Rivals.com began its 2011 countdown last Monday, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.
We started 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 Wednesday, Aug. 8 - just 10 days from the start of the season.
After that, we will wait until Aug. 27 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: Ron Muhitch
Last Season: 10-4, Illinois Class 7A runner-up. Ranked No. 6 in Illinois.
Fast Fact: Wheaton-Warrenville South may be the exception to the cliché that defense wins championships. The Tigers have won three state titles since 2006, and in each season they scored more than 500 points. The three seasons they did not win title, they failed to score more than 400 points.
Key Player: The quarterback - whoever that may be. The Tigers were crushed with injuries last season, and it forced the team to use a sophomore quarterback in the state title game. This year there is a battle between rising two juniors-to-be: Ryan Graham and Casey Paraday. Paraday transferred into the program from Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian.
The Good: The offensive line. The entire group is returning from last season, and that is always a plus when a unit can maintain its cohesiveness and all rise together. Frank Garcia (6-4, 265), Kyle Joyce (6-5, 250), and Brian Welch (6-5, 225) will hopefully pave the way in the run attack and keep the quarterback upright in the passing game. Coach Muhitch has already said he is not changing his philosophy on offense, and the team will continue to be multiple and spread the field.
The Bad: The quarterback situation. The Wheaton-Warrenville South offense is predicated on a quarterback who can make quick decisions and deliver the football accurately; last year there were very few high notes from the position. Having 6-foot-3 receiver Corey Davis returning should help whichever player ends up being the starter.
The bottom line is the team displayed incredible resolve fighting and clawing its way to a state finals appearance with hardly any semblance of an offense, and it was largely on the back of the defense. The Tigers allowed only slightly more than 10 points per game on the season and impressively held East St. Louis (Ill.) High to seven points in the third round of the playoffs. The team shouldn't need that type of production this year, but if it can get it that wouldn't hurt.
Top 100 countdown
No. 39 Walton, Georgia
Coach: Rocky Hidalgo
Last Season: 14-1, Georgia Class AAAAA runner-up. Ranked No. 46 nationally.
Fast Fact: Last season running back Tyren Jones was named the Cobb County Player of the Year after rushing for 2,375 yards and 38 scores. He returns as a senior and the No. 1-rated prospect at his position. He is also committed to Alabama Key Player: Running back Tyren Jones. Jones is rated as the No. 146 overall player in the country, and he is the key to the Walton team success. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior. He did all of that while sitting out the entire second half of five games. Jones has solid players on the offensive line and a FBS-level quarterback to lighten the load, but he is a player that can help get Cobb Country over the hump in Georgia.
The Good: The offense. Wow. With Jones, quarterback Parker McLeod as well as Brandon Kublanow and Jake Boynton as seniors on the offense, there are currently four SEC-bound players lining up for a team that made it to the state finals in 2011. They scored 523 total points last season with this group as the core and figure to replicate those successes.
The Bad: Replacing the Blaylocks. There are still a lot of talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but Zack and Daron Blaylock were pace setters for the group. Zack, now at Kentucky, led the team with 11 interceptions (of which five were returned for touchdowns) while Daron led the team in tackles on the season. Both played safety and provided support for both the air and ground attack. While not irreplaceable, the pair may prove to have been invaluable.
The bottom line is history is not on the side of Walton. Well, it isn't just Walton; it is all of Cobb County football which has not won a Georgia state title since 1967. Walton played for its first state title since the school opened in 1976 last season and hopes to make a repeat appearance in the game. Last season the team was unranked locally before making a run to the title game; entering this year, the program has much higher expectations.
Top 100 countdown
No. 38 Cathedral, Indiana
Coach: Rick Streiff
Last Season: 12-3, Won Indiana Class 4A Title. Ranked No. 79 nationally.
Fast Fact: Indianapolis Cathedral opens its season with road games against Indianapolis (Ind.) Ben Davis and Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central before playing host to No. 83 Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier. In the last 11 games against those three opponents, the program is 1-11 with its lone victory over Warren Central in 2009.
Key Player: Wide receiver Sampson Levingston. There are a number of players at Cathedral who fit here, but Levingston is one that has made a strong impression on the summer circuit. His emergence as an impact player could be big for this team. Levingston has shown the ability to get open routinely during the 7-on-7 circuit, and for a team that likes to pass the ball, his steady improvement has been a positive for the offseason.
The Good: Experience gained. Indianapolis Cathedral was a hard-luck loser in several early games last season. It took learning how to win, and maybe a spark from a last-second win over Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller, but the team matured. The young players saw significant minutes last yea,r and the junior varsity team was one of the best in the Lake Region. Those players are all stepping up and filling major roles this year. This group knows how to win and doesn't need a list of FBS-level players to do it.
The Bad: Replacing quarterback Corey Babb could be tough. Cathedral was a solid team through the air last year, and Babb was a major reason for that. The 6-foot-5 signal caller was a steady hand with the offense and a leader who could be looked to in crunch time. Cathedral was in six one-score games last year, and having a level head lead the team was important. The team will need to fill that role, not just the position.
The bottom line is the results will speak for themselves early in the year. Based on the lack of success it has had against the bigger programs in its local area, this is a bit of a reach putting Cathedral as the top team in Indiana entering the year. The program has struggled against Ben Davis, Warren Central, St. Xavier and Indianapolis (Ind.) Carmel, so placing it ahead of those teams flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
Top 100 countdown
No. 37 Arlington Martin, Texas
Coach: Bob Wager
Last Season: 12-2, lost in Texas 5A-DI quarterfinals. Ranked No. 51 nationally.
Fast Fact: After being eliminated in the playoffs during four of the last five seasons by Euless (Texas) Trinity, by a combined score of 151-40, Arlington Martin finally won the contest last season, 19-7.
Key Player: Athlete Kyle Hicks. A Texas commit, Hicks is the central figure for what Martin is able to do this season. The four-star prospect ran for 1,685 yards and 26 touchdowns and also plays a pretty strong cornerback. Hicks has had a slow offseason as he broke his foot against Euless Trinity and then re-fractured it during a regional track meet. He is back off of crutches and nearing fully healthy.
The Good: The defense. Martin was able to down Trinity on the strength of a strong defensive performance, holding the Trojans to just 6 yards in the second half. Returning are defensive linemen Chris Odom, Ty Smalley and Channing Crump. Behind them are linebackers Quentin Query and Jordan Avery, and in the secondary will lurk Matt Waller and Trevor Stewart. That unit will have to be the strength of the team this year, especially early.
The Bad: Breaking in a new quarterback. While breaking in a new quarterback would not normally be a terribly difficult obstacle to overcome, it could be this season as Garrett Lane is ready to make his mark. Welcoming him to the field will be games against nationally ranked DeSoto (Texas) High and Dallas (Texas) Skyline in the first two weeks. There are three returners on the offensive line as well as Hicks in the backfield, so there will certainly be a reliance on the run game until the middle of September.
The bottom line is there will not be much in the way of Martin in District 4. If the team can get through the first two weeks of the season with at least a split, a double-digit win column likely awaits. There were a lot of losses due to graduation, but so many players came back that this looks like a team poised to make a deeper run in the playoffs this season. There is a lot of excitement around the team that scored its biggest win in program history last year. If it can build on that momentum, there will be plenty of happy fans.
Top 100 countdown
No. 36 Katy, Texas
Coach: Gary Joseph
Last Season: 12-1, lost in third round of Texas 5A-DII playoffs. Ranked No. 91 nationally.
Fast Fact: After going 35 years between state finals appearances in 1959 until 1994, the Katy football program has been a regular in the title game making 10 trips since 1994. The program won state titles in 1997, 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2008.
Key Player: Running backs Adam Taylor and Rodney Anderson. For a team such as Katy that enjoys running at, over and through the opposition, having these two players in the backfield spells nightmares for a lot of defenses. Taylor was expected to carry the load last year and allow Anderson to remain a secret until an injury in the opening game ended his season. Anderson used the opportunity to showcase his ability and make his case for one of the early must-have recruits in the Class of 2015. Taylor is healthy and Anderson is a beast. This could be among the best one-two running back duos in the nation.
The Good: See above. Coach Gary Joseph is a defensive-minded coach, and having served as the schools coordinator on that side of the ball for 22 years, he will continue to make the calls conservative on offense. The team would love to be closing in on 600 carries and throw fewer than 200 passes when the season is over, and with the backfield pairing that it has there should be no reason why it cannot do that - or better. The offensive line is not loaded with big-time talent - only Aaron Sowell will likely get an FBS-level offer - but it will be effective and make enough cracks that the two running backs will make it look very good.
The Bad: The schedule. Outside of a mid-September game against The Woodlands (Texas) High, no one will know what Katy is really made of until the playoffs. Since 2000, the program has lost only four games to district foes; that train figures to keep on moving as there does not appear to be anything to stand in its way this year. There are plenty of solid programs in the Greater Houston Area, and certainly in Texas, but none of them appear on the schedule.
The bottom line is Katy could be undefeated come November, and we may learn nothing more about the team than is known right now. The defense will be solid. The offense will run the ball. The team will cruise to a district title and blow out its first playoff opponent. From there, it could get very interesting with potential games against La Porte, Manvel, and Cibolo Steele all before a theoretical state final game. Last season the team only made it to that first stop and lost to La Porte. The expectations are higher than that this year.