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Final SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25 (12/18/23)

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1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) (13-1)

Previous rank: 5. Season finish: Def. Serra 35-0 in CIF Open Division championship game.

The Monarchs overcame their Week 8 hiccup against one of their biggest rivals, dominating St. John Bosco in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 final, then holding North representative Serra to 58 total yards while Stanford-bound quarterback Elijah Brown threw four touchdown passes in the CIF Open final.

2. DeSoto (Texas) (16-0)

Previous rank: 6. Season finish: Def. Summer Creek 74-14 in Texas (UIL) 6A Division 2 championship game.

The people’s champion did everything asked of it during the season, defeating Duncanville 49-35 in a District 11-6A showdown and holding off upset-minded Southlake Carroll 45-38 in the semifinals before thrashing Summer Creek in the state final.

3. Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood, Fla.) (14-0)

Previous rank: 4. Season finish: Def. Clearwater Central Catholic 56-0 in Florida Class 1M championship game.

The Lions won a third consecutive state title (and second in Class 1M) to cap a season that also saw them defeat Florida powers American Heritage and Miami Central and hand New Jersey non-Public A champion Bergen Catholic its only loss.

4. Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) (12-0)

Previous rank: 1. Season finish: Def. Liberty 56-11 in Nevada Class 5A Division I championship game.

The Gaels had some big wins during the first half of the season, including a 63-42 shootout with Utah 6A champion Corner Canyon in mid-August, then rolled to a 20th state title, dominating their in-state competition (combined score in seven games: 376-65).

5. IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) (10-0)

Previous rank: 3. Season finish: Def. St. Frances Academy (Md.) 17-14.

We’re in agreement with SBLive Florida writer Andy Villamarzo — it would be nice to have IMG play some type of postseason game against Chaminade-Madonna or another of Florida’s powerhouse programs to see how the Ascenders compare with their rivals for Sunshine State supremacy. 

6. St. Joseph’s Prep (Philadelphia) (13-1)

Previous rank: 7. Season finish: Def. North Allegheny 45-23 in Pennsylvania Class 6A championship game.

The Hawks wrapped up a second consecutive state title to conclude a season that started with a narrow loss to IMG Academy and included wins against Florida 4A champion Lakeland and Maryland A Conference champion Archbishop Spaulding.

7. Duncanville (Texas) (14-1)

Previous rank: 10. Season finish: Def. North Shore 49-33 in Texas Class 6A Division 1 championship game.

The Panthers shook off any aftereffects of their loss to neighborhood rival DeSoto in district play to roll to a second consecutive state title behind another scintillating performance from LSU commit Caden Dunham, a senior running back who gained 231 yards and ran for three touchdowns in the final.

8. St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) (15-1)

Previous rank: 13. Season finish: Def. Springfield 31-21 in Ohio Division I championship game.

The Eagles and Wildcats met for the third consecutive season in the state final, and St. Edward earned the trifecta thanks to a big game from sophomore Brandon White, who ran for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Senior quarterback Casey Bullock, who missed two midseason games (including the Eagles’ only loss against Massillon) with a knee injury and three playoff games after reaggravating the injury, returned in the semifinals and ran for 63 yards and a touchdown.

9. Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) (11-1)

Previous rank: 15. Season finish: Def. Delbarton 24-14 in New Jersey Non-Public A championship game.

The Crusaders completed a three-peat by defeating a solid Delbarton team in the final. Kaj Sanders’ 11-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter broke a 14-14 tie, and junior Guy Bartolomeo’s 20-yard field goal with 3:12 to play sealed the title, making Bergen Catholic the first New Jersey team to win three Non-Public A titles in a row since Don Bosco Prep won the last of six straight in 2011.

10. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) (13-1)

Previous rank: 17. Season finish: Def. Homestead 31-28 in Florida Class 3M championship game.

The road to a fifth consecutive state title for the Raiders wasn’t always easy. They started the season by falling to St. John Bosco and could have suffered a second defeat against Cocoa but for some good fortune on a couple of late-game calls. It ended by holding off Homestead’s rally from a 17-0 deficit to earn the program’s record 15th state championship.

11. Washington Massillon (Ohio) (16-0)

Previous rank: 20. Season finish: Def. Archbishop Hoban 7-2 in Ohio Division II championship game.

It took 53 years, but the Tigers can finally call themselves state champions after winning a defensive slugfest with the Knights. They went 0-6 in previous state finals, with their last championship coming in 1970 when the Associated Press awarded the title.

12. St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) (11-2)

Previous rank: 2. Season finish: Lost 35-7 to Mater Dei in CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game.

The Braves have some big wins on their resume, including Florida 3M champion St. Thomas Aquinas and a Week 8 shutout of Mater Dei in their Trinity League showdown, but they also lost in the final minute at Kahuku before losing the rematch to their Southern California rivals in the sectional final.

13. North Shore (Galena Park, Texas) (15-1)

Previous rank: 9. Season finish: Lost to Duncanville 49-33 in Texas Class 6A Division 1 championship game.

The Mustangs also notched some big wins on their way to the state final, including two wins against Atascocita and victories against 6A Division 2 finalist Summer Creek and Westlake in the semifinals, but they couldn’t overcome Duncanville in the programs’ fifth meeting in the title game in the past six seasons.

14. Mill Creek (Hoschton, Ga.) (12-1)

Previous rank: 8. Season finish: Lost to Camden County 39-20 in Georgia Class 7A quarterfinals.

The quarterfinal round of the Georgia playoffs upended the seasons for three of the state’s premier programs, as Mill Creek, Colquitt County and Buford went out in the final eight. The defending 7A champion Hawks couldn’t hold off Camden County’s second-half push that saw the Wildcats pull away from a 17-17 tie.

15. Corner Canyon (Draper, Utah) (13-1)

Previous rank: 24. Season finish: Def. Skyridge 41-27 in Utah Class 6A championship game.

With University of Utah commit Isaac Wilson running for three touchdowns and throwing for two scores, the Chargers built a 27-10 halftime lead and went on to avenge their loss to the Falcons in last year’s state final and secure their fourth title in the past six years. Their only defeat came in Week 2 to Bishop Gorman.

16. Liberty (Peoria, Ariz.) (12-1)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Centennial 33-21 in Arizona Open Division championship game.

The Lions defeated their crosstown rivals for the second time in a month, with senior quarterback Levi Bruzon throwing for 174 yards and two touchdowns and running for 110 yards and a score to lead them to their first Open championship and the second state title in school history (they won the 6A title in 2019). Their only loss came to another Centennial (from Corona, Calif.) in Week 5.

17. Cocoa (Fla.) (14-1)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Bradford 20-6 in Florida Class 2S championship game.

The Tigers came oh-so-close to a perfect season, with only the last-minute craziness in their 37-36 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas denying them. That could have derailed many a team’s season, but credit to the Tigers for bouncing back and running the table the rest of the way to make their way back into the Power 25.

18. Colquitt County (Moultrie, Ga.) (11-1)

Previous rank: 11. Season finish: Lost to Milton 39-37 in Georgia Class 7A quarterfinals.

The Packers also fell victim to a determined underdog in the quarterfinals, although they lost to the eventual champion in Milton. It brought an abrupt end to a season that began with such promise — the Packers defeated South Carolina 5A champion Dutch Fork in their opener, then beat Georgia 4A runner-up Stockbridge in Week 2.

19. Aledo (Texas) (16-0)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Smithson Valley 51-8 in Texas 5A Division I championship game.

The Bearcats flew under the radar for much of the season, but they came up big when it counted, earning a second consecutive state title (and 12th overall) with senior Hawk Patrick-Daniels (a University of the Incarnate Word commit) rushing for 186 yards and a season-high three touchdowns.

20. Kahuku (Hawaii) (12-2)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Mililani 21-19 in Hawaii Open Division championship game.

The third time is the charm for the Red Raiders in terms of being in the Power 25, returning in the final rankings after avenging their loss to Mililani in the Oahu Open Division final, with Diezel Kamoku returning a punt for the go-ahead touchdown and catching a critical pass late to secure their third consecutive state title and 11th overall.

21. Ben Davis (Indianapolis) (13-1)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Crown Point 38-10 in Indiana Class 6A championship game.

After losing to IMG Academy in Week 4, the Giants set about winning the program’s 10th state title and first since 2017, with quarterback Thomas Gotkowski tossing three touchdown passes (two to Zane Skibinski) and Alijah Price rushing for two scores.

22. Milton (Ga.) (13-2)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Walton 31-21 in Georgia Class 7A championship game.

The Eagles were one of the three teams to take part in the carnage that was Quarterfinal Friday in the Georgia playoffs, taking down Colquitt County. In the final, they defeated another ranked team, knocking off Walton behind a standout performance by junior quarterback Luke Nickel, who threw for 201 yards, passed for one score and ran for another.

23. Serra (San Mateo, Calif.) (12-1)

Previous rank: 23. Season finish: Lost to Mater Dei 35-0 in CIF Open Division championship game.

The Padres had no answers for Mater Dei’s dominant defense — but other than St. John Bosco one time, who did? Otherwise, Serra once again proved itself the best team in Northern California, winning a fourth consecutive CIF Central Coast Section Open title by routing Wilcox 63-27. 

24. Bixby (Okla.) (13-0)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Jenks 49-21 in Oklahoma Class 6A-I championship game.

The Spartans maintained their stranglehold on the Sooner State, winning a second consecutive 6A-I championship and ninth overall title in the past 10 years. They have won 74 of their past 75 games, including three in a row over the Trojans since they ended Bixby’s 58-game win streak last year. 

25. Clay-Chalkville (Ala.) (14-0)

Previous rank: NR. Season finish: Def. Saraland 31-28 in Alabama Class 6A championship game.

In one of the Yellowhammer State’s most anticipated games of the season, the Cougars dethroned then-No. 14 Saraland as state champions, with Antone Ellison’s 26-yard field goal with 2:27 left breaking a 28-28 tie en route to the program’s second state title in the past three years and fourth overall. 

Dropped out

12. Buford (Ga.)

14. Saraland (Ala.)

16. American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.)

18. Belleville (Mich.)

19. Westlake (Austin, Texas)

21. Walton (Ga.)

22. Norland (Miami, Fla.)

25. Miami Central (Fla.)

Honorable mention

Centennial (Corona, Calif.)

Central Catholic (Toledo, Ohio)

Central - Phenix City (Ala.)

Coffee (Douglas, Ga.)

Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia)

Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.)

Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)

Parkview (Little Rock, Ark.)

Southfield A&T (Mich.)

St. Thomas More (Lafayette, La.)

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