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St. Thomas Aquinas tops final rankings

12/22/2008

Editor's note: ESPN released the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national football rankings to start each week of the regular season. The rankings combine three previously independent polls and are compiled by a panel of voters: Doug Huff (Wheeling, W.Va.), Jon Mahoney (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Sheldon Shealer (Myersville, Md.), Brian Stumpf (Torrance, Calif.) and Mark Tennis (Stockton, Calif.). Kynon Codrington, Christopher Lawlor, Mike Loveday, Bob Masajo and Paul Muyskens also contributed to the poll.

There is certainly no suspense at the top of the final 2008 ESPN RISE FAB 50 national football rankings, especially the way No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) walloped previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Lakeland 56-7 Friday night to win the Florida Class 5A state championship.

But with previous No. 2 Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) going down in the California Interscholastic Federation Open Division championship Saturday night, that did create the opportunity for movement throughout the rest of the top 10 for the final rankings.

Despite Allen's one loss, the Texas Class 5A Division I champion snagged the final No. 2 spot in the FAB 50. The Eagles' one loss was to Trinity (Euless, Texas), which was the No. 1 team until Allen avenged its earlier loss with a 34-21 win Dec. 6. The Eagles won their state title Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston with a 21-14 victory over previously unbeaten and nationally ranked Hightower.

Moving up to No. 3 was Texas Class 4A Division I champion Lake Travis of Austin. The Cavaliers had been No. 5 but hopped Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.) in the final rankings as voters were impressed with their 48-23 title game win over Longview.

Lake Travis quarterback Garrett Gilbert passed for five touchdowns and ran for two more to complete probably the greatest season any prep quarterback in Texas has ever had. However, the Cavaliers' getting bumped up to No. 3 had more to do with their margin of victory over Longview, a team that lost 21-7 early in the season to No. 2 Allen.

Rounding out the top five is Centennial (Corona, Calif.), which was No. 8 last week but moved up after a 21-16 win over De La Salle of Concord in the CIF Division I state championship bowl game. The result also effectively avenges a loss to the Spartans from last year that prevents the Huskies from being on a 30-game winning streak.

The team making the biggest jump in the final rankings was the one that knocked off Poly. Coach Mike Alberghini's squad from Grant High in Sacramento was voted in the 10th position after its 25-20 win Saturday completed a 14-0 season. The Pacers also had wins over state champions from Idaho and Utah.

Two years ago, Grant had a team arguably even more talented than this season's, but the Pacers weren't able to prove how strong they were in a CIF bowl game. That team still ended at No. 25 in the FAB 50. This year's team did get the chance, won the biggest game in the history of Sacramento area prep football and earned a finish in the top 10.

In the final rankings, two teams moved into the FAB 50 for the first time all season. One was a team that just ended its season, Seminole (Sanford, Fla.), which won the Florida Class 6A state title Saturday night over three-time defending champ Miami Northwestern. The other was a team that ended its season way back on Nov. 21, Timpview of Provo, Utah. The T-Birds have won three straight Class 4A state titles and are taking a 36-game winning streak into next season.

Results as of Dec. 20.

Also Receiving Votes: North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.) 14-1, River Hill (Clarksville, Md.) 14-0, South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) 14-1, Valley (West Des Moines, Iowa) 14-0, Tucker (Ga.) 14-1.

Dropped Out: Previous No. 48 Longview (Texas); No. 49 Pine Forest (Pensacola, Fla.).

*Ties in points are broken according to which team was ranked higher by a majority of panelists.