What's the best football team in New York State?
The preseason edition of PrepNation.com's National Prep Football Poll says it's Sweet Home.
I'd have to agree. After Sweet Home won its second straight state title, I've said that they need to be mentioned as one of the very best programs in the state.
They are too talented, too multi-dimensional, too well-coached, they have succeeded with very different teams the last two years and return enough key players (Mikal Coleman, Ralph Neasman, Jordan Johnson) to be seriously scary to its competition in Western New York (and the rest of the state).
The state sportswriters polls organize the best in the state by classification (AA through D), but there is no overall poll (Sweet Home is a Class A school).
The only gauge available for judging the best team in the state has been national polls. In recent years the top teams from New York have included Aquinas of Rochester (which Sweet Home has beaten in the Far West Regionals the last two years), St. Anthony's of Long Island, Iona Prep of New Rochelle as well as Orchard Park (which earned a spot in USA Today's East Region top 10 following its 2008 state title).
While no New York school is in the national top 100, Sweet Home is the top New York school mentioned in its Northeast Region poll 25 -- the Panthers are 11th. Sweet Home isn't too far outside the national top 100, one would think, as New Jersey power Bergen Catholic is 97th nationally and ninth in the Northeast. Other New York schools in the Northeast poll are: 17. North Tonawanda; 23. St. Anthony's; 24. Aquinas.
The NT placement is deserved as well. We voted Sweet Home ahead of NT in last year's final poll, but not by much, and as the AA defending champion the Lumberjacks certainly should be part of the best-in-NY discussion.
Any national poll is super-tough to figure, but I consider the National Prep Poll the best. Just look at how exhaustive the polls are (top 100 as well as seven regional top 25s), and it is all combined with a great perspective. It has done the same with basketball and they've been doing it for a while (since the 1987-88 season). The National Prep Poll had Niagara Falls No. 1 in the basketball rankings for 2005 after the Wolverines won the state Federation title.
New York really doesn't deserve a football team higher than where Sweet Home is slotted for a number of factors, including New York's fractured alignment. There have been several seasons in which many teams end up undefeated due to separate titles and no crossover between NYS Public High School championships, Long Island championships, New York City's Public Schools Athletic League plus Catholic schools throughout the state who don't match up either (from WNY, LI and NYC).
Even if there was a consensus pick as the top team in the state, then you're talking about matching a team like Sweet Home against the best from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, California and Florida, never mind the rest of the country. A New York team really needs to make a statement to earn national attention -- like when St. Francis won at Cleveland-area power St. Ignatius in 2004 to vault itself into the USA Today Super 25 (albeit for only a week).
Sweet Home is also tops in the state according to the computer behind the Massey Ratings used at highschoolsports.net.
The ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll is out and, not surprisingly, does not include a New York team. Same for the Yahoo's RivalsHigh 100, which makes it 0 for 113 for NY as it doesn't include an Empire State squad among it's "others receiving consideration." USA Today's Super 25 is not out yet.
* * *
For the lowdown on the new and evolving commenting format, check the link at the right, read the previous post, or just click here.
taggedHigh school football | North Tonawanda | Orchard Park | St. Francis | Sweet Home