November 20, 2009

Concord (Calif.) De La Salle High won a record 151 straight games and had 14 consecutive unbeaten seasons before finally losing in 2004.

And let's get one thing straight right now: That will not have any impact on what will follow.

Dallas Jackson is the high school sports expert for Send him a question or comment at and follow him at
Our Greatest State Debate, RivalsHigh's tournament to determine which state is playing the best high school football year, was well-received by users out there.

In fact, you wanted more.

Rate all the states, many of you said. Others, meanwhile, took exception to our picks - repeatedly making references to the past.

You were missing the point. The tournament was about this year and this year only.

With that in mind, here's my list for the entire nation.

So we congratulate De La Salle on its stunning streak. And hope the program - and you - understand it won't be a part of these rankings.

This list is based on 2009 teams.

1. Texas: Year in and year out, Texas is going to be the tops on this list. Mostly due to the size of the state but also because each year it would be hard to argue that the top 25 in Texas could compete well in any state.
2. Florida: This is a very solid year in Florida. This state always will be in the discussion for a top-five state. In 2009, it moves up to No. 2 nationally. Depth from top to bottom is very impressive and the 2008 reclassification has made each class better.
3. Ohio: My first surprise (especially for California). Like Florida, Ohio is very deep in 2009. The Division II level could use another couple of good teams, but Division I is top tier nationally. As much publicity as the GCL gets, people need to start paying attention to some really great football being played in the MAC.
4. California: This is really a down year for the state of California. I had a tough time even putting it at No. 4 overall. Sheer volume helps a lot, but with so many traditional teams being down, one could argue that California could be in the No. 6-10 range. There certainly are a lot of college bound players in the state, but that is not indicative of the overall level of team play - which is down.
5. Louisiana: Except for folks in Louisiana, I may be alone in my belief about the strength in Louisiana this year. Class 4A is as good as most can remember, the 5A powers are still going strong and Evangel and Curtis are still playing very well. The depth is really strong and the bottom teams are getting better.
6. Georgia: I believe Georgia AAAAA may be the second most difficult tournament to win this year (behind Texas 5A Division I). There are so many good teams playing physical and fundamental football, it is a true crapshoot who will win. The depth in state is really strong; next year, it will be even better with reclassification coming.
7. Pennsylvania: This is a surprising rank for Pennsylvania. This year, the depth in state is not quite what it could be, but Quad A is stacked. There are not as many star players this year, but the level of good high school football players is up making for better teams.
8. South Carolina: The Palmetto State is playing good football but not great. Last year was a better year in state; next year also may better than the 2009 version. Byrnes is still the name brand and the Rock Hill area is very strong. Marlboro County and Myrtle Beach add depth on the lower levels.
9. Michigan: A top-ten ranking for Michigan is a true compliment for the state. This is one of the best years for talented players and quarterbacks. The East and West sides of the state are looking a little more balanced than they have been in recent years. Maintaining this level could be tough to do.
10. Mississippi: Mississippi is one of the more underrated states when it comes to high school football. Too often people will only think about South Panola; that is not fair to the state. There is a lot of good depth this year in both 4A and 3A as well as high level of play in 5A.
11. Virginia: This is a state that is way down from 2008. The bad news: 2010 does not show much promise either. The Tidewater area is still producing players, but there are massive voids in good football teams. The Atlantic East as a whole needs Virginia to be playing better football.
12. Illinois: People paying attention to the RivalsHigh 100 this season may be shocked to see Illinois this high as the state only has had one representative much of the year. While there are few elite-level teams in the state for 2009, the level of play is up and parity is keeping more teams from shining through. This is a much better ranking than expected for Illinois.
13. Tennessee: Surprise ranking of the entire list for me was the overall level of play in the Volunteer state this year. Typically, Tennessee is not a Top 25 state for football, but Memphis, Mid-State and out East have the highest level of play in recent memory. A banner year for Tennessee high school football.
14. Arkansas: A lot of folks will not like seeing Arkansas above Oklahoma, but the highest level in Arkansas is more competitive this season and gives it the nod. Arkansas may not have the top-level teams, but the overall depth gives it the nod. Class 7A and out west in the state are better than usual.
15. Oklahoma: Jenks, Union and possibly Broken Arrow are the best in the state. The trouble is, Broken Arrow is beating up bad competition. While the first two mentioned would be better than what Arkansas has to offer, there are probably ten teams in the Natural state that would come in between those top two and Broken Arrow. This is not the best year Oklahoma has to offer; the state figures to be better in 2010.
16. New Jersey: This is a poor spot for Jersey to be in. Just outside of the top 15 for high school football is a stunner for Garden state football fans. Don Bosco is great, but the rest of the state is down.
17. Arizona: This is a state on the rise in high school football. Peoria Centennial is one of the strongest teams to ever come out of state - a state that is producing more and more top prospects.
18. Washington: A little bit of a flat year in Washington when it really could have been a banner year. Losing three major out-of-state battles hurt the perception. There is still depth developing, but the talent is generally limited to the usual pockets.
19. Maryland: Much like in the Greatest State Debate, Maryland gets more credit than it deserves by having DeMatha and Good Counsel counting toward the state - despite not being playoff eligible. If this were a combined hoops and football ranking, Maryland would be much much higher.
20. North Carolina: The top-tier talent in North Carolina is better in this year than many others. The depth is still not what it takes to be a top 20 state annually, but overall, the state is improving.
21. Utah: Utah may not have as many football teams as the states ranked above it (or directly below for that matter), but it does have a lot of quality teams and very good coaches. This is a state on the rise in high school football; it is only a matter of time before others notice.
22. Minnesota: Having the No. 1 prospect in the land is good - being ranked ahead of some southern states is great. Physcial play is the staple of the state; there are many teams that can compete.
23. Alabama: For a state that produces so many good/great college bound athletes, the overall level of high school football being played is very down this season. While not typically known as a great football state, being this far behind Tennessee is stunning.
24. Indiana: This is a very good year for Indiana football although the cumulative ranking may not indicate that. Most years, Indiana football would be much lower, but there are several good teams in the state as well as many quality football players.
25. Kentucky: This ranking for Kentucky is largely based on the performance of Fort Thomas (Kentucky) Highlands. The Louisville area is quite down and much of the rest of the state is a little weak as well. I would call this a generous spot from the referee.
26. Colorado: The top level of Colorado football is doing fairly well this year, but the depth in the state is not there. While the state has many more teams than nearby Utah, the quality football is not quite as high in 2009.
27. Wisconsin: Milwaukee is the main measuring area in Wisconsin and this season it is fairly strong - although Marquette has been destroying competition. Some of the smaller levels in the state are weak, although they do have potential to be better in 2010.
28. Missouri: Webb City, Rockhurst, and Jefferson City are all very solid squads. The problem is, there is not much to talk about besides those teams. The Blue Springs teams are not what they were in 2008 and that hurts the ranking of Missouri.
29. Kansas: It is hard to have Kansas behind Missouri, especially with how dominant Hutchinson has been this year. The problem is, the Hutchinson JV team may be the second-best team in the state. That is really holding it back.
30. Oregon: Oregon has Portland, Eugene and Salem but not much else. The Eastern side of the state provides very little to the high school football landscape.
31. Iowa: Iowa gets a bad wrap for high school football; ranking the state No. 31 probably does not help. The top-level teams can compete out of state (though they never leave) and there is some level of competition below. Just not enough.
32. Hawaii: The Island state does not have many teams, but it generally does produce a fair share of solid teams. The 2009 season is not quite what 2008 was - and not quite what 2010 can be.
33. Nevada: Las Vegas and the surrounding area is the main lifeline for Nevada football. The top three teams in state are all in Las Vegas; from there, however, it gets much weaker.
34. Nebraska: There are some very good pockets of football in Nebraska. The Millard (Omaha) area teams have been competitive most of the season, as have the Lincoln area teams.
35. West Virginia: South Charleston has a very good group of football players. If the Black Eagles do not win states, it would be a disappointment. The state as a whole has been down for a few years, including 2009.
36. Massachusetts: There is a surprising amount of teams in Massaschusetts that are playing good football in 2009. Xaverian Brothers is leading the way in the state with a ranking in the RivalsHigh 100. This could be one of the better seasons in the state.
37. New York: It is surprising to have New York behind Massachusetts, but the state is a bit down this year while Massachusetts is up. The Long Island teams have produced some good teams in the past and can do it again.
38. Montana: Tucked away up in God's country are a few very good football teams. This may be one of the best Helena (Mont) Capital High teams in a long while. The Bruins could go out of state and compete, but they may be the only team that can say that.
39. Connecticut: Connecticut does not produce many teams that could compete on a national level. There is quite a following for the sport in the Northeast, but their perception is not a good one for high school football.
40. New Mexico: I wanted to have New Mexico higher, but this is just not a good year overall. Las Cruces Mayfield was supposed to be very good. It lost the Battle for the City with Las Cruces High, but it can still win the state title.
41. Idaho: This is a poor spot for Idaho. There is good football being played here but in more limited pockets than other states. There is quality football players in the state, just not on the highest level.
42. Alaska: Yes, Alaska. Surprising to many would be the quality of football being played at the state semi finals level. There are not a lot of teams in Alaska, but those that win the state title do so with good football acumen.
43. Maine: A state very similar to Alaska. Not a ton of great teams, but the teams at the top would push the top teams from the states remaining.
44. Delaware: Delaware is limited by size, that's for sure. And it's hardly a surprise to say the Wilmington area has the best teams in the state.
45. Wyoming: Wyoming is not quite up to par with Idaho, Montana or other states in the region. But Wyoming does have some quality 4A teams, such as Sheridan, Cheyenne Central and Campbell County.
46. North Dakota: Had this been a hockey ranking, North Dakota would be much higher. The Bismarck area has the market cornered on high school football; Bismarck High could be the No. 1 team in state.
47. Rhode Island: Even with only 43 teams playing 11-man football, Rhode Island still is not the state with the fewest number of high school football teams.
48. New Hampshire: For some reason, New Hampshire has six divisions of football. Division I is fairly competitive with Salem, Nashua North and Pinkerton battling it out.
49. Vermont: Vermont rounds out the New England area. The state with the fewest 11-man teams (28) comes in near the bottom of the national rankings.
50. South Dakota: This is a tough spot to be in, but South Dakota only has 68 teams playing 11-man football and few are playing at an above-average level.

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