Video: Top 10 Games of 2017
See Zack Poff dissect the Top 10 games of the upcoming prep football season.
The days of speculation are over. No more conjecture.
Comparing the nation's top football programs used to be done on paper and by watching each team on film.
Now, the mega-matchups between juggernaut squads from different parts of the country are a regular thing each season — usually, quite early. This way all of it can be decided on the field.
Here's a look at 10 games for 2017 that high school football fans should have circled on their calendar.
Top 10 high school football games of the 2017 season Aug. 25
St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) at St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
St. John Bosco's Jason Negro loves road trips — the farther away from California the better. "It's a great opportunity to bond and grow up," he said. Last season, the Braves (13-2) opened the season in Cincinnati against St. Xavier. Seasons prior they traveled to Portland (Ore.), Honolulu, Las Vegas and Jersey City (N.J.). They also visit St. John's (Washington, D.C.) later in the season, but this undoubtedly will be Bosco's biggest season-opening challenge as it faces the Raiders, perhaps the most successful program nationally since 2000. Bosco, California's defending Open Division champion, boasts 5-star defensive back Jaiden Woodbey
, dynamic quarterback Re-Al Mitchell
and physical runner Demetrious Flowers
. Aquinas (13-2 last season), the three-time defending Florida 7A champion, counters with five 4-star players, led by cornerback Asante Samuel
, defensive end Nikolas Bonitto
and wide receiver Elijah Moore
. St. John Bosco is a combined 54-5 and has been ranked in the top 10 nationally three times over the last four seasons. In the same span, Aquinas is 51-7 with three top 15 finishes.
DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) at Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
DeMatha coach Elijah Brooks, in his seventh season, continues to build the Stags (12-0) into a national power with their first undefeated season since 2006 and highest final ranking (No. 8) in school history. DeMatha will be led by 4-star linemen Austin Fontaine
and Evan Gregory
, and talented sophomore running back Marshawn Lloyd
. The Stags will try to halt Bishop Gorman's 54-game win streak, which currently ranks second nationally. All eyes will be on Gorman first-year starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson
, the nation's No. 3 rated dual threat quarterback according to 247Sports Composite
. The Gaels (15-0) were the consensus national champion last season.
IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) at Chandler (Ariz.)
Some programs won't even consider taking on IMG and its elite roster, which features 12 of the Top 300 seniors in the country, according to 247Sports Composite
. Chandler coach Shaun Aguano apparently fears no one, and with one of the top junior quarterbacks in the country in Jacob Conover
(3,715 yards, 32 touchdowns last year), it's much easier to be assured. Running back DeCarlos Brooks
and wide receiver Gunner Romney
give Conover plenty of weapons for the defending state champion Wolves, who finished 13-2 and No. 17 in the final Xcellent 25 national rankings presented by the Army National Guard. The Ascenders finished 11-0 and No. 4 nationally. Sept. 1
Bishop Gorman vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) at Santa Ana Stadium
This, quite frankly, could decide the national championship as both teams figure to open the season among the top five in the country. The first-ever meeting between the Catholic powers pits high-powered offenses that include MaxPreps Sophomore Player of the Year in Mater Dei quarterback JT Daniels
and one of the best returning wide receivers in the country in the Monarchs' Amon-Ra St. Brown
. Mater Dei finished 13-1 last year and No. 9 nationally. Bishop Gorman counters with Thompson-Robinson, leading receiver Jalen Nailor
and Junior All-American tight end Brevin Jordan
. The best matchup, frankly, might be at linebacker, with Gorman's 5-star standout Palaie Gaoteote
and Mater Dei's Solomon Tuliaupupu
. Sept. 1
Cedar Hill (Texas) at Allen (Texas)
Any Texas showdown is worthy of Top 10 consideration considering the pageantry, massive crowds and history. Upwards of 20,000 figure to fill $60-million Eagle Stadium as Cedar Hill (11-1) visits and welcomes new coach Carlos Lynn for his second game, this one against perhaps the state's top-ranked team. The Longhorns feature one of the state's top running tandems in Cameron Fleming
and Joshua Fleeks
, but face an Allen program that hasn't lost during the regular season since 2012. Grant Tisdale
, one of the state's top junior quarterbacks, leads the way for second-year Allen head coach Terry Gambill, whose team went 14-1 last season.Sept. 2
IMG Academy vs. Centennial (Corona, Calif.) at Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
If this one remotely matches last year's haymaker — a 50-49 IMG Academy victory — the fans at the Honor Bowl will be thrilled. The 2016 affair was considered the Game of the Year after a 39-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Mond to Brian Hightower
with 12 seconds left brought IMG to within 49-48. IMG coach Kevin Wright went for the win and Mond's shovel pass to Asa Martin on the conversion won the game that featured more than 1,200 yards offense. Second-team All-American quarterback Tanner McKee
(6-foot-6, 220 pounds) returns for Centennial (11-2) after passing for 3,522 yards and 36 touchdowns last season, including 374 and three scores against the Ascenders. Mond graduated, but IMG reloads with first-year starting QB Artur Sitkowski
, from New Jersey. Receiver Hightower, 5-star running back T.J. Pledger
and 4-star cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles
all are transfers and Southern California natives, which alone would give this game some extra juice.Sept. 9
Kahuku (Hawaii) vs. Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) at UNLV
Part of the inaugural Polynesian Football Classic features two programs with huge fan bases that should fill Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium. Kahuku (33-4 over the last three seasons including 11-2 last year) sports two of the top sophomores in the West — quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava
and defensive back Kaonohi Kaniho
. Defensive end Samson Reed
is the No. 2 recruit in the state. Bingham was 14-1 last season and won the 5A state title with its only loss to St. Thomas Aquinas. John Lambourne's team will need to respond quickly from a big tussle two weeks prior against defending 4A champion East (Salt Lake City). Polynesian legend and Grammy-nominated musician Fiji The Artist is scheduled to perform between games as Alta (Sandy, Utah) and Liberty (Henderson, Nev.) play at 3:30 p.m., followed by Kahuku and Bingham at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 16
Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) at Mission Viejo
Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile has never backed down from a challenge — his Crusaders travel out of state every season — but this may be his biggest task. Mater Dei is loaded with returning 4- and 5-star talent. Bergen Catholic (7-4 last season) presents its own problems with three of the top 175 national recruits from the 2019 class in 4-star standouts Antonio Alfano
, Rahmir Johnson
, and Josh McKenzie
. Quarterback Johnny Langan
makes Bergen Catholic go. Sept. 16
De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) at Bishop Gorman
This is a rematch of the 2010 tilt in Concord, when De La Salle prevailed 28-14. The Spartans' victory marked the last time a California team beat the Gaels, winners of three straight national titles by various media outlets. Since then, Bishop Gorman has won 12 straight games over teams from the Golden State. The Spartans (11-2) return offensive MVP in Kairee Robinson
, who rushed for 2,012 yards and 25 touchdowns in 12 games last year. De La Salle also returns top defensive stalwarts in USC-bound Tuli Letuligasenoa
and super junior linebacker Henry To'oto'o
. Giving this game some added boost is that much of the Gaels' coaching staff hails from Northern California and none have ever beat the perennial national power, which owns the nation's longest win streak of 151 games (1992-2004). Oct. 13
St. John Bosco vs. Mater Dei at Santa Ana Bowl
The Pac-5 League rivals each finished among the top 10 teams in the nation last year and could start among the top 5 in 2017. The Braves and Monarchs met twice in 2016, with Mater Dei winning the regular-season contest 26-21. But St. John Bosco earned redemption, 42-28, in the Southern Section title game and went on to win the state championship, beating De La Salle 56-33, the most points ever scored against a Spartans team.