St. Frances reigns again at No. 1 in VSN Football Preseason Top 20


 

by Derek Toney

Once again, the real question for the 2019 area football campaign is who will be No. 2 in the area polls. St. Frances Academy is the No. 1 team in VSN’s Football Preseason Top 20 poll.

The Panthers, ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today, are arguably the nation’s best team with 11 players rated 4- and 5-stars by national recruiting sites. The East Baltimore school (No. 6 in USA Today Super 25), winners of 25 straight since 2017, are playing an independent schedule this season. 

The MIAA A Conference, which didn’t have a regular season and postseason last year due to teams deciding late in the spring of 2018 not play to St. Frances, will have regular season play and a four-team postseason in 2019. Archbishop Spalding, Calvert Hall College and Mount St. Joseph are expected to challenge for the crown with McDonogh School, after a disappointing 2018, also in contention.

The Gaels are No. 2 followed by Calvert Hall and Archbishop Spalding. Defending Class 3A champ Franklin is 5th, with McDonogh, Milford Mill, Dunbar, Mervo and Broadneck rounding out the Top 10.

After early postseason exits last year, Broadneck and Howard (No. 11) will be favorite again in the Anne Arundel and Howard County leagues, respectively. Arundel (12th), Old Mill and upstart South River will try to stop Broadneck’s bid at a 3-peat in Anne Arundel, while Glenelg (No. 14), Long Reach and River Hill (17th) will challenge Howard for HoCo supremacy.

Dunbar and Mervo will battle for the Baltimore City Division I crown with a Week 1 showdown at Poly likely setting the course. Lake Clifton is defending Division II champ, but Douglass and Lewis will be obstacles. 

After a perfect regular season, Liberty (No. 17) will try to defend in Carroll County where Westminster and Century should pose a threat. Edgewood is defending UCBAC Chesapeake champ, but should face a challenge from 2018 state semifinalists Elkton (2A) and Havre de Grace (1A), and Harford Tech which moves up from the Susquehanna side of the UCBAC.

Baltimore County will have four divisions with the breakdown on new state classifications. Defending 3A state champ Franklin will be the favorite in the 3A division while Milford Mill Academy will be the team to beat in the 2A division. 

The MIAA B Conference expands with the addition of Annapolis Area Christian School and Concordia Prep, and the top four teams (previously two) will qualify for postseason play. St. Mary’s will attempt for a rare 3-peat. 

The state public regular season changes to 9 games (previously 10) as the postseason expands to 32 teams in each classification with the top eight in each region (East, North, South and West) qualifying.

Pictured above: Blake Corum (front), Jordan Toles and Chris Braswell are among the talented returnees for nationally-ranked  St. Frances. For the third straight season, the Panthers are No. 1 in the VSN Football Preseason Top 20.

Here is the entire 2019 VSN Football Preseason Top 20:

 

VSN FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 20 POLL

1. ST. FRANCES ACADEMY PANTHERS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #1

2018 record: 10-0

Coaches: Biff Poggi & Henry Russell

Players to watch: Chris Braswell, Sr., defensive end/linebacker; Demon Clowney, Sr., defensive end; Blake Corum, Sr., running back; Jordan Toles, Sr., defensive back

First down: The Panthers (2-0 in 2019), playing an independent schedule this season, are in a league of their own with arguably the nation’s best roster. 

2. MOUNT ST. JOSEPH GAELS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #4

2018 record: 10-2

Coach: Rich Holzer

Players to watch: Billy Atkins, Jr., quarterback; Tyler Leavy, Sr., defensive line; Nate Slutzky, Sr., linebacker; Marlowe Wax, Sr., running back/linebacker

First down: With high-powered offense and key returners on defense, the Gaels (2-0 in 2019) get slight edge in MIAA A Conference title chase. 

3. CALVERT HALL COLLEGE CARDINALS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #2

2018 record: 12-1

Coach: Donald Davis

Players to watch: Khalil Glover, Sr., linebacker; Cole Herbert, Sr., wide receiver; Sean Tucker, Sr., running back

First down: After school record for wins and Maryland Christian Schools Invitational title in 2018, The Hall is in position for MIAA A crown in 2019. 

4. ARCHBISHOP SPALDING CAVALIERS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #4

2018 record: 7-3

Coach: Kyle Schmitt

Players to watch: Jahmeer Carter, Sr., offensive/defensive line; Jalin Justice, Sr., linebacker; Wyatt Pellicano, Sr., offensive line; Austin Tutas, Jr., quarterback

First down: With a blend of veterans, led by Virginia commit Carter and Justice (committed to Delaware State) and young talent like Tutas (early offers from UMASS, Temple and Virginia Tech) and junior Maryland commit Jalon Venerable (running back/defensive back), Cavaliers are ready to capture first MIAA A championship. 

5. FRANKLIN INDIANS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #5

2018 record: 12-2

Coach: Anthony Burgos

Players to watch: Xavier Cokley, Sr., defensive back; Mekai Felton, Sr., wide receiver; Isaiah Lewis, Sr., offensive line

First down: With veteran nucleus, Indians have designs on fourth Class 3A state championship in seven seasons. 

6. MCDONOGH SCHOOL EAGLES

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #14

2018 record: 3-6

Coach: Hakeem Sule

Players to watch: Jackson Bonitz, Sr., running back/linebacker; Curtis Jacobs, Jr., wide receiver/linebacker; Kris Jenner, Sr., quarterback

First down: Led by one of the nation’s most dynamic players in Penn State commit Jacobs, McDonogh is primed to challenge in MIAA A after disappointing 2018.

7. MILFORD MILL ACADEMY MILLERS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #10

2018 record: 9-2

Coach: Reggie White

Players to watch: Makai Booker, Sr., defensive line; Rishon Holmes, Jr, quarterback; Jamal Morant, Sr., running back/linebacker; Khalil Scott, Sr., linebacker

First down: Millers hope to capture elusive first state championship with move to Class 2A.

8. DUNBAR POETS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #7

2018 record: 11-1

Coach: Lawrence Smith

Players to watch: Joshua Carr, Sr., tight end/defensive line; Deon Crews-Harris, Sr., fullback/defensive line

First down: Poets hope to reign again in Baltimore City Division I and get back to Class 1A state final.

9. MERVO MUSTANGS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #8

2018 record: 10-2

Coach: Patrick Nixon

Player to watch: Kelin Kimborough, Sr., quarterback

First down: After run to Class 4A state semifinals last season, Mustangs setting sights on 3A and Baltimore City Division I crowns in 2019.

10. BROADNECK BRUINS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #12

2018 record: 10-1

Coach: Rob Harris

Players to watch: Josh Cain, Sr., linebacker; Josh Ehrlich, So., quarterback; Ethan Foreman, Sr., offensive/defensive line; Andre Woods, Sr., wide receiver

First down: Bruins look to remain Anne Arundel County’s best and challenge for Class 4A state crown.

11. HOWARD LIONS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #11

2018 record: 9-2

Coach: Ross Hannon

Players to watch: Darius Anthony, Sr., wide receiver/defensive back; Harrison Robbins-Green, Sr., kicker

First down: Lions look to regain mantle in Howard County. 

12. ARUNDEL WILDCATS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #16

2018 record: 9-2

Coach: Jack Walsh

Players to watch: Jordan Andrews, Sr., running back; Austin Slye, Sr., quarterback

First down: Wildcats will put up points with Andrews, a Baltimore Touchdown Club Super 22 pick, and Slye back.

13. DUNDALK OWLS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #9

2018 record: 10-2

Coach: Matt Banta

Player to watch: Treshawn Ray, Sr., quarterback

First down: With one of the area’s top dual threat quarterbacks in Ray, Owls look to challenge Franklin in Baltimore County 3A. 

14. GLENELG GLADIATORS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #6

2018 record: 13-1

Coach: Tim Cullen

Player to watch: Drew Stoka, Sr., tight end/defensive end

First down: Though last year’s VSN Offensive Player of the Year Wande Owens (Yale) graduated, Howard County champ Gladiators thinking big in 2019 after run to Class 2A final last year.

15. ST. MARY’S SAINTS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #15

2018 record: 7-4

Coach: Jason Budroni

Players to watch: Will Berzins, Sr., center; Keith Day, Sr., defensive line; Alex Wicks, Sr., running back

First down: Saints (0-1 in 2019) have sights on rare 3-peat in MIAA B.

16. LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD DONS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

2018 record: 6-3

Coach: Anthony Zehyoue 

Player to watch: Jordan Moore, Jr., quarterback

First down: With dynamic performer in Moore back and playing an independent schedule, Dons (1-0 in 2019) could have a big season, culminating with 100th meeting with Calvert Hall College on Thanksgiving morning.

17. LIBERTY LIONS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #13

2018 record: 10-1

Coach: Larry Luthe

Players to watch: McClain Butler, Sr., linebacker; Jeff Kent, Sr., quarterback

First down: Lions again team to beat in Carroll County.

18. RIVER HILL HAWKS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

2018 record: 8-4

Coach: Brian Van Deusen

Player to watch: Beau Brade, Sr., running back/defensive back

First down: With area’s top public league player in Maryland commit Brade, Hawks look to challenge for Howard County crown.

19. NEW TOWN TITANS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #17

2018 record: 10-3

Coach: Mike Savage

Players to watch: Gerrell Johnson, Sr., wide receiver/linebacker

First down: Titans ready to take place among Baltimore County’s elite after surprising run to Class 2A state semifinals last season. 

20. ELKTON ELKS

Final 2018 VSN Top 20 rank: #20

2018 record: 10-3

Coach: Matt Feeney

Players to watch: Nolan Null, Sr., quarterback; Tayshawn Watters, Sr., running back/defensive back

First down: With veteran cast, Elks eyeing UCBAC Chesapeake title and return to Class 2A state semifinals.