While the predictability of most northeast Ohio news rag top "25" teams is very obvious, we look at football from some different angles. NO MEDIA DARLINGS HERE nor will our list be comprised exclusively of Division-I primadonna blow-hards.
We look deeper than that. We don't care about the name of your school. We want to see players with heart and passion forthe game. Not a group of kids that think they deserve to be page one because they go to "St. Play Nobody."
1. Strongsville (3-1) The Mustangs dropped their season opener in a nail biter, but learned from it, regrouped and hasn't looked back going 3-0 since then. Led by Kellen Pagel, the Mustangs are poised to take on all comers and forge their way deep into the playoff field.
2. Benedictine (3-1) This is a team still actually flying below the radar and this ranking may be short lived, BUT the Bengals never put together a whimpy schedule and this year's is no different as they play a statistically tougher schedule than Glenville and St. Ignatius, neither of which team managed to crack our top 12. This team look their opponents in the eye and dances the dance boys!
3. Euclid (3-1) Tommy Gibbons' Panthers are another solid team quietly going about their business weekly and laying the smack down on their opponents. They stumbled against St. Edward, but they have been a very sound, defense minded team otherwise. They fear no opponent and are clearly the team to beat in the Lake Erie League bar none.
4. St. Edward (4-0) We bust their chops regularly, but the Eagles play a very solid schedule and play with a "take no prisoners" attitude that exudes a championship team style. This team is truly THE big dog among the area's top INDY teams. Most would place Glenville or Ignatius higher, but those teams are content playing popcorn schedules and teams from out of state that are mediocre at best. The Eagles have gotten back to their traditional ways and that means nothing but trouble for the competition.
5. Kirtland (4-0) Yes the Hornets are unbeaten. Yes the Hornets are trapped in a weak division in the most diluted conference in the area. Yes the Hornets feature the area's top touchdown scorer from a year ago. Yes the Hornets are Division-V, but we would gladly put them up against ANY team from ANY division in the area and watch them go toe to toe for 4 quarters any Friday night of the season. Though the weaker schedule could hurt them come playoff time (especially if that means a date against Ursuline), but they have to players and the staff to help them adapt to ANY situation. Despite the scheduling, Kirtland is on top of Division-V points over the rough-riding Youngstown Ursuline Fighting Irish. Only time (and some quality wins) will tell.
6. Walsh Jesuit (3-1) The Warriors are simply TOUGH! They are locked in a 9 game schedule that features only 4 games at or below Division-3 and it's stocked with points too. A championship caliber team that looks at it's upper division foes as "just the next victim!"
7. Padua (3-1) The Bruins of the North Coast League play the typical conference schedule, but they've thrown in some tough out of conference play this year and even though their first test against Huber Heights resulted in a heart breaking loss, the upstart Bruins are still the class of the NCL and one of the teams to beat in Division-II.
8. Youngstown Ursuline (4-0) The Irish are BIG and they are for real! A 53-14 thrashing of Lake Catholic in week 3 highlights the season thus far, but that may have been out done by the toppling of Division-I powerhouse Massillon Washington in week 4. Even though Massillon is the latest team to suffer from the "Curse of Jason Hall", they are still a team considered dangerous and Ursuline trounced them 23-13.
9. Brunswick (4-0) Going out each week and getting the job done. Exactly how the Blue Devils are following up their great run last season and despite losing a lot of talent, they've simply replaced it and kept pace.
10. Mentor (2-2) Of their 2 losses the only game in which they really struggled was against Ignatius. They lost by 3 to the rambling Mustangs of Strongsville and have a tough schedule remaining, but Steve Trvisonno has his boys ready to make their run at post-season play once again. It's not easy from here as they will take on Moeller, Euclid and Massillon among others on their hearty schedule.
11. Perry (3-1) The Pirates fell victim to hype and let it get to them in their only loss thus far against Aurora. This team can be a world beater if the players can stay in the game mentally and avoid injury. Last year when they lost Vinny "Air" Hokavar they went into a tailspin and despite making the playoffs were not the same team without him. Matt Rosati has to keep his boys focused.
12. Youngstown Cardinal Mooney (3-1) These boys come to play every week and they don't care who they are playing. Unbeaten after starting the season with a loss to Mentor, the Cardinals are in for battles all season long with their classic schedule, but they say "bring it on."
These are OUR "Damned Good Dozen" teams that we feel are those to keep and eye on in 2008.....so far.
So most of you are asking.....why no Glenville, St. Ignatius or even Mayfield?? The answers are simple. The Tarblooders and the Wildcats fail to play schedules that match their hype. They take on out of town teams that are not that solid and worse, don't factor into the points that much either, but every year they garner all the hype from teams that deserve more recognition. As for Mayfield. Well they've put together a nice string of good seasons, but you somehow know you're going to get a BOMB in the playoffs. It's just a hunch.
These teams will change, of course, as the season goes on, but rest assured those who deserve it from a FOOTBALL PERSPECTIVE, will get their due from D1 Football....The organization that brought you the TRADEMARKED "Shut Up and Play the Game!" GameDay MVP award, The Northeast Ohio High School Football Player and Coach of the Year awards.