SBLive Power 25: IMG Academy No. 1 in preseason national high school football rankings

Welcome to the SBLive Power 25, a weekly look at the top high school football teams in the country.

The rankings are compiled by SBLive reporter Connor Morrissette based on observations and conversations with an extensive network of coaching and media sources across the country.

As with everything in the COVID-19 era, the rankings will be fluid week-to-week and only include teams that are scheduled to play football in 2020. We will publish separate rankings later in the year for all schools scheduled to play football in 2021.

There are 34 states already playing football or scheduled to play football in 2020. Teams from all of these states were considered in our rankings: Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, Utah, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Georgia, Florida*, Kansas, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, South Carolina, New Jersey and Louisiana.

Here are the states and districts that have officially moved high school football to 2021: California, District of Columbia, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, Hawaii, Delaware, Vermont and Michigan.

*(Note: The Florida High School Athletic Association announced that high school football practices can begin on Aug. 24, with games starting Sept. 4, but school districts in South Florida — which includes Miami-Dade and Broward counties — have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 and have not announced when they will allow their schools to start practice. Because of the uncertainty around when the season will start in those counties, we did not include them in our preseason rankings. We will include schools from those counties in future rankings if they begin play in 2020.)


1. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

Season opener: Sept. 4 vs. Venice

Ranking rationale: Former Syracuse University assistant coach Bobby Acosta took over IMG’s National Varsity team in January and he’s inherited a wagon. IMG has six players listed in the top 50 of’s 2021 Florida recruiting rankings and nine listed on the website’s top 50 for 2022. No one in the country playing in 2020 can compete with that type of roster.

The most important piece for IMG is 2021 quarterback J.J. McCarthy, a Michigan commit. McCarthy transferred in this offseason from Nazareth Academy in Illinois following a junior season where he threw for 2,704 yards and 33 TD’s.

IMG Academy plays No. 2 Duncanville on Oct. 9. That may be the 2020 regular season game of the season.

J.J. McCarthy

2. Duncanville (Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 24 vs. Nolan Catholic (Fort Worth)

Ranking rationale: Duncanville returns seven starters on offense and four on defense from last year’s 6A Division 1 runner up team.

2021 quarterback Grayson James, a transfer from John Paul II, will be under center for the Panthers in 2020 following the transfer of sophomore quarterback Chris Parson, who left for Red Oak.

Led by senior two way lineman Savion Byrd, a consensus four star recruit, Duncanville will have a great defensive line. Senior receiver Roderick Daniels, a Baylor commit, is another name to know for the Panthers.

Duncanville has a very tough schedule that includes games against No. 1 IMG Academy and DeSoto. They will be battle tested ahead of the playoffs.

Savion Byrd

3. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)

Season opener: Sept. 4 vs. Jones County

Ranking rationale: Grayson has the potential to be one of the best high school football teams in the history of the state of Georgia. Seven Grayson players are among’s top 102 senior prospects in the state.

Senior running back Phil Mafah is committed to Clemson. Senior wide receiver Daejon Reynolds is committed to Florida. Senior defensive lineman Victoine Brown is committed to Louisville and Noah Collins, a second senior defensive lineman has pledged to Georgia Tech. At linebacker, senior Grady Bryant set Grayson’s school record a year ago making 136 tackles.

Senior quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson transferred into Grayson from McEachern this offseason. He’s also a Florida commit. The Rams should run the table in the regular season.

Phil Mafah

4. North Shore (Houston, Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. No. 11 Shadow Creek (Pearland)

Ranking rationale: North Shore has won two 6A Division 1 championships in a row in Texas. A year ago, the Mustangs won their final 15 games after dropping their opener to Katy 24-21.

This season North Shore are favorites to win again despite only returning four starters on offense and three on defense. Senior Quarterback Dematrius Davis, an Auburn commit, led the Mustangs to their last two titles as an underclassman. He threw for 31 touchdowns and ran for 23 more in 2019. Davis will be a big factor in the Mustangs’ bid for a three-peat.

North Shore needs to replenish their offensive line, linebacking corps and secondary in 2020 after losing a lot of talent to graduation. How effective they are in replacing key players in those spots will determine if they can win another championship.

Dematrius Davis

5. St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia, PA)

Season opener: Oct. 3 vs. La Salle College (Wyndmoor)

Ranking rationale: Last year’s St. Joseph Prep team won a 6A championship in Pennsylvania and this year’s squad is even better.

Ohio State QB commit Kyle McCord is back for his senior season along with receiver Marvin Harrison Jr, another Buckeye pledge. The Hawks also return linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., a Clemson commit, and Sahmir Hagans, a Duke commit who plays on offense, defense and special teams.

Playing against only Pennsylvania competition in 2020 due to COVID-19 means that St. Joseph’s Prep should dominate in the regular season and postseason. The Hawks are trying to schedule additional out of state teams to play in the regular season, but nothing is official as of Aug. 24.

Kyle McCord

6. Katy (Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. Clear Springs (League City)

Ranking rationale: Katy lost a lot of offensive firepower from last year’s D1 regional semifinalist team, but the Tigers return seven defensive starters plus starting quarterback Bronson McClelland.

Defense will be Katy’s strength led by senior corner Hunter Washington, a Florida State commit, safety Dalton Johnson, an Arizona commit, and senior linebacker Shepherd Bowling.

Look for the Tigers to go undefeated once again in the regular season, like they did in 2019.

Bronson McClelland and Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher

7. Chandler (Ariz.)

Season opener: Oct. 2 vs. Liberty (Peoria, AZ)

Ranking rationale: Chandler is loaded with talent, from quarterback Mikey Keene to running backs Eli Sanders (Boise State commit) and Nicolas Nesbitt, plus wide receiver Jalen Richmond (Boise State commit). The Wolves have the best receiving corps in Arizona and the best defense, led by defensive end Brandon Buckner, an Oregon commit.

All five of those players are senior leaders who played on last season’s 13-0 Open Division state championship team in Arizona. In 2020, Chandler should do it again.

8. Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.)

Season opener: Sept. 5 vs. Archer (Lawrenceville)

Ranking rationale: Lowndes will try and challenge Grayson for a AAAAAAA championship in Georgia in 2020. In a lot of areas, the Viking match up well, especially on defense.

Lowndes brings back senior defensive end Jacques Hunter, a Vanderbilt commit, senior linebacker Thomas Davis, a Miami commit and senior safety TJ Quinn, a Louisville pledge. On offense, dual threat 2022 quarterback Jacurri Brown is back too. He’s one of the top uncommitted signal callers in his class.

Lowndes fell in the AAAAAAA title game last year and will be desperate to make amends, but they’ll almost certainly have to go through Grayson to do so.

Jacurri Brown

9. De Smet Jesuit (St. Louis, Mo.)

Season opener: Sept. 11 vs. Christian Brothers (St. Louis)

Ranking rationale: De Smet is officially a national powerhouse following last year’s 14-0 state title run. Head coach Robert Steeples deserves a lot of credit.

Eight De Smet seniors are committed to Division 1 programs headlined by cornerback Jakailin Johnson, an Ohio State commit.

The Spartans open up with a tough game against Christian Brothers on Sept. 11. If they win that one, then they should run the table again.

Jakailin Johnson

10. Westlake (Austin, Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. Cedar Park

Ranking rationale: Westlake won the 6A Division 2 title in Texas a year ago and should make a deep postseason run again in 2020. Four offensive starters are back for the Chaparrals to go along with five defensive returners.

2022 quarterback Cade Klubnik will be well protected thanks to senior guard Aidan Kinnaird, an Illinois State commit, and the rest of the Westlake offensive line.

The Chaparrals are well coached by Todd Dodge, especially on offense. A year ago Westlake put up 30 or more points in 12 of their 16 games.


11. Shadow Creek (Pearland, Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. No. 4 North Shore (Houston)

Ranking rationale: Shadow Creek starts off with a doozy against No. 4 North Shore in 2020, but last year’s 5A Division 1 state champions (who are now in 6A), should be competitive. The Sharks will once again have great players at the skill positions and in the secondary, but there are question marks on the offensive line.

Baylor commit Kyron Drones is back under center for his senior year and he’ll have plenty of targets to throw to including Carlton Guidry, a senior Houston commit, Randy Masters, a junior Baylor commit and junior tight end Trent McGaughey.

Defensively, senior linebacker Terrence Cooks is a man amongst boys (70 tackles last year) and cornerback Jalen Emery (Houston commit) alongside safety Jaylen Lane (UNLV commit) make up quite the secondary.

Shadow Creek is going to have a fun year despite moving up a class.


12. Trinity (Louisville, Ky.)

Season opener: Sept. 11 vs. Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Ranking rationale: Trinity won a 6A championship in Kentucky last year and are in a great position to do so again in 2020.

The Shamrocks pack a punch at linebacker with Jack Dingle, a Cincinatti commit and Charlie Ely, an Appalachian State pledge. They’ll lead a dominant defense that either shutout or kept opponents in single digits in nine games a year ago.

Dingle and family

13. Guyer (Denton, Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. Hebron (Carrollton, TX)

Ranking rationale: Last season Guyer went 14-2 and fell in the 6A Division 2 title game 24-0 to Westlake. Star quarterback Eli Stowers (Texas A&M commit) suffered a knee injury in the game and he wasn’t expected to be ready for the start of the 2020 season, but because of the delay to begin the year, he’ll be full go for week 1 against Hebron.

The Wildcats return six defensive starters and running back Byron Phillips, in addition to Stowers. Under new head coach Rodney Webb, Guyer will be very good again in 2020.

The Wildcats play No. 17 Ryan on Oct. 2, No. 16 Southlake Carroll on Oct. 16 and No. 19 Allen on Nov. 13, with the latter two games coming on the road. Those will be three tough contests.


14. Dutch Fork (Irmo, S.C.)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. White Knoll (Lexington, SC)

Ranking rationale: Dutch Fork has won four state championships in a row. A year ago, the Silver Foxes went 14-0-1 to win a AAAAA state crown. Led by senior receiver Elijah Spencer, a Charlotte commit, Dutch Fork will be favorites in AAAAA in South Carolina again in 2020.

Spencer finished last season with 48 catches for 835 yards and nine touchdowns.

15. Thompson (Alabaster, Ala.), 1-0

Next game: Aug. 29 vs. Sparkman (Harvest, AL)

Ranking rationale: Thompson came in at No. 1 in Alabama’s 7A classification in the ASWA Preseason HS Football Rankings and the Warriors looked the part in their 56-34 season opening win over Oxford on Saturday.

Thompson has two great receivers in Sam Reynolds (South Carolina commit) and Tre Roberson (Army commit). Roberson hauled in a 29-yard TD in the Thompson opener, but it was senior running back Jarrett Crockett who stole the show finishing with four total scores in the game.

If Thompson’s offense keeps playing like this all season, then the Warriors will have a great shot at repeating as 7A champions in Alabama this year.


16. Carroll (Southlake, Texas)

Season opener: Oct. 2 vs. Rockwall-Heath (Rockwall)

Ranking rationale: All eyes will be on Carroll’s 2022 quarterback Quinn Ewers, a Texas commit, this season. Ewers is the top quarterback nationally in his class. Last year he threw for 4,003 yards and 45 touchdowns in addition to running for nine scores. Quarterback play like that will give Carroll a shot at Duncanville should they meet in the playoffs again (Duncanville has eliminated Carroll in each of the the past two years).

Overall, the Dragons return three starters on offense and just one on defense from last year’s 13-1 team. Ewers will have trusted target Brady Boyd (Minnesota commit) once again in 2020 as well as an elite kicker in senior Joe McFadden, but overall inexperience is the main concern for the Dragons, especially on defense.

Hosting No. 13 Guyer on Oct. 16 will be Carroll’s biggest test of the regular season.


17. Ryan (Denton, Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 24 vs. Martin (Arlington)

Ranking rationale: Ryan may be in Class 5A in Texas, but they will still be one of the big boys nationally. The Raiders started 15-0 before losing to Shadow Creek in the 5A Division 1 state championship 28-22 a year ago.

Ryan will be led by their two senior University of Texas commits: Ja’Tavion Sanders and Billy Bowman, both of whom play receiver and also on defense (Sanders in the secondary and Bowman on the D-line). The Raiders’ quarterback returns as well, senior Seth Henigan. He’s committed to Memphis.

Ryan brings back seven defensive starters. It would be a major surprise if they didn’t win a 5A Division 1 title this season.

The Raiders’ Oct. 2 game at No. 13 Guyer is their toughest contest of the regular season.


18. Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.)

Season opener: Oct. 3 vs. St. Joseph Regional (Montvale)

Ranking rationale: Bergen Catholic begins the year in front of St. Peter’s Prep as the top team out of New Jersey, but it’s by a slim margin.

That decision has everything to do with the Crusaders’ 2022 class headlined by quarterback Steven Angeli and cornerbacks Jaeden Gould and Jayden Bellamy, all of whom are big time prospects.

Pair them with New Jersey’s top 2021 recruit in defensive lineman Tywone Malone, who had 16 tackles for loss a year ago, and you get a special group. Watch out for Bergen this season.


19. Allen (Texas)

Season opener: Sept. 25 vs. Plano East (Plano)

Ranking rationale: Allen returns seven offensive starters, but just one on defense. Between having a quarterback competition and a young defense, the Eagles will have a decent amount to figure out before beginning the season next month against Plano East.

They do return senior wide receivers Blaine and Bryson Green, brothers who are both committed to Oklahoma State as well as senior running back Jordan Johnson, a Hawaii pledge.

Allen has two tough regular season games at Cedar Hill on Oct. 9 and against No. 13 Guyer on Nov. 13, but the five time state champions have shown they can compete with the nation’s best year in and year out and this season will be no different.

Green brothers

20. Corner Canyon (Draper, Utah), 2-0

Next game: Aug. 28 vs. Bingham (South Jordan, UT)

Ranking rationale: Corner Canyon has started 2020 strong beating Farmington 49-20 and Herriman 56-0. A year ago the Chargers went 14-0 and ran away with Utah’s 6A championship, playing just a single close game all year.

Senior quarterback Jaxson Dart has picked up right where he left off from last year, throwing for seven touchdowns and rushing for four more through two games in 2020. Don’t be surprised if Corner Canyon runs the table again.


21. Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio)

Season opener: Aug. 30 vs. Pickerington North (Pickerington)

Ranking rationale: Pickering Central won Ohio’s Division 1 state championship last season and will have a shot to repeat in 2020 thanks to three national recruits in senior wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr., a Notre Dame commit, senior safety Garner Wallace, a Northwestern commit and 2022 defensive tackle CJ Doggette Jr.

Look for Mentor and St. Edward to be Pickerington Central’s main challengers in Division 1 in Ohio this season.


22. St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.)

Season opener: Oct. 2 vs. West Orange

Ranking rationale: St. Peter’s Prep won the Non-Public Group 4 championship in New Jersey last season beating Don Bosco Prep 21-14. Non-Public Group 4 is always loaded and this year will be no different with St. Peter’s Prep having to once again go up against Bergen Catholic and St. Joseph Montvale.

The good news for St. Peter’s Prep is that they bring back Virginia Tech quarterback commit Tahj Bullock, who threw for 2,274 yards and 26 touchdowns for the champs last season.


23. La Salle (Cincinnati)

Season opener: Aug 28 vs. Elder (Cincinnati, OH)

Ranking rationale: USA Today has La Salle as the fourth best team in the midwest among teams that are playing in 2020 behind De Smet Jesuit (St. Louis), Center Grove (Greenwood, Ind.) and Pickerington Central (Pickerington, Ohio).

It’s easy to see why the Lancers are so highly rated. La Salle has two senior blue-chippers in their secondary in safety Jaylen Johnson, an Ohio State commit and cornerback Devonta Smith, an Alabama commit.


24. Center Grove (Greenwood, Ind.), 1-0

Next game: Aug 28 vs. Warren Central (Indianapolis, IN)

Ranking rationale: Center Grove brings back a lot of starters from last season’s 6A runner up team, so they make the inaugural SB Live Power 25. The Trojans beat Decatur Central (Indianapolis, IN) 56-14 last Friday to start their 2020 season.

Here is a breakdown of their key players with an assist from IndyStar:

Quarterback Tayven Jackson completed 53% of his passes last season for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. Daniel Weems, a junior, rushed for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019. Seniors Trent Veith (40 catches, 528 yards, two TD’s) and Connor Delp (702 rushing yards, three TD’s; 21 receptions, 419 yards, and six TD’s) had solid seasons a year ago too.

Defensively, Minnesota defensive end commit Austin Booker, a senior, and junior defensive tackle Caden Curry, one of Indiana’s top prospects, are going to be big pieces in 2020 for Center Grove, along with senior linebacker Jackson Schott, a Miami of Ohio commit.  


25. Hoover (Alabama), 1-0

Next game: Aug. 28 vs. Bessemer City

Ranking rationale: Hoover brings back five starters on offense and seven on defense from last year’s 10-3 team that lost to Thompson twice and IMG Academy.

The main returner to know is senior running back Dylan Betts-Pauley, a Vanderbilt commit. The Buccaneers have experience all over the field but will have a new starting quarterback in 2020 in senior Josh Lundy. Lundy played a little bit a year ago due to injuries to starter Robby Ashford, but is now Hoover’s undisputed QB1. He led the Buccaneers to a 45-35 win over a good Central (Phenix City, AL) team to begin the year throwing for three TDs.

Hoover plays No. 15 Thompson on the road Oct. 23. That will be one of Alabama’s best regular season games of the year.


Alabama: Hewitt-Trussville

Arizona: Hamilton and Saguaro

Arkansas: Bryant

Florida: St. Thomas Aquinas, Miami Northwestern, Miami Central, American Heritage, Booker T. Washington, Orlando Edgewater, Champagnat Catholic, Deerfield Beach and Chaminade-Madonna

Georgia: Colquitt County, Camden County, North Gwinnett and Parkview

Indiana: Carmel, Ben Davis, Avon and Warren Central

Kentucky: Male and Covington Catholic

Louisiana: Archbishop Rummel, John Curtis Christian, Baton Rouge Catholic, Brother Martin, St. Augustine and Holy Cross

New Jersey: Don Bosco Prep and St. Joseph Montvale

Ohio: Mentor, Massillon Washington, St. Xavier, Elder, Dublin Coffman and St. Edward

Oklahoma: Bixby, Owasso, Jenks, Tulsa Union and Carl Albert

South Carolina: Sumter

Texas: Lake Travis, Converse Judson, Humble Atascocita, Frisco Lone Star, Parish Episcopal, DeSoto and Aledo

Utah: Orem and Lone Peak


While public and private schools in Maryland aren’t playing high school football until 2021, Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy may try to get in a season in 2020, per a source. This is something to keep an eye on as St. Frances would surely be a top 25 team if they suited up in 2020.

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