1. St. John’s (Last year’s record: 9-1) Last year’s final ranking: 2
The Cadets are playing one of the toughest schedules in the country for a reason: Their roster is loaded with Division I talent, including senior quarterback Sol-Jay Maiava (BYU commit), senior wide receiver Rakim Jarrett (LSU) and senior linebacker Mekhail Sherman (Georgia). They beat Southridge (Fla.), 48-0, on Saturday.
Next: Saturday vs. Deerfield Beach (Fla.), 2 p.m.
The defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions have every reason to be hopeful for a repeat with junior Caleb Williams back under center. Last year’s championship-winning Hail Mary could be the start of an era for the Eagles.
Next: Friday vs. American Heritage (Fla.), 6:30 p.m.
3. Quince Orchard (13-1) LR: 4
The Cougars didn’t graduate much talent from a team that dominated Montgomery County and won the Maryland 4A title. Running back Marquez Cooper should carry the offense, and defensive back Charles Bell and defensive end Demeioun Robinson are impact players on the other side of the ball.
Next: Sept. 6 at Wootton, 6:30 p.m.
The WCAC finalists brought back longtime coach Bill McGregor after Elijah Brooks left for a job at Maryland. The team’s success could rest on the shoulders of senior running back MarShawn Lloyd, a South Carolina commit. The Stags opened the season with a loss at St. John Bosco (Calif.), one of the nation’s top teams.
Next: Friday vs. Imhotep Charter (Pa.), 7 p.m. at Catholic University
5. Good Counsel (6-4) LR: 5
The Falcons started last season strong before struggling to stay afloat in the WCAC. A strong offensive line and talented defense could help them find consistency.
Next: Friday vs. Charlotte Catholic (N.C.), 7:30 p.m.
6. Westfield (13-1) LR: 11
The perennial Northern Virginia powerhouse’s winning streak of 37 games, including three state titles, ended in the state semifinals last season. Coach Kyle Simmons should have the Bulldogs back on track to start this fall.
Next: Friday vs. Battlefield, 7 p.m.
7. Georgetown Prep (8-1) LR: 7
The defending Interstate Athletic Conference champions have an early-season rivalry game against Gonzaga, which will be a chance to prove they can do more than just dominate their conference. Senior Jalen Hampton is one of the most dangerous running backs in the area.
Next: Saturday at Woodberry Forest, 2 p.m.
8. Damascus (11-1) LR: 16
The Hornets had a tumultuous end to last season as their 53-game winning streak was snapped in the Maryland state playoffs, and the offseason was spent dealing with controversy. But their talent this year is unquestionable, particularly titanic defensive lineman Bryan Bresee.
Next: Sept. 13 at Quince Orchard, 6:30 p.m.
9. Stone Bridge (12-3) LR: 10
Coach Mickey Thompson enters his 19th season with the Bulldogs with plenty of offensive weapons at his disposal. Running backs Jared Cole and Zakias Moore and wide receiver Tai Felton will try to get Stone Bridge back to the Class 5 championship.
Next: Friday at Centreville, 7 p.m.
The Pumas were ousted in the Maryland 4A semifinals last season, ending their streak of three straight championships. But they remain the team to beat in Prince George’s County, thanks in part to playmaking junior Jalil Farooq.
Next: Sept. 6 at Eleanor Roosevelt, 7 p.m.
11. Freedom-Woodbridge (13-2) LR: 9
The Eagles are coming off the first state championship game appearance in program history and lost plenty of talent to graduation. Quarterback Quest Powell and wide receiver Jason Hawkins are among the key returners aiming to get Freedom back to the top.
Next: Friday vs. Hayfield, 7 p.m.
12. North Point (13-1) LR: 13
The Maryland 4A finalists lost All-Met Defensive Player of the Year Malik Lawrence to graduation but return quarterback Asa Williams from a team that went undefeated until the season’s final weekend.
Next: Sept. 6 at Arundel, 6:30 p.m.
13. Friendship Collegiate (10-3) LR: 18
The defending D.C. State Athletic Association champions will play a difficult, diverse schedule. They can prove themselves as one of the area’s best with games against DeMatha, Good Counsel and National Christian.
Next: Saturday at Wilson, 2 p.m.
The Bears have lost just two games over the past two seasons. If they can carry that success into a new year, they will be in the hunt for a 23rd IAC championship.
Next: Sept. 7 vs. Delbarton (N.J.), 1 p.m.
15. National Christian (7-3) LR: NR
The Eagles have Division I talent and have steadily improved in recent years. With a tough schedule ahead, this season could turn into their coming-out party.
Next: Saturday vs. St. James, 2 p.m.
16. H.D. Woodson (9-4) LR: 19
The defending Turkey Bowl champions shut down the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association last season and return a strong defense, featuring defensive lineman Keyshawn Hunter (Old Dominion) and defensive back Ke’Von Hunter.
Next: Friday at Martinsburg (W.Va.), 7 p.m.
17. Northwest (9-3) LR: NR
The only Montgomery County team that defeated the Jaguars last year was eventual state champion Quince Orchard. Defensive end Dominique Perry is the player who could help them get revenge this year.
Next: Sept. 6 vs. Whitman, 7 p.m.
18. Broad Run (11-2) LR: 20
The Spartans lost running back Tim Baldwin Jr., who transferred to Patriot, but senior quarterback Mitch Griffis is talented enough to have the Class 5 program optimistic heading into the season.
Next: Thursday vs. Tuscarora, 7 p.m.
19. Flint Hill (11-0) LR: 6
The Huskies lost a lot of their roster after a second straight undefeated season and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association title. Star running back Jordan Houston graduated, and coach Tom Verbanic stepped down after seven years at the helm.
Next: Sept. 6 at Paul VI, 7 p.m.
20. Lake Braddock (7-4) LR: NR
The Bruins steadily improved last year, running off a six-game winning streak in the second half of the season. Junior quarterback Billy Edwards and senior tight end Matt Hibner could help that growing process continue.
Next: Thursday vs. West Potomac, 7 p.m.
On the bubble: St. Mary’s Ryken, Ballou, C.H. Flowers, Woodbridge