Spring football provides a first impression of what may come during the fall months, when it counts, on the high school football field.
With prep powers from coast to coast beginning to wrap up showcases, SBLive and Sports Illustrated connected to launch the preseason Power 25 high school football ranking. Thirteen states were represented in the final, way-too-early tally, with Los Angeles-area rivals Mater Dei and St. John Bosco taking the top two spots. The schools were followed by perennial contender IMG Academy, which played its spring game as a split-squad scrimmage on Thursday evening.
The Top 10
1. Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
The Power 25 champions from 2021, in what was another undefeated campaign under Bruce Rollinson, will pick up where they left off in the winter. Class of 2024 quarterback Elijah Brown is back, armed with fresh offers from Georgia and Alabama, after throwing for 30 touchdowns as a sophomore. The offensive line will be a strength while many stars on defense, including two SI99 recruits, will have to be replaced.
2. Bellflower (Calif.) St. Johnson Bosco
The Braves bring back experience across the board, including at QB in rising-senior passer Pierce Clarkson. The Louisville commitment split reps in years past, but will likely have a chance to be the full-time starter in 2022. Fellow UofL pledge Jahlil McClain leads a strong group of pass-catchers while two-way star Matayo Uiagalelei will anchor the Bosco defense.
3. Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
New coach, similar talent. Head coach Billy Miller takes over for Pepper Johnson with a loaded roster, as per usual, for the boarding school. The offensive line is revamped, led by Francis Mauigoa and recent Florida commitment Knijeah Harris. They’re set to protect an underclassman quarterback, regardless of how the battle for the position shakes out, along with talented skill position players, like Carnell Tate, on the outside. Defensively, it’s the typical IMG Academy star power, led by a pair of rising-junior cornerbacks in Desmond Ricks and Ellis Robinson IV.
4. Chandler (Ariz.) High School
The program was barely in the final Power 25 from 2021, ranking 23rd in December, but returns plenty of talent to pair with new quarterback and 2024 Ohio State commitment Dylan Raiola. The Hawaii native prepped in Texas in 2021 and dominated the competition as one of the top players in high school football to the point he could contend for top passer in the vaunted class of 2023 with Arch Manning and Co. in the mix.
5. Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
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Another top program with a key quarterback returning in Micah Alejado, Gorman has elite skill prospects to flank on both sides of the ball. Zachariah Branch may be the top slot receiver in the SI99 rankings come July, while defensive back Justyn Rhett is among the top secondary prospects in the class of 2023. Branch is committed to USC and Rhett recently flipped from Notre Dame to Georgia.
6. Baltimore (Md.) St. Frances Academy
SFA has a tough schedule, as usual, but happens to be equipped with one of the best defenses on this list. Linemen Dashawn Womack and Gabriel Williams anchor the trenches while Christian Garrett could lead a strong secondary.
7. Houston (Texas) North Shore
North Shore comes into the season as the 6A Division 1 title favorite in Texas after winning that crown a year ago. As a freshman, North Shore QB Kaleb Bailey led the Mustangs to their third Class 6A Division I state championship in the last four years in 2021. He’s back for his sophomore season along with 2023 cornerback Jacoby Davis, one of the top recruits in Texas. A decent number of other impact players on the offensive side of the ball return for North Shore this season as well.
8. Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro
Saguaro won the Open Division state championship in Arizona last season beating both Hamilton and Chandler, two state powers, to take home the title. Chandler is the favorite to win that crown this year, but Saguaro will still be dangerous. 2023 QB Devon Dampier returns along with 2024 playmakers Jaedon Matthews, Jaci Dickerson and JoJo Clark.
9. Austin (Texas) Westlake
The Chaps haven’t lost a game since 2019, and while they have had to replace top talent like No. 1 SI99 quarterback Cade Klubnik (Clemson), there are multiple capable passers on the roster to replace him including Paxton Land. Finishing No. 2 in the final ranking of 2021, Westlake is strong up front and has one of the most productive one-two receiving duos in Texas in Jaden Greathouse and Keaton Kubecka. The duo hauled in a combined 33 touchdowns during last year’s championship run.
10. Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson
The Alabama power is always known for offense but the defense could begin to be considered a calling card with the star power back for the Warriors. Led by Peter Woods, arguably the top prospect in the Yellowhammer State, it won’t be easy to score on the defending state champions. The secondary should be the strongest unit on the roster with Tony Mitchell, Anquon Fegans and Dale Miller all notable Power Five prospects who can move around the back end.
View the full Power 25 Rankings here.
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