Connelly: Ranking the 50 best high school football teams of
Bill Connelly, ESPN Staff WriterAug 26, 2023, 08:00 AM ET
- Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.
On Sept. 2, 1989, Cleveland football powerhouse St. Ignatius pummeled Euclid 55-26. It was locally noteworthy because Ignatius and Euclid were two of the region’s best teams — Euclid would go 0-4 against St. Ignatius but 19-0 against everyone else in 1988-89.
But it had a lasting effect for a different reason: Thanks to the ambitious SportsChannel America, it was the first nationally televised high school football game.
A lot has changed over the past 34 years. As part of what is now the 14th GEICO ESPN High School Football Kickoff, ESPN2 will air four high school games Saturday alone. They will showcase both some of the top high school players in the country and some of the game’s most storied programs. Three of the programs — St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), St. John Bosco (Calif.) and Mater Dei Catholic (Calif.) — are represented on the list below featuring the top 50 high school football teams ever.
As you might guess, a list like this is going to be awfully subjective. Comparing high school teams from 1930s Ohio to teams from 2010s Texas is even more difficult than doing the same thing at the college level.
But I set some guidelines: All teams that have won multiple high school national championships had to be represented at least once on the list, and I tried to avoid duplicates as much as possible — while a De La Salle (Calif.) or Massillon Washington (Ohio) might lay a claim to quite a few spots, only four teams show up multiple times, and no one got more than two spots. I tried to share the love.
50. 2001 Long Beach Poly (Calif.)
We start with the only team on here with a loss. When you lose only to (spoiler alert) the greatest team of all time, we cut you some slack. Maybe no single game changed the coverage of high school football like the 2001 Poly vs. De La Salle game, which took place in front of a crowd of 17,000 and warranted loads of national television coverage. Poly lost 29-15 thanks to four touchdowns from De La Salle’s Maurice Jones-Drew, but it still boasted five future NFL players, four future USC Trojans and future All-American tight end Marcedes Lewis.
49. 1990 Lawton Eisenhower (Okla.)
Dominant Oklahoma programs like Jenks, Tulsa Union and now Bixby, all from the state’s northeastern corridor, have earned plenty of national attention through the years, but the single best team might have come from the southwest. Lawton Ike was already known for producing stars including future Hall of Famer Will Shields, and the 1990 Ike Eagles featured future USC running back Dwight McFadden and future Tennessee DB Raymond Austin. McFadden rushed for 244 yards in the state title game, a 35-7 pummeling of Putnam City North in a rematch of their only tough regular-season game.
48. 2013 St. John Bosco (Calif.)
Before becoming UCLA’s quarterback, Josh Rosen led St. John Bosco to the California state championship and a national title. Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images
Granted, they aren’t even the only 2013 team on this list, but with future USC star Damien Mama protecting future UCLA star Josh Rosen (3,200 yards, 39 touchdowns), St. John Bosco won its first of what are now three state titles and two national titles. In the title game, Rosen threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns, both to future UCLA teammate Jaleel Wadood, and Gavin Windes picked off a late pass to seal the deal, 20-14, as the Braves ended De La Salle’s 67-game winning streak against California teams.
47. 1999 Evangel Christian (La.)
Few schools have produced a quarterback lineage like Evangel, which has seen all-state performances from Josh Booty (1992-93), Phillip Deas (1994-96), Brock Berlin (1997-99), Brent Rawls (2000), John David Booty (2001-02) and both Dez (2008) and Dakota Duron (2012). Berlin, a Florida signee who eventually started for Miami, might have been the most celebrated of the bunch, twice winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. He threw for 232 yards as Evangel won its 60th straight game, and fourth straight state title, with a 20-14 win over West Monroe.
46. 1962 Miami (Fla.)
In recent times, Miami Senior has produced stars like receiver Andre Johnson and basketball players Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. And in the post-World War II days, it produced a run of high school national championships. Only four schools have won more than Miami’s six (1942, 1943, 1960, 1962, 1965), and while we can debate which of these squads was the best, the 1962 Stingarees have quite the claim. They won their third straight state title, then finished the season with a regionally televised 19-7 win over Maryland powerhouse Baltimore Poly in the Orange Bowl.
45. 1936 Massillon Washington (Ohio)
Before he became a three-time NFL championship coach with the Cleveland Browns, and before he became the longtime owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Brown was merely the best high school coach in America. His Massillon Tigers won four high school national championships, including back-to-back crowns in 1935-36, and they capped their brilliant 1936 campaign in front of 20,000, ending Canton McKinley’s 44-game winning streak with two Bob Glass touchdowns, a Mike Bylene pick-6 and a 21-0 pummeling. No, this isn’t the last of Brown’s Massillon teams on this list.
44. 1958 Portland Jefferson (Ore.)
In retrospect, it seems downright unfair that other Oregon high school teams had to play against a Jefferson squad that featured not only future Heisman winner Terry Baker but also future NFL Hall of Famer (and track-and-field All-American) Mel Renfro at running back and cornerback. (It also featured Mel’s brother Raye, a fullback who scored 24 touchdowns that year.) Coach Tom DeSylvia’s Democrats went 12-0, thumping Medford 21-7 to win their second straight state title. Most of the team would return in 1959, but Medford got its revenge with a 7-6 title game victory.
43. 1988 Pensacola Pine Forest (Fla.)
Let’s put it this way: Only someone as talented as all-time great Derrick Brooks could test Pine Forest. The Eagles won their last six games by an average of 57-10 to secure their second straight state title and first national championship. But in early October, their plans nearly went awry thanks to Pensacola Washington and a freshman named Brooks. The Eagles needed three goal-line stands and two explosive plays (a 60-yard punt return from Al Jackson and an 80-yard rush by future Clemson back Rodney Blunt) to survive 12-3. No one else could stay within single digits.
42. 1926 Tuscaloosa (Ala.)
Just as Alabama was emerging as a national powerhouse at the college level, a local high school team was doing the same thing. Paul Burnum’s Tuscaloosa Black Bears went 64 games unbeaten in the 1920s and peaked in 1926, outscoring nine opponents by an average of 57-2. 57-2! History is filled with plenty of back-in-the-day teams that dominated with particularly gaudy point totals, but that one’s pretty tough to beat.
41. 2010 South Panola (Miss.)
Mississippi has produced more than its fair share of football standouts, and Lance Pogue’s South Panola produced maybe the state’s best-ever team. Led by 2,600-yard rusher Qyen Griffin and future blue-chip receiver Nickolas Brassell, the Tigers beat 15 opponents by margins of 38, 30, 37, 39, 55, 35, 44, 56, 35, 34, 43, 56, 11, 36 and 21 points. Only Olive Branch, in the state quarterfinals, could stay within 20. They became the first Mississippi team to win the high school national championship, and they followed this run with additional state titles in 2012 and 2014.
40. 2004 Charlotte Independence (N.C.)
With future Georgia star Mohamed Massaquoi catching passes from future Georgia starter Joe Cox, Independence extended its ongoing winning streak to 77 games by averaging 54 points per game and shutting out five opponents. In the state title game against Hope Mills South View, Cox threw his 63rd, 64th, 65th and 66th touchdown passes of the season — a state record at the time — and Independence rolled 41-7. They would eventually extend their winning streak to 109 games before losing in overtime to Cincinnati Elder in 2007.
39. 1989 Odessa Permian (Texas)
Thanks to H.G. Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights,” not to mention ESPN’s 30-for-30 “What Carter Lost,” the 1988 Carter-Permian game — a 14-9 Carter win on a Memorial Stadium field in Austin in the Texas 5A semifinals — is one of the most famous high school games ever. The outcome might have been different had the 1988 Carter team (which had an obvious case for this list) taken on the 1989 Permian Panthers.
Led by future NFL quarterback Stoney Case and back Chris Comer, Mojo Magic ruled 1989. Permian won its first 13 games by an average score of 50-5 and eventually took down Aldine 28-14 — behind Comer’s 166 rushing yards and three scores — to finish 16-0 and win its fourth state title. They won No. 5 two years later. They’re still waiting on No. 6.
38. 2011 Louisville Trinity (Ky.)
By the 2010s, major high school programs were taking on national schedules, but if Trinity was looking for a test, it never found one. The Shamrocks took on storied programs from Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio (including St. Xavier and Archbishop Moeller) and outscored them by an average of 45-12. That seems dominant, but it pales in comparison to their average score in-state: 54-6. Led by future Louisville star receiver James Quick, Trinity was untouchable. Quarterback Travis Wright threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns (two to Quick) in a 62-21 state title game romp over Scott County.
37. 1985 Houston Yates (Texas)
Heading into 1985, no team from the Houston Independent School District had won the 5A state title since 1953. Luther Booker’s Lions not only did it, but did it in style. The offense averaged 41 points per game and topped 60 three times. The “Crush Groove” defense pitched eight shutouts and never allowed more than 16. After plodding through a couple of playoff rounds, they found their groove one last time, pummeling San Antonio Holmes by 27 in the semis and blowing out mighty Odessa Permian 37-0 in the finals. If Texas celebrates you as an all-timer, you’re an all-timer.
36. 1957 Little Rock Central (Ark.)
In 1947, Wilson Matthews took over a Little Rock Central program that had just won its first high school national championship. He somehow raised the bar. Central became the program of the 1950s, winning 10 state titles in his 11 seasons in charge before leaving for a college job.
His final team was probably his best. Amid the backdrop of Central’s famous 1958 desegregation fight, the Tigers were rampant on the gridiron. In 12 games against teams from Arkansas, Memphis and Texas, they outscored opponents 444-64. Not only did Central win the national championship, track-star running back Bruce Fullerton also won national player of the year honors.
35. 1997 Canton McKinley (Ohio)
Cleveland’s St. Ignatius would run Ohio for much of the 1990s, but by 1997 Thom McDaniels’ Canton McKinley was ready to take over. The Bulldogs lived up to their top national ranking by beating Dave Ragone and St. Ignatius 20-19 in the state semifinals, then dumped another storied program, Archbishop Moeller, by 15 in the finals. Led by future Ohio State stars Kenny Peterson, Mike Doss and Jamar Martin, McKinley won its second high school national championship 63 years after its first.
34. 1975 Big Sandy (Texas)
33. 1983 Daingerfield (Texas)
There’s a spot on this list for the small-towners.
As of the 2020 census, the towns of Big Sandy and Daingerfield have 3,791 combined residents. They’re separated by just 45 miles in East Texas. But they also have two of the most celebrated teams in Texas high school lore. From 1973-75, Big Sandy scored 2,121 points and allowed 65. Sixty-five! In three years! Led by future Oklahoma Sooner and first-round NFL draft pick David Overstreet on offense and future Illinois and Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith on defense, the Wildcats were overwhelming. They peaked in 1975, outscoring their last six regular-season opponents by a combined 420-0 and plowed through four playoff games, eventually winning 28-2 against Groom in the title game. Just ridiculous numbers.
Eight years later, Daingerfield did something similar. Dennis Alexander’s Tigers didn’t have an Overstreet on offense, but they had three 1,000-yard rushers and ground out 39 points per game. But the defense was far too advanced for Class 3A. Led by the likes of future Texas Tech and NFL cornerback Eric Everett, they nearly forced more turnovers (63) than their opponents averaged yards per game (70). They pitched 13 straight shutouts and outscored opponents 246-0 in the playoffs. Perfection.
32. 1988 Prichard Vigor (Ala.)
In 1987, Harold Clark’s Vigor squad won state with a 13-1 record — an excellent team with an excellent defense. But when all 11 defensive starters returned in 1988, the machine went to a different level. They allowed just 44 points all year and outscored five playoff opponents by a combined 148-7. More than 20 Vigor players played college football, and five reached the pros. They attempted to arrange a game with another team on this list, Pensacola Pine Forest, in a winner-take-all national championship, but it didn’t happen. Even Pine Forest would have struggled to score on Vigor.
31. 1912 Oak Park and River Forest (Ill.)
Before he was recruiting and coaching Red Grange, before he was winning 131 games as the best coach in Illinois history, Robert Zuppke was a high school coaching legend. (He also invented the huddle, for whatever that’s worth to you.) His Oak Park team won four straight high school national championships from 1910-13; led by Bart Macomber, a future All-American for Zuppke at Illinois, the 1912 squad was probably the best of the awesome bunch, outscoring opponents by an average of 51-2 and destroying local rivals Evanston Academy, Hyde Park and Englewood by a combined 221-0.
30. 1976 Warner Robins (Ga.)
Future Auburn star and NFL running back James Brooks. Future NFL receiver Byron Walker and NFL safety Eddie Anderson. Future College Football and WWE Hall of Famer Ron Simmons. Warner Robins is one of Georgia’s historic powerhouses, and the 1976 squad was one of Warner Robins’ best. The Demons allowed only 86 points all season, seven in the playoffs, and they overwhelmed a solid Griffin Bears team 34-0 in the state finals. About Griffin, Simmons got the final word and a WWE-level quote: “They were pretty rough,” he told the Macon News, “but I just got rougher.”
29. 1983 Berwick (Pa.)
28. 1992 Berwick (Pa.)
Long before he became associate athletic director at Notre Dame, former Irish star Ron Powlus was one of the most storied high school quarterbacks in history. Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports
George Curry is a Pennsylvania legend. He won 455 games, and between 1983 and 1997 his Berwick Bulldogs won six state titles and three national championships. The first of the champs stood out with defense. Future West Virginia All-American safety Bo Orlando keyed a unit that allowed just 31 points all season and finished the year with five straight shutouts.
The 1993 team was led by the other unit. Not that the defense was bad — Berwick allowed all of 59 points — but thanks to Ron Powlus, the Gatorade National Player of the Year and one of the most storied high school quarterbacks in history, the Bulldogs scored 545 points. Powlus threw for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-6 title-game pummeling of Blackhawk, and the Bulldogs pulled off another perfect season in a very different way.
27. 2005 Southlake Carroll (Texas)
Almost no team mastered the early spread offense like Todd Dodge’s mid-2000s Carroll Dragons. The 2004, 2005 and 2006 teams all went 16-0 — and with a couple of different star quarterbacks — and any of them could have made this list, but we’ll go with the middle one. The 2005 team was led by future Alabama national title winner Greg McElroy, who threw for a jaw-dropping 4,636 yards and 56 scores, and sophomore running back Tre’ Newton (son of Nate), who rushed for 1,345 yards. They both showed out in a tough state title game against Katy: McElroy threw for 328 yards, Newton rushed for 171, and Carroll won 34-20.
26. 1925 Pine Bluff (Ark.)
Good gracious, the numbers here are gaudy. Foy Hammons’ 1925 Pine Bluff squad scored 684 points and allowed 15. They gained 8,588 total yards, a record that stood until nearly the turn of the century, and back Billy Hicks scored 42 touchdowns.
They played Dayton (Ohio) Stivers in a de facto national title game and won 61-0. A headline in the Dayton Daily News before the game read, “Stivers 11 Ready for Pine Bluff.” They were not.
25. 2012 John Curtis Christian (La.)
In 1962, John T. Curtis Sr. founded John Curtis Christian School in River Ridge. Seven years later, he named his 22-year-old son, J.T. Jr., the head coach of the school’s football team.
Curtis is still head coach. He’s won 615 games in 53 seasons, only five fewer than the all-time national leader, former Summerville (S.C.) head man John McKissick. He has won 28 state championships, and he was inducted into the Louisiana High School Sports hall of fame in 1992, a full 20 years before his 2012 team, led by future LSU stars Duke Riley and Malachi Dupre, outscored opponents 677-60 and won the high school national championship despite smaller-school status.
24. 1919 Harrisburg Tech (Pa.)
Harrisburg Tech was no longer a school by the mid-1920s, but it made quite the impression while it could. At least, if you consider “outscoring opponents 701-0 in 12 games and winning a second straight high school national championship” an impression. And I do. 701-0! Led by future college stars Carl Beck (West Virginia) and Hap Frank (Penn State), they hosted a “national championship game” of sorts against Portland (Maine) in front of a crowd of 4,000, and they won 56-0.
23. 1967 Coral Gables (Fla.)
The Coral Gables Cavaliers were the program of the 1960s, winning mythical national titles in 1964, 1967, 1968 and 1969, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. With Florida undergoing racial integration in the 1960s, head coach Nick Kotys made headlines by naming Craig Curry, a Black student from nearby Carver High, his starting quarterback.
It worked out pretty well. Sharing a backfield with future Olympic sprinter Gerald Tinker, Curry led the Cavaliers to a 13-0 record with a 410-26 scoring margin. He would sign with Minnesota and lead the Big Ten in total offense in 1971, the same year Kotys retired after one of high school football’s most storied careers.
22. 1993 St. Ignatius (Ohio)
Eleven state championships in big-school Ohio football. Four national championships. Chuck Kyle’s 40 seasons as St. Ignatius head coach made the Wildcats one of the most celebrated programs in the country, and his 1993 squad was his masterpiece. With Parade All-American and future Boston College quarterback Scott Mutryn, lineman and state player of the year Mike Buzin and two future NFLers (TE Dan O’Leary, LB Chris Gizzi), they won their third of five straight state titles and rolled over storied Archbishop Moeller 38-20 in a snowy state title game.
21. 1927 Waco (Texas)
Rumor has it Knute Rockne consulted Waco head coach Paul Tyson for offensive ideas. If true, you couldn’t blame him. Tyson’s 1927 squad was shockingly strong, winning games by scores of 124-0, 107-0 and 93-0, and averaging 56 points per game while shutting out 11 of 14 opponents. Tackle Charles Leyendecker would go on to shine for Vanderbilt and briefly play for the Philadelphia Eagles. Waco played Cleveland Cathedral Latin in a de facto national title game and won 44-12. Tyson won four state titles, but this one was particularly demonstrative.
20. 2007 Miami Northwestern (Fla.)
Quite the passing of the torch: After its incredible run from 2004-06, Southlake Carroll welcomed Billy Rolle’s Northwestern to SMU’s Ford Stadium in 2007. They lost 29-21. Northwestern’s Jacory Harris outplayed Carroll’s Riley Dodge, and the Bulls took the mantle of nation’s best. Harris’ offense averaged 42 points per game, and a defense keyed by linebacker Levonte David and a number of future college athletes allowed just 9.5. And in front of 21,235 in Orlando, they blew out Orlando Boone 41-0 to cap the most perfect of perfect seasons.
19. 2011 Don Bosco Prep (N.J.)
Jabrill Peppers was an all-around star at Michigan, and even more so in high school. Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports
Remember how all-around awesome Jabrill Peppers was at Michigan? Imagine him in high school. And imagine him playing with one of the nation’s best supporting casts (one that included future Notre Dame linebacker Elijah Shumate and Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton). Greg Toal’s Don Bosco Prep, one of the best high school programs in the East, hit a peak in 2011 with this squad, which took on teams from throughout the country and went 11-0 with a 41-9 average scoring margin. They tried to arrange a game with the year’s great Louisville Trinity team, but it fell through.
18. 2006 Lakeland (Fla.)
Really, take your pick between the unbeaten, national title-winning 2005 and 2006 Lakeland squads. We’ll go with the 2006 Dreadnaughts, who extended what was eventually a state-record 53-game winning streak and sent eight seniors to Gainesville as part of a staggering 2007 Florida recruiting class.
Offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, running back Chris Rainey and hard-hitting safety Ahmad Black were among the future Gators who starred for a team that went 15-0, roared through the regular season and eventually won one of the greatest Florida high school games ever, a 45-42 overtime win over St. Thomas Aquinas in the state championship.
17. 1980 Archbishop Moeller (Ohio)
It was a shocking move at the time and has only grown more so since. In 1981, Notre Dame handed the head coaching job — still probably the biggest in the country at the time — to a high school football coach. It didn’t work out; Gerry Faust went 30-26-1 over five seasons at South Bend, and the “Bold Experiment” was deemed a massive failure. But if any high school coach in the country had earned that opportunity, it was Faust. In 19 years at Cincinnati’s Moeller, he had scratch-built a powerhouse, with seven unbeaten seasons, five state championships and four national championships.
Faust’s final Moeller team was nearly his best (more on that to come). The Crusaders rode running back Mark Brooks and the typical stingy defense (5.9 ppg) to 13 wins and capped a fifth title in six years with a 30-7 pummeling of Massillon Washington.
16. 1971 Valdosta (Ga.)
Wright Bazemore is another of history’s most celebrated high school coaches. In 28 years as Valdosta head coach, his Wildcats won 14 state championships and went unbeaten 11 times. His 1971 squad sent stars to Ole Miss (QB Stan Bounds), Clemson (WR Stan Rome, who had 1,573 receiving yards in 1971) and Auburn (DT Steve Stanaland) and blew out Avondale 62-12 in the state championship. It was Bazemore’s final game as head coach after 30 years. Eventually Nick Hyder would lead the Wildcats to three more national championships.
15. 2003 De La Salle (Calif.)
Concord De La Salle really tested the whole “no more than two teams on this list” rule. Bob Ladouceur’s Spartans won or shared 11 high school national championships and enjoyed the sport’s most famous winning streak: 151 games in a row starting in 1992. They searched far and wide for a team that could beat them, finally falling to Bellevue (Wash.) in early 2004.
The 2003 squad won the school its fourth straight national championship, pummeling Louisiana’s storied Evangel Christian by 17 early in the season and shutting out Pittsburg 39-0 in the state championship. Final scoring margin over 13 games: 531-65.
14. 1960 Conroe Washington (Texas)
This list wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL), the league in which Texas’ Black schools competed into the 1960s. It produced too many future NFL stars to count — Night Train Lane, Mean Joe Greene, Bubba Smith, Gene Upshaw, Cliff Branch, Otis Taylor, Gene Washington, Duane Thomas, Harvey Martin, Dick Lane, Mel Farr, Abner Hayes and many, many more — but the best team it produced might not have been the most star-laden.
The 1960 Booker T. Washington Bulldogs had an absolute star in quarterback Ellis Hubbard, but he wasn’t a future NFLer. Regardless, Washington rolled to 13-0, part of a run that included only six losses in nine years.
13. 1914 Everett (Mass.)
The No. 31 team on this list is an Oak Park (Ill.) squad that won four straight high school national championships. Why didn’t it win five straight? Because the 1914 team played Everett. Cleo O’Donnell’s innovative program was one of the first high school teams to truly embrace the forward pass — star Jack Cannell both rushed for 38 scores and threw for 16 — and scored 600 points in 13 games. Oh yeah, and they allowed zero. 600-0.
The score of that Everett-Oak Park game, by the way: 80-0. They hung 80 on the defending national champs. Maybe I have them ranked too low here.
12. 2010 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)
11. 2008 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)
San Diego Chargers linebacker Joey Bosa was a sophomore when Florida’s St. Thomas Aquinas went 15-0 and won the state title in 2010. Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire
When St. Thomas Aquinas nearly beat mighty Lakeland in 2006, it was the proverbial shot across the bow. George Smith’s program was nearly ready to become the nation’s best; two years later, it was exactly that. The Raiders won state in 2007, then shifted into a completely different gear. Behind future NFL backs Gio Bernard and James White, they averaged 46.3 points per game and kept improving all season. After losing to Lakeland in the 1994, 2004, 2005 and 2006 state finals, they met the Dreadnaughts again in 2008. They didn’t just prevail: They won 56-7.
Two years later, they did it all over again. After thumping teams from Texas and Georgia early in the season, the Raiders charged to another 15-0 record, winning games by an average of 44-7 thanks to the untouchable pitch-and-catch combo of Jake Rudock to Phillip Dorsett on offense and a downright unfair pass-rushing combo (Bryan Cox Jr. and a sophomore named Joey Bosa) on D. The state championship game wasn’t quite as much of a statement — a mere 29-7 win over Tampa Plant — but it didn’t need to be.
After winning three state titles in its history before 2007, Aquinas has won 11 since.
10. 2014 Allen (Texas)
Even for Texan standards, having quarterback Kyler Murray run and throw behind a line loaded with FBS prospects (including future blue-chippers Bobby Evans and Greg Little) was unfair. The defense wasn’t an all-time great unit, but we’ll say they allowed points out of a sense of fairness. Murray and company still rallied every time they needed to.
Allen won three consecutive state championships (and 42 straight games) from 2012-14, and in those title games Murray went a combined 40-for-62 for 645 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception while rushing 38 times for 394 yards. Like I said: unfair.
9. 2017 Mater Dei (Calif.)
Over the course of 34 years and 344 wins, Mater Dei’s recently retired Bruce Rollinson stood out, even in the competitive California prep universe. His specialty: ridiculous quarterback play. Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Bryce Young cut their teeth under Rollinson, and in 2017, JT Daniels threw for 4,123 yards and 52 touchdowns (much of which went to future USC star Amon-Ra St. Brown) as the Monarchs rolled to 15-0. They outscored opponents by an average of 48-15 and pummeled De La Salle 52-21 in the state championship game. It earned them their third of four high school national championships.
8. 1956 Abilene (Texas)
West Texas football has long been regarded as high school football’s platonic ideal. Its single best team: the 1956 Abilene Eagles. Chuck Moser’s team won 49 straight games and three consecutive state titles in the 1950s, and the Dallas Morning News named the 1956 team its “team of the century.” Led by future SMU All-American Glynn Gregory, Abilene outscored some stiff competition by an average of 35-5. Jimmy Carpenter scored on runs of 94 and 62 yards to punctuate an easy 14-0 win over Corpus Christi Ray in the state championship.
7. 1996 Hampton (Va.)
We all know the story of Michael Vick, but he wasn’t the best high school prospect Virginia’s Hampton Roads area produced. Those honors belong to Hampton’s Ronald Curry, who couldn’t match Vick’s collegiate and pro heights but quarterbacked the Crabbers to three state titles and two national titles and threw in a basketball title for good measure. The 1996 team was the best of the run. Mike Smith’s team averaged 58 points per game and allowed only 97 total points in rolling to 14-0. The weather in their state championship game against Ashland Patrick Henry was dreadful. They only won 51-0.
6. 1985 East St. Louis (Ill.)
The East St. Louis Flyers are the most storied program in either Illinois or the St. Louis area, and it probably says something that if you asked just about anyone in the area what the best ESL team ever was, “1985” would be an almost unanimous response. Bob Shannon’s team won its first national championship and third straight state title with both an explosive offense (quarterback Kerwin Price led an attack that averaged 48.5 points per game) and maybe the school’s best ever defense. Defensive end Bryan Cox keyed a unit that allowed just 3.8 points per game and shut out Chicago’s Brother Rice 46-0 in the state finals.
5. 2015 Katy (Texas)
The most remarkable thing about the 2015 Katy Tigers might be this: In a state dominated by blue-chippers and hugely talented rosters, Katy dominated Class 6A-2 with a single blue-chip upperclassman (low-four-star running back Kyle Porter). But who needs jewels when you’ve got the hardest defense in the state? Katy shut out 10 opponents and allowed just two to score in the double digits. In six playoff games, they outscored opponents 309-44. Gary Joseph scored his fourth state title in 12 years, and this team won his second…