GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — The La Salle football team is ranked No. 1 in the MaxPreps Ohio Top 25 preseason computer rankings.
The rankings include any of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's seven divisions.
The Lancers (13-2 in 2019), the reigning Division II state champions, open the season at Elder at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the 2020 Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown presented by Mercy Health Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and Meijer.
Elder (12-3 in 2019) was the 2019 Division I state runner-up.
"We don't have any scrimmages so we will find out Week 1 how good we are," Lancers coach Pat McLaughlin said last week. "Opening up with a GCL opponent and a state finalist, at the Pit in Elder is a challenge. They are well coached and will have a good team."
Friday marks the first time La Salle has opened the season against a Greater Catholic League South division opponent in program history, according to La Salle statistician Paul Hummel. La Salle started varsity football in 1962.
"What a better way to start," Elder coach Doug Ramsey said. "We're playing against maybe the best team in the state of Ohio."
The Lancers return several key players including senior quarterback Zach Branam and junior running back/linebacker Gi'Bran Payne.
Branam threw for 1,676 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 1,394 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
Payne rushed for 790 yards and nine touchdowns and had eight receptions for 141 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 41 tackles including four sacks and two interceptions on defense, according to the GCL website.
"Both are great kids and very talented," McLaughlin said.
The offensive line also has experience with senior offensive linemen Gavin Robbins and Daylon Fischer along with junior offensive linemen Austin Rack and Ryan Reynolds.
The secondary is very talented with senior safety Jaylen Johnson (Ohio State verbal commitment), senior cornerback Iesa Jarmon (Cincinnati), senior safety Devonta Smith (Alabama) and senior cornerback Jaymar Hargrove-Mundy (Miami University).
Senior defensive lineman Aden Seger and senior linebacker Max Roberto-Bailey will anchor the front seven.
St. Xavier is ranked No. 5 in Ohio by MaxPreps. The Bombers play at Brownsburg (Ind.) at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.
St. X is led by several players including senior wide receiver Liam Clifford (Penn State), who had 77 receptions for 1,180 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019.
The Bombers also return senior linebacker Matthew Devine, who had 99 tackles (47 solo) including 5 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries last season.
Senior defensive lineman Gio Albanese had 65 tackles including seven sacks and a forced fumble last season.
Senior defensive back Gabe Dubois (Lafayette College) had 43 tackles (27 solo), three interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.
Elder is ranked No. 6 in the state rankings.
The Panthers are led by several players including senior tight end David Larkins (Appalachian State), senior offensive lineman Drew Beckenhaupt (Toledo), senior linebacker Joey Stemler (Ball State) along with senior running back Cooper Johnson and junior wide receiver Drew Ramsey, who is Doug Ramsey's son.
Junior Ben Hambleton is the Panthers quarterback this season.
Colerain is No. 9. Colerain is led by several players including senior defensive lineman Dontay Corleone (Cincinnati) along with senior running back/defensive back Freddie Johnson, junior MJ Flowers and junior Isaiah Myers.
The defense will also be led by senior linebacker Michael Bess Jr., senior Sean Williamson, senior Xander Kendall and junior cornerback Ken Willis.
The Cardinals host Lakota West Friday night in the return of former Colerain coach Tom Bolden to Cheviot Road.
Winton Woods (No. 13) and Fairfield (No. 21) are also in the top 25.