California and Texas once again lead the way with putting their high school football teams on the MaxPreps pre-season Top 100 list, Cali with 16 and the Lone Star State just off the pace with 15.
But Arizona managed to secure a couple of spots on this year’s list.
Chandler High School is a top-10 team this season, ranked right at No. 10 on the MaxPreps list. Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School comes in at No. 60.
It’s a tough list to crack. There are 25 states represented in the Top 100 and 37 are reigning state champions.
For the record, both Arizona teams also scored on the preseason list put out by High School Football America, with Chandler pegged at No. 22 and Saguaro at No. 32.
Both of the local schools are accustomed to national attention. Chandler this year is even ranked ahead of Texas powerhouse, Katy High School, on the MaxPreps list. That school, located just outside of Houston, provides its football teams with a 12,000-seat stadium that, at a cost of $72 million, is touted as the most expensive high school football stadium ever built.
The previous biggest-and-best was Allen High School’s stadium, which cost $60 million dollars to build six years ago. That school, too, is in Texas, just northeast of Dallas. That’s how serious that state takes its high school football.
This year’s Arizona additions to the MaxPreps national list are also once again the favorites in the hunt for a state championship in their respective divisions, both teams looking for repeat titles.
Chandler plays in the state’s top conference, 6A, and has been a dominant force in recent years. The Wolves are focused this season on accomplishing a three-peat after winning the last two state titles — and have to be considered an odds-on favorite to accomplish the feat.
Jacob Conover, the Wolves’ senior quarterback, will direct an offense that averaged just a shade under 50 points a game last year and returns both its starting quarterback and one of the two running backs that carried the load last season, DeCarlos Brooks. Add to that a receiving corps that is one of the best in the state and the Wolves will be formidable once again.
Conover is a 4-star prospect who committed to play at BYU in May. An injury in the second game on the 2017 schedule limited his playing time to just 10 games, but he still threw for more than 3,000 yards and completed 66 percent of his passes.
Saguaro may have placed higher on this year’s list if its star QB was going to be under center again this season. But Max Massingale, who led the Sabercats to three straight state championships, graduated last year.
That’s three for Massingale, but Saguaro is actually coming off its fifth straight state title, playing at the 4A level.
Tyler Beverett is a 6’2″, 195-pound junior who will try to fill the huge void left by Massingale. Despite the fact that he hasn’t started a varsity game yet, he was included last month in the azcentral sports list of the state’s top 10 quarterbacks for 2018.
The untested Beverett has a tough act to follow in his new role as team leader. Massingale directed an offense that piled up 573 points last year, averaging 41 points per game, and posted a 12-2 record. Saguaro’s only losses were to a couple of out-of-state teams from Nevada and Utah in the very early part of the schedule.
But it will be a defense generally considered one of the best in the state that will be a critical component of the Sabercats’ drive for a sixth consecutive state championship. Their five titles in a row have already established a new state record.
Most of the key players from last year’s defense will return for 2018, led by Kelee Ringo, ranked by some recruiting services as the No. 1 high school cornerback in the nation. The secondary returns the best from last season, including seniors Nate Polk and Brandon Shivers, and adds a stand-out junior transfer from Chandler, Jacobe Covington. (Nothing like spreading the wealth between the two teams.)
Last year’s Saguaro defense held opponents to an average of 14 points a game, and this year it could be even more difficult to score on the reigning champ. That sixth straight title is definitely within reach.