LB Aeneas DiCosimo. Another loaded in-state schedule will test the reigning New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 title holders.

Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev. (#2 in 2017)
Keep an eye on OG Beau Taylor (UCLA), CB Kyu Blu Kelley (Stanford) and DE Treven Ma’ae as known senior leaders. Junior QB Micah Bowens is the field general who has a tough opening night game against last season’s CAC Top 25 #1 Mater Dei of California on Aug. 24.

Blessed Trinity, Roswell, Ga. (#21 in 2017)
The Titans, who lost midseason to rivals Marist (Atlanta) last year, rebounded to win their next six en route to the Class AAAA state championship. RB/LB Steele Chambers (1,545 total yards, 25 TDs. 70 tackles) was the Region 7-AAAA Player of the Year and an Ohio State recruit.

Charlotte (N.C.), Catholic (#17 in 2017)
The Cougars (16-0) won the Class 3A state championship, their fourth overall and first since 2015. With the likes of QB Christopher Walton and RBs Lamagea McDowell and Michael Neel another state title is within touching distance.

Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (#1 in 2017)
The reigning CAC 25 National Champions have QB Bryce Young to direct an offense with WR Braeden Huffman-Dixon (Colorado), TE Michael Martinez (UCLA) and OT Luke Felix-Fualalo (Utah) all committed to Pac-12 schools.

St. Pius X, Houston, Texas
The Panthers need to get past last year’s narrow one-point loss in the TAPPS Division I final, but their trigger man is special. QB Grant Gunnell committed to Arizona after throwing for an eye-popping 4,936 yards and 61TDs, while completing 71.2 percent of his passes.

St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (#10 in 2017)
The Braves spread the talent around the field. It starts on defense with CB Chris Steele (USC recruit) and CB Trent McDuffie. At 6 feet 4 inches, 240 pounds, QB DJ Uiagalelei is the nation’s top signal-caller from the Class of 2020.

St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (#13 in 2017)
The Cadets (9-2) won the WCAC crown for the first time since 1989. Coach Joe Casamento’s high-octane offense is triggered by transfer-QB Sol-Jay Maiava (from Kahuku, Hawaii) and speedy RB Keilan Robinson (Alabama pledge).

St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (#16 in 2017)
The Raiders (10-3) are back and ready to conquer Florida’s Class 7A. The top recruits include RB Daniel Carter, ILB Avery Huff (Miami), DB Jaden Davis (Oklahoma), DB Semar Melvin (Wisconsin) and C Vince Murphy (South Carolina).

Three notable games
For the most part the high school season kicks off on the weekend of August 25-26, although some teams in California, Florida and Georgia will begin their campaign the week prior.

Warren Central (Indianapolis, Ind.) at Trinity (Louisville, Ky.), August 25, 6 p.m. EDT, ESPNU: Trinity, No. 4 in the 2017 CAC Top 25 final rankings, peeled off a 15-0 record en route to the Class 6A state title and featured Stanford-bound DE Stephen Herron Jr. Warren Central is the preseason favorite in Indiana’s Class 6A.

Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.), Aug. 25, 9 p.m., ESPNU: Mater Dei, top-ranked in the CAC 25, is the reigning CIF Open Division state champions and boasts several high-major prospects but traveling to the desert for the opening game will test the Monarchs’ 15-game winning streak. Mater Dei won last year’s game, 35-21.

DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Aug. 25, 7 p.m., ESPN2: Both teams look to bounce back after trophy-less seasons. Aquinas is led by LB Anthony Solomon (a Miami recruit), while DeMatha counters with speedy receiver DeMarcco Hellams, who will suit up for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2019.

The Catholic Athletes For Christ Top 25, Presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, is published weekly, every Wednesday after Labor Day through the conclusion of the season, at the release of a preseason ranking on Wednesday, August 15.

Football fans are invited to engage with the ranking debate through social media at Twitter @CACTop25.

The CAC Top 25 ranking 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. All Catholic high schools from the United States that feature only four-year players playing 11-man football are eligible for consideration.

The ranking is compiled by Christopher Lawlor, an award-winning writer, who is a voting committee member and advisor for several major national high school events, including the McDonald’s All-American Games and Gatorade Player of the Year. Catholic Athletes for Christ chapters and the CAC Top 25 presenting sponsors provide input into the weekly rankings. Lawlor previously worked for USA TODAY and, where he was the national preps writer, while compiling the national rankings in several sports.