This week Rivals.com and StudentSports Football will count down the nation's Fab 50 high school football teams, as compiled by Student Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis and Rankings Editor Doug Huff. This first of three separate releases looks at teams ranked 50-31.
"We are very proud of this list," said Tennis. "We have done a Fab 50 for 10 years and have never picked a No. 1 team that has lost."
Though each year presents its own challenges in comparing the best teams state to state, the accuracy of the Fab 50 has been unmatched.
"One of the reasons this ranking has been so successful is our network of knowledgeable high school football experts," Rivals.com high school producer Dallas Jackson said.
"We have our people in every corner of the country -- Florida, Alaska and everywhere in between. We see these players and teams in person, and that firsthand knowledge is invaluable."
Teams 50-31 feature several programs with four-star quarterbacks, from
Cal commit Beau Sweeney of No. 50 Clovis West(CA) to Mike Glennon of No. 31 Westfield (Va.).
50. Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.) 2006: 10-3 First game: Liberty
New coach Marty Martin inherits a gold mine. Thirteen starters are back from a 2006 squad that made it to the CIF Central Section Division I championship. The offense should need no tinkering at all because quarterback Beau Sweeney, a University of California commit, returns. Sweeney accounted for nearly 2,000 yards of total offene last season. When Sweeney wasn't getting the yards, returning running back Matt Jelmini was doing his part. He rushed for 2,271 yards, added 285 on receptions and scored 37 touchdowns. Junior linebacker Travis Brown led the defense as a sophomore with 150 tackles, and he was named all-state underclass. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 28 at preseason FAB 50-ranked Centennial of Corona. -- CalHiSports.com
49. Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.) 2006: 10-2 First game: Washington
The three-time regional runners-up likely will field their best team in head coach Rich Morgan's five seasons. The Tigers will line up four Division I-level wideouts in Kerry Boykins, Todd Harrelson, Jamal Wilson and Tim Smith. Those receivers will be catching the ball from future Division-I quarterback Phil Sims, who is just a sophomore. A stingy defense will feature two of the Eastern Region's top linebackers in rising juniors Jerod Askew and Perry Jones. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 5 at Western Branch. -- VirginiaPreps.com
48. Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) 2006: 10-1 First game: Forest Lake
The Raiders return a lot of talent and have something to prove this year. Last season, they missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. In 2007, at least four major college prospects will try to get the team back to the postseason. The anchor is last year's state Player of the Year, WR Michael Floyd. He caught 63 passes for 1,240 yards and 16 TDs, while adding three rushing scores. Already committed to the University of Minnesota are RB Shady Salamon and first-year QB John Nance, who played wideout last season. A University of Wisconsin recruit, tackle Joe Schafer (6-5, 290), heads the offensive line. On defense, eight starters return, including DTs Clarence Fraser and Darrin Joos. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 5 at White Bear Lake.
47. Bastrop (Bastrop, La.) 2006: 15-0 First game: Istrouma
With Randall Mackey back at quarterback and junior Rueben Randle returning at receiver, Bastrop will once again be capable of big plays, which is one reason the Rams are picked to win a third consecutive Class 4A championship. Mackey and Randle -- who is arguably Louisiana's best prospect for the Class of 2009 -- are joined by nine other returning starters. Holes will need to be filled on the offensive line, but the defensive line will should be dominant again. The defensive front is led by Dequinta Jones, Geanie Lyons and converted all-state OL Josh Downs. Senior Aaron Randle and junior Kentravious Alford anchor the linebacking corps, and DB Edward Patterson is one of the team's top senior prospects. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 21 vs. East St. John of Reserve. -- PelicanPreps.com
46. Kahuku (Kahuku, Hawaii) 2006: 11-2 First game: St. Louis
The Red Raiders have sent 18 players to Division I programs in the last two years, and the team should be solid again this season. Hawaii's preseason No. 1 team opened its season last weekend, and on Aug. 31 Kahuku will play the defending champions from Utah. Coach Reggie Torres starts his second season with a squad led by two returning all-state picks –- RB Junior Mataafa and DB Shiloah Te'o. Kahuku always has large linemen, and this year's beefy brigade includes nose guard Anthony Siilata and junior center Lala Ellsworth (6-4, 300). There are some holes to fill, and Torres is counting on quarterback Jray Galeai, who previously attended Timpview High in Utah. The Red Raiders won their fifth state title in the last seven years last December with a 7-6 victory over St. Louis of Honolulu, which came into that game unbeaten. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Aug. 31 vs. FAB 50-ranked Bingham of South Jordan, Utah.
45. Bingham (South Jordan, Utah) 2006: 14-0 First game: Skyline
Three all-state players return for the defending Class 5A champs from Utah. Coach Dave Peck knows his offense doesn't have to move the ball far into the opposing team's territory to score, because kicker Justin Sorensen (11 FGs, 62 PATs) is one of the nation's best. The other two returners with all-state credentials are TE Austin Holt (BYU commit) and OT Derek Tuimauga (committed to Utah). Replacing QB Dusty Heap and his 2,100 yards passing won't be easy, but look for returning RB Sam Langi (895 yds, 14 TDs) to help carry the load. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Aug. 31 at FAB 50-ranked Kahuku of Hawaii.
44. Blue Springs South (Blue Springs, Mo.) 2006: 13-0 First game: Truman
The Jaguars return to defend their 2006 Class 6 Show-Me Bowl title. They are led by junior quarterback Blaine Dalton, who passed for nearly 1,500 yards as a sophomore. "It will be a challenge to try and fill those spots left by our talented senior class," commented coach Greg Oder. "The success of our season will depend on how well our younger players develop into new varsity roles." Oder returns five offensive starters and four on the defensive side of the ball. Team leaders include senior OL Zach Wilson, senior OL Chris Morefield senior TE-DE Kellen Bartlett, senior WR-DB Donte Strickland, senior RB-LB Steven Brooks senior DL Jeff Wendel and senior DB Rodney Kincaid. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 2 at Rockhurst of Kansas City. -- MOSports.com
43. Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.) 2006: 14-0 First game: Desert Ridge
Coach Richard Taylor's squad ran the table last year, including a big win over Class 5A Div. I power Mesa Mountain View. Centennial has a bigger fish to fry this year in a non-league showdown against FAB 50-ranked Hamilton. The Coyotes return one of Arizona's top players in 6-3, 190-pound Jarrell Barbour, who caught 10 TD passes and dominated in the secondary as a junior. Also back is standout lineman Zach Schlink, and quarterback Scott Burgett. The senior passed for 1,803 yards and 26 TDs in his junior season. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 7 at FAB 50-ranked Hamilton of Chandler. -- ArizonaVarsity.com
42. McKinley (Canton, Ohio) 2006: 12-2 First game: Tulsa Union
The Bulldogs advanced to the state Division 1 semifinals last season and added some offensive punch this fall when RB Christian Griffin enrolled at the school. Griffin rushed for more than 1,400 yards last season at St. Thomas Aquinas. While the running game has improved, the quarterback spot is the key. Senior Tim Davis or junior Jordan Evans will be starting under center. Other key returnees are FB Myrell Smith, WR Kanyad Blair, CB Brandon Mingo and OLs Sean Whited and Andrew Suwell. The schedule features a key early season matchup against Oklahoma contender Tulsa Union on Sept. 1 at the Herbstreit Classic in Canton. Toughest test of regular season: Massillon Washington - in one of the nation's most spirited rivalries.
41. Hoover (Hoover, Ala.) 2006: 13-2 First game: Colerain
Hoover enters the season No. 2 in Alabama (behind Prattville), and the Bucs return only four offensive regulars and five on the defensive side. The season opener against Ohio contender Colerain in the Herbstreit Classic should provide a good barometer for the youthful team. A new quarterback will be at the helm. Senior Tyler Ray or juniors Simon Propst or Jonathan Pincotti, a transfer from Pennsylvania, will run the offense. Propst is a nephew of coach Rush Propst. The RB spot will be handled by touted junior Andre Shields - who sat out most of last season with an injury. Veteran WRs are Ken Barefield and Michael Hall, and Matt Jones is the top lineman. On defense, three secondary starters return in juniors Justin Sly and Brian Jackson and senior Will Lowery. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 12 vs. Vestavia Hills.
40. Parkersburg (Parkersburg, W.Va.) 2006 14-0 First game: Cabel Midland
The Big Reds have won more West Virginia Class AAA titles (10) than any other school, but they have never repeated as the best in the Mountain State. However, none of the previous Parkersburg title teams have won with as many key underclassmen. That's why the Big Reds are a solid preseason No. 1 pick in West Virginia. For starters, the No. 1 college football prospect in the state returns. OL-DL Josh Jenkins was last year's state Lineman of the Year. He has committed West Virginia. Four other all-state honorees return in talented PK Tyler Warner, RB-LB Matt Lindamood, OG Joey Shafer (6-0, 230) and LB Matt Littleton. The offense will again be triggered by QB Andy Thomas. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Cabell Midland of Ona. - opener.
39. Armwood (Seffner, Fla.) 2006: 11-2 First game: Plant
Coach Sean Callahan's Hawks saw a streak of three consecutive Class 4A state title game berths snapped last year with a loss in the regional finals to eventual champ Tampa Plant. The 2007 edition at Armwood will once again rely on a physical running game, good team speed and a sturdy defense. The offense will be led by powerful RB Eric Smith, who's healthy once again after an elbow injury limited him most of last fall. Smith and hopes to regain the 1,600-yard, 25-TD form of his sophomore season. Tampa Freedom transfer Matt Patchan, an all-state pick last fall and top 100 recruit, will lead the way up front. The defense should be very tough. Second team all-state selection Sergio Joyner and Doug Alston are back inside, and talented juniors Petey Smith (Eric's younger brother) and Jamiel Smith anchor a big, physical linebacker group. CB Justin Williams and FS Angelo Hadley are two key starters back in the secondary. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Plant of Tampa - opener.
38. Copperas Cove (Copperas Cove, Texas) 2006: 12-3 First game: San Angelo
The Bulldawgs must replace four Division I signees, but they also return 12 starters from a team that went 12-3 last fall and advanced to the state 4A DI final before falling to Alamo Heights. Despite the loss of talent, the cupboard is still full for coach Jack Welch. Dynamic QB Robert Griffin is one of the fastest athletes in Texas. He threw for more than 2,000 yards and ran for another 900 last fall. Six other starters are back on offense, including Houston-bound RB Troy Vital and OLs Sean Robertson and Sean Doherty. Sturdy DT Steven Welch was an honorable all-state pick last fall. Junior linebacker Tanner Brock is also back to lead the defense after recording an eye-opening 210 tackles a year ago. The road won't be easy, however. Copperas Cove's district foes Waco and Brownwood are top-10 caliber 4A squads. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 9 at Waco.
37. Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 2006: 11-1 First game: Dominguez of Compton
The road to a California Division I state bowl game is not easy, but the Huskies play an absolutely loaded schedule. Coach Matt Logan has the pieces in place to have a very successful season. The offense is in good hands with QB Matt Scott, an Arizona commit who passed for 1,705 yards and 11 TDs in Centennial's no-huddle offense. Although the offensive line is inexperienced, RB Ryan Bass has a nose for the end zone and usually makes the first defender miss. The last two years Bass has hit paydirt 70 times (with the school record of 113 set by Terrell Jackson within striking distance) and rushed for 4,489 yards (including 2,352 last season). The Huskies' defense is led by Brandon Magee and Shelly Lyons, a LB duo that accounted for more than 150 tackles last season. Back-to-back contests with FAB 50-ranked Clovis West and Mater Dei will have huge implications on the CalHiSports.com state rankings. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 4 vs. Mater Dei of Santa Ana. -- CalHiSports.com
36. Trinity (Louisville, Ky.) 2006: 14-1 First game: Bowling Green
The Shamrocks have won the last two state Class 4A titles and five of the last six crowns, but they won't extend that streak this season. The reason: The state expanded to six classes and Trinity will be competing in the largest, Class 6A. The No. 1 ranked 6A team in Kentucky has several key returnees, including all-state two-way lineman Sam Robey - the son of former University of Kentucky basketball All-American Rick Robey. Junior running back Tim Phillips returns after rushing for 1,284 yards and 22 TDs as a sophomore. Another key junior is touted LB Jordan Whiting, who already has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Other key senior returnees include LB Wes Weitlauf, two-way lineman Alex Kupper and the 6-foot, 175-pound Dutton twin -- Alex and Nathan -- at receiver. Alex caught 37 passes for 568 yards and eight TDs last season, while Nathan had 35 receptions for 692 yards and 10 scores. Trinity's two key games this season are both against St. Xavier teams. The Shamrocks visit the top-ranked Ohio school in Cincinnati on Sept. 14. Two weeks later, Trinity tackles city rival St. Xavier at Papa John's Stadium. That matchup has been one of the nation's best-attended regular season games with crowds surpassing 30,000 in recent years. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 14 at FAB 50-ranked St. Xavier of Cincinnati.
35. Friendly (Friendly, Md.) 2006: 14-0 First game: Edmonson
There are whispers that with the departure of superstar Joe Haden -- along with Rakim Vick and Vincent Hill -- the defending 3A state champions may experience a decline. Don't bet on it. Two of Maryland's best prospects, Lamaar Thomas and Josh Haden, have the Patriots ready to run their winning streak to 28 games. Friendly has at least six players with interest from D-I colleges; Haden, Thomas, Carlos Davis, Devin Wallace, Quinton Sales and James Stanfield. That talent pool should more than fill the hole that Joe Haden left. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 2 vs. Gwynn Park of Brandywine. -- MdVarsity.com
34. Easton (Easton, Pa.) 2006: 12-2 First game: Woodson
Led by defensive back Jarred Holley, Easton is a safe bet to return to the state playoffs. Last year's team lost to eventual state runner-up Bethlehem Liberty in the first round of the state tournament. Easton is expected to start the year ranked No. 2 in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Class AAAA state rankings behind FAB 50-ranked Central Catholic. As a junior, Holley caught 38 passes for 548 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for 659 yards and 12 scores. He recorded 54 tackles and nine interceptions on defense. He was clocked at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and has more than 20 scholarship offers entering preseason. The Red Rovers also have multiple returnees on both sides of the line. Easton's schedule will helps shore up the Mid-Atlantic rankings with a contest against H.D. Woodson (Washington, D.C.). Although Woodson is not expected to challenge for the DCIAA title, it faces other D.C. area schools that will help provide a fair measure for the level of football in that region. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Oct. 26 vs. Liberty of Bethlehem
33. Chandler (Chandler, Ariz.) 2006: 11-2 First game: Ironwood
Many in the Grand Canyon State are picking Chandler to be the season's No. 1 team – even ahead of crosstown rival and FAB 50-ranked Hamilton. Checking over the list of returnees and transfers, it is easy to see why many believe Chandler is the team to beat. Coach Jim Ewan has Hamilton transfer Kurt Mangum in the backfield to go along with major prospects Dion Jordan at TE (54 catches as a junior), Marc Anthony at RB-DB, and sleeper WR Archie Woulard. RB-DB Steven Jackson, who rushed for nearly 800 yards, also returns. RB-DB Harold Bernard, who is drawing numerous Division I offers, is back as well. Incoming senior transfer Payton LaCivita is hearing from several Ivy League schools. He has the smarts as a QB to lead this talent-laden team all the way. Another key transfer could be 6-6, 320-pound Damien Edwards. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Nov. 2 at FAB 50-ranked Hamilton. -- ArizonaVarsity.com
It's not the number of starters returning, it is the quality of those players that lands the Golden Knights in this year's FAB 50. Elite 11 QB Dayne Crist gives the team a chance to win every week. His talent level should help the team overcome personnel losses at OL and WR. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Crist is headed to Notre Dame, as is LB Anthony McDonald. McDonald is the leader of a defense that also includes DE Wes Horton and highly regarded DB Thaddeus Brown. Brown is also the team's No. 1 runner, while OL Larry Thompson will look to protect Crist and open holes for the running game. Coach Kevin Rooney has won 230 games and his veteran leadership will also make a difference. The Golden Knights became a state power by dominating foes in the old CIF Southern Section Div. III. However, they have not yet proven they can win the big playoff games in the section's tough Pac-Five Division. Notre Dame opens its season with defending Div. I state bowl champion Canyon and must not suffer a letdown against Lynwood (Calif.) before squaring off with regionally ranked Birmingham in Week 3 on national television. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 20 at Birmingham of Lake Balboa. -- CalHiSports.com
31. Westfield (Chantilly, Va.) 2006: 11-1 First game: South County
The amount of talent the Bulldogs return in 2007 is scary. Starting with 6-6 QB Mike Glennon, Westfield opponents will have their work cut out for them on defense. Also returning are top WRs Johnny Pickett and David Kruchco, giving Westfield a top-flight passing game. At RB, the two-headed monster of Steve Tabot and Brian Kennedy return as well. Coach Tom Verbanic took this collection of players to an undefeated regular season in 2006. With that core group returning this year, Westfield is the team to beat in the Northern Region of Virginia. Toughest Test of Regular Season: Sept. 20 vs. Chantilly High. -- VirginiaPreps.com
The Rivals.com Fab 50 is compiled by the staff of StudentSportsFootball.com and is co-edited by Student Sports Executive Editor Mark Tennis and Rankings Editor Doug Huff. Student Sports has tracked and ranked the nation's top high school football teams for more than a decade, and Doug Huff has more than 35 years' experience covering prep football nationally.