We’re continuing to move forward towards the high school football season with our unveiling of position rankings for the 2016 season. This will be a multiday series, giving you our top five in every position. The big thing to remember about this list is that it is NOT a college prospect list, these rankings are based on presumed production for this high school season. If these rankings doesn’t mirror what’s on our Fire Rankings, that’s because they’re not supposed to. These rankings are built on what a player did last year, and what we think they’re going to do this year, based on the team’s play style, players around them, etc.
Tonight is our Grand Finale. We’re breaking down the Top Five Cornerbacks, Safeties, Defensive Athletes, and Utility Players.
1. Bentlee Sanders, 2017, Tampa Catholic:
Here’s one of the leaders of the Tampa Catholic defense, as the Toledo commit with be a big, big factor as to why the Crusaders will have an incredible year defensively. He’s a lockdown corner, one that we’ve seen make big plays in his high school career. Last season, Sanders finished with 56 tackles and three interceptions. He certainly wasn’t on the level of his teammate, Nate Craig-Myers, but Sanders was a major factor in opponent’s game plans. Will he double his interception total? I certainly think so, I think he almost has to until Kijah Kelly comes back from knee surgery to give Sanders some support, but overall, Sanders is destined for a great season.
2. Derrick Powell Jr., 2018, Cambridge Christian:
This is another team that has a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs – for the Lancers, a State Championship isn’t just a goal, it’s a reality. There’s quite the chance for Cambridge Christian, and the defensive play has to be solid with Powell locking down the outside. He did it last year, with seven interceptions, one of the top numbers in the Bay Area. What’s it going to be this year? Remember, he’s only a junior this year, so there’s a lot of time for him to keep developing into an even nicer cornerback.
3. Demetrius Jackson Jr., 2017, Northside Christian
4. Zamari Maxwell, 2017, Pinellas Park
5. Tyrone Collins, 2018, Braden River
1. Mekhi Lapointe, 2017, Armwood:
Would you expect the Bay Area’s leader in interceptions be somewhere else on this list? Give us five good reasons why he shouldn’t, and we still may not listen. He’s a fantastic talent for the Class 6A Runner-Ups, and we all know that Lapointe wants that State Championship. The Armwood 2017 class has watched the Hawks go to three consecutive State Title games and come out disappointed, and they’re ready for their chance to finally win it. Lapointe can cover them all, tight ends, wide receivers, slow, fast, doesn’t matter. His hands are fantastic, and he may just pull down another ten.
2. Amari Burney, 2018, Clearwater Central Catholic:
Burney has been a frequent camper this offseason, and it looks like he’s grown another few inches, something the the Marauders are going to see as even more of an advantage. Burney, like many other good safeties in the area, can cover just about anyone, and I can’t see anyone on the schedule that will give him trouble. He’s a key part in what looks to be a run at a State Championship for CCC – he’s a game changer, one that will need to focus on staying healthy, and play every down with the fire inside that we’ve seen before.
3. Rodney Higdon, 2017, Jesuit
4. Brendan Gant, 2019, Kathleen
5. Letayveon Beaton, 2017, Boca Ciega
1. AJ Deshazor, 2017, Lake Gibson:
What’s not to like about Deshazor? His natural position is linebacker, but he plays with the quickness of a defensive back sometimes. Deshazor has a fantastic football IQ – a skill that seems to be lost among players in today’s game. Of course, his fantastic strength has to be noted, and his ability to lead the defense will be on display next season. Deshazor had 74 tackles and two forced fumbles in 2015. His penetration abilities will need to stand out in 2016, but we certainly believe they can. Deshazor only had one tackle for loss last season, and that will need to change. But if you’re looking for someone to lead your defense, to lead the team as a whole, look no further than Deshazor.
2. Aaron Pierre, 2017, Cambridge Christian:
Pierre is just an athlete. He’s your do-it-all, whatever Bob Dare asks, kind of player. The Liberty University commit ran the ball for 339 yards on 33 carries in 2015, but we’re looking at what makes him a defensive athlete. 61 tackles for Pierre in 2015 (seven of them for a loss), and two interceptions. He can step up and make the big play in the backfield, but he can also drop back and compete in coverage situations. He’s a valuable part of the Lancers team, and he’ll be a big part of the Lancers quest for a State Title.
3. Kane Taylor, 2017, Clearwater
4. Peyton Xayasone, 2018, Countryside
5. Jabreel Stephens, 2017, Armwood
1. Jervon Newton, 2017, Clearwater Central Catholic:
Utility players are seen as some of the most valuable targets on your team. There’s just no debating it. They’re an offensive weapon, defensively smart, just a quality player. Newton is another one of the pieces that is so important to winning a State Title for CCC. Newton had 952 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, 58 tackles, and five interceptions in 2015. Why wouldn’t you love to have a player like this on your team? Newton will probably be a 1,000 rusher for the Marauders in 2016, and he’s going to have another big year on the other side of the ball. He’ll be a big reason why the Marauders will be on their way to another playoff appearance.
2. Juwan Burgess, 2017, Plant:
Underrated? Maybe, that’s up for debate. Not talented? You’re talking about a USC commit, people. USC wouldn’t go around looking for Bay Area kids if they weren’t talented. Burgess is going to be a fantastic option for Head Coach Robert Weiner. He had some eligibility issues last season, but he had an amazing Spring Jamboree game, including a great 67-yard grab from QB Dane Frantzen. He’s looked great in the offseason camps and seven-on-sevens, and he’s going to be a potent weapon for the Panthers in 2016.
3. Cris Galdos, 2017, Sunlake
4. Darrian McNeal, 2017, Armwood
5. Judge Culpepper, 2018, Plant