Coach: Ricky Bowers Last Season: 13-0, won Division II state championship. Ranked No. 19 in RivalsHigh 100 Key Player: Ensworth is a run-heavy offense, and that will put the spotlight on D'Andre Ferby. The football program has been producing Division I backs such as Tulane star Orleans Darkwa and former Mr. Football Corn Elder, now at Miami. Ferby carried only 23 times as a junior in six games -- numbers that were down from 99 attempts as a sophomore -- but that workload will dramatically increase based on recent history. Last season, Elder was given the ball 286 times and gained 2,617 yards. He had 200 touches as a junior and 217 as a sophomore, which makes the odds pretty good that Ferby will be given those touches and push toward similar numbers. Why it's in the top 25: The team is one of the best coached in the country, and it has been winning or competing for state titles nearly every season since it got football going. The defense could be among the best in the region. It starts on the defensive line and works outward. Defensive tackle Michael Sawyers will clog the middle of the line. At 6-foot-2, 307 pounds, he is light on his feet and will be a matchup issue for most interior lineman. He will be stacked next to 6-foot-2, 295-pound junior Myles Douglas, making one of the most fearsome tandems nationally. The secondary features two junior prospects who would start in most every defensive backfield: Vanderbilt commit Donovan Sheffield and touted safety Rico McGraw. Why it isn't higher: With Bowers coaching, it is a pretty safe bet that the offense will look the same as it always does, but replacing coach's son Andrew Bowers at quarterback, as well as Elder at running back, is concerning. The team runs the ball at a 5-to-2 clip, so it will be more important that the offensive line is ready to move forward than pass protect. All of those offensive issues make it hard to think this is a preseason top 10 team.
The Bottom Line: Ensworth has elevated itself to the premier program in the state -- nudging past Maryville (Tenn.) High -- and it is starting to take on more regional opponents to add to its profile. This season, it will open against Louisville (Ky.) Trinity in a game that will feature plenty of talent and two extremely different offensive philosophies. It will be a measuring stick for both programs and could see the pair flip in the national rankings. An end-of-season battle with an equally talented Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy team will also be interesting.
Top 100 countdown
No. 19 Mountain Pointe, Arizona
Coach: Norris Vaughan Last Season: 12-2, lost in Division I finals Key Player: As the defending Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona, a lot of eyes will be on wide receiver Jalen Brown to see if he can duplicate his incredible junior season. He hauled in 67 passes for 1,235 yards, and he has been rated a four-star player nationally ranked inside the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour. If that wasn't enough, he led his team with five interceptions while double dipping on defense. The 6-foot-2, 183-pound player can do a lot of things, and few in the region would have an easy time slowing him, let alone shutting him down. Why it's in the top 25: Mountain Pointe has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and it returns nearly all of the players on that side of the ball. Undersized quarterback Antonio Hinojosa will lead the offense again. He tossed 31 touchdowns last season and was named first-team all-section. Along with Brown, two-star receiver Emmanuel Butler comes in as a 6-foot-4, 205-pound target who can be a red zone threat. Offensive lineman Natrell Curtis is one of the nastiest players in the nation, and he enjoys grinding the opposition down. The 6-foot-3, 340-pound interior lineman is good at opening holes for 5-foot-9, 190-pound tailback Deontay Townsend. Townsend saw limited action last year because the top two backs were seniors who tallied 322 carries and nearly 2,500 yards between them. It is his turn. Why it isn't higher: Even with the attitude that Curtis brings to the team, there is a toughness factor lacking with Mountain Pointe. The talent is obvious and abundant, but how hard this team wants to work, push through nagging injuries and prepare to be the best is a question. This team should be the best in the state -- and should have been last season -- but it remains behind Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton. The Bottom Line: Maybe questioning toughness will be a motivational tool and maybe it won't, but this program will have the chance to prove itself on the field. The schedule sets up for a top 10 finish with an undefeated run. Mountain Pointe will open with Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, and it will then play the best teams in the state, Chandler (Ariz.) High, Hamilton, Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista, and Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy College Prep, before the playoffs, where it will likely see Hamilton again. If the seniors have the will to win, this may be an unstoppable force.
Top 100 countdown
No. 18 Bishop Gorman, Nevada
Coach: Tony Sanchez Last Season: 13-1, won Nevada Class 4A state title. Ranked No. 20 in RivalsHigh 100 Key Player: Senior quarterback Randall Cunningham is going to have to step in and step up immediately. The three-star prospect is listed at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, and he has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He is an incredible athlete who boasts a national high jump record by clearing 7-foot-2 at the Junior Olympics. His father is former NFL player Randall Cunningham, and the two have similar arm strength, which leads many to believe that he can fill in for four-year starting quarterback Anu Solomon. Why it's in the top 25: Bishop Gorman has proved to be one of the most consistent programs since the arrival of Sanchez from California, going 56-4 in his five seasons, and continually reloading the roster with talent has been the staple. This season is no different. The defensive front and offensive line look to be strong again. Nick Gates, Tryson Mook and George Papacostas lead the offensive line, and Zack Singer anchors the defensive side, which will rotate seven solid players to stay fresh. With Cunningham at quarterback, Daniel Stewart taking over at running back and touted junior Alize Jones at tight end, the offense could be equally dominant. Why it isn't higher: The extent of the loss of Solomon has not been determined and won't be until the games start. The offseason also saw the loss of four-star running back Nate Starks, who was dismissed from the program for undisclosed violations of team rules, and then BYU commit Isaiah Nacua moved to Utah. The team returns only four starters on offense and three on defense, which are among the lowest numbers of any team inside the RivalsHigh 100, let alone the top 25. The Bottom Line: Bishop Gorman is becoming a program that no one wants to play, and it has had to step up its scheduling efforts like many other top-shelf teams. This season it will open with Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe and follow with games against Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita, Encino (Calif.) Crespi, Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic and Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington. An undefeated run would be stunning and an obvious candidate for a top five finish.
Top 100 countdown
No. 17 Euless Trinity, Texas
Coach: Steve Lineweaver Last Season: 10-3, lost in third round of 5A-DI playoffs. Ranked No. 41 in RivalsHigh 100 Key Players: Trinity has rarely relied on a single player -- save for Brandon Carter during his senior season. It goes with a team-based, defense-first approach. This year it will use three running backs to do the damage in its ball-control, run-heavy offense. Power backs Kenneth Gonzalez and Homer Babcock will return after pounding for nearly 1,400 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, and they will have the added benefit of burner Antonio Franklin being mixed in. There have been games in which Trinity has not thrown a pass -- whether by design or because it has struggled to develop quarterbacks -- but this season it may not have to because its offensive line and running back group will be enough to wear down the opposition. Why it's in the top 25: Trinity is among the elite in Texas -- along with Southlake Carroll and Katy -- for national recognition, and it is for good reason: This program just wins. It has had its most success winning state titles in odd years (2005, 2007 and 2009), with a runner-up finish in 2011, making 2013 another expected run at a title. The program has back three running backs as well as three all-district offensive linemen in Oklahoma State pledge Lemaefe Galea'i, Saia Mose and Patrick Vahe. On defense, the Trojans will be paced by the linebacker group of Houston commit Inoke Ngalo, Dany Mulanga and Turner Wooley. Why it isn't higher: Trinity has an extremely one-dimensional offense that can be stopped by a good front seven -- or eight with a stacked box. The issue is that, even with the knowledge of how to stop it, few can and even fewer can score enough points to take advantage. If the program had more balance in the passing game, it would be in the top 10. It returns enough to make believers of many that it is ready to be back in the state finals, but the road will not be easy. The Bottom Line: Trinity could lose two of its first four games because Jenks (Okla.) High is an interesting matchup and DeSoto (Texas) beat the Trojans last season. If Trinity wins one or both of those games, it will be a strong sign. The fourth game is against Bentonville (Ark.), and that could be just what the doctor ordered to get the program back in the right direction. Trinity hasn't lost a district game in ages, and it doesn't figure to this year. The playoff path could have Trinity playing any combination of Arlington (Texas) Bowie, DeSoto, Southlake Carroll, Allen and Houston (Texas) Lamar. Depending on its path and the results, it could be a banner season outside of Dallas.
Top 100 countdown
No. 16 Hoover, Alabama
Coach: Josh Niblett Last Season: 15-0, won Class 6A state title. Ranked No. 6 in RivalsHigh 100
Key Player: While five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey is the most decorated player on the team, he is far from the most important to the success of Hoover. With a nearly brand new offensive unit, much of the pressure will fall to class of 2015 running back Bradrick Shaw. Shaw is a solid 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect who will wind up with plenty of offers. While the team breaks in a new quarterback and new receivers, much of the offense will have to flow through him. Shaw is a hard worker whom the coaches love. He has dealt with personal loss in the offseason and has been steadfast in his hard work and dedication to the program. Hoover has owned the state for the last decade, and that figures to continue. Why it's in the top 25: This is one of the best-coached defenses in the country, so adding in the fact that it is very talented only makes it better. Humphrey is the headliner as a highly ranked member of the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour, but he is far from alone. Junior linebacker Darrell Williams has shined all offseason and has improved his play, as has class of 2015 linebacker Jeremiah Moon. Junior defensive end Christian Bell is an FBS-level athlete who earned an invitation to the Rivals250 Underclassmen Challenge presented by Under Armour alongside Williams. The sophomore class will contribute this season because defensive back PJ Hall has displayed early star power. The defensive line will be the unheralded group here, but as usual Hoover will rotate through plenty of players to keep fresh legs and each player understands his role and will perform as coached. Why it's not higher: While the players who are being replaced were not superstars on offense, the loss of quarterback Connor Short and go-to receiver Michael Powers cannot be underestimated. Jack Hutcheson has the size at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds. Despite being the better runner, he is not as crisp a passer as Short. Junior Justin Johnson will step in as a playmaker among the receivers at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, but his route running is not as clean as Powers' -- or others from the no-name group that carried the load last season. The program likes to be balanced in a pro-style offense, so there will be passes that need to find receivers. How far up the RivalsHigh 100 Hoover climbs will be tied to how accurate Hutcheson can become.
The Bottom Line: Hoover is the name-brand team in Alabama and deservedly so. The talent does not need to be Division I for it to contend for titles, but when it is, there is nothing closer to a lock for victories. Niblett is one of the best young coaches in America, and he sets the tone for the program. The headlines and the rankings will be appreciated by fans but ignored inside the locker room. The goal for the Bucs is unchanging. Games against Moultrie (Ga.) Colquitt County and Opelika (Ala.) High are highlights for high school football fans.