Spring football provides a first glimpse of what can happen on the high school football field during the fall months when it matters most.
With coast-to-coast prep forces beginning to wrap up the showcases, SBLive and Sports Illustrated have partnered to launch the Power 25 preseason high school football rankings. Thirteen states were represented in the final, far too early tally, with Los Angeles-area rivals Mater Dei and St. John Bosco taking the top two spots. The schools were followed by long-running hit IMG Academy, which played its spring game Thursday night as a split-squad scrimmage.
The Top 10
1. Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei
The Power 25 champions of 2021, in another unbeaten campaign under Bruce Rollinson, will pick up where they left off over the winter. Class of 2024 quarterback Elijah Brown is back armed with new offers from Georgia and Alabama after scoring 30 touchdowns as a sophomore. The offensive line will be a strength while many stars on defense, including two SI99 recruits, need replacing.
2. Bellflower (California) St. Johnson Bosco
The Braves are bringing back experience across the board, including rising senior passer Pierce Clarkson from the QB. The Louisville signing has split in recent years but will likely have a chance to be the full-time starter in 2022. UofL member Jahlil McClain leads a strong group of pass catchers while two-way star Matayo Uiagalelei will solidify the Bosco defense.
3. Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
New coach, similar talent. As usual, head coach Billy Miller is taking on a full boarding school roster for Pepper Johnson. The offensive line is being remodeled, led by Francis Mauigoa and recent Florida signing Knijeah Harris. They’re ready to protect an underclassman quarterback no matter how the fight for position goes, along with talented positional players like Carnell Tate on the outside. Defensively, it’s quintessential IMG Academy star power, led by two up-and-coming junior cornerbacks in Desmond Ricks and Ellis Robinson IV.
4. Chandler (Ariz.) High School
The program was barely in the final Power 25 of 2021, finishing 23rd in December, but brings back plenty of talent to pair with new quarterback and Ohio State commitment in 2024 Dylan Raiola. The Hawaiian native was training in Texas in 2021 and dominating the competition as one of the best players in high school football to the point where he was battling with Arch Manning and company for the top passer in the vaunted class of 2023.
5. Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
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Another top-flight program with a key quarterback returning in Micah Alejado, Gorman has elite ability to cross on either side of the ball. Zachariah Branch could be the top slot receiver in the SI99 rankings next July, while defender Justyn Rhett is among the top secondaries in the Class of 2023. Branch is committed to USC and Rhett recently relocated to Georgia from Notre Dame.
6. Baltimore (Md.) St Frances Academy
SFA has a tough schedule, as usual, but happens to come equipped with one of the best defenses on this list. Linemen Dasshawn Womack and Gabriel Williams are anchoring the trenches while Christian Garrett could lead a strong secondary.
7. Houston (Texas) North Shore
North Shore goes into the season as the 6A Division 1 title favorite in Texas, having won that crown a year ago. As a freshman North Shore QB Caleb Bailey led the Mustangs to their third Class 6A Division I state championship for the past four years in 2021. He is back for his second season along with the 2023 cornerback Jacoby Davis, one of the best recruits in Texas. A decent number of other hitters on the offensive side of the ball are also returning for North Shore this season.
8. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro
Saguaro won the Arizona Open Division state championship last season, beating both Hamilton and Chandler, two state powers, to take home the title. Chandler is the favorite for the crown this year, but Saguaro will still be dangerous. 2023 QB Devon Dampier returns along with 2024 Playmakers Jaedon Matthews, JAci Dickerson and Jo Jo Clark.
9. Austin (Texas) West Lake
The Chaps haven’t lost a game since 2019, and while they’ve had to replace top talent like SI99 No. 1 quarterback Cade Klubnik (Clemson), there are several capable passers on the list who could replace him, including Paxton Land. 2nd in the 2021 finals, Westlake is strong up front and has one of the most prolific doubles winning duos in Texas in Jaden Greathouse and Keaton Kubecka. The duo totaled 33 touchdowns during last year’s championship run.
10. Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson
The Alabama power is always known for offense, but defense may start to be considered a calling card when star power returns for the Warriors. Led by Peter Woods, arguably Yellowhammer State’s best candidate, scoring against the state’s defending champions won’t be easy. The secondary should be the strongest unit on the roster with Tony Mitchell, Anquon Fegans and Dale Miller all notable Power Five prospects able to move in the backend.
Check out the full Power 25 leaderboard here.
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