Making the case for 4 teams that were under consideration for National Champion

Breaking down the chase...

High school football doesn’t have the luxury of college and the NFL in which the best teams go head-to-head in a defined championship game, so it falls on the media to fulfill the excruciating task of deciding which team is the best in the nation.

On occasion, it’s fairly straightforward. For example, when Mater Dei went 15-0 in 2017 with an offense led by JT Daniels and Amon-Ra St. Brown, all seven media outlets voted for the Monarchs; similarly, in 2021, when they went 12-0.

But most years, it’s a near-impossible task. Who can say with certainty that one elite team full of Division I talent would beat another elite team full of Division I talent? Who can even say with certainty that a rematch wouldn’t flip the script in a game between those teams?

This year, four teams had a case for the No. 1 spot in the country. USA TODAY High School Sports selected St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), as did the other six outlets that voted, but history should not show that this decision was made lightly.

The top four spots were:

No. 1 St. John Bosco (13-1)

No. 2 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) (14-1)

No. 3 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) (12-1)

No. 4 Central (Miami) (14-0)

Why St. John Bosco?

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The easy answer is that after the Braves lost to then-No. 1 Mater Dei in a game that saw quarterback Pierce Clarkson go down with injury, they avenged that loss in an epic championship clash that ended with the Braves winning 24-22 and handing the Monarchs their first loss since No. 30, 2019 (a game also against Bosco).

But while the championship over the better part of the last decade has run through the Trinity League, it’s not just that one win. The Braves checked all the boxes this season. They had victories over national teams, namely Allen (Texas) and Hawaii state champion Kahuku. They took care of business against Californian teams on the fringe of the Super 25, like Mission Viejo and Serra (San Mateo), the latter of which was ranked No. 19 when Bosco blew them out 45-0. And of course, the Braves beat Mater Dei, which is something no other team can say they did.

They had the Div. I talent, with 29 players ranked three-star or better by 247Sports between the classes of 2023 and 2024. Quarterback Pierce Clarkson was a consistent presence, creating more than 2,800 total yards and 35 touchdowns and helping the team average 42 points per game.

While the Bosco offense was rolling, the defense was crushing opponents. The only game in which the Braves allowed at least 20 points was in the win against Mater Dei. Opponents averaged 7.9 points per game, and over the course of the season, the Braves outscored opponents 592-111.

It was hard to stop Bosco on offense and even harder to put points up against its defense. Nobody had an answer. For the second time in program history, St. John Bosco is the Super 25 National Champion.

The case for Bishop Gorman

(USA TODAY Network)

For an entire month, Bishop Gorman did not allow a single point. In the six games between Sept. 23 through Oct. 27, the team scored 407 points – an average of 67.8 per game – and gave up zero. Admittedly, the Nevada schedule isn’t as tough as the Trinity League schedule in California, but if a team is taking care of business to that degree, a weaker schedule should not be used against them.

And it’s not like Bishop Gorman didn’t play against notable teams. They beat a Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) team with state title hopes by a score of 45-0. They defeated Utah state runner-ups Corner Canyon 42-7. And, in the final game of the season, they took down No. 6 Chaminade-Madonna (Fla.) 49-14. Excluding that loss to Mater Dei, one that came down to the waning moments, the Gaels outscored opponents 836-68.

But you can’t exclude the loss to Mater Dei, not when Bishop Gorman didn’t have a chance to redeem themselves.

With that said … there’s a case to be made that they did redeem themselves. When your 14 wins are by an average score of 55-4, is there much more you can do?

The case for Mater Dei

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The cases for the first two teams are built around their games against Mater Dei. St. John Bosco would not be the champion if they failed to stave off the Mater Dei comeback attempt. Gorman is No. 2 partly because their loss to the Monarchs was the closest loss any team had against them this season, including Bosco’s regular season loss.

The Monarchs were the No. 1 team in the country for the entirety of their first 12 games, right until they lost to St. John Bosco. But if Bosco’s argument is that they beat Mater Dei, shouldn’t it count for something that Mater Dei beat the Braves, and that 17-7 victory was a larger margin than in the 24-22 championship game?

Elijah Brown continued his awesome high school career by completing 68% of his passes, scoring 35 total touchdowns and only throwing four interceptions. Sophomore running back Jordon Davison is becoming a fiend, with 1,500 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Between the classes of 2023 and 2024, Mater Dei has 20 players ranked on 247Sports — and that doesn’t even include Davison or Nasir Wyatt in the class of 2025.

The Monarchs meticulously took down opponents, whether in-state competition like Bosco (regular season) and 9-3 Los Alamitos (in a 52-0 playoff shutout) or out-of-state teams like Bishop Gorman and 9-3 West (Salt Lake City, Utah). If there was one certainty this season, it’s that Mater Dei was the best team in the nation. Until they weren’t.

The case for Central


Only one team in the country played against multiple top-10 teams and did not lose to either. Shouldn’t that make 14-0 Central, one of just six undefeated teams in the Super 25, the National Champion?

Central started the season with a 20-14 win over IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), joining Mater Dei and St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) as the only teams to beat the Ascenders since 2014. Eleven of the Rockets’ 14 wins came against teams better than .500, and a twelfth was against a team with a .500 record. Their win against No. 22 Columbus was the only loss suffered by the cross-Miami opponent, and the victory against No. 10 American Heritage featured a 31-13 halftime lead for the Rockets.

You can’t ask teams to beat opponents they don’t play. They can only beat the ones in front of them. And that’s what Central did, every single time in 2022.

The main factor against them?

It’s nit-picky to compare dominance, but when you’re comparing the best teams against each other, you have to pick nits. Central’s point differential wasn’t as good as the other top-4 teams, as their defense allowed the most points per game of this elite bunch. The Rockets’ playoff game against Northwestern was too close for comfort, and their 42-35 win against No. 22 Columbus can be contrasted with Bosco’s 45-0 blowout over then-No. 19 Serra. Central has a case, to be sure. They just needed a little more to reach the pinnacle.

Honorable mention: Duncanville

(Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports)

With a 15-0 season and, at long last, the victory over North Shore, shouldn’t the Texas 6A D1 champion be in the conversation?

That’s a fair point. Duncanville and Central are the two teams in the nation went undefeated and had a win against a top-10 team. The Panthers shut out 13-2 Prosper in the semifinals; they beat a 6-5 Bryan team 74-13; they beat 6A D2 champion DeSoto 41-17.

But Duncanville needed either one more signature win — Central had victories over both IMG and American Heritage, while Mater Dei beat St. John Bosco and Bishop Gorman — or sheer, untouchable dominance the way Gorman steamrolled its opponents. The Panthers played extremely good football for 15 weeks and were rarely in any trouble. It was a remarkable season, one fans can celebrate long down the road, and one that merits them very worthy of a top-5 spot in the Super 25.

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