Everything about the month of December screams drama. There are Christmas pageants, tree lightings, headstrong grownups wrestling over the last toy de rigueur on the shelf, that horn-honking, finger-pointing gesture for a mall parking spot, family gatherings, and high school playoff football.
As usual the stakes are raised and as the weather gets colder, the intensity shoots through the clouds. And it means we’re approaching the end of another glorious season for the Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25 High School Football rankings. This is the penultimate set of weekly rankings and there are more storylines to stoke the belly of the furnace.
There are two weekends of games remaining and 15 teams from the CAC Top 25, presented by Siena Heights University and Global Football, are state or postseason conference champions. Any time a team wins their final game in December that means championship hardware and whole lot of happy people.
For the second straight week, the CAC Top 25 is reacquainted with a team. This time No. 18 Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) re-enters following the its first-ever football state championship win. The Chiefs took home the Florida Class 5A crown, beating North Marion (Citra), 48-10. That must have sweet considering the Chiefs opened with two losses only to run the table en route to that crowing moment.
Last weekend, CAC teams from California, Connecticut, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas won state championships. To all the victors, take a well-deserved bow and call Jostens with your ring sizes.
That brings us to the Triple Option, a wildly popular feature that weekly illuminates the excellence in the CAC Top 25 and beyond. The player and coach of the week turned in great performances in cities renowned for family fun and entertainment. This week a running back from the Keystone State ran wild when his team won a third straight state title in Hershey, Pa. Then there is a coach who brought his team to the Theme Park Capital of the World and wound up on top of the world. We’ll also preview a few games over the next two weekends that will impact the CAC Top 25.
Player of the Week: Running back Billy Lucas of Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.). It was a record-setting night for Lucas and reason to celebrate for the third straight year in Chocolate Town, USA for the Prep Ramblers, who defeated Imhotep Prep Charter (Philadelphia), 38-7, in the PIAA Class AAAA final. Lucas was unstoppable and so was Prep (13-3) last Thursday in Hershey.
Lucas beat Imhotep going left, right, up the middle and east and west, carrying for a school-record tying 40 times for a PIAA Class AAAA title-game record 287 yards and added three rushing touchdowns from 56, 1 and 8 yards. Lucas gave Prep a 7-0 lead before the game was tied at 7 in the second quarter. Prep built a 17-7 lead at halftime and 24-7 in the third when Lucas produced his latter two scores to deliver the knockout blow that secured the Ramblers a third straight title and fifth in school history.
At 6 feet, 205 pounds, Lucas credits his O-line for puncturing holes in Imhotep’s defense front. Prep’s veteran line coach Pat Czytuck was the architect of the demolition, making sure Lucas and the rest of the offense had time to remain upright in the pocket and maneuver the gaping holes. It was an amazing team effort on both sides of the ball. Lucas, a senior, has interest from big-time programs such as Penn State, Old Dominion, Minnesota, Bowling Green, Pittsburgh, Temple and Cincinnati, according to recruiting websites. After last week, Lucas’s name will appear on more college recruiters’ wish lists.
For the season, Lucas ran for 2,085 yards and 23 TDs on 256 carries.
Prep, which finished 13-3, came a long way from the start of the season. Still rebuilding after last year’s championship and losses from graduation, head coach Mike Mischler’s squad opened 1-2—with losses to powerhouses Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and St. Ignatius (Cleveland, Ohio)—before righting the ship for that fifth state title, the most in PIAA District 10 history.
Coach of the Week: Matt DuBuc of No. 18 Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). In a rare moment that only a future state championship coach can appreciate, DuBuc must have invoked his inner Alfred E. Neuman (from Mad Magazine fame) with a hearty, “what, me worry?” in August when his team dropped to 0-2. Flash ahead to last weekend when the Chiefs captured the program’s first-ever Florida state championship in a 48-10 thrashing of North Marion (Citra) in the Class 5A final in Orlando.
DuBuc did not panic when the Chiefs trailed in the first quarter and then dominated the rest of the way, including a spree of 45 unanswered points to quench that championship thirst. Gibbons also won the title without star quarterback Nik Scalzo. Last month, the Kentucky-bound signal caller went down with a torn ACL and from that seminal moment, the Chiefs bound together and vowed to complete the task. DuBuc and his staff kept the team focused and the Chiefs rolled into history. Great coaches lead in the throes of adversity and DuBuc’s coaching compass stayed true and pointed the Chiefs home.
Games of the Week (All times Eastern): Three states will conduct state championship games of significance to the CAC Top 25.
No. 8 Blessed Trinity (Roswell, Ga.) vs. Cartersville (Ga.), Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.: The Georgia Class AAAA state championship is this afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Both teams are 14-0 and have combined to win the last three AAAA titles (Cartersville in 2015, 2016; Blessed Trinity in 2017). Ohio State-bound RB/LB Steele Chambers has run for 1,589 yards, including a season-high 244 in the state semifinals, and 25 scores. Cartersville’s lone loss in the last three seasons is to the Titans (last year in the playoffs) and is 55-1 in that span. Blessed Trinity must solve Carterville’s stingy defense that yields 7 points per game.
The California Interscholastic Federation wraps up its season at Cerritos College’s Falcon Stadium in Norwalk this weekend with two games involving CAC teams.
No. 24 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) vs. Folsom, Friday, 11 p.m.: The CC Dons (12-1) are one win from the CIF Division AA Bowl Game title but Folsom (13-1) will be their toughest test to date. Folsom’s only loss was opening night to No. 4 De La Salle (Concord) and their high-powered offense averages 54 points per game.
San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno) vs. Lawndale, Saturday, 7 p.m.: Coach Anthony Goston has his undefeated Panthers (14-0) on the verge of the Division 2-A title while Lawndale (13-2) isn’t too shabby, allowing 41 points with two shutouts in five playoff games. SJM’s main objective to is stop 2,000-yard rusher Jordan Wilmore, a USC recruit. Last weekend, SJM scored 10 touchdowns in the Northern California Regional final.
No. 12 Charlotte (N.C.) Catholic vs. Jacksonville, Saturday, 11 a.m.: The North Carolina Class 3A state championship is up for grabs at the University of North Carolina’s picturesque 50,500-seat Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill. The CC Cougars (14-1) have won 14 straight since losing on opening night to Charlotte Christian, 6-0. In the those 14 games since, the defense has surrendered only 90 points with five shutouts. Jacksonville is 11-1.
No. 25 Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.) at Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.), Dec. 22, 10:30 p.m.: The Eastside Catholic Crusaders (12-1) accepted an invitation to participate in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series against Centennial (14-0). The game is on ESPNU.
A second GEICO Bowl Game will be announced later this week and will be played in the Eastern Time Zone occupying the television time slot leading up to the game from Arizona. We’re hearing a CAC Top 25 team from Maryland is in the mix and would be paired with a national powerhouse from Georgia.
The CAC Top 25 final rankings will return on January 2, 2019 and we’ll wrap up the season and pass along any results from the next two weekends and how they relate to the CAC Top 25.
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.
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 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.
With Advent in full swing, we’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Enjoy the games and God Bless. – Christopher Lawlor
Catholic Athletes for Christ Top 25, December 12, 2018
1. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (13-2) # *
Previous rank: 1.
In the Huddle: The Monarchs’ reign is now two years, after winning the CIF Open Division Bowl Game over No. 4 De La Salle (Concord), 35-21. Shakobe Harper rushed for 122 yards and three scores on 22 carries. Junior QB Bryce Young finished 18-of-25 passing for 296 yards and two TDs. The Monarchs jumped to a 28-7 lead but the Spartans rallied within seven points, 28-21, but Shakobe scored late to clinch it. Season complete.
2. St. John Bosco, Bellflower, Calif. (13-1)
Previous rank: 2.
In the Huddle: Last week, junior QB DJ Uiagalelei was named the California Gatorade Player of the Year and is a finalist for the national award. Season complete.
3. Archbishop Hoban, Akron, Ohio (15-0)*
Previous rank: 3.
In the Huddle: Won the Division II state championship. Season complete.
4. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (12-1)
Previous rank: 4.
In the Huddle: For the third straight season, the Spartans fell in the CIF state final. This time top-ranked Mater Dei (Santa Ana) held off the Spartans, 35-21, in the CIF Open Division Bowl Game. After falling behind by three TDs, 28-7, the Spartans rallied within 28-21 as Lumagia Hearns hauled in a 68-yard scoring strike and James Coby barged over from the 1. It was the second consecutive year DLS lost to Mater Dei with the title on the line. Season complete.
5. St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, Pa. (13-0)*
Previous rank: 6.
In the Huddle: Won Class AAAAAA state championship, defeating Harrisburg, 40-20, in the final. It was the fourth state title for the Hawks in six years. Sophomore QB Kyle McCord completed 26 of 37 passes for 283 yards and two scores, both to Marques Mason. RB Kolbe Burrell rushed 18 times for 149 yards and a TD. Season complete.
6. Saint Louis School, Honolulu, Hawaii (11-0)*
Previous rank: 7.
In the Huddle: Won a third straight Hawaii Open Division championship. Season complete.
7. St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Md. (9-0)
Previous rank: 8.
In the Huddle: Regular season complete.
8. Blessed Trinity, Roswell, Ga. (14-0)
Previous rank: 9.
In the Huddle: Idle. The Titans play unbeaten Cartersville for the Class AAAA state championship tonight in Atlanta.
9. St. Thomas Aquinas, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (13-2)
Previous rank: 5.
In the Huddle: The Raiders came up empty in the Class 7A state championship, getting upset by Lakeland, 33-20. Season complete.
10. Christian Brothers College, St. Louis, Mo. (12-1)*
Previous rank: 11.
In the Huddle: Won a second consecutive Class 6 state championship. Season complete.
11. Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas, Nev. (11-3)*
Previous rank: 12.
In the Huddle: Won the Class 4A state championship. It was the 10th straight Nevada state title for the Gaels. Season complete.
12. Charlotte (N.C.), Catholic (14-1)
Previous rank: 13.
In the Huddle: The Cougars are back in the state final after dispatching Kings Mountain, 30-7, in the Class 3A semifinals. QB Chris Walton passed to Michael Neel for scores of 55 and 43 yards for the reigning state champions. Next is Jacksonville on Saturday for the Class 3A state championship in Chapel Hill.
13. Gonzaga, Washington, D.C. (9-3)*
Previous rank: 15.
In the Huddle: Won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship for the first time since 2004. Season compete.
14. St. Joseph Regional, Montvale, N.J. (10-2)*
Previous rank: 16.
In the Huddle: Won the Non-Public Group 4 state championship; the program’s 19th state title. Season complete.
15. St. John’s College, Washington, D.C. (9-1)
Previous rank: 17.
In the Huddle: The Cadets captured the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season title. Season complete.
16. Bergen Catholic, Oradell, N.J. (10-2)
Previous rank: 18.
In the Huddle: Advanced to the Non-Public Group 4 final. Season complete.
17. Chaminade-Madonna College Prep, Hollywood, Fla. (12-2)*
Previous rank: 19.
In the Huddle: Won a second straight Class 3A state championship, defeating King’s Academy (West Palm Beach), 38-10, in the final. The Lions were down 10-0 in the second quarter when RB Willie Davis scored on runs of 14 and 13 yards for a 14-10 lead they would not relinquish. QB Daelen Menard completed 14 of 22 passes for 218 yards and two TDs to WRs John Dunmore and Elijah Canion. TCU-bound DE Thomas Armstrong was a monster on defense with 12 tackles (8 solos), 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Season complete.
18. Cardinal Gibbons, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (13-2)*
Previous rank: Not ranked.
In the Huddle: Won the Class 5A state championship, routing North Marion (Citra), 48-10, in the final. The Chiefs were down 10-3 but rattled off the final 45 points to claim the program’s first-ever state crown. RB Vincent Davis carried 20 times for 130 yards and two TDs of 49 and 3 yards. DE Trevis Robinson recorded six tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss. Season complete.
19. Xavier, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (13-0)*
Previous rank: 20.
In the Huddle: Won a second consecutive Iowa Class 3A state championship. Season complete.
20. Columbus, Miami, Fla. (14-1) @
Previous rank: 10.
In the Huddle: The Explorers were denied in the Florida Class 8A final, dropping a heartbreaker to Mandarin, 37-35. Trailing 37-21 early in the fourth, the Explorers mounted a comeback. Kalani Norris caught a 32-yard TD pass from QB Brandon McDuffey and a two-point conversion made it 37-29. McDuffey hit Xzavier Henderson for a 9-yard score with 1:17 left, but a two-point conversion for the tie was stopped. RB Henry Parrish carried 23 times for 149 yards and McDuffey connected on 15 of 25 passes for 293 yards and five TDs, including three to Henderson, who caught 7 passes for 187 yards. Season complete.
21. St. Edward, Lakewood, Ohio (11-3)*
Previous rank: 21.
In the Huddle: Won the Division I state championship; the program’s fourth overall. Season complete.
22. Nazareth Academy, LaGrange Park, Ill. (13-1)*
Previous rank: 22.
In the Huddle: Won the Class 7A state championship. Season complete.
23. 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. Season complete.
24. Cathedral Catholic, San Diego, Calif. (12-1)
Previous rank: 24.
In the Huddle: Idle. Coach Sean Doyle’s team is off this week and meets offensive-juggernaut Folsom in the CIF Division 1-AA Bowl Game on Friday in Norwalk.
25. Eastside Catholic, Sammamish, Wash. (12-1)*
Previous rank: 25.
In the Huddle: Idle Won the Class 3A state championship. The Crusaders travel to Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.) for the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series on Dec. 22.
Dropped: No. 14 Catholic (Baton Rouge, La.).
Special Consideration: Cathedral Prep (Erie, Pa.)*; 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*; 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.)*; Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.); Mount Carmel (Chicago, Ill.); San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno, Calif.); 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.).
* Won a state or conference postseason championship
# Includes a forfeit loss
@ Includes a forfeit win