Statistics are from the 2006 season.
1. Northwestern, Miami (15-0)
In the huddle: With 12 starters returning, including four headed to Miami, the Bulls are on pace to win a second consecutive Class 6A championship. DL Marcus Forston (6-3, 290 pounds), rated No. 28 in the ESPN 150, had 20 sacks and 92 tackles. QB Jacory Harris throws to speedster WRs Aldarius Johnson and Tommy Streeter. A Sept. 15 game at No. 2 Carroll (Southlake, Texas) could decide the national championship.
Kicks off: Sept. 1 at Carol City (Opa Locka).
2. Carroll, Southlake, Texas (16-0)
In the huddle: The pass-oriented offense has eight regulars returning, including QB Riley Dodge, Texas' player of the year in 2006, and RB Tre' Newton (1,285 rushing yards). LB Derek Tomlin and S Luke Anderson spearhead the defense. The Dragons carry a 48-game win streak into 2007, having won three straight Class 5A state titles.
Kicks off: Sept. 7 at Lake Highlands.
3. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (8-3)
In the huddle: OT Khaled Holmes (6-5, 300), an ESPN 150 player, anchors a line which needs to give enough time to promising junior QB Matt Barkley (1,349 passing yards). RB Robert Modica (six TDs) and wide receivers Robbie Boyer, Carlos Valdes and Ryan Mumma are offensive options.
Kicks off: Sept. 7 vs. West Covina.
4. St. Xavier, Cincinnati (10-2)
In the huddle: SS Fred Craig and strongside LB Evan Miller are experienced defenders. RB Darius Ashley, who rushed for 1,450 yards and scored 18 TDs, FB Luca Romeo and QB John Hurley comprise the backfield, operating from a pro-style I-formation. A veteran team with 16 starters looks for the second Division I state title in three seasons under fourth-year coach Steve Specht (36-3 overall).
Kicks off: Saturday vs. Winton Woods (Cincinnati).
5. Independence, Charlotte (16-0)
In the huddle: The Patriots enter with the nation's No. 2 all-time win streak at 108 victories and seven straight Class 4A titles. The streak might be challenged Sept. 1 at Elder (Cincinnati) in Ohio. RB Rod Chisholm (2,238 rushing yards, 24 TDs), a transfer from West Charlotte, was Mecklenburg County's player of the year in 2006 and adds punch to a pass-happy offense that returns seven starters.
Kicks off: Today at Olympic (Charlotte).
6. South Panola, Batesville, Miss. (15-0)
In the huddle: Coach Lance Pogue inherits a program which has won a Mississippi record 60-straight games, four-straight Class 5A titles and returns 17 starters. Experienced line play will dictate play. FS-RB Darius Barksdale, the top two-way player, is headed to Mississippi.
Kicks off: Aug. 30 at Warren Central (Vicksburg) in Red River Classic.
7. DeMatha, Hyattsville, Md. (12-0)
In the huddle: WR-DB Kenny Tate adds options on both sides of the ball, having scored 15 TDs. QB Tommy Chroniger operates the offense with linemen Tony Dizkowski (6-4, 320), D.J. Sellman (6-6, 320) and Nick Rivers handling the blocks.
Kicks off: Sept. 2 at No. 4 St. (Cincinnati) in Herbstreit Challenge.
8. Summerville, S.C. (12-1)
In the huddle: Georgia-bound WR A.J. Green, No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 150, caught 60 passes for 3203 yards and 14 TDs as a junior, mainly from QB Reid McCollum (6-4, 205). The defensive is paced by Demetrius Sherman (6-4, 3-5), with 51 total tackles and FS Brandon Millhouse. K David Behr will sign with Navy.
Kicks off: Saturday vs. No. 9 Booker T. Washington (Miami), noon, on ESPN.
9. Booker T. Washington, Miami (12-2)
In the huddle: ESPN 150 wide receivers Brandon Harris (nine TD receptions) and Miami-bound Thearon Collier (nine TDs) possess speed and will stretch the defense for QB Sancho McDowell (1,622 passing yards, 17 TDs). Top returning tackler LB Franklin Brown (41 tackles) spearheads the defense.
Kicks off: Saturday at No. 8 Summerville (S.C.) in Moncks Corner, S.C.
10. Poly, Long Beach, Calif. (11-2)
In the huddle: With 16 starters back, coach Raul Lara's squad aims for the Southern Section, Division I title and a berth in California's Prep Bowl. Linemen Jurrell Casey and Jordan Gros are top defenders and S Vaughn Telemaque (10 sacks) secures the secondary. Ricky Johnson (five TDs) is one of six running backs in the rotation.
Kicks off: Sept. 1 at Glenville (Cleveland) in Herbstreit Challenge in Canton, Ohio.
11. Katy, Texas (13-1)
In the huddle: The Tigers advanced to the Class 5A, Division II quarterfinals with RB Aundre Dean (2,111 yards, 27 TDs) leading the way. QB Bo Levi Mitchell, who completed 94 passes for 1,490 yards and 13 TDs, triggers the offense with eight starters returning. Defensive backs Trent Hunter and Terrance Henry are bright spots.
Kicks off: Thursday vs. Klein.
12. Pahokee, Fla. (14-0)
In the huddle: One of the nation's premier small schools (Class 2B) is loaded with several Division I prospects and 12 starters off a state championship squad. First-year coach Blaze Thompson relies on QB Anthony Sheppard (2,388 passing yards, 31 TDs) and two-way tackle Micanor Regis (6-3, 300), a Miami recruit, for a return trip to the finals.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 vs. Palm Beach Gardens.
13. John Curtis Christian, River Ridge, La. (14-0)
In the huddle: The defensive line is led by junior Mike Henry (6-5, 265) and Chris Nickolson (6-3, 265). QB Matt Saucier will throw to Wayne Poole and Vincent Allen, but three-year starting C Bryan Munch (6-0, 265) fortifies the offense.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 vs. Mandeville.
14. Maryville, Tenn. (15-0)
In the huddle: QB Brent Burnette (6-3, 215) passed for 1,921 yards and 18 TDs, splitting time in 2006. This fall he'll look for WR Stephen Shriver (six TDs) and the program's fourth straight Class 4A state crown.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 at Alcoa.
15. Gateway, Monroeville, Pa. (6-5)
In the huddle: Transfer Leon Green, a multi-talented prospect, adds spice to both sides of the ball after two solid seasons at West Mifflin. LB-DE Shayne Hale (6-3, 238) brings speed to the edge, having five sacks and 13 tackles for loss. The Gators have 18 starters back, making them the favorite in Class 4A.
Kicks off: Sept. 1 vs. No. 25 Cardinal Mooney (Youngstown, Ohio) in Herbstreit Challenge in Canton, Ohio.
16. St. Bonaventure, Ventura, Calif. (10-2)
In the huddle: First-year coach Todd Therrien takes over after Jon Mack (163-47-1, seven sectional titles) left for the college ranks. Easing the transition is ESPN 150 RB Darrell Scott (6-1, 205), who rushed for 3,194 yards and scored 45 TDs at Moorpark.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 vs. Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita).
17. Jenks, Okla. (13-1)
In the huddle: Coach Allan Trimble's program has won seven Class 6A state championships since 1996, including last year. RB Chris Adkins (824 yards, 10 TDs) and QB Mark Ginther, who passed for nearly 2,200 yards, operate from a pro-style set. Though the offense returns all 11 regulars, the defense is thin with only three back, notably tackle Tony Gillespie (6-1, 295).
Kicks off: Aug. 31 vs. Bixby.
18. Colerain, Cincinnati (13-1)
In the huddle: DT Evan Davis, a Cincinnati recruit, and CB Ravelle Sadler (six interceptions) are stalwarts. QB Brandon Reynolds, who accounted for 28 TDs, is one of six returning offensive starters. Could face No. 4 St. Xavier in Ohio's Division I Region 4 playoffs.
Kicks off: Today vs. Huber Heights (Wayne) in Oxford.
19. Northside, Warner Robins, Ga. (15-0)
In the huddle: Georgia's Class 4A champions are 29-1 in the last two seasons and feature a high-powered offense which averaged 35 points per game. Dual threat QB Marques Ivory (6-2, 233), who passed for 1,823 yards, is the linchpin. Juniors Eric Fields (6-3, 195), Abry Jones and K.J. Morton help bolster the defense.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 at Houston County (Warner Robins).
20. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (13-1)
In the huddle: One of the nation's storied programs will lean on an experienced defense, featuring LB Brady Amack, DB Graylon Sanders and DL Jordan Bouey.
Kicks off: Sept. 7 vs. Serra (San Mateo).
21. Cardinal Mooney, Youngstown, Ohio (14-0)
In the huddle: Notre Dame-bound QB-S Danny McCarthy threw for 1,910 yards and 21 TDs and ran for 785 yards and eight more scores. MLB Michael Zordich (6-2, 210) and RB-LB Brandon Beachum (12 sacks) both run 4.6 40s and will sign with Penn State.
Kicks off: Today vs. Mentor.
22. Prattville, Ala. (15-0)
In the huddle: The Class 6A champions return 13 starters to the fold and QB Casey Westin, a coveted transfer from Greenville (Ala.). RB Justin Albert, a first team all-state selection, ran for 1,655 yards and scored 31 TDs. LBs La'Angelo Albright and Terrell Jackson are top defenders for coach Bill Clack.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 at Theodore.
23. Smithson Valley, Spring Valley, Texas (9-2)
In the huddle: RB Trent Rios (5-9, 170) figures to get a bulk of the carries after rushing for 1,173 yards with 21 TDs and WR Cody Renken (665 receiving yards, five TDs) most of the receptions. OG Shawn Wyatt (6-4, 300) is a third team all-state selection.
Kicks off: Aug. 31 at The Woodlands.
24. Carmel, Ind. (12-3)
In the huddle: Aaron King rushed for 2,282 yards and scored 38 TDs last season. Louisville-bound OL Ryan Barnes (6-7, 295) protects junior QB Morgan Newton. Opened season defeating 2006 Class 4A champion Cathedral (Indianapolis), 28-21, on Aug. 18.
Next: Today vs. Kokomo.
25. Hamilton, Chandler, Ariz. (13-1)
In the huddle: The defending Class 5A, Division I champions will ride the legs of RB Covaughn Deboskie, who rushed for 1,300 yards, and Arizona-bound WR-QB Gerell Robinson. LB Zach Moore, the captain, is the leading tackler, but DE Justin Artis (5-10, 230) is the linchpin of the front seven.
Kicks off: Friday at Buena (Sierra Vista).
1. DeMatha, Hyattsville, Md. (12-0)
2. Gateway, Monroeville, Pa. (6-5)
3. Central Catholic, Pittsburgh (10-2)
4. St. Anthony, South Huntington, N.Y. (11-0)
5. Liberty, Bethlehem, Pa. (14-2)
6. Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J. (12-0)
7. Upper St. Clair, Pittsburgh (16-0)
8. Good Counsel, Olney, Md. (10-2)
9. .St. Peter's Prep, Jersey City, N.J. (11-1)
10. Everett, Mass. (12-0)
1. St. Xavier, Cincinnati (10-2)
2. Jenks, Okla. (13-1)
3. Colerain, Cincinnati (13-1)
4. Cardinal Mooney, Youngstown, Ohio (14-0)
5. Carmel, Ind. (12-3)
6. St. Rita, Chicago (13-1)
7. Muskegon, Mich. (14-0)
8. Union, Tulsa (7-4)
9. Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul (10-1)
10. Blue Springs (Mo.) South (13-0)
1. Northwestern, Miami (15-0)
2. Carroll, Southlake, Texas (16-0)
3. Independence, Charlotte (16-0)
4. South Panola, Batesville, Miss. (15-0)
5. Summerville, S.C. (12-1)
6. Booker T. Washington, Miami (12-2)
7. Katy, Texas (13-1)
8. Pahokee, Fla. (14-0)
9. John Curtis Christian, River Ridge, La. (14-0)
10. Maryville, Tenn. (15-0)
1. Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif. (8-3)
2. Poly, Long Beach, Calif. (11-2)
3. St. Bonaventure, Ventura, Calif. (10-2)
4. De La Salle, Concord, Calif. (13-1)
5. Hamilton, Chandler, Ariz. (13-1)
6. Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks, Calif. (11-1)
7. Centennial, Corona, Calif. (11-1)
8. Jesuit, Portland, Ore. (13-0)
9. Kahuku, Hawaii (11-2)
10. Lakes, Lakewood, Wash. (9-2)
About the rankings: The 2007 ESPN Top 25 preseason high school football rankings are compiled by Christopher Lawlor of ESPN.com, who consults with a national network of sportswriters, Scouts Inc. analysts and high school coaches. Criteria considered are a team's strength of schedule with an emphasis on national games; the superiority of competition in its state, district or league; the program's history and tradition; and the quality of its personnel.
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA TODAY, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball. He also for worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, where he ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y. and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.