What started as a revelation that Catholic high schools play a large role on the national level, producing Hall of Fame players and legendary teams, led to the formation of the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School Football Rankings, presented by Siena Heights University of Adrian, Michigan and Global Football. Last year we gave the Catholic schools their own platform and the CAC Top 25 was a claxon, blaring the good word that great football is played among our fraternity of schools.
As the 2017 campaign progressed, we gained traction. Coaches, players, alumni and parents and the media recognized our efforts. It was a seminal moment, establishing a beachhead that allowed the CAC Top 25 to gain momentum heading into 2018.
We’ve moved the sticks and start the season at first-and-10, driving with the end zone in sight.
So, what can we do for an encore? Just get better each week and illuminate the most compelling storylines that Catholic high school 11-man football offers. Those stories exist in prairies of the heartland to Cajun country in Louisiana to Catholic leagues that inhabit main hubs such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Here’s a rundown of the CAC 25 preseason rankings as we kick off the much-anticipated 2018 season. Full disclosure: No. 14 Saint Louis (Honolulu, Hawaii) opened the season last weekend with an easy victory on the island of Oahu.
The CAC 25 preseason rankings features traditional four-year secondary schools from 14 states and one from the District of Columbia. It stretches from the Northeast to the south Pacific, five time zones apart. Leading the way is California and New Jersey (all members of the charged Super Football Conference) with four teams apiece, three from Florida (all from Broward County) and two from Maryland.
With the dawn of a new season, we encourage fans, players, parents and coaches to follow the CAC Top 25 through social media at www.Facebook.com/CACTop25and on Twitter @CACTop25. If you feel there is a team, coach or special player that we may have overlooked, let your feelings be known through social media, or drop us a line with the pertinent information: CACTop25@GlobalFootball.com.
The CAC Top 25 rankings will return on September 5 and then on Wednesdays throughout the regular season until the conclusion of the postseason in December. In January, we will declare our CAC 25 Top 25 National Champion.
Buckle up, we’re just getting started and thank you for stopping by to check out the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School Football Rankings, presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football.
Enjoy the season and support your favorite school. –- Christopher Lawlor
2018 Catholic Athletes for Christ Preseason Top 25, August 8, 2018
All players are seniors unless denoted. Records and statistics are from the 2017 season.
- St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (11-3)
Preseason Audibles: The Braves have tons of talent. It’s spread around the field and on both sides of the ball. Let’s start 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 and joined by classmates RB Nathaniel Jones, WR Kris Hudson (USC) and OT Drake Metcalf, and seniors TE Jude Wolfe and WR Colby Bowman (Stanford). Both lines are big, strong and ready to tackle a rugged schedule, backing up the top-dog spot.
Opens: Aug. 17 vs. Timpview (Provo, Utah).
- Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (16-0)
Preseason Audibles: The defending CAC Top 25 National Champions have QB Bryce Young directing an attack with WR Braeden Huffman-Dixon (Colorado), TE Michael Martinez (UCLA) and OT Luke Felix-Fualalo (Utah) all committed to Pac-12 schools. Three Oregon Ducks recruits, including Keyon Ware-Hudson, LB Mase Funa and Jeremiah Criddell, key the defense. Elias Ricks and Oklahoma-bound junior Darion Green-Warren are lock-down defensive backs. Another lights-out schedule lies ahead with at least four highly ranked national programs, but it’s top-ranked St. John Bosco on Oct. 12 that is must-see football and likely to determine the Trinity League title. A rematch in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs should decide much the Open Division winner.
Opens: Aug. 17 vs. Bishop Amat (La Puente).
- Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev. (13-2)
Preseason Audibles: OG Beau Taylor (UCLA), CB Kyu Kelly (Stanford) and DE Treven Ma’ae are senior leaders. Junior Micah Bowens is the incumbent field general who has an eye-opening first game. RB Amod Cianelli (997 yards, 19 scores) leads the charge out of the backfield. The quarterback position is unsettled with Donovan Smith and Micah Bowens competing. In the end, the Gaels will be in pole position for a 10thstraight Nevada state championship.
Opens: Aug. 24 vs. No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.).
- St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Md. (13-0)
Preseason Audibles: The Panthers enjoyed the program’s finest season in program history, climaxing with the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship and captured a game at the GEICO Bowl Series. Since coaches Hank Russell and Biff Poggi arrived St. Frances has won with a suffocating defense that allowed only 6 points per game a year ago. The D-line is fortified by juniors Demon Clowney and Chris Braswell and Alabama-commit Shane Lee is the top linebacker. RB Joachim Bangda is a smooth runner but dual threat QB Jalon Jones transferred back to a Virginia school for his senior year. The Panthers will play an independent schedule and will be handed the MIAA A title without playing a local team.
Opens: Aug. 24 vs. Doral (Fla.) Academy.
- St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (10-3)
Preseason Audibles: After an uncharacteristic “down” year, the Raiders 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), DE Braylen Ingraham, C Vince Murphy (South Carolina), S Jordan Battle (Ohio State) and junior WR Marcus Rosemy.
Opens: Aug. 25 vs. No. 13 DeMatha (Hyattsville. Md.).
- St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (9-2)
Preseason Audibles: The Cadets finally end the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference drought, bagging the league crown for the first time since 1989. Coach Joe Casamento’s pass-first offense is triggered by transfer-QB Sol-Jay Maiava (from Kahuku, Hawaii), who tossed for 15 TDs and 1,541 yards. Speedy RB Keilan Robinson (Alabama) isn’t the only elite recruit joining S Quentine Johnson, DE Teymon Morris-Brash, LB Mekhail Sherman and juniors DB Luke Hill and WR Rakim Jarrett.
Opens: Aug. 25 vs. Johns Greek (Ga.).
- Cardinal Gibbons, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (11-2)
Preseason Audibles: The Chiefs are confident and one of the favorites in Florida’s Class 5A. If they push through their region, a trip to Orlando awaits. QB Nik Scalzo is a three-year starter and off to Kentucky, while RB Vincent Davis (Pittsburgh) follows the lead blocks of Louisville-bound OT Jamari Williams. DE Khris Bogle (6-4, 210), LB Trevis Robinson and MLB Yahweh Jeudy (Kansas State) are defensive stalwarts. At 6-5, TE Nikolas Ognenovic (Kentucky) is a big target and imposing blocker. Opening night will be a true test and it’s at home.
Opens: Aug. 25 vs. Central (Miami).
- Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (14-1)
Preseason Audibles: 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, staring with LB/WR Matt Salopek (Miami of Ohio recruit). RB Tyris Dickerson is off to Eastern Kentucky and junior DeaMonte Trayanum(Power 5 offers) both run behind OT Nolan Rumler (6-4, 300), a punishing run blocker who will sign with Michigan. Junior TE Caden Clark committed to Alabama and bruising FB Quan Easterling will sign with Akron. Last season’s lone loss was to St. Ignatius (Cleveland) – the opening night’s foe.
Opens: Aug. 25 at St. Ignatius (Cleveland).
- Chaminade-Madonna College Prep, Hollywood, Fla. (11-2)
Preseason Audibles: Coach Dameon Jones’s small-school powerhouse is primed to repeat in Class 3A. Transfer WR John Dunmore (Penn State) is playmaker and a major contributor, while the D-line will unleash a ferocious rush of Miami recruits, DE Cameron Williams (6-5, 230) and junior DT Willie Moise (6-3, 280). Two more future Miami Hurricanes is CB Te’Cory Couch (5-10, 165) and S Keontra Smith. The Lions have a favorable schedule with five of the first six contests at home.
Opens: Aug. 24 vs. Deerfield Beach.
- Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (10-2)
Preseason Audibles: The Crusaders bagged their first state title in 13 years in December but with success there comes change as coach Vito Campanile inherits the head gig after his brother, Nunzio, bolted for Rutgers University. Yet the roster has talent with TE Tyler Devera, shifty RB Josh McKenzie (Yale) and LB Aeneas DiCosimo (6-3, 225).
Opens: Aug. 31 vs. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.).
- De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (11-2)
Preseason Audibles: The Spartans captured their 26th straight sectional title but lost in the CIF Open Division final to Mater Dei (Santa Ana). LB/RB Henry To’oto’o (6-2, 210) and 6-5 TE Isaiah Foskey are the main recruits. Junior RB Shamar Garrett will do the bulk of the running from the Split Veer option. The opening day is considered one of the toughest games but it’s at home. The game at No. 3 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) on Sept. 14 will be shown on ESPNU.
Opens: Aug. 17 vs. Folsom.
- DePaul Catholic, Wayne, N.J. (8-3)
Preseason Audibles: The Class of 2019 is loaded with major recruits (three headed to the Big Ten), starting with QB Ta’Quan Roberson (Penn State), LB Chris Conti (Rutgers), WR/S Ronnie Hickman, Jr. (Ohio State), OT Blerim Rustemi (Boston College) and OT/DT C.J. Hanson (Holy Cross). The Spartans are the favorites to repeat in Non-Public Group 3, but games with Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey), No. 10 Bergen Catholic (Oradell) and No. 21 St. Joseph Regional (Montvale) will prepare them for the postseason.
Opens: Sept. 1 at Pope John XXIII (Sparta).
- DeMatha Catholic, Hyattsville, Md. (6-5)
Preseason Audibles: When you play in one of the top Catholic leagues in nation, there’s nowhere to hide. The Stags had a subpar campaign by their standards but fear not the talent is here. Alabama-pledge DB Demarcco Hellams and S Nick Cross form the nucleus in the secondary and junior RB MarShawn Lloyd is drawing interested from Penn State and Ohio State. The schedule is stacked and league brethren No. 6 St. John’s College, Good Counsel and Gonzaga are lined up.
Opens: Aug. 25 at No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).
- Saint Louis, Honolulu, Hawaii (10-0 / 1-0 in 2018)
Preseason Audibles: Coach Cal Lee (274 wins) is closing in on 300 victories and has a defense that includes blue chips USC-bound DE Gino Quinones, DT Faatui Tuitele (6-3, 287) and LB Jordan Botelho (6-3, 220). QB Jayden de Laura inherits the position that is used to putting up tons of points. The two-time state champions are going for a third straight but will have a stiff test in the Open Division mainly from Kahuku. De Laura passed for 234 yards and three TDs in an opening night 69-6 thrashing of Waianae on Aug. 10, but have a tall task against California powerhouse Narbonne (Harbor City) this weekend in Honolulu.
- Trinity, Louisville, Ky. (15-0)
Preseason Audibles: The Shamrocks enter the season having won 30 straight games and are stocked with 12 returning starters. S Jacob Dingle (Cincinnati) and DE Stephen Herron, Jr. (Stanford) have committed to big-time programs and anchor the defense. The coaching staff is enthused by a strong group of sophomores that will be integrated into the lineup. The schedule is chock full of powerhouses from Indiana and Ohio, setting up coach Bob Beatty’s team for a third consecutive Class 6A title.
Opens: Aug. 17 at Carmel (Ind.).
- Trinity Catholic, St. Louis, Mo. (9-1)
Preseason Audibles: Missouri’s top-ranked team is loaded with talent; try the top 3 players from the senior class, according to one ranking service. That triumvirate features QB Isaiah Williams (Illinois recruit, 1,889 passing yards, 29 TDs), WR Marcus Washington (13 TDs) and LB Shammond Cooper (77 tackles). More talent in the senior class includes WR Bryce Childress (Illinois) and behemoth Ira Henry (6-5, 330) the linchpin on the O-line. Juniors WR James Frenchie (nine TDs) and RB Mookie Cooper add more excitement to the offense. Last season was derailed in the Class 2 district final. This year the talent abounds and a state title is the remaining piece.
Opens: Aug. 25 vs. Duchesne (St. Charles).
- Charlotte (N.C.), Catholic (16-0)
Preseason Audibles: The Cougars won the Class 3A state championship, their fourth overall and first since 2015. With the likes of QB Christopher Walton, who passed for 1,508 yards and 23 TDs, and RBs Lamagea McDowell (971 rushing yards, 16 TDs) and Michael Neel (680 yards, nine TDs) another state title is within their grasp. SS Brian Jacobs made 118 tackles (77 solo) and three INTs, spearheading the secondary.
Opens: Aug. 17 at Charlotte Christian.
- Blessed Trinity, Roswell, Ga. (13-2)
Preseason Audibles: Everything fell into place for the Titans, who lost midseason to rivals Marist (Atlanta), but 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 will sign with Ohio State. QB Jake Smith (2,130 passing yards, 18 TDs) and junior Elijah Green (198 carries for 1,317 yards, 23 TDs) add to an explosive offense. Middle Tennessee State-bound end JR Bivens (89 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks) is a tackling machine and Georgia-commit LB/TE JD Bertrand (30 solo tackles, 8.5 TFL) brings heat up the middle.
Opens: Aug. 17 at St. Pius Catholic (Atlanta).
- St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, Pa. (13-1)
Preseason Audibles: Junior RB Kolbe Burrell (128 carries for 829 yards, 14 scores) had a breakout game in the Class 6A championship game loss, but coach Gabe Infante must plug holes created by graduation. C Anthony Cerrutti, RB Marques Mason and P Jack Sutton earned All-Philadelphia Catholic League Red Division honors. The Hawks are blessed with two the nation’s top players from the Class of 2021, starring QB Kyle McCord (multiple offers) and LB Jeremiah Trotter, Jr. (5-11, 175), whose dad starred for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Opens: Aug. 31 at No. 4 St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.).
- Eastside Catholic, Sammamish, Wash. (10-1)
Preseason Audibles: A shock loss in last year’s Class 3A semifinal to archrivals O’Dea (Seattle) by a point still stings. The Crusaders previously won 3A titles in 2014 and ’15 but yearn for more under coach Jeremy Thielbahr. RB Gio Ursino is top returning rusher and DT Will Vea (6-4, 280) and LB Evan Greve (6-3, 225) are defensive mainstays. A trio of talented juniors, WR Gee Scott Jr. (6-3, 180), CB Ayden Hector (6-1, 185) and TE D’Andre Rogers (6-3, 240) all have multiple offers mostly from the Pac-12.
Opens: Sept. 1 vs. Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village, Ca.) at the Honor Bowl in San Diego, Calif.
- St. Joseph Regional, Montvale, N.J. (8-4)
Preseason Audibles: Notre Dame-recruit Howard Cross III is the state’s top edge rusher, while junior QB Michael Alaimo takes over under center and junior OT Luke Wyler (6-4, 280) has verballed to Ohio State, and S Connor Grieco to Rutgers. The Green Knights, who fell in last year’s Non-Public Group 3 final, move up to N-P Group 4 with the likes of CAC 25 teams Bergen Catholic (Oradell) and St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City).
Opens: Sept. 1 at American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.).
- Dowling Catholic, West Des Moines, Iowa (12-1)
Preseason Audibles: The Maroons are the five-time Iowa Class 4A state titleholders. Securing a sixth starts with the power running game of Jayson Murray, who rushed for 1,947 yards and 29 TDs and four returning O-linemen that will open the running lanes. OT Jesse Alger (6-4, 305) – interest from Iowa, Iowa State and Miami (Ohio) – and athletic WR/LB Jack Keough are among their stars.
Opens: Aug. 24 vs. Waukee.
- St. Pius X, Houston, Texas (10-2)
Preseason Audibles: The Panthers need to get past last year’s narrow one-point loss in the TAPPS Division I final. The trigger man is special, QB Grant Gunnell (Arizona commit), after throwing for an eye-popping 4,936 yards and 61 TDs and completing 71.2 percent of his passes. His primary targets are WRs Trenton Waggonner (11 TDs), Texas A&M-bound Jalen Curry (122 receptions for 1,576 yards, 18 TDs) and Chase Lane (eight TDs). Gunnell has led the Panthers to the last two regional titles but the team is still looking for the first state crown since 2007.
Opens: Aug. 31 at Beaumont United.
- Serra, San Mateo, Calif. (13-2)
Preseason Audibles: The defending CIF Division 2-AA state champions employed a high octane offense (42 points per game) that returns QB Luke Bottari, who completed 203 of 282 passes for 2,850 yards and 26 TDs and rushed for six more scores. RB David Coker (701 rushing yards, seven TDs) averaged 9.0 yards a pop. LB Edmond Lahlouh (6-0, 200) is a monster on defense.
Opens: Aug. 25 vs. Serra (Gardena) at the Honor Bowl in San Diego in Mountain View, Calif.
- St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, N.J. (9-3)
Preseason Audibles: The building blocks for success start with Duke-bound DE R.J. Oben (dad Roman played the NFL), slot receiver Ayir Asante (Lehigh commit) and LB Chase Jones (Wake Forest). The offense is in good hands with QB Maasai Maynor (Navy) and RB Anthony Sumney. Coach Rich Hansen’s Marauders lost in the Non-Public Group 4 final and the road back is treacherous. Early season tests include hosting CAC 25 teams St. Joseph Prep (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Bergen Catholic (Oradell) on back-to-back weekends in September.
Opens: Aug. 31 at Millville.
Special Consideration:Covington Catholic (Park Hills, Ky.); Xavier (Cedar Rapids, Iowa); Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.); Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.); La Salle (Cincinnati, Ohio); Good Counsel (Wheaton, Md.); St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio); St. Ignatius (Cleveland, Ohio), Chaminade (West Hills, Calif.); Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.); Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.); St. Thomas (Houston, Texas); Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio); Bishop Lynch (Dallas, Texas); Elder (Cincinnati, Ohio); Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.); St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio); and JSerra (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.).
By CHRISTOPHER LAWLOR
CATHOLIC ATHLETES FOR CHRIST
About: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.