The calendar may only read June, but at MaxPreps we're always thinking about high school football.
It's never easy forecasting the future, but with less than three months until kickoff, here's our take on the nation's Top 25 high school football teams.
MaxPreps Preseason Football Top 25 Early Contenders
Arguably the top program from the Tampa area in the last decade, Armwood appears poised for another state title run in 2014.
In what seemed like a rebuilding year heading into last fall, Armwood rattled off 14 straight victories before running into the buzz saw that was Miami Central in the Class 6A title game.
Fifteen returning starters, almost evenly divided on offense and defense, will take the field for head coach Sean Callahan this season. For a program whose calling card has been defense, the team's offense should be be a bright spot.
The unit averaged 38 points per game a year ago, thanks in large part to the on-field leadership of quarterback Noah Johnson
Johnson completed 119 of 204 passes for 1,980 yards and 18 touchdowns while rushing for 809 yards and 14 scores.
His favorite target, Trevor Laurent
, returns after a sophomore campaign that saw him haul in 36 catches for 580 yards and five scores.
Running back Caylon Holloway
, who was second on the team in rushing behind Johnson, is a small but explosive back. Darrian McNeil
, a sophomore, has a similar build and could be used as a slot back.
The team's defense has a chance to be special.
It starts upfront with Byron Cowart
, the No. 16 recruit in the 247Composite
. Cowart is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound behemoth of a young man who has accumulated 117 tackles and 17 sacks in his three-year varsity career. He's perhaps the finest Armwood defensive lineman since Ryne Giddins, a 2009 MaxPreps All-American.
The second wave of defense features fellow reigning all-state selection Jordan Griffin
, who was in on a whopping 150 tackles last year. Jeremy Ware
is another returning starter in the unit. Justin Manning
should assume a bigger role this fall.Aaron Covington
is back in a secondary that needs to find a replacement for standout Kyle Gibson.
This team is not loaded with elite college prospects like some Armwood squads in the past, but its expectations are just as high. Last year's team was dominated by underclassmen. Anything short of a return trip to the Class 6A title game likely would be a considered a disappointment.
"Armwood not only returns its leading passer and rusher and receiver — all college prospects, it returns the guy tabbed No. 1 in the country by Rivals in Byron Cowart, arguably the best linebacker in Tampa Bay in Jordan Griffin and maybe its best cover guy in Aaron Covington. There are athletes on the Armwood team we haven't even heard of yet. That's just the way that program works — a bunch of big names, with a bunch of smaller names that will one day be big names filling in the other positions. Getting all the way to state last year was a bit of a surprise. This year, everyone is expecting it. No matter how many holes there may be on offense — and they are little ones — the defense, which allowed only 42 points in the regular season, is better. Better
. That's scary. And not that they need it, but that 52-7 beatdown suffered at the hands of Miami Central last year may be just the extra bit of fuel needed to get the Hawks over the top this season and to their third state championship."
- John Cotey, HomeTeam preps/Tampa Bay Times (@JohnnyHomeTeam)