Coach: Elijah Brooks Last Season: 9-3, lost WCAC finals Key Player: As is true with many teams in the RivalsHigh 100, the key player at DeMatha will be a quarterback: John Lovett. Also like many teams in the national rankings, there are more highly rated and highly recruited players on the roster but for team success it is on the 6-foot-3, 212-pound pro-style player. There are six starters returning on offense, including an impressive group of skill players, so it will be on Lovett to be smart with the ball and get it into the open player's hands. There are two BCS-bound running backs in Wisconsin commit Taiwan Deal and Penn State pledge Mark Allen. The pressure isn't on Lovett to win the game as much as to manage it, but that is a skill set of its own. Why it's in the top 25: With Lovett, Deal and Allen in the backfield, and Virginia Tech receiver commit Cameron Phillips and three-star Chris Jones out wide, the offense is stacked. Even more impressive are the 10 returning players on defense and the talent that is flooding that side of the ball. The defensive line features N.C. State commit Deonte Holden, 6-foot-4, 330-pound monster Jonathan Sackey-Addo and youngster Shane Simmons. The linebackers are led by three-star prospects Jawhaun Bentley and Spencer Kleinrichert. The secondary will have to replace Brian Charles, but the group is equally as impressive with Sinmi Demuren, Jarriel Jordan, Jamal Robinson and Greyson Torain. Why it isn't higher: With all the talent that has been mentioned, there is little to say about the offensive line. The standout is 6-foot-8, 321-pound Brock Ruble, but outside of that there are holes. Ruble did not perform very well during the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour, and that could be the weak spot of the team. It could be the undoing.
The Bottom Line: DeMatha is returning one of the most talented groups in the country, but it still missed the top 10. It will open with Hampton (Va.) Phoebus in a game that many think will be close because of the names involved, but DeMatha is expected to be a big winner here. The next two game games will be more telling because DeMatha will have to deal with the team speed of Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby and the coaching and physicality of Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional. There is a good chance that the team will see Olney (Md.) Good Counsel twice as well. This is another team that will have a discussion for a national title with an undefeated run.
Top 100 countdown
No. 14 Katy, Texas
Coach: Gary Joseph Last Season: 16-0, won 5A-DII state title. Ranked No. 3 in RivalsHigh 100 Key Player: The parade of running backs at Katy will return to junior Rodney Anderson. As a freshman, he filled in for an injured Adam Taylor and carried for more than 1,000 yards before returning to the bench last season for Taylor's senior year. Anderson is 6-foot, 191 pounds, and he can run with power and speed. He has offers from all over the country, and he figures to be one of the best backs in Texas, as well as the nation. Why it's in the top 25: Katy is one of the most proud programs in the country, and despite this group returning only four starters on both sides of the ball there are few who doubt the team can make another run to a 5A-DII state finals appearance. Quarterback Kiely Huddleston is back after winning all 16 starts last season -- playing the last two through injury -- and throwing for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in a run-first offense. The defense is the centerpiece of the program and has always been tough. While it lost some of its best players from last year, there will be new names filling in. Why it isn't higher: This may be an over-ranking for a program that feeds off of proving people wrong, so giving the team too much credit to start the season will be new for this group. The team has a lot of holes, but it generally turns over similar numbers of players each year. Taylor and Kyle Fulks on offense will be tough to replace. Defensive lineman Matt Dimon was disruptive, and the secondary loses three players, which could be too much to overcome if the team plays a pure passing team. The Bottom Line: Katy is getting a lot of respect for what it lost after last season, but with a 123-11 record in the last nine years under Joseph, it is hard to have it too far back in the pack. This is a program similar to Hoover (Ala.) High in that new faces do not drop the level of play. This may already be a high point for its ranking because the team will play nary a game that is losable until the playoffs. The Woodlands (Texas) High, Klein (Texas) and Houston (Texas) Alief Taylor are not the strongest out-of-district opponents, and the rest of District 19 is not much competition this year. The playoff path may not include a ranked opponent until the semifinals, making this one of the weaker schedules nationally. While it would not surprise for the team to go undefeated, it would be somewhat surprising to see this squad duplicate the ranking from 2012.
Top 100 countdown
No. 13 Hamilton, Arizona
Coach: Steve Belles Last Season: 12-2, won 5A-DI state title. Ranked No. 85 in RivalsHigh 100 Key Player: A full, healthy season from defensive lineman Qualen Cunningham would go a long way toward a successful year for Hamilton. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound player is a four-star prospect with plenty of college offers, but he was limited last season and through the summer recovering from injuries. He played well at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by Under Armour, and he looks the part of a major force. This summer Hamilton alumni Terrell Suggs returned to campus and gave instruction to the players, and maybe none could benefit more than Cunningham. Why it's in the top 25: The Huskies return eight starters on both sides of the ball, and they are expected to start 20 seniors, making for one of the most veteran teams in the national rankings. The offensive line may be one of the more physical in the region with four-star Casey Tucker, Army commit Bryce Holland and Salvador Lopez leading the way. The receiver group will feature 1,000-yard returner Izzy Simpson and senior Elijah Williams. The team will need to find a running back, but that will not be hard with one of the deepest rosters in the country. Why it isn't higher: Despite plenty of returning players, there is a lack of explosiveness with this group. The offensive line can grind out yards. Whichever player emerges as the running back will likely pile up quality yards, but hitting the home run may be tough. The receivers are talented, but neither is dynamic. The defense is stout and fundamentally sound, but there doesn't appear to be an extremely fast secondary that can make big plays. The Bottom Line: There are more impressive teams in the country, but few are as big, talented and well coached as Hamilton. The group of veteran players on the roster combined with some talented juniors and sophomores makes the ranking easy to justify. There are interesting games on the schedule. Chula Vista (Calif.) Eastlake and Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy start the year, and Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe and Chandler (Ariz.) High are in the midseason. An undefeated season would likely mean a top 10 finish.
Top 100 countdown
No. 12 St. Edward, Ohio
Coach: Rick Finotti Last Season: 11-1, lost in second round of Division I playoffs. Ranked No. 49 in RivalsHigh 100 Key Players: Whichever player wins the starting quarterback position will be in a pressure position and the key to the team. After Pat Shurmur was fired from his head coaching position with the Cleveland Browns, fans held their breath over whether the family -- and his son, Kyle Shurmur, would stay at St. Ed's. He was expected to be the starter with FBS-level talent. The battle now is between junior Brett Kean and senior Jack Walz. Walz was the backup quarterback two years ago, but he has found a home in the secondary and has committed to Bowling Green. Kean attended the Rivals Camp Series and looked like he could perform as well. Why it's in the top 25: Thanks in large part to the school's tremendous wrestling program, the offensive and defensive lines at St. Ed's have become among the best in the nation. While the group is not loaded with recruited prospects, it will be filled with talented high school players who understand leverage and footwork. Its junior class has talented playmakers, with running back Andrew Dowell emerging as an interesting BCS-level prospect after sitting out last season with a hip injury. The athletic David Dowell -- Andrew's fraternal twin -- will be a playmaker at receiver after he caught 24 passes as a sophomore. Why it isn't higher: The loss of Shurmur moved the team from a likely top five placement to a more reasonable spot outside of the top 10. The team is expected to be among the best in Ohio, with a real conversation building between Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius and Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier for who belongs in the top spot in the preseason. All three have stellar defenses and solid offenses, and the slight edge goes to St. Ed's in this poll. With so much of the postseason being played in the cold, the quarterback position may not be as crucial to St. Ed as it has been in the past, but it was the linchpin to the rankings process. The Bottom Line: Like most relevant Ohio high school teams, the schedule for St. Edward is loaded with landmines. It will open the season with Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville, but the remaining schedule features Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder, St. Ignatius and Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller. The path through the playoffs would include a game against Mentor (Ohio) High, which could be ranked by November after it nearly missed the preseason RivalsHigh 100, as well as teams from Columbus en route to the finals possibly against St. Xavier. Ohio has a lot of teams inside the rankings, and many that fell just short for preseason, so the situation figures to be fluid in the Buckeye State.
Top 100 countdown
No. 11 De La Salle, California
Coach: Justin Alumbaugh Last Season: 15-0, won Open Division Bowl title. Ranked No. 2 in RivalsHigh 100
Key Player: Two-way player Dasmond Tautalatasi is expected to be the lead running back and the key element of the defensive backfield. The three-star prospect has multiple BCS offers, and at 6-foot-1, 186 pounds he can be very effective in his role. The Spartans have had plenty of talented played come through the halls in their rich history, so the attention being paid to him -- and many other players -- is nothing new. He runs with low pad level, and that should allow him to break enough tackles to frustrate opponents as he plays offense with the mindset coming from his safety position. Why it's in the top 25: The offense returns quarterback Chris Williams, running back Tautalatasi and an offensive line featuring Larry Allen Jr., Sumner Houston, Boss Tagaloa and Drew Sullivan, which inspires plenty of confidence. The defensive line has to replace some talent, but it was bolstered by the addition of Kahlil McKenzie, who moved from Wisconsin when his father accepted a position with the Raiders. The program has owned California and been an automatic to reach the Open Division Bowl game, so there is no reason to assume anything less will happen this year. Why it's not higher: Even with all of its talent, it is very hard to ignore that the defense returns only five starters and must replace four in the front seven who went on to the next level. Four-star Michael Hutchings and three-stars Austin Hoops, Victor Egu and David Moffitt will be difficult players to just plug and play with new faces.
The Bottom Line: Even with legendary coach Bob Ladaceour leaving the headset to Alumbaugh, there is little doubt that De La Salle will be undefeated into late November and relatively untested. The schedule is devoid of a team that can beat De La Salle, and there is no out-of-state game in the early weeks to test where the team is. Folsom (Calif.) High figures to make it into the Regional Bowl final and could test De La Salle on defense, but it should be another NorCal program that De La Salle dispatches before a finals appearance. This will be one of the weakest schedules when all is said and done, and with an Open Division Bowl victory there is no telling whether this team will be in the top five or just outside the top 10.