RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2011 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 100 down to No. 1.
We started at No. 100 on July 25 and are now down to our final three days counting down from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Wednesday morning on Rivals Radio - two weeks from the start of the season.
After that, we will wait until Sept. 5 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.
The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.
COACH: Greg Toal LAST SEASON: 12-0, New Jersey Non-Public Group IV Winners
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 6 in RivalsHigh 100
When Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco was named the RivalsHigh 100 national champion in 2009, the decision was met with instant opposition. Many wondered how could a team from New Jersey could be the best high school football team in the country.
This year, the questions remain.
After being selected as the No. 2 team in the preseason RivalsHigh 100, many will wonder: How can Don Bosco not be in the top spot?
"There is more talent this year," Mike Farrell, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst said, comparing this team to the one that won it all in 2009.
Just not at one of the most important positions.
"There is the big question mark at quarterback," Farrell said. "Whereas I think everyone was confident that (Gary) Nova could step in and handle part of the role (back then)."
Currently, there are two players competing for the role: senior Mike Yankovich and sophomore Frank Nutile. Most believe Yankovich will win the job.
"It will be his job to lose," Pat Rice, a prep sports reporter for NJVarsity.com, said. "I keep hearing Nutile is on Yankovich's heels, but Coach (Greg) Toal didn't mention him (when we last spoke)."
Running back also isn't settled. The debate over who will be the feature back is far less of a storyline though, as it could come down to which Division I athlete will leave his original position to fill the hole.
The most common thought is that it will be four-star prospect Elijah Shumate, who transferred to the school in 2009 after Paterson (N.J.) Paterson Catholic closed, and was an All-Passaic County running back as a sophomore.
Shumate has offers from all over the country to play safety and figures to land there, but at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, he certainly has the size to play running back in high school.
One thing is certain: Toal figures to make the right position calls. He always seems to do so.
In his 27 years of head coaching experience, Toal has suffered just 36 total losses. He has built Don Bosco into a national power that is no longer questioned.
"Greg has had a lot of success there," Dan Higgins, head coach of No. 92-ranked Piscataway (N.J.) High, said. "That team has elevated all of New Jersey on the national landscape. Football here is at an all-time high."
The talent at the private school mirrors that rising level.
This senior class likely will send eight players to BCS-level schools; the junior class likely another five. And the sophomore group already has four players that are generating national attention.
Leading the way for the team is the No. 5 player in the country, defensive end Darius Hamilton.
"Hamilton is simply impossible to stop," Farrell said. "He's the guy who makes everyone else on defensive look so good.
"His technique is excellent. You can tell he's not only the son of a former NFL standout but has also taken to the physical style at Bosco under Greg Toal. He's still young with plenty of room to fill out and develop."
All of that, Farrell says, while Hamilton likely is playing out of position.
"He is playing defensive tackle for Bosco," he said. "But I see him more as a big end who is so quick, explosive and technically sound that he will be not only a terror off the edge but stout against the run as well."
Whether he is absorbing blockers or making plays, Hamilton's work inside makes it easier for those around him - though some may think they do not need any assistance.
"Jabrib Peppers is one of the best young cornerbacks in the country," Farrell said. "And (Yuri) Wright is clearly a lockdown corner. If Shumate does play running back, he could still see some time at his hybrid safety-linebacker position, but either way it will be tough to pass on Bosco."
With this type of defense on the field, the offense should have time to grow. Farrell thinks it eventually will look very similar to its national title-winning team.
"I think this team will be similar to two years ago," he said. "Plenty of running the ball on offense and allowing the defense to dominate."
With the out-of-state schedule the team has assembled, dominating the competition could be tough.
Bosco will play RivalsHigh 100 members No. 91 Mission Viejo (Calif.) High at home, then travel to No. 36 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, as well as host No. 24 Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward.
It is a schedule that would rival that of any team in the country.
"I wouldn't be shocked if they lost one, but I wouldn't be shocked if they won them all," Rice said. "Nobody in Jersey is beating them."
Shawn Brown, also a reporter for NJVarsity.com, thinks that this team, while excellent, doesn't have the element of surprise of last year's team. That group, supposedly in a rebuilding year, went undefeated and finished No. 6 in the RivalsHigh100.
"This team will have to get used to be the hunted from the start," he said. "Last year, everyone was thinking that Bosco was going to be down and they were able to sneak up on teams like Gilman and Bergen Catholic, getting better as the season progressed."
Even as the hunted, the team understands what is expected at the national power.
"With the exception of a few transfers (that may not even start) everyone including some of the sophomores were with the varsity last season," Brown said. "So they understand the culture and what is expected of them."
What is expected of them is to bring home another national title - something no one would question this time.