Editor’s note: Do you want your high school football fix? Most people these days do, especially in Yuba-Sutter-Colusa where there are no games right now due to the pandemic. Well, MaxPreps has compiled a state-by-state breakdown of the greatest high school teams ever. Today is the third of the four-part series.
When it comes to determining the greatest team of all-time from each state, the recent offerings from Mater Dei (Santa Ana) and St. John Bosco (Bellflower) certainly come into consideration for California. Any discussion about the greatest teams in the Golden State, however, has to begin with De La Salle (Concord). The only question: Which Spartan team do you pick?
De La Salle was named national champion seven times, including four in a row between 2000 and 2003. However, MaxPreps chose the 2001 team because it best exemplified the four pillars that we determined mark greatness – dominance, consistency, efficiency and leadership. We used national rankings to determine dominance, win streaks and state-title streaks to measure consistency, offensive/defensive point totals to mark efficiency and head coaching prowess to measure leadership.
The 2001 De La Salle team is just one of example of 50 all-time great squads chosen from each state. Some teams were no-brainers, like the 1970 Brewer (Maine) team that finished No. 5 in the national rankings – the highest ever ranking for a team from that state. Or the 1940 Washington (Massillon, Ohio) team where every starter earned a spot on the All-State first team. Other states were not so easy. Sources for the list include state association websites, along with school yearbooks, MaxPreps’ story from 2018 on the Top 50 greatest teams of all-time. We also tried to honor any in-state newspaper’s choice as the greatest team from that state when such a determination was made.
Greatest prep football teams of all-time
Creighton Prep (Omaha), 1985
Coach: Tom Jaworski
Points For/Against: 374-59
Breakdown: We’ll go with Nebraska historian Stu Pospisil’s choice as the state best as he chose the 1985 Jays in a 2014 feature in the Omaha World Herald. Creighton Prep finished No. 20 in the nation and had eight players make the all-state team, including two future NFL players. No team came within 15 points of beating the Jays. The title was the first of five straight state championships for Jaworski.
Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), 2016
Coach: Kenny Sanchez
Points For/Against: 794-130
Breakdown: The Gaels played a tough national schedule that included wins over Texas state champion Cedar Hill, Florida state champions Cocoa and St. Thomas Aquinas, California state champion St. John Bosco and Hawaii runner-up Kahuku. Bishop Gorman averaged 61 points and allowed six per game against Nevada opponents and defeated Liberty (Henderson) 84-8 in the state championship game. Quarterback Tate Martell was the MaxPreps National Player of the Year.
Coach: Buzz Harvey
Points For/Against: 354-34.
Breakdown: At the time, the Nashua squad was considered one of the greatest in state history because of how it finished the season. Traveling to Florida, Nashua defeated Andrew Jackson 20-7 to cap an undefeated season. Nashua won its first eight games by shutout and allowed 34 points on the season. Eddie Dobrowolski scored 22 touchdowns on the season and was named state MVP. The school is now known as Nashua South.
Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey), 2011
Coach: Greg Toal
Points For/Against: 452-92
Breakdown: Ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps, the 2011 Ironmen were part of a 46-game win streak and a three-year stretch where Don Bosco Prep finished 1, 3, 1 in the national rankings. They outscored three playoff opponents 125-17 and also posted wins over California powerhouse Mission Viejo in the season opener and eventual Florida state champion Manatee.
La Cueva (Albuquerque), 2004
Coach: Fred Romero
Points For/Against: 611-21
Breakdown: The Bears were particularly strong on defense in 2004, racking up 10 shutouts. The team went 26-0 over two seasons and was ranked by New Mexico Preps as the greatest team in state history. Romero’s team had eight Division 1 prospects, including running back Frankie Baca, who rushed for over 1,700 yards on the season. The defense allowed just under 50 yards per game and at one time had more sacks than pass completions allowed.
New Rochelle, 1932
Coach: Bill McKenna
Points For/Against: 201-0
Breakdown: The Huguenots reportedly held a co-national championship with Toledo Waite in 1932 and are the only New York school to ever be considered a national champion. New Rochelle did not allow a point during their 9-0 campaign and won 21 straight games without giving up a point. Between 1932 and 1935, the team went 31-1-1.
Independence (Charlotte), 2004
Coach: Bill Geiller
Points For/Against: 810-127
Breakdown: Tom Knotts built a dynasty at Independence at the turn of the century, but ironically it was a team he didn’t coach that gets the nod as North Carolina’s best. Knotts stepped down to become an assistant at Duke and Geiller took over. Independence continued what eventually became a 109-game win streak behind the play of All-American’s Joe Cox and Mohamed Massaquoi. Cox threw for 4,509 yards and 66 touchdowns in helping the team average 54 points per game. Knotts returned in 2005 and stayed until 2009 before departing for Dutch Fork. Independence was ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today.
Shanley (Fargo), 1977
Coach: Sid Cichy
Points For/Against: 393-59
Breakdown: Under Cichy, Shanley was a powerhouse, at one point winning 58 straight games and 15 state championships. The 1977 squad provided Cichy with his final state crown. He finished his career with a 226-37-4 record. Steve Cichy, the coach’s son, earned Parade All-American honors. Sid Cichy, who received a letter of commendation from President Jimmy Carter upon his resignation, listed the 1977 team as his best.
Washington (Massillon), 1940
Coach: Paul Brown
Points For/Against: 477-6
Breakdown: Led by future NFL Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown, Washington had the best of many great teams in 1940. Ranked No. 1 in the nation by the National Sports News Service, Washington outgained opponents 4,538 yards to 647 and had 11 players, every starter, make the All-State team. The Tigers allowed six points on the season and provided the only loss for four teams. The state championship was the sixth, and final, state title for Brown, who went to Ohio State the following season. The 10 wins were part of a 51-game unbeaten streak for Washington.
Eisenhower (Lawton), 1990
Coach: Tim Reynolds
Points For/Against: 488-110
Breakdown: One of two Oklahoma teams to be named a national champion, Eisenhower shared the honor with Aldine (Texas) and was No. 1 by USA Today. The championship is the only state title in school history and it came in Reynolds’ third year as head coach. When he took the job at Eisenhower, the team had gone 10-30 in its previous four season. He led them to the state finals twice, culminating with the state championship in 1990. He left the school following the 1991 season and had an Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame career at Chickasa. Phil Kinney was named the state Lineman of the Year by the Oklahoman. Eisenhower was ranked No. 2 to start the season and rose to No. 1 after week 2 and stayed there for 13 weeks.
Coach: Tom DeSylvia
Points For/Against: 514-100
Breakdown: There is some confusion of which team was named national champion in 1958 by the National Sports News Service as Oak Ridge (Tenn.), Wichita Falls (Texas) and Jefferson have all been recognized at some point as the national champion. It’s hard to deny Jefferson, which may have sported the greatest backfield in high school history with future Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker at quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Mel Renfro at running back.