Good Counsel Sits Atop Preseason Rankings
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Possibly even more challenging than two-a-day practices in 2010's sweltering temperatures, was the compellation of CatholicSportsNet's high school football preseason team rankings. The pool of national talent features some incredibly talented squads, a slew of veteran coaches, and a huge group of exceptional athletes.
span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Arial;">LOUISVILLE, KY (Catholic Sports Net) - Possibly even more challenging than two-a-day practices in 2010's sweltering temperatures, was the compellation of CatholicSportsNet's high school football preseason team rankings. The pool of national talent features some incredibly talented squads, a slew of veteran coaches, and a huge group of exceptional athletes.
In the end, however, only ten teams were selected and chosen as the nation's top Catholic high school football teams for the upcoming season. Selection was completed based on 2009 team results, loss or addition of key players and personnel, opinion of local coaches/analysts, and existing polls/ranking lists. Once the season gets underway, the rankings will fluctuate based on game results, strength of schedule, and deficit of victory/defeat.
Leading the way for this season's list of CSN's top teams, and anchored by CatholicSportsNet.com All-American defenders Blake Countess and Vincent Croce, is Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, MD). Coming off an 11-1 season and 14-7 state championship victory over DeMatha (who is ranked No. 10 overall on this list), the Good Counsel Falcons are poised to extend the six-game winning streak they take into 2010 and recapture the coveted state title.
Bob Milloy, who has been with OLGC since 2001, did not back down when putting together this season's schedule. Along with the usual stiff competition within the team's own Washington Catholic League, the Falcons will also make the trip to Cincinnati at the end of August and open its season in a huge game against national powerhouse Cincinnati St. Xavier (OH). The team's Oct. 8 showdown with in-state rival DeMatha will also be another big game.
Following Good Counsel is another seasoned coach, as George Smith and his St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, FL) team have a firm grasp on the No. 2 position. The Raiders are led by five CatholicSportsNet.com All-Americans (WR Rashad Greene, CB Marcus Roberson, WR Phillip Dorsett, P Justin DuVernois, and OT Bobby Hart) and return seven total starters (offensive and defensive) overall. Senior quarterback Jake Rudock, who threw for nearly 1,500 passing yards and 27 touchdowns, is also back for Aquinas and will factor heavily in the team's success. Aquinas won their district last year, but was thwarted by Manatee 28-20 after a deep run into the 2009 postseason.
Rounding out spots 3-5 are a trio of California teams: Servite (Anaheim), Junipero Serra (Gardena), and De La Salle (Concord). Servite is led by CSN All-Americans Troy Niklas and Connor Loftus and are coming off an 11-1 campaign that included a state title and a Trinity League championship, which was the team's fifth straight. Before last season's state championship victory, the Friars hadn't won a state title since 1982, but a repeat is highly likely under the direction of Head Coach Troy Thomas.
The Cavaliers of Junipero Serra went a perfect 15-0 last season, and return the main core responsible for those wins. CatholicSportsNet.com Preseason All-Americans George Farmer (WR), Jason Gibson (LB), and Marqise Lee (ATH) will lead Scott Altenberg's team and are hoping for a year as successful and exciting as 2009 - a season that saw the Cavs defeat Oaks Christian 42-41 in overtime to capture the CIF-SS title and then a 24-20 win over Marin Catholic to take home the whole thing.
De La Salle is best known for "The Streak" - a 12-year run (1992-2003) where the Spartans won 151 consecutive games. During that time, Bob Ladouceur's team was named national champion seven different times and even had a book written about them. This version of De La Salle is equally dangerous, and behind the leadership of CSN All-American Blake Renaud and junior quarterback Bart Houston, the Spartans are on a mission. Their Sept. 25 with Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman will be a game to watch.
Ranked No. 6 overall in the CSN poll is the aforementioned St. Xavier High School (Cincinnati, OH). Led by a perennially impressive defense, the Bombers return senior linebackers Steven Daniels and Sean Duggan (CatholicSportsNet.com All Americans) and are certain to cause problems for opposition offenses. Cincinnati St. X also touts one of this season's toughest national schedules, as Steve Specht will take his team into battle against Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Xavier High School (Louisville, KY), Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, OH), Trinity High School (Louisville, KY) and St. Ignatius High School (Cleveland, OH). If the Bombers can hang touch through that gauntlet of games, they should be on track to compete for a state championship.
Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA) has the worst 2009 record of any team in this year's preseason poll, but one look at the Monarchs' quarterback-wide receiver threat of Max Wittek-Victor Blackwell will quickly erase any doubt. These two University of Southern California commits lead an explosive Mater Dei offense and are also two of 15 (of 22) team starters back with the team. Circle Oct. 29 on your schedule for a Mater Dei vs. Servite showdown at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
The eighth position is reserved for St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, NJ). Touting a senior who is one of the best running backs in the country, Savon Huggins (CSN All-American), the Marauders will try to push this program back to the top of the mountain. Prep has won ten consecutive Hudson County titles and has appeared in the state championship game four out of the last five years, but hasn't actually captured a state championship since 2005. Senior defensive back Shelden Royster will also be a key component for SPP. His versatility and superb athleticism allowed him to accummulate nearly 600 total yards on the offensive side of the ball.
The final two teams in the top ten poll have already been mentioned, but are certainly worth talking about again. No. 9 Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas, NV) is the defending state champion and also took home the trophy in 2007. Tony Sanchez's Gaels squad also ran the table in 2009 (15-0 record) and is favored to do it again. CatholicSportsNet.com All-American DE Jalen Grimble, who has already committed to USC, will be a force for the defense. Joining Grimble on the defensive side is fellow CSN All-American Evan Zeger. Along with his 55 tackles in 2009, Zeger also blocked four punts, four interceptions, and a blocked kick on his resume. Overall, the Gaels return 12 total starters, included a talented crop of JV players who also went undefeated last season.
Last, but not least, the DeMatha High School (Hyattsville, MD) Stags round out the list. Senior CatholicSportsNet.com All-Americans Cyrus Kouandjio and Darian Cooper will be the names to know entering the season, but Bill McGregor's team also features running back/linebacker Delonte Morton (verbally committed to Maryland) and tight end Sam Collura (verbal to Pittsburgh), who are also back for the Stags. Prior to last season's defeat at the hands of Good Counsel, DeMatha had won the previous six WCAC state championships.
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