Football FAB 50 countdown

The football FAB 50 countdown to No. 1 enters the Top 25 this week. Today, teams ranked No. 21 through 25 include schools from California, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

25. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)

2002: 10-4, CIF Southern Section Div. I runner-up

Key players:
*QB Jason Forcier (6-2, 200)
OL/DL Brandon Nicolas (6-5, 255)
LB Raymond Andong (6-1, 210)
*OL Tyler Perkins (6-2, 245)
DL Jason Bovard (6-3, 245)
DB/RB Justin Guzman (6-0, 195)
DB/WR Matt Paulino (6-0, 180)
*WR Kyle Brown (6-4, 190)
*FB James Brunt (6-0, 225)

Analysis: Two aspects of this team that stand out are the return of Forcier and the potential for dominance up front. As a sophomore, Forcier ran for 801 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 1,363 yards and 11 scores. He should be even more effective running Rollinson's offense, which interestingly had more of a De La Salle-like veer option look to it in 2002. Nicolas is an All-American candidate mostly as a quick side offensive tackle, but he also is tough to deal with on defense. Perkins and Bovard are two other returning starters on the interior who give Rollinson a great foundation. "We've got nine kids on defense who started or played 60 percent of the time last year and they can all run," the coach said. "I'm pretty pleased with how the defense looks right now." The primary question marks appear to be in the skill positions as almost all from last year are gone. The upcoming class of sophomores from last year has been awaited on the varsity for two years by many longtime Monarch fans, so some new starters should be in that group. Forcier's inexperience at the quarterback position was one reason for last year's slow start. That won't be the case this year and many of the Monarchs should have gained a ton of confidence for knocking off nationally ranked Long Beach Poly in the CIF Southern Section Div. I semifinals. They won't have to wait long for a big game this season as the week two opponent will be Mission Viejo.

24. St. Ignatius (Cleveland, Ohio)

2002: 7-4

Key players:
QB Bryan Hoyer (6-5, 200)
DT Kevan Fight (6-1, 220)
OL/DT Steven Miller (6-5, 260)
TE/DE Michael Massey (6-5, 240)
*TE/LB Jim Ramella (6-3, 210)

Analysis: In 2001, St. Ignatius finished with four losses, but managed to win a state title. Last year's, St. Ig's fourth loss meant an early postseason exit. With star QB Hoyer, who passed for nearly 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns, returning to lead the offense, St. Ignatius is figured to be in the running for another state title. Two of Hoyer's top targets — Massey and Ramella — are back. On defense, Fight is the leading returning tackler and Massey had 60 tackles and seven sacks. Opposing quarterbacks beware since Fight, Massey and Miller were the team's top three sack leaders last year, and all three are back.

23. North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.)

2002: 10-3

Key Players:
RB Kevin Akins (6-3, 195)
FB Jim Casertano (6-2, 235)
TE Jeff Ball (6-0, 215)
DE George Farrell (6-2, 220)
WR/DB Deanco Oliver (6-1, 180)
*SS Adam Hearns (5-11, 185)

Analysis: With six offensive and eight defensive starters returning, North Penn gets the early nod as favorite in a powerful District 1, Suburban One National conference. Akins and Casertano will lead a strong running attack. The team's secondary is fine shape with Oliver and rising junior prospect Hearns. North Penn has assembled a schedule that will test the team almost weekly. The team opens with Cardinal O'Hara, projected as the No. 2 team in the Philadelphia Catholic League. In Week 2, it faces perennial state power Bethlehem Catholic. North Penn's league schedule includes contests with Neshaminy and Central Bucks West, a pair of program that have combined for four Class AAAA state titles in the last six seasons.

22. Mission Viejo (Calif.)

2002: 14-0, CIF Southern Section Div. II champions.

Coach: Bob Johnson (178-56, 16 years)

Key players:
LB Jed Collins (6-2, 235)
QB/DB Marty Tadman (6-1, 175)
RB Jamelle Gummer (5-10, 195)
*LB Chase Moline (5-11, 230)
**FB/LB Chane Moline (5-11, 200)
RB/LB Aaron Rubio (5-9, 175)

Analysis: It took Johnson four years to turn this program around and now, because of the toughness of his schedule and a long winning streak (28 games), Mission Viejo has become a team that should be nationally ranked until it loses. The latest upgrade to the schedule has the Diablos facing Long Beach Poly (No. 2 in the nation two years ago). This year's team will have a defensive bent to it, with one of the state's top linebackers (Collins) and one of the state's top cornerbacks (Tadman) in leading roles. Last year's stop unit did exactly that, holding Newhall Hart without a touchdown in the CIF Southern Section Div. II championship game. It was the first time that program didn't score a touchdown in a game in more than 10 years. Tadman served as a part-time QB last year, but he would be more dangerous at other positions with a different QB starting. Look for a transfer to perhaps come through in that role. The Diablos also need to replace a lot of their linemen, but line coach Marty Spalding is one of the best in the nation. His units are always technically sound and aggressive. "I'm not sure we're going to be as talented as last year, but the leadership of this group is beyond the last few years," Johnson said. "These kids' willingness to learn and to work has been off the charts. That's very, very exciting for us, as a coaching staff."

21. Union (Tulsa, Okla.)

2002: 14-0, Class 6A state champion

Key Players:
DL Nathan Peterson (6-4, 250)
TE/DE Adam Blankenship (6-4, 230)
OLB Zac Snider (6-3, 210)
RB/DB Ty Bohannon (5-11, 180)
QB/P Jake Spavital (6-2, 175)

Analysis: After finishing as state runner-up four times in eight seasons, Union finally broke through with a state title in 2002 in dominating fashion. Union's 52-3 championship victory over Broken Arrow cemented the team's standing as one of the best in the state's history. But now that's ancient history. Union's offense has pretty much been dismantled by graduation — only two fulltime starters return. Defensively, the team should be in decent shape with five fulltime and two part-time starters returning. Jake Spavital, who emerged as the team's starting quarterback last season, is key to the offense. Defensively, Nathan Peterson, Adam Blankenship and Zac Snider all are NCAA Division I-A prospects.

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