RivalsHigh.com today begins its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.
We are starting at No. 100 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Monday, Aug. 9 - two weeks from the start of the season.
After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 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: Fred Romero LAST SEASON: 12-1, New Mexico Class 5A State Champions FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 1 in New Mexico
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Bears' offense, which scores a ton of points. Last year, the team piled up 551 points in 13 games and routinely was over the 30-point threshold. Replacing its talented senior class from the offensive side of the ball will be tough to do, but La Cueva is a traditionally rich football team in a nationally disrespected football state. In fact, this entire senior class has lost only one game since their Young American Football League playing days.
STRENGTH: This season, the strength will have to be the defense. New Mexico does not produce that many teams that can light up the scoreboard, but it is unclear if La Cueva will have the type of talent this year to do what they did in 2009. The defense, which had four shutouts and held 11 of its 13 opponents to fewer than 20 points, will need to duplicate that effort. Offensively, the big-name running back is Ronnie Daniels, but watch for the team's No. 2 running back, Stan Seberry. At 6-2, 190 pounds, Seberry combines to make the backfield one of the most dangerous in the state. Charlie Casey and Tyler Jones will lead in the offensive trenches.
STAR OF THE SHOW: It isn't unheard of for a prospect from Arizona to get national attention, but it is rare. This season, Daniels has transcended the traditional stereotype of New Mexico running backs and has verbally committed to Texas Tech. Daniels rushed for more than 2,200 yards last year and has helped La Cueva win three state titles (two in basketball and one in football). His ability to make people miss, run them over, and catch out of the backfield is a major reason why.
QUOTABLE: "As for this year's group - 'Ronnie Daniel's Class' as most refer to it - they have been nearly flawless throughout the years," coach Fred Romero said. "This group is tough to beat. We lost a ton of senior leadership to graduation, but we return a ton of talent."
Top 100 countdown
No. 99 Gateway, Pennsylvania
COACH: Terry Smith LAST SEASON: 12-1 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 15 in Pennsylvania
KEEP AN EYE ON: The quarterback position, which has had to undergo an unexpected change. Dondi Kirby, one of the top defensive backs in the nation, was supposed to receive some time at quarterback this season. But Kirby will now miss his senior season with a knee injury, so the quarterback job likely falls to sophomore Tom Woodson.
STRENGTH: Gateway allowed just over seven points per game last season, and although that team was laden with seniors, a very strong defensive core returns. Linebackers Armstead Williams and Nolan Turan both have Division I looks, while DE Sascha Craig provides size and speed as a weakside defensive end.
STAR OF THE SHOW: With Kirby out, the focus will shift to the front seven on defense, especially Sascha Craig. Craig tallied 11 sacks last season and 19 tackles for a loss to lead the team. Given another year in the weight room and a little more maturity, and the 6-2, 220-pound DE is poised for a major breakout season.
NIPPING AT THEIR HEELS: With the loss of Kirby, Gateway went from pretty clear favorites in the WPIAL to favorites by the slimmest of margins and barely holding its place in the RivalsHigh 100. Pittsburgh (Pa.) Woodland Hills was already hot on the Gators trail and now the Wolverines are breathing down their neck.
QUOTABLE: "Everyone keeps waiting for Gateway to slip, for the latest bunch of upperclassmen to fail, but it never happens," said Andrew Chiappazzi, publisher of PaPreps. "Head coach Terry Smith has 12 seniors to replace, including six who went Division I and who represented a major chunk of his offense, but at the end of the year, Gateway will still be in the mix. They're just that deep."
Top 100 countdown
No. 98 Palo Verde, Nevada
COACH: Darwin Rost LAST SEASON: 10-2 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 2 in Nevada
KEEP AN EYE ON: The next in line for Palo Verde at inside linebacker, Centennial transfer Austin Whalen. Daniel Godkin held the reigns last year and he is now at the Naval Academy. Whalen, in working out with the team, already looks the part and could key the defense.
STRENGTH: As usual, the strength at Palo Verde will be the defense. With Dillon Chaison anchoring the defensive line, it will be tough for opponents to move the ball. Chaison was an all-state caliber performer on the line last year and his presence at defensive tackle starts the strength up the middle. The aforementioned Whalen will man at middle linebacker and Garcia Williams returns at the safety spot.
STAR OF THE SHOW: The best player on the team is Brandon Wright. Wright is a three-star all-purpose back who is the No. 3 ranked player overall in Nevada. He has offers from all over the Western United States. He plays both sides of the ball for Palo Verde and was the team's leading rusher last season.
QUOTABLE: "We have a real tight group of kids playing with a chip on their shoulder," head coach Darwin Rost said. "If the kids can come together, it will make for a good season."
Top 100 countdown
No. 97 Chandler, Arizona
COACH: Jim Ewan LAST SEASON: 9-4 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 11 in Arizona
KEEP AN EYE ON: The addition of all-purpose player Jordan Morgan. Morgan is a three-star prospect who has already committed to the Cal Bears and led his Class 2A team, Valley Christian, to a championship last season as the team's quarterback, safety, and punter.
STRENGTH: The team is loaded with skilled position players and that will be the main match up problem for opponents. Additionally, Chandler athletic director and head coach Jim Ewan has announced that this will be his final season as the coach so he can promote from within and continue as the school's AD. A "win one for the Gipper" mentality could certainly push the Wolves this year.
STAR OF THE SHOW: This year, the man keying the attack will be four-star QB Brett Hundley. Hundley accounted for 2,725 yards of offense and 28 touchdowns last season and has racked up 20 major offers with UCLA putting him at the top of their wish list. Add Ewan's last year, the addition of Morgan, and a high powered offense captained by Hundley all together, and the Wolves look very dangerous this upcoming season.
QUOTABLE: "Jim Ewan is one of the classiest coaches in Arizona," ArizonaVarsity publisher Jon Perryman said. "I can see his team going the extra mile this season to send him out on a high note. The game against Hamilton is always huge, but this year it will be monstrous."
Top 100 countdown
No. 96 Glenbard West, Illinois
COACH: Chad Hetlet LAST SEASON: 13-1 FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 4 in Illinois, No. 4 in Chicagoland
KEEP AN EYE ON: The replacement for quarterback Tyler Warden, who graduated and went to Buffalo. The team currently has a quarterback battle and it may end up with not only a new starter, but it may be someone entirely new to the program as a young transfer from Wheaton South may emerge.
STRENGTH: The coaches think that this team will be the most athletic it has been in years. While the skill players will be inexperienced, they will be fast. The offensive and defensive line's athletic players can do more than push three yards in a cloud of dust. Depth will also be strong as the team returns six starters on both offense and defense.
STAR OF THE SHOW: At Glenbard West, the main man is 6-foot-3 offensive lineman, Jordan Walsh. Walsh is a member of the Rivals 250 and the No. 3 overall player in his state. He has a mountain of offers and can pick the college of his choice.
QUOTABLE: "We have to implement and execute our plans," head coach Chad Hetlet said. "We want to stuff the run and put pressure on the quarterback. It sounds simple but we are very strong up front and we bring back our outside linebacker."