This is the 30th year USA TODAY Sports has produced national high school football rankings, and Moeller (Cincinnati) is the only team in this year's preseason Super 25 that was in the first "Super 20" in 1982.
The Fighting Crusaders are No. 14 in this year's preseason rankings. Last year, they were 7-0 before losing four of their last six games.
"Our motto this year is to get three more wins," said Moeller coach John Rodenberg. "Last year taught us what we needed, obviously, to get to that next level. We weren't far off. It's a little more extra in the weight room and on the field for the players. The coaches learned the same thing."
The past is always present at Moeller (Cincinnati), which has won seven state football titles. Rodenberg still gets a couple of calls a week from former Moeller coach Gerry Faust, who went on to be head coach at Notre Dame and Akron.
"When a kid comes into Moeller, he knows why he's coming here," Rodenberg said. "When he gets into the program. There are certain expectations to live by."
Barry Larkin, who played baseball, football and basketball at Moeller and was inducted last month into the Baseball Hall of Fame, said his high school alma mater was often a topic of discussion when he played.
"It was definitely a conversation starter," Larkin said. "Everybody always asked me, whether Moeller recruited. I don't know if Moeller's name carries the same weight it used to, but it's a really good school with a good sports program."
Rodenberg extended the connection between this year's team and its glory years by adding Jim Lippincott and Steve Klonne to his staff.
Lippincott, a former defensive coordinator and athletics director at Moeller, recently retired as the Cincinnati Bengals' director of football operations and will again be Moeller's defensive coordinator. Klonne, who will coach the offensive line, was head coach when Moeller last won a state title in 1985 and was coach of the 1982 team that won the first Super 25 national title.
"I think the big thing is he knows how to win the big games," Rodenberg said of Klonne. "He knows how to deal with it. Adding him is another way of getting us ready for three more wins."
Central's schedule: Miami Central won a Florida state championship in an odd way last season when it was elevated from runner-up after Armwood (Seffner) was stripped of its Class 6A title for using ineligible players.
Central's Rockets, led by tailback Joe Yearby, who had 29 touchdowns last season, start the season at No. 1 in the Super 25 football rankings. They aim to get a state title on the field this season, but they'll have to survive a difficult opening four games.
Central plays its first three games on the road: No. 6 Grayson (Loganville), the defending Georgia 5A champion on Aug. 31; state 4A runner-up No. 11 Booker T. Washington (Miami) on Sept. 8; and state 7A champion No. 3 Manatee (Bradenton) on Sept. 19. The Rockets' first home game is Sept. 28 with 8A semifinalist Columbus (Miami).
"We'll play anybody, anytime, anywhere," said Central coach Telly Lockette. "We've played a lot of big games on the road the last few years, so it doesn't faze our players."
No. 10 Plant (Tampa) is also in the rankings, giving Florida four teams in the Super 25. Texas also has four teams: No. 8 Carroll (Southlake); No. 18 Katy; No. 20 Trinity (Euless); and No. 24 Lake Travis (Austin).
No Don Bosco: Last year's top team, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) is not in the Super 25 for the first time since 2005. The Ironmen, who have won 46 consecutive games and six consecutive state titles, lost several key players. Defensive end Darius Hamilton and wide receiver Leonte Carroo are now at Rutgers; cornerback Elijah Shumate is now at Notre Dame; cornerback Yuri Wright is now at Colorado; and cornerback Jabrill Peppers transferred to Paramus (N.J.) Catholic. However, Don Bosco plays a difficult schedule that includes road games with No. 16 Gilman (Baltimore) and games at Alta (Sandy, Utah) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), so it will have ample opportunity to play its way back into the Super 25.