Maxpreps.com, a high school sports website, includes in their archives a Top 50 all-time national team rankings. How good is their Top 50? Who knows. And who really cares. After all, for football junkies, it’s great stuff to talk about.
Over 14,000 high schools annually field football teams in a sport that has been ongoing for at least 125 years. Over that time, it’s conceivable that there have been over a million different teams. Creating a listing like this is certainly a tall task in that it recognizes just one out every 20,000+ schools. So it’s the rare team that would make a list like this.
A grain salt must be added in that any team on the list must have been good for the era of that time, not necessarily across all time. For instance, a top team from the mid-1900s would certainly not be expected to defeat a good team from the modern era. So that must be taken into consideration.
What brings traditionally strong Massillon into the discussion is that they placed four teams in the Top 50, at least as many as any other school. The Massillon teams include:
- 3rd – 1940. Coached by Paul Brown, Massillon finished 10-0, outscoring its opponents 477-6, with the lone defensive touchdown scored by Canton McKinley in a 34-6 victory. Along the way, the Tigers handed four teams their only loss of the season. Massillon was awarded both the state and national titles. Brown would leave after the season to become the head coach at Ohio State University. The 1940 team is the highest rated public school in the Maxpreps.com list.
- 31st – 1950. Coached by Chuck Mather, Massillon ran over all ten opponents, outscoring them 407-37. For the effort, the Tigers were named both state and national champions.
- 37th – 1936. Coached by Paul Brown, it was one of several great Brown teams. This one went 10-0 and topped its opponents 443-14. Single touchdowns were scored by Mansfield and Barberton in one-sided affairs. In the finale, the Tigers defeated unbeaten Canton McKinley 21-0 to capture the state and national crowns.
- 41st – 1953. Coached by Chuck Mather, it was his final team leading the Massillon eleven. The Tigers were unchallenged in each of their ten games, outscoring their opponents 399-55. Massillon was successful in defending its state and national titles from the previous year. Mather left after the season to become the head coach of Kansas University.
The Top 50 list is headed by California’s De La Salle, which placed their 2001 and 2003 teams in the Nos. 1 and 2 positions. The 2002 team extended De La Salle’s winning streak to 151 games. De La Salle also placed two additional teams: 1998 and 2004, placing 19th and 38th respectively.
Valdosta, Georgia, placed four teams on the list: 1961 at 18th, 1971 at 28th, 1986 at 36th and 1984 at 44th.
Both Cincinnati Moeller and Cleveland St. Ignatius were honored three times.
- 4 – 1976 Cincinnati Moeller. Defeated Gahanna Lincoln in the state finals, 43-5.
- 6 – 1980 Cincinnati Moeller. Defeated Massillon in state finals, 30-7.
- 15 – 1993 Cleveland St. Ignatius. Defeated Cincinnati Moeller for the state title, 38-20.
- 17 – 1982 Cincinnati Moeller. Defeated Massillon in state finals, 35-14.
- 43 – 1995 Cleveland St. Ignatius. Defeated Brunswick for the state title, 41-21.
- 46 – 1989 Cleveland St. Ignatius. Defeated Massillon the state semifinals, 42-21. Defeated Cincinnati Moeller for the state title, 34-28.
Bishop Gorman’s 2018 team was ranked 5th. Massillon was scheduled to open with the Nevada team in 2020, but the Covid Pandemic forced a cancellation.
From a state distribution, Ohio dominates the list with ten placings. Texas and California have six, Florida five and Georgia four. Thirty-three are public schools and 17 are private.
Thirty-two of the fifty teams were in the past 50 years. Nine were prior to the 1940s.
From the beginning of football through the mid-1930s the primary offensive focus was the run game. The best team during that period was Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in 1925. From then through the mid-1970s, teams were mostly focused on the run, but threw the ball 20% of the time. The best team in that group was Massillon in 1940. Onward through the 1990s the passing frequency increased to 30%. The best team during that time was Cincinnati Moeller in 1980. Finally, in modern spread offense football the pass is used 40% of the time. The best team in that period is De La Salle from California in 2001.
Here is the complete list:
- De La Salle (CA), 2001
- De La Salle (CA), 2003
- Massillon Washington (OH), 1940
- Cincinnati Moeller (OH), 1976
- Bishop Gorman (NV), 2016
- Cincinnati Moeller (OH), 1980
- Mater Dei (CA), 2017
- Katy (TX), 2015
- Hampton (VA), 1996
- East St. Louis (IL), 1985
- Pine Bluff (AK), 1925
- Waco (TX), 1927
- Southlake Carroll (TX), 2005
- Abilene (TX), 1956
- Cleveland St. Ignatius (OH), 1993
- Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ), 2011
- Cincinnati Moeller (OH), 1982
- Valdosta (GA), 1962
- De La Salle (CA), 1998
- Everett (MA), 1914
- Lakeland (FL), 2005
- Harrisburg Tech (PA), 1919
- John Curtis Christian (LA), 2012
- Oak Park-River Forest (IL), 1912
- Charlotte Independence (NC), 2004
- Berwick (PA), 1983
- Coral Gables (FL), 1967
- Valdosta (GA), 1971
- Little Rock Central (AK), 1957
- St. Thomas Aquinas (FL), 2008
- Massillon Washington (OH), 1950
- Miami Northwestern (FL), 2007
- Miami Booker T. Washington (FL), 2013
- St. Thomas Aquinas (FL), 2010
- Berwick (PA), 1992
- Valdosta (GA), 1986
- Massillon Washington (OH), 1936
- De La Salle (CA), 1994
- Odessa Permian (TX), 1989
- Tuscaloosa (AL), 1926
- Massillon Washington (OH), 1953
- Louisville Trinity (KY), 2011
- Cleveland St. Ignatius (OH), 1995
- Valdosta (GA), 1984
- Batesville South Panola (MS), 2010
- Cleveland St. Ignatius (OH), 1989
- Allen (TX), 2013
- St. John Bosco (CA), 2013
- Portland Jefferson (OR), 1958
- Austin Reagan (TX), 1968