The year-round, unlimited, unregulated sports practices, Morenci Athletic Director Frank Ogas believes, will only lead to specialization, recruitment, reduction of athletes playing three sports or a minimum of two sports, coaching conflicts to convince ...
Football teams still can’t wear helmets and shoulder pads during off-season workouts. But other than that, the high school sports landscape appears to be shifting towards an all-time high in the relentless pursuit of rings.
After the Arizona Interscholastic Association overwhelmingly passed a March emergency legislation measure that allows coaches to hold practices year-round, the possibilities appear boundless.
Many coaches say it won’t change anything.
“Most of us were getting around the rule by running camps and doing what we will be doing now without the disguise of a camp,” Mesa Red Mountain football coach Mike Peterson said in an email.
It already has been a year-round process of building teams. Chandler district schools for years have sports-specific courses with the head coach basically leading them through hour-long practices involving drill work.
New Tempe McClintock football coach Corbin Smith said he plans to take full advantage of the rule with summer workouts after a week off during the Fourth of July.
“The question becomes, ‘How long do you go?’ Our staff will determine what we want to do for those two weeks and we will go on the field in the morning after lifting,” Smith said. “Kids still need a bit of a break before the grind of fall camp begins. I learned a long time ago that there is a difference between grinding and over-working.”
Rule brings concerns about specialization
Some coaches, especially at smaller schools, see this rule, or lack of rule, as a way to steer kids into one sport.
The year-round, unlimited, unregulated sports practices, Morenci Athletic Director Frank Ogas believes, will only lead to specialization, recruitment, reduction of athletes playing three sports or a minimum of two sports, coaching conflicts to convince the specialization of athletes.
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“Not even do collegiate Division I sports have this rule in their programs,” said Ogas, the school’s former football coach. “Coaches’ contact with student-athletes is regulated and limited based on letting college athletes concentrate on their academics and, simply put, letting them be young men and women, who need a break from the rigors of their respective sports.”
Queen Creek American Leadership Academy Athletic Director and football coach Rich Edwards, who helped ALA become the first charter school to capture a 3A state football championship last season, said he is not a fan of the rule.
A lot of ALA students play multiple sports, Edwards said, and he fears they could be at a disadvantage compared with the students who specialize in one sports and get to spend their off-seasons focused in a single area.
“As you know some coaches are out of balance and we want to guard against that and make sure coaches can be with their families. We do not make our weights program mandatory in June or July. We only make official start of practice mandatory. But with our level of athletes improving and our numbers increasing, the kids know it is more competitive now and if they want to compete they need to be here.”
AAU basketball, 7-on-7 football, club travel baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer and personalized coaching have been around. They’re not going away, as long as there are parents and student-athletes chasing scholarships.
Schools may not feel the impact until December through April, when it was about bonding in the weight room.
Coaches will be able to form spring passing leagues during this time.
“For as long as I can remember, the summer months have been the Wild West,” Phoenix St. Mary’s football coach Tommy Brittain said. “Last summer, for example, football teams could practice as long as they wanted to as long they did not use pads. This is true for soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, etc.
“What I will feel compelled to do December-through-April is where it gets interesting and problematic,” Brittain said. “What baseball and basketball coaches want to do August through October is what might ultimately hurt football, as well.”
‘AIA couldn’t compete with clubs so they opened it up’
Tucson Catalina Foothills football coach Jeff Scurran calls it “a frustration rule” that, he believes, shows that people in the AIA either don’t have the answers or don’t care.
“I’m sympathetic because the money for education in Arizona with private and parochial schools, and going away from public schools, is in flux, and, like club teams, you follow the money,” Scurran said. “Club teams aren’t regulated. They can recruit, buy kids, and even encourage domicile rules to be broken.
“The AIA had no answers so they’ve opened it up so schools could compete. But first these clubs must have the money or they can’t buy the best kids.”
Dave Hines, who has been promoted to AIA executive director, said this will all be a work in progress and expects another conversation by this time next year.
“I’m a little more old-school,” said Hines, a former track coach and Mesa Mountain View athletic director. “I think both the kids and the coaches need time off. But I think over time, we force coaches to be club coaches and outside LLCs.
“If kids aren’t participating in a sport, and (the coach) wants to work with a kid a little bit, I think it’s OK. What will be tough to handle is the overzealous coach who demands the kids be there and won’t relent. They start having issues. We’ll see.”
The move to year-round practice could also impact those coaches who pick up extra work to help pay the bills, said former Phoenix Horizon football coach Kris Heavner. Heavner stepped away from his role as Scottsdale Chaparral’s offensive coordinator after the first major 7-on-7 passing tournament, even though the Chaparral job gave him a chance to mentor Jack Miller, one of the top-recruited quarterbacks.
Heavner has a day job outside of coaching football and a young family.
“This state scares the heck out of me in how most schools only have a handful of coaches on campus, but then expect a coach who has a day job to fulfill all those coaching duties. (They’d have to do that) while working a 40-45-hour job and then putting 20 to 25 more hours a week towards football,” Heavner said.
“I have a skill I was blessed with — to coach football and score a lot of points. But unfortunately that does not pay the bills because you can’t live off a stipend that only pays $2,000 to $4,00,” he said. “I have a heavy heart towards coaches who carry on a day job not on campus and then coach on the side, because their families never see them.”
It’s been a never-ending, revolving door of new coaches every year, especially in football, where there are so many more players involved, more pitfalls to try to protect.
The “no days off” mantra has never rang more true.
Longtime Peoria Centennial coach Richard Taylor has built his program into a perennial state powerhouse, but he has never felt more coerced to grind it year-round than now.
“It’s really too bad,” he said. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to. But I feel like we have to. If we don’t, parents will say, ‘Those other schools are doing that. Maybe we’ll go to another school, because they do.’ “
1. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) will attempt to equal De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) as the only teams to win four consecutive Super 25 football titles. The teams will play in Week 3 this season in Las Vegas and face off in California in 2018.
Photo: Icon Sportswire, AP Images
2. Kimberly (Wis.) enters the season with a nation’s best 56-game winning streak. Kimblerly has won four consecutive state titles; only Stratford with six has won more in state history.
Photo: Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
3. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 recruit in 2018, will attempt to lead Cartersville (Ga.) to another state title. Cartersville finished 15-0 and is on a 30-game winning streak.
Photo: Rusty Mansell, 247Sports
4. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) will have a new quarterback -- either transfer and Miami commit Artur Sitkowski or last year’s backup Zack Annexstad -- and prominent additions on offense and defense (such as No. 2 overall prospect Xavier Thomas) as it attempts another perfect season.
5. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) has a new coach for the second consecutive season. Christian Hunnicutt, who spent the 2015 season as offensive line coach, replaces Jeff Herron, who led Grayson to a state title in his only season. Hunnicutt helped Buford to seven state titles from 2004 to 2011.
Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports
6. Claude Mathis is back coaching high school football. After two years at SMU, Mathis is the head coach at Marshall in east Texas. From 2008 to 2014, Mathis had a 74-18 record with two state semifinal appearances. Marshall was 6-5 last year.
Photo: Marshall ISD
7. Longtime Cedar Hill coach Joey McGuire is now on the staff at Baylor and Carlos Lynn is back at Cedar Hill. Lynn spent nine years on the Cedar Hill staff and then had a 45-50 record in nine years at Seguin (Arlington).
Photo: John Glaser, TexasHSFootball.com
8. Who will end up where in Florida as the next phase of the state’s open enrollment law goes into effect for the 2017-18 academic year? The legislation requires that students who switch schools be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports.
9. A total of 147 11-man football teams went undefeated last season. New York led all states with 10. Bremond (pictured) was among six unbeaten teams in Texas.
Photo: Joseph Nguyen, TexasHSFootball.com
10. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), coming off three consecutive state titles, will open against California power St. John Bosco (Bellflower) on Aug. 25 in south Florida in one of the more highly anticipated interstate games.
Photo: Ray Carlin, USA TODAY Sports Images
11. Former Maryville (Tenn.) quarterback Derek Hunt replaces his former coach George Quarles as coach. Quarles, who left to join the coaching staff at Furman, led the Rebels to 11 state championships since 1999. He finished with a 250-16 record with 15 state championship appearances. His teams had winning streaks of 74 (2004-08) and 44 (2013-2015).
12. Memphis, which is known traditionally as a hotbed for basketball, showed in 2016 that it also has its share of football talent. Memphis high schools won four of eight of the Tennessee football championships – Lausanne (Division II-A), Trezevant (Class 2A), Memphis East (Class 4A) and Whitehaven (pictured) (Class 6A). Now, with a ninth class added in 2017, the Bluff City looks to continue that success.
Photo: Helen Comer, DNJ
13. Longtime assistant Dan Anderson (pictured) takes over for Tom Mach at Detroit Catholic Central. Mach won 10 state titles in 41 years leading the Shamrocks. His 370 victories rank second all-time in the state.
Photo: Detroit Central Catholic
14. Judson (Converse, Texas) returns a stacked team. The Rockets have to make it out of a difficult region, but there's a chance they could be one of the top teams in the nation. They face defending state champions Lake Travis in the opener.
Photo: GoRocketPride.com via TexasHSFootball.com
15. Texas state champions Lake Travis and DeSoto are losing some massive names, but return talent at key positions. It's difficult to repeat in Texas, but these schools will have a solid chance.
Photo: John Glaser, TexasHSFootball.com
16. Does Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) have the top QB-WR combo? J.T. Daniels threw for 4,849 yards last season with 67 touchdowns. Amon-Ra St. Brown, the No. 3 receiver in the Class of 2108, had 24 of them. Brother Osiris had 31, but he will be at Stanford in the fall.
17. Bedford was the lone unbeaten team in New Hampshire last season with a 12-0 mark and the Division I state title. The Bulldogs won the state semifinals and final by a touchdown each.
Photo: Bedford Football
18. Jackson Carman of Fairfield (Ohio) is the top-ranked offensive tackle prospect in the country and could be the first top-rated Ohio player to leave the state during Urban Meyer's time at Ohio State.
19. No one is still quite sure why or how, but Greg Toal is out as head coach at Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) and replaced by former Rutgers star quarterback Mike Teel (pictured). The Ironmen will be led by a ferocious line anchored by one of New Jersey's top prospects in Tyler Friday and he will clear the way for precocious sophomore running back Jalen Berger.
Photo: Marko Georgiev, NorthJersey.com
20. It has now been 13 years since Bergen Catholic (Oradell) last won a New Jersey state title, the longest drought since the state shifted to its current playoff format in 1974. Crusaders coach Nunzio Campanile will hope that senior quarterback Johnny Langan (North Jersey's version of "Johnny Football") can stay healthy this season.
Photo: Chris Monroe, NorthJersey.com
21. Dowling Catholic (West Des Moines) enters the season as the four-time defending state champions in Iowa’s biggest class. The Maroons became the first Class 4A team to win three straight state titles in 2015, then followed it up with their fourth straight and fifth in seven years when they beat Iowa City West 23-10. Dowling has also won 52 out of its last 54 games.
Photo: Bryon Houlgrave, The Register
22. Pella is the three-time defending Iowa Class 3A state champions. Even more, the Little Dutch have won 41 straight games. Pella’s last loss came on Nov. 8, 2013, a 28-0 loss to Washington, and the program is the 10th team in Iowa to boast a winning streak of 40 games or more (Iowa City Regina holds the record of 56 straight wins between Nov. 2010 and Aug. 2014).
Photo: The Register
23. Hartford, last year’s Vermont Division I champion, will be chasing the program’s 13th crown this fall. The Hurricanes have won six D-I titles since 2007.
Photo: Glenn Russell, Burlington Free Press
24. Taulia Tagovailoa, the brother of Alabama freshman QB Tua, is heading to Thompson High in Alabama. The family will move from Hawaii to be closer to Tua. Taulia threw for more than 3,100 yards and 41 touchdowns as a sophomore at Kapolei.
Photo: Honolulu Star-Advertiser
25. The inaugural Polynesian Football Classic in Las Vegas on Sept. 9 will feature Alta (Sandy, Utah) vs. Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) in the opener and Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) vs. Kahuka (Hawaii) in the second game.
Photo: Ray Carlin, USA TODAY Sports Images
26. Luke McCaffrey, a rising junior, is expected to be a key weapon at Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) Brother Dylan, the team's quarterback last season, will enroll at Michigan this summer. They are brothers of Christian McCaffrey and the son of former Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey. Colorado commit Blake Stenstrom is the projected starter at QB.
Photo: Daniel Brenner, The Coloradoan
27. Alex Huston of Glendale (Springfield, Mo.) threw for 6,131 yards last season – No. 2 all time for a single season. That included 706 yards in a single game. He enters his senior year with 11,739 yards.
Photo: Guillermo Hernandez Martinez, News-Leader
28. Life after Cam Akers begins for Mississippi 6A state champion Clinton against South Panola (Batesville, Miss.). Akers had 3,128 passing yards and 31 touchdowns with 2,105 rushing yards and 34 rushing touchdowns before heading to Florida State.
Photo: Chris Todd, Clarion-Ledger
29. Two of the top five recruits in Oklahoma play for Southmoore (Moore, Okla.) – top-ranked Brey Walker (pictured), an offensive tackle committed to the Sooners, and No. 5 Casey Thompson, a quarterback committed to Texas.
30. DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) remains a powerhouse and won its fourth consecutive WCAC title and finished in the top 5 in the Super 25. They head into 2017, though, without quarterback Beau English, who has moved to the Air Force Academy.
Photo: Derik Hamilton, USA TODAY Sports
31. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) loses ALL-USA guard Wyatt Davis to Ohio State but returns quarterback Re-al Mitchell for a second season as the starter. Mitchell accounted for 31 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns along with 4,000 total yards last season.
Photo: Brandon C. Severn, The Enquirer
32. St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia) became the state’s first 6A champion last fall under the new classification system and had its first 14-0 season in school history. The Prep has won three state titles in the last four years, but must replace Georgia-bound star D’Andre Swift, who had eight TDs in his three state title games.
Photo: James Robinson, PennLive.com via AP
33. The Rock-a-Chaws of St. Stanislaus (Bay St. Louis, Miss.) have been hit with the double-whammy of losing Myles Brennan, one of the top quarterbacks in state history, and coach Bill Conides. Brennan is heading to LSU; Conides has moved to Denham Springs (La.) after a 34-8 run in three seasons in Mississippi.
Photo: Chris Todd, The Clarion-Ledger
34. Archbishop Murphy (Everett, Wash.) made national headlines on the way to a 2A state title and perfect season because five of its six league opponents forfeited when players and parents cited safety concerns. Here’s hoping things get back to some sense of normalcy in the Cascade Conference.
Photo: Ted S. Warren, AP
35. Oregon’s top quarterback might again be a two-sport star. Jake Dukart is an Arizona State baseball commit and threw for more than 1,100 yards in eight games last season for Lake Oswego. Tim Tawa, a Stanford baseball signee, is considered by many to be he top high school QB prospect ever from the state.
36. Can anybody in Alaska stop Soldotna? The Stars are coming off their fifth consecutive Alaska Medium School state title and own the state record for winning streaks with 49 in a row.
Photo: Soldotna Football
37. Two years after Lake Stevens (Wash.) Jacob Eason was among the top QB prospects in the nation, the state of Washington has found another elite passer in Jacob Sirmon (pictured) from Bothell. Ranked as the No. 3 pro-style QB in the class, Sirmon has opted to stay home and has committed to Washington. He threw for more than 3,700 yards and had 29 passing touchdowns as a junior.
38. Dan Bangura from Harvest Prep (Canal Winchester, Ohio) is the nation’s leading returning rusher after posting 4,128 yards last season on a whopping 11.1 yards per carry.
Photo: Jason Mowry, World Harvest Church
39. Braxton Ashcraft from Robinson (Texas) can throw the ball. The 6-6 righthander has committed to Baylor baseball. He can catch it, too. The nation’s leading returning receiver, he surpassed 2,000 yards and had 37 touchdowns last season.
40. Jordan Byrd from Manzano (Albuquerque) is ranked as the top prospect in New Mexico and can do a bit of everything. He had 489 yards passing, 874 yards rushing and 381 yards receiving and 244 return yards.
41. Sheridan (Wyo.) has won back-to-back state 4A titles but must replace Gatorade Player of the Year Coy Steel, who was a star at defensive back and wide receiver during an 11-1 season.
Photo: Wyoming Tribune Eagle
42. Timber Creek will look to capture its third straight South Jersey Group 4 title this fall behind the arm of quarterback Devin Leary. The New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and North Carolina State commit is coming off a record-setting junior season in which he set state records for touchdown passes (48) and passing yards (3,688) in a single season. He's currently third in South Jersey history with 6,809 passing yards and 74 touchdowns.
Photo: Joe Warner, Courier-Post
43. Longtime Florence (N.J.) coach Joe Frappolli (pictured) will look to join Paul Sacco of St. Joseph (Hammonton) as the only two coaches in South Jersey history to reach the 300-win plateau. Hired by his alma mater in 1974 as its head coach, Frappolli owns a career record of 297-135-5. Sacco is No. 1 at 305-62-5.
Photo: Jose F. Moreno, Courier-Post
44. Benny Sapp III is the top-ranked recruit in Minnesota and a Gophers commit after transferring from St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. He is the son of the former Vikings defensive back, but he is coming off two ACL surgeries and has not played in two years. Will he be able to contribute for Eden Prairie (Minn.)?
45. Bellevue West (Bellevue, Neb.) won the state Class A title last season by going 13-0 and posting 653 points, an average of almost 49 per game. But the Thunderhawks must replace running Jaylin Bradley, who set state Class A records with 52 touchdowns and 312 points.
Photo: Mike Sautter, NebraskaHSSports
46. Cameron Jurgens from Beatrice is ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Nebraska and the No. 5 tight end in the nation. He is already committed to the Cornhuskers. Jurgens averaged 12.4 yards per catch last season for Beatrice (8-3 in 2016).
Photo: Michael Bruntz, 247Sports
47. There hasn’t been a repeat winner in Indiana’s biggest class since Warren Central won four consecutive state titles from 2003-06. That trend held true again last year as Carmel upset Center Grove in the Class 6A finals in thrilling 16-13 overtime game. Can the Greyhounds repeat? They lose quite a bit to graduation but return quarterback Jake McDonald and linebackers Beau Robbins and Joey Schmidt.
Photo: Mykal McEldowney, Indystar
48. The Mr. Football race in Indiana should be a good one. Ben Davis quarterback Reese Taylor, Cathedral running back Markese Stepp and Decatur Central all-everything Tyrone Tracy (pictured) are a few names to watch for the state’s top senior award.
Photo: Mykal McEldowney, Indystar
49. As per custom, Oklahoma powerhouses Jenks and Tulsa Union will have an early season showdown; this year’s game is Sept. 8. Jenks, led by coach Allan Trimble (pictured), has won the last two meetings. The two schools have combined for the last 21 state titles in the largest class -- 13 for Jenks and eight for Union.
50. Talanoa Hufanga from Crescent Valley (Corvallis, Ore.) is ranked as the No. 3 athlete in the class and has seen his stock rise. Hufanga is expected to play defense at the next level, but had more than 1,500 total yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior.
51. New LSU coach Ed Orgeron wanted to make recruiting at home a priority. So far, the Tigers have commitments from three of the top four players in the state – cornerback Kelvin Joseph, defensive tackle Davin Cotton (pictured) and inside linebacker Micah Baskerville. Wide receiver Terrance Marshall, ranked No. 1, remains uncommitted.
Photo: Douglas Collier, The Times
52. St. Frances (Baltimore) finished 10-2 last season with both losses to out-of-state teams. The school has among the more intriguing prospects in the Class of 2018 in Eyabi Anoma, a basketball player turned defensive end who is ranked among the top 10 players nationally.
Photo: Tom Lemming
53. Brother Rice (Birmingham, Mich.) has a new coach, bringing in Seaholm defensive coordinator Adam Korzeniewski. Rice won state titles in 2011-13 when Korzeniewski was the defensive coordinator there.
Photo: Brother Rice
54. Isaac Hennen from Minneota returns as the leading scorer in Minnesota last season with 31 touchdowns. Minneota is 40-1 with two Class A state titles in the last three years.
Photo: Star Tribune
55. Maine Central (Pittsford) went undefeated a year ago and won the state Class D title after losing in the final the last two years to Oak Hill. Oak Hill had won all three state titles since Class D was reinstituted in 2013 after a hiatus since 1986.
Photo: Troy R. Bennett, Bangor Daily News
56. Two-time defending Delaware Division I champion Smyrna will take a 22-game winning streak into 2017. With All-State RBs Will Knight and Leddie Brown and four starting offensive linemen returning, coach Mike Judy’s Eagles - who averaged 52.7 points per game in going 12-0 last season - should fly high again. Smyrna opens the season Sept. 8 at Middletown in a rematch of last year’s D-I title game, won by the Eagles 36-14.
Photo: William Bretzger, The News Journal
57. Middletown has been searching for a replacement for longtime coach Mark DelPercio, who announced his resignation in March to pursue coaching opportunities in Texas. DelPercio amassed a 151-62 record at Glasgow and Middletown, and guided the Cavaliers to DIAA Division I championships in 2007, 2011 and 2012. Middletown has played in the D-I title game in seven of the last 10 years.
Photo: The News Journal
58. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA) head coach Kevin Rooney, who enters his 38th season with the Knights, is five wins away from becoming the ninth coach in California to win 300 career games.
Photo: Notre Dame School
59. Chandler, the defending Arizona state champion, once again will be the team to beat, especially with three transfers who have come in from rival Hamilton. The Wolves return 3,500-yard passer Jacob Conover, a defensive secondary that will tough to throw on, and a swagger that should make them, if nothing else, competitive at home in August against Florida football power IMG Academy.
Photo: Cheryl Evans, azcentral sports
60. Keep an eye on Phoenix North Canyon wide receiver Solomon Enis, rated the No. 1 prospect for the 2018 class in Arizona. He follows last year’s top state prospect Austin Jackson, a left tackle at North Canyon who signed with USC. Enis is as good running the ball as he is catching it. He is the son of former Penn State and NFL running back Curtis Enis.
Photo: Keith Niebuhr, 247Sports
61. Florida this season will join at least a dozen states such as Ohio, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania to use a points or ratings system to seed playoff brackets. However, it will not be the first time the FHSAA has used a point system to seed football playoff brackets, as they did so from the inception of the playoffs in 1963-64 until 1974-75.
62. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) can become the first team to win five consecutive state championships. However, the program will have to do it in Class 5A, not Class 3A, due to changes to FHSAA's playoff format that eliminated districts in the lowest four classifications.
Photo: Jake Perper, FloridaHSFootball.com
63. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) will field two varsity teams for the 2017 season with a national team and a varsity team. The national team will play a schedule against ranked opponents, while the varsity team will play in-state teams from Florida, mostly teams that are in Class 4A and below.
Photo: IMG Academy
64. Can Duxbury (Mass.) turn a state title into a dynasty? In 2016, the Dragons finally finished a four-year reinvention of their program, culminating in a Division 2 state title. Now, with a talented crop of seniors including record-setting quarterback and coach’s son Bobby Maimaron off to college, Duxbury will get a true test of its ability to implement an unstoppable system.
Photo: Barry Chin, Boston Globe
65. Will Xaverian (Westwood, Mass.) bounce back? Xaverian has been the class of Eastern Mass. football in recent years, capturing Division 1 Super Bowl titles in 2014 and 2015 … before running into a buzzsaw of a hot Everett team in the 2016 title game. Even though a quartet of titles is now off the table, Xaverian has motivation to bounce back.
Photo: Xaverian Athletics
66. What to make of Lake Zurich? Nestled in the tony Northwest suburbs of Chicago, Lake Zurich is coming off an embarrassing season that culminated in a hazing scandal and apparent cover-up attempt, leading to the resignation of head coach David Proffitt and athletic director Rolando Vazquez. That has destabilized a perennial playoff team and regional contender.
Photo: Lake Zurich High School
67. Can Northwestern build on recruiting success to own Chicago’s top talent? Illinois isn’t Florida or Texas, but there’s still plenty of elite talent in Chicago and the surrounding area. After a strong season, Pat Fitzgerald has pledged commitments from four of the state’s top-15 players, including top overall prospect Devin O’Rourke. All are from greater Chicagoland.
Photo: Vincent Carchietta, USA TODAY Sports
68. At this point, can we just go ahead and pencil Westfield (Chantilly, Va.) and Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.) into the 6A state title this season? In consecutive years, the Bulldogs and the Tigers have created instant classics in the state title game; both games went to at least one overtime and both were won by Westfield.
Photo: Kevin Delaney
69. Good luck trying to stop Hayfield’s (Quantico, Va.) Brian Cobbs; the 6-foot-2 wide receiver led all juniors in the state with 1,233 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Cobbs averaged 15 yards per catch and scored 13 touchdowns last season.
Photo: Isaiah Hole, 247Sports
70. Can new coach Billy Dawson keep Fayetteville’s (Ark.) consecutive state titles coming? Dawson led Russellville to its first ever state championship last season and has four career state championships. The Bulldogs have won the past two titles.
71. Joe T. Robinson (Little Rock, Ark.) wide receiver Nathan Page isn’t just the highest ranked prospect in the state, he’s also the luckiest. Page walked away from a car accident that resulted in his car being wrapped around a tree late in the season and managed a career night in the next game. What’s he got in store for his senior finale?
72. Trinity (Louisville) will try to win its second straight Class 6-A title - and record 25th title overall - behind two of the state's top college prospects in Class of 2018 wide receiver Rondale Moore (pictured) and Class of 2019 defensive end Stephen Herron.
Photo: Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal
73. Bowling Green won three consecutive Kentucky Class 5-A titles from 2011-13 and will look to accomplish another three-peat after winning the 5-A title in 2015 and 2016. Look for Class of 2020 star running back/defensive back Vito Tisdale to shine on both sides of the ball.
74. In South Dakota’s Class 11AAA, will anyone be able to dethrone two-time defending champion Washington? Taking down the Warriors represents a rather sizable task, as they return most of their key pieces from last season, including All-State tailback Tupak Kpeayeh and offensive lineman Will Farniok, who recently committed to the University of Nebraska.
Photo: Joe Ahlquist, Argus Leader
75. As enrollment figures and participation dwindle, six-man football in South Dakota will continue to be a topic of discussion amongst the small schools. It appears to be a viable solution for the small-town high schools to maintain their programs., but it remains to be seen if it would make sense for the SDHSAA to add the class for the next cycle.
Photo: Argus Leader
76. A fumble into the back of the end zone in overtime, and some Wayne Hills "Magic" (a trick play that truly defies explanation) denied Wayne Valley its first New Jersey sectional championship since 1991. But the Indians and coach Roger Kotlarz return a host of talented playmakers in 2017, but they may have to go through their crosstown rivals once more to get a ring.
Photo: Michael Karas
77. Will Manvel (Texas) gets its redemption? Manvel has lost in the state quarterfinals in each of the last four season. The program returns many solid players as it makes another run at the 5A state championship.
Photo: Ashleigh Arnaud, TexasHSFootball.com
78. Last year saw San Angelo Central come out of West Texas, which is arguably the most storied region in Texas, as a challenger to the bigger schools from DFW. This year, Central reloads for another shot, but it'll have to get past traditional power Odessa Permian, which returns a lot of players from a 6-4 squad that clearly suffered from youthful mistakes.
Photo: Adam Sauceda, San Angelo Standard Times
79. Essex (Vt.) hires program alum Drew Gordon to take over from Charlie Burnett, who guided the Hornets to a memorable undefeated season in 2009 in a nine-year stint. Essex just celebrated the program’s 50th anniversary.
Photo: Glenn Russell, Burlington Free Press
80. The Vermont Interscholastic Football League went through divisional alignments – a process done every two years – and several teams are on the move in the three divisions. That includes Burlington and 30 Mount Mansfield returning to Division I and Division II expanding its playoff field to an eight-team tournament and D-III reverting back to a four-team postseason.
Photo: Brian Jenkins, Burlington Free Press
81. Division I St. Xavier (Cincinnati) became the first five-loss team in OHSAA history to win a state championship last season. La Salle became the first Division II team to win three straight state championships. The schools are located five miles apart on the same road and compete in the same conference — the Greater Catholic League South. They’ll both be in contention for titles again this season.
Photo: Kareem Elgazzar, The Enquirer
82. North Carolina state titles games return to Duke with two games on Dec. 9. The addition of a venue means all eight state championship games will be played on the same day on a Saturday. In recent years, a game has been played on Friday night.
Photo: Duke Photography
83. In Ohio, out of the 718 schools that play football, 75 moved up a division due to competitive balance and/or higher base enrollment numbers. Perennial powerhouse Coldwater goes from Division V to Division IV after winning four straight state championships from 2012-2015 and finishing runner-up in 2016.
Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer
84. Is this finally Brooklyn Erasmus Hall’s year? For three straight years, Erasmus Hall has put together an excellent regular season before finally capitulating in the PSAL title game at Yankee Stadium. In 2017, the Dutchmen feature three of the top-six prospects in the entire state, including No. 1 Matthew Jones (pictured), and are poised to dominate the regular season.
Photo: Alex Gleitman, 247Sports
85. Is Jeremy Ruckert the nation’s top tight end? The state of New York produces plenty of Division I football recruits, but rarely the top overall player at a position or in a class. That may be different in 2017 with Lindenhurst tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who is either the best or second-best tight end prospect in the Class of 2018. Most of the Big Ten, as well as Notre Dame, Stanford and a handful of other powerhouse programs are all chasing the 6-foot-5, 230-pound versatile end.
86. Can 5-star RB Zamir White help Scotland (Laurinburg, N.C.) to avenge 2016 title loss? White is a top-five overall recruit, the nation’s top-ranked running back, and a one-man wrecking ball. In 2016, he led the Scots to the state semifinals … where they were resolutely trounced, 27-7, by Cape Fear. Will the future college star be able to go two steps better and drive Scotland to a title?
Photo: Keith Niebuhr, 247Sports
87. Will Wake Forest (N.C.) repeat in 4AA? In the past three seasons, the Cougars have lost a total of two games … both in the playoffs. In 2016 they went all the way, routing fellow state power Page, 29-0, in the title game. Will the Cougars finally fully establish their dynasty status with a second-straight state title?
Photo: Raleigh News and Observer
88. Clemson is dominating the state’s top recruits. It’s no surprise, but the defending national champion Clemson Tigers are cleaning up among the state’s top recruits. The Tigers have commitments from four of the top 10 prospects already (including Trevor Lawrence and Xavier Thomas, pictured) and could very well land four of the other five still uncommitted in that group.
Photo: Ken Ruinard, Independent Mail
89. Can Dutch Fork (S.C.) build off its 2016 title? The Foxes have captured two of the previous 5A titles, and finished the 2016 campaign in the Super 25. As with many dominant teams, the Foxes graduated many of their defending champs, and will have to find depth and development to hold off a Fort Dorchester squad.
Photo: Dutch Fork Football
90. Makoa Freitas takes over wealth of success at Kahuku (Hawaii). A former offensive line coach on the staff of departed coach Vavae Tata, Freitas played for the Indianapolis Colts and University of Arizona, so he has plenty of high level experience. He also has high standards to live up to: Tata finished a two-year term at Kahuku with a 24-2 record and appearances in the Division I title game in both 2015 and 2016, earning one state title.
Photo: Bruce Asato, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
91. Jim Oberweiser (middle), one of Montana’s most successful coaches, has stepped down at Flint Creek. According to the state association, his final record of 233-94 makes him the winningest Class C 8-man coach in state history.
Photo: The Montana Standard
92. After reclassification, Montana will have 40 teams playing 11-man football this fall: 21 in Class A and 29 in Class B. Many are co-op programs that draw players from multiple schools.
93. Norton (Kan.) dual-threat quarterback Jace Ruder is ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the state. A 6-3 Tulsa commit, Ruder threw for 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 750 yards and 16 touchdowns for Norton (7-4) last season.
Photo: Michael Bruntz, 247Sports
94. Life after Najee Harris begins for Antioch (Calif.) on Aug. 25 against Lincoln (Stockton). Harris, a top 3 recruit in the Class of 2017, finished his high school career with nearly 8,000 yards and had 99 touchdowns (94 rushing).
Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP
95. Archbishop Hoban (Akron) allowed an average of 7.7 points per game in 2016 in repeating as OHSAA Division III state champions. Seven starters return from that dominant defense, although Hoban loses quarterback Danny Clark to the University of Kentucky.
Photo: Akron Beacon Journal
96. Northern California teams went 0-5 in the upper-division state finals played in Sacramento. Northern California teams then won six of the other eight state finals played in Southern California. St. John Bosco beat De La Salle 56-33 in the Open Division final.
Photo: Steve Yeater, AP
97. Derby (Kan.) is coming off back-to-back state championships after beating Blue Valley in the final for the second consecutive year. Derby is riding a 24-game winning streak and had just three losses in the last three seasons.
Photo: Derby High School
98. La’Damian Webb became the first junior to win Alabama’s Mr. Football after running for 3,242 yards and an AHSAA record 47 rushing touchdowns for 5A state champion Beauregeard. What will he do for an encore?
Photo: Keith Niebuhr, 247Sports
99. The Cleveland area has seen significant turnover in coaches, including the retirement of Joe Yost, who spent 38 years at Ellet. Amazingly, three assistants spent all 38 years with him.
Photo: Akron Beacon Journal
100. Five quarterbacks are among the top 50 recruits in Georgia. They are committed to Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Kentucky. That includes Buckeyes commit Emory Jones (pictured).