Video: Mater Dei vs. IMG Academy preview
Zack Poff breaks down the biggest game of 2018 to date.
Fervent high school football fans everywhere are calling Friday's IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
vs. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
game at the Santa Ana Bowl one of the most anticipated national match-ups in recent history.
With more than 40 players claiming Division I college offers, almost evenly divided between the two teams, this contest between top five teams from power states Florida and California demands attention ... and the social media chatter.
Here are 10 more regular season games over the last decades that were highly anticipated as well. Some lived up to the billing. Others did not. But the interest going into each contest was undeniable.
TOP 10 Most Anticipated High School Football Games of the Last DecadeBellevue (Wash.) at Katy (Texas), Sept. 12, 2009
Bellevue burst onto the national scene five years earlier with a monumental 39-20 win to end De La Salle's still national record 151-game win streak. Heading into this one, the Wolverines had claimed their then-seventh state title the previous season and won 15 straight games overall going in. But Katy served up some home cooking under hot and humid conditions during a 35-17 victory. Currently with a Texas-best eight state championships, the Tigers lost in the state finals that season, while Bellevue went on to win its eighth state crown. GAME STORY
In the fourth-ever meeting between the top two ranked teams in the nation, Byrnes featured star running back Marcus Latimore and Aquinas, riding a 28-game win streak, boasted now NFL stars LaMarcus Joyner, James White and Phillip Dorsett. Byrnes outgained STA 558-303, but turnovers and special teams proved decisive in Aquinas' 42-34 win at Lockhart Stadium. This game had it all. GAME STORY
Colquitt County (Norman Park, Ga.) at No. 11 Hoover (Ala.), Aug. 30, 2013
The much anticipated return of coach and MTV sensation Rush Probst led to the keen interest in this one. Probst, who won five state titles at Hoover, watched his Colquitt County team take a 10-3 lead, but his former squad scored 21 straight points and won going away 24-10. Hoover went on to win 15 straight games and a state title, while Colquitt County (11-3) lost in the state semifinals.
In the fifth-ever meeting between No. 1 and No. 2, the heated Miami rivals squared off on a steamy South Florida night before a packed crowd evenly divided on either side of Traz Powell Stadium. Central featured the nation's top backfield in Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby, but Washington had do-everything quarterback Treon Harris, who accounted for 222 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-17 win. Both teams went on to win separate state titles, while Washington took home the MaxPreps national crown. GAME STORY
It was the first year that Gorman, a Nevada power, was recognized as a legitimate national title contender after beating three Top 25 earlier in the season. Getting past Josh Rosen and Bosco would assure the Gaels national title consideration. Then gritty sophomore quarterback Tate Martell (230 passing yards, three TDs) matched Rosen (245 yards, three TDs) as Gorman raced to a 27-3 lead before holding off Bosco, 35-31. GAME STORYNo. 1 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) vs. Trinity (Euless, Texas), Aug. 29, 2015
Weeks before, Hollywood came out with a movie about De La Salle's storied program, entitled "The Game Stands Tall." But the Spartans, with one of their best teams in years, had never ventured into Texas before. Everyone wanted to see what they could do against three-time, large-school state champion Trinity, which brought in a first-year head coach. Following a 90-minute lightning delay at Vernon Newsom Stadium in Mansfield, Trinity used a power attack and De La Salle made too many mistakes in a 26-21 win for the home team. GAME STORY
Completely entrenched in the national scene now, Gorman had challenged itself to virtually every perennial power in America. But it had never played in Texas. On their way to their first MaxPreps national title, the Gaels opened the 2016 campaign with a convincing 40th straight victory, 44-14, behind three touchdowns runs each by Biaggio Ali Walsh and Tate Martell. GAME STORY
No. 2 IMG Academy vs. No. 19 Centennial (Corona, Calif.), Sep. 3, 2016
A great Honor Bowl match-up at Mission Viejo between an IMG roster filled with Division I athletes and a Centennial squad known for its unstoppable hurry-up offense. The result was one of the greatest games in recent memory, a 50-49 IMG victory capped with a game-winning, two-point conversion with 12 seconds to play. GAME STORY
No. 2 Bishop Gorman vs. No. 1 Mater Dei, Sep. 1, 2017
The seventh meeting ever between No. 1 and No. 2 also had Gorman's 55-game win streak on the line. Behind 302 passing yards and three touchdowns from eventual MaxPreps Player of the Year, JT Daniels, Mater Dei led start to finish to win 35-21 at the Santa Ana Bowl. GAME STORYNo. 1 Mater Dei vs. No. 5 St. John Bosco, Oct. 13, 2017
Five weeks after the Gorman win, the Monarchs faced their new archrival from the Trinity League with league, section, state and national ramifications in the balance. Bosco also featured new highly-touted quarterback DJ Uiagalelei
, making his first varsity start. The new QB performed admirably, but Mater Dei never trailed en route to a 31-21 win at El Camino College behind 312 yards passing and three scores from Daniels. The two teams would play again for the Southern Section Big 5 championship, and once again the Monarchs prevailed 49-24 en route to state and national titles. GAME STORY