Panthers capture first preseason No. 1 ranking in the VSN Football Top 20


Going into the 2016 season, St. Frances Academy was thought to be an improved team with a new coaching staff and several impact transfers, setting the stage for a MIAA A Conference title challenge in 2017. The timetable accelerated for the East Baltimore school, winning the area’s premier conference for the first time and gaining its first No. 1 ranking at season’s end.

The nationally-ranked Panthers (19th by MaxPreps) have another small piece history with top-billing in VSN’s Football Top 20. Archbishop Spalding and McDonogh School, which finished 2nd and 3rd behind St. Frances in last fall’s final poll, are back in the same spots to start 2017.

Perennial Baltimore County powerhouse Franklin and Broadneck from Anne Arundel complete the Top 5.

Pictured above: St. Frances co-coach Biff Poggi talks to Panthers after season-opening win last weekend. 

Here is the entire 2017 Preseason VSN Football Top 20:

VSN FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 20

1. ST. FRANCES ACADEMY PANTHERS

Final 2016 rank: #1
2016 record: 10-2

Players to watch: Eyabi Anoma, Sr., defensive line; Jaelyn Duncan, Sr., offensive line; Randy Fields, Sr., wide receiver; Logan Holgorsen, Jr., quarterback; Osman Savage, So., running back

Quick slant: After surprising run to MIAA A crown last fall, the Panthers have loaded roster for a repeat attempt, led by Anoma, one of the nation’s best.

Key games: at IMG Academy (FL), Sept. 8; at Don Bosco Prep (NJ), Sept. 15; vs. McDonogh School at Patterson Park; at Archbishop Spalding, Oct. 20

 

2. ARCHBISHOP SPALDING CAVALIVERS

Final 2016 rank: #2
2016 record: 9-2

Players to watch: Julius Chestnut, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back; Sean Spencer, Jr., defensive back; Jayden Umbarger, Jr., quarterback; DaeSean Winston, Sr., running back/linebacker

Quick slant: Despite key injury, Cavaliers have depth and talent to challenge for MIAA A crown.

Key games: at Annapolis, Sept. 1; vs. Good Counsel, Sept. 15; vs. Mcdonough School, Sept. 29; vs. St. Frances Academy, Oct. 20

3. MCDONOGH SCHOOL EAGLES

Final 2016 rank: #3
2016 record: 8-3

Players to watch: DeJuan Ellis, Sr., quarterback/defensive back; BJ Farrare, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back; Andrew Hurdle, Sr., running back/linebacker; Jabriel Johnson, Sr., running back/linebacker; PJ Mustipher, Sr., offensive/defensive line

Quick slant: With two of area’s best in Ellis (committed to Virginia Tech) and Mustipher (Penn State) leading way, Eagles will be in hunt for MIAA A Conference crown.

Key games: vs. DeMatha Catholic at Prince George’s Complex, Sept. 15; at Archbishop Spalding, Sept. 29; vs. St. Frances Academy at Patterson Park, Oct. 6; vs. Gilman School, Nov. 4

4. FRANKLIN INDIANS

Final 2016 rank: #4
2016 record: 11-2

Players to watch: Sam Botchway, Sr., running back/linebacker; Robert Garrett, Jr., defensive line; Shawan Lewis, So., offensive/defensive line; Jay Thompson, Jr., defensive back

Quick slant: The Indians look to extend their reign in Baltimore County and make another Class 3A state championship run.

Key games: vs. DeMatha Catholic at Prince George’s Sports Complex, Sept. 8; at Smyrna (DE), Sept. 15; at Milford Mill Academy, Oct. 14

5. BROADNECK BRUINS

Final 2016 rank: #8

2016 record: 8-4

Key players: Jason Carcamo, Jr., running back; Shane Davis, Sr., quarterback; Noah Genovese, Sr., defensive line; Ethon Williams, Jr., wide receiver/defensive back

Quick slant: The Bruins are ready to end Old Mill’s reign in Anne Arundel County.

Key games: at Arundel, Sept. 22; at Old Mill, Oct. 6; vs. Annapolis, Nov. 3

6. MOUNT SAINT JOSEPH GAELS

Final 2016 rank: #10

2016 record: 7-4

Key players: Michael Corbi, Sr., offensive/defensive line; Keyshawn Hailey, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back; Sam James, Jr., running back

Quick slant: The Gaels look for a strong close in MIAA A play.

Key games: at Good Counsel, Sept. 8; vs. McDonogh School, Oct. 21; vs. St. Frances Academy at Patterson Park; vs. Archbishop Spalding, Nov. 4

7. OLD MILL PATRIOTS


Final 2016 rank:
#9
2016 record: 10-1

Key players: Nasir Bakare, Sr., offensive/defensive line; Isaiah Batts, Sr., running back; Aaron Dawson, Sr., linebacker/tight end; Rodrick Smith, Sr., offensive/defensive line

Quick slant: The Patriots hope for a return to 4A state semifinals after falling short in tough East Region.

Key games: at North Point, Sept. 1; at Annapolis, Sept. 8; vs. Broadneck, Oct. 6; at Arundel, Oct. 27

8. HOWARD LIONS

Final 2016 rank: #6
2016 record: 11-2

Key players: Devin Dawkins, Sr., running back; Ryan Kearney, Sr., linebacker; Robby Porter, Sr., quarterback; Anthony Reid, Sr. wide receiver/defensive back;

Quick slant: With new coach, Lions aim for a three-peat in Howard County.

Key games: vs. Glenelg, Sept. 2; at Long Reach, Oct. 7

 

9. ANNAPOLIS PANTHERS

Final 2016 rank: #5

2016 record: 11-2

Key players: Ahmon Middleton, Jr., quarterback; Dayshawn Womack, Sr., linebacker; Omar’od White, Sr., running back/wide receiver

Quick slant: The Panthers look to follow up last fall’s run to Class 4A state semifinals and challenge for Anne Arundel County crown.

Key games: vs. Archbishop Spalding, Sept. 1; vs. Old Mill, Sept. 8; at Arundel, Oct. 13; at Broadneck, Nov. 3

10. CALVERT HALL COLLEGE CARDINALS

Final 2016 rank: #12
2016 record: 7-5

Players to watch: Chance Campbell, Sr., linebacker; Reginald Sutton, Sr., offensive/defensive line

Quick slant: The Cardinals look to return to upper half of MIAA A Conference.

Key games: at Henry A. Wise, Sept. 8; vs. St. Frances Academy, Sept. 22; vs. Archbishop Spalding, Oct. 14; at McDonogh School, Oct. 29; vs. Loyola Blakefield (Turkey Bowl) at M&T Bank Stadium, Nov. 23

11. MILFORD MILL ACADEMY MILLERS

Final 2016 rank: #7
2016 record: 10-2

Players to watch: Ugo Obasi, Sr., wide receiver; Jawan Rabb, Jr., wide receiver/defensive back; Troy Scott, Sr., running back/linebacker

Quick slant: The Millers try again to dethrone Franklin in Baltimore County 4A/3A.

Key games: vs. Franklin, Oct. 14; at Dundalk, Oct. 27

12. SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI PANTHERS

Final 2016 rank: #11
2016 record: 10-2

Key players: Blake Corum, So., running back; Jelani Foster, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back; Brandon Stewart, Sr., quarterback

Quick slant: The Panthers have designs on another MIAA B championship.

Key games: vs. Eleanor Roosevelt at Fairland Regional Park, Sept. 8; vs. Boys’ Latin School at Fairland, Oct. 6; at Riverdale Baptist School, Nov. 3

 

13. LONG REACH LIGHTNING

Final 2016 rank: #18
2016 record: 8-3

Key players: KaDarrian Booker, Sr., running back; Derrick Noble, Sr., wide receiver; Spencer Willis, Sr., offensive line; Michael Zeleznik, Sr., defensive line

Quick slant: After ending a long playoff drought in 2016, the Lightning are arguably the most talented team in Howard County.

Key games: at River Hill, Sept. 28; vs. Howard, Oct. 7

 

14. ARUNDEL WILDCATS

Final 2016 rank: Not ranked
2016 record: 7-3

Players to watch: Darius Hunter, Sr., running back; Ephraim Moore, Sr., defensive back; Kevin Sedgwick, Sr., quarterback

Quick slant: The Wildcats are the dark horse in Anne Arundel County.

Key games: vs. Broadneck, Sept. 22; vs. Annapolis, Oct. 13; vs. Old Mill, Oct. 27

 

15. MERVO MUSTANGS

Final 2016 rank: #14
2016 record: 9-3

Players to watch: Carlos Davis, Sr., quarterback; Terry Jones, Jr., wide receiver/defensive back; Rykim Lemon, Sr., running back/defensive back; Corey Peterkin, Jr., wide receiver/defensive back

Quick slant: The Mustangs seek a fourth straight Baltimore City crown.

Key games: at Dunbar, Sept. 22; at Taft (OH), Sept. 30; at Edmondson, Nov. 3

16. GLENELG GLADIATORS

Final 2016 rank: #13

2016 record: 10-3

Players to watch: Sam Alsheimer, Sr., running back/linebacker; Phil Johnson, Sr., offensive/defensive lin; Wande Owens, Sr., running back/defensive back

Quick slant: With reigning Howard County Offensive Player of the Year back in Owens, Gladiators will be again a tough out in HoCo.

Key games: at Howard, Sept. 2; at River Hill, Oct. 27

17. DUNBAR POETS

Final 2016 rank: #15

2016 record: 9-4

Players to watch: Andre Brandon, Jr., running back/defensive back; Jared Lewis, Sr., quarterback; Dominic Smith, Jr., offensive/defensive line; Sean Tolbert, Sr., running back/linebacker; Ryan Wood, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back

Quick slant: The Poets seek to reclaim Baltimore City Division I crown and make another deep postseason run.

Key games: at Allegany, Sept. 1; at Potomac, Sept. 9; vs. Mervo, Sept. 22; at Edmondson (Ben Eaton Memorial Game), Oct. 27

18. RIVER HILL HAWKS


Final 2016 rank:
 #17
2016 record: 7-5

Key players: Beau Brade, So., defensive back; Luke Champion, Sr., quarterback; Cooper McGeehan, Sr., linebacker/kicker/punter; Brendan McKenna, Sr., wide receiver/running back

Outlook: A promising finish (Class 3A East finalist) and 14 returning starters give River Hill reason for optimism in 2017.

Key games: vs. Long Reach, Sept. 28; vs. Glenelg, Oct. 27

19.WESTMINSTER OWLS

Final 2016 rank: Not ranked
2016 record: 6-4

Players to watch: Ryan Clatterbuck, Zane Lewis, Sr., wide receiver; Logan Nave, Sr., tight end

Outlook: After a two-year hiatus, the Owls will play a full Carroll County league schedule and could be the team to beat.

Key dates: at Urbana, Sept. 1; at Linganore, Sept. 15; at Liberty, Oct. 13; at South Carroll, Nov. 3

20. HAVRE DE GRACE WARRIORS


Final 2016 rank:
#20
2016 record: 10-3

Key players: Jordan Day, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back; Sean Greeley, Sr., linebacker; Clay Harris, Sr., kicker; Reggie Marks, Sr., offensive/defensive line

Quick slant: The Warriors may be the team to beat the UCBAC Chesapeake.

Key games: vs. Aberdeen, Sept. 22; vs. Bel Air, Sept. 29; at Elkton, Oct. 6