Despite what you hear and what you’re told, St. Louis is not a slept on city.
I’m about to explain and show everyone why.
Do you want to know when the golden age of high school football in the St. Louis area took place?
The answer is right now.
Never has there been this many high caliber athletes reside in the St. Louis metro area in history and the 2018 and 2019 classes are the crown jewels so far! The player talent pool has been growing for quite some time, and it’s also thanks to social media for helping out individuals getting noticed.
In the Class of 2018 Rivals.com Missouri Top 15 rankings, St. Louis dominates the list with nine players. Seven are in the top 10, and the first three are from here. The remaining six all hail from the Kansas City metropolitan area. A year ago six players in the 2017 class from the greater St. Louis area were made the top 10. In 2016, the number was four.
Class of 2018
Supposedly the big three. Trevor Trout, Ronnie Perkins, and Michael Thompson. Ironically all of them are linemen on the defensive side. They were all named in the Rivals Top 100.
A.J. Epenesa (Edwardsville) and Jeff Thomas (East St. Louis) made the list two years ago, and CBC’s Brian Wallace was the previous St. Louis player in the Top 100. He was in the Class of 2014. A year before a guy named Ezekiel Elliott placed 84th and probably led the people who do the rankings on Rivals to re-think their lives. Here’s a rundown of the remaining St. Louis area players who’ve made the list in years past:
2007: Lamark Brown (Hazelwood West)
2008: Blaine Gabbert (Parkway West)
2009: Sheldon Richardson (Gateway Tech)
2010: Nick Demien (Timberland)
2013: Ezekiel Elliott (John Burroughs)
2014: Brian Wallace (CBC)
The point is with Trout, Perkins, and Thompson this is the first time multiple players from St. Louis have made it on the prestigious Rivals Top 100, and there’s more on the way!
Trout is the No. 1 ranked player in Missouri by Rivals. He’s had a pedigree since his middle school days when he was apart of the Team St. Louis squad that made it all the way to the Football University National Championship. Several of those players on that roster will be mentioned later. If you’re going up against Trout, then you won’t have much of a chance to run up the middle. He’s a master at plugging up holes at the line of scrimmage and showcases superior strength. He’ll be taking his talents to USC.
Ronnie Perkins started out at University City High School and started to gain some attention his sophomore year. Then he transferred to Lutheran North a.k.a. Scholarship High and he’s flourished as a result. A big attribute for Perkins is his next level quickness to get off the line and explode past his blocker while using his natural strength. Perkins and his fellow Crusader defensive linemen were nightmares to opposing offenses. He was just as effective at tight end with lead blocking and catching passes over the top. After being offered by over 50 D1 schools, Perkins selected Oklahoma as his college destination.
It took some time before Michael Thompson burst onto the scene. He was a rare four-year starter for the Parkway North Vikings and in the 2016 college coaches discovered his potential. Now he’s an Army All-American who received offers from most of the Power 65 schools. A big and athletic two-way linemen, Thompson overwhelmed opponents with his next level strength and quickness. He will be heading to Oklahoma as well. The Sooners really hit a home run by getting Perkins and then Thompson.
The CBC Cadets are fresh off a Class 6 State Championship and sported three seniors going to mid-to-high D1 schools, Kamryn Baab (Ohio State), Cameron Brown (Ohio State), and Tyler Walton (Ohio). Baab missed the whole season due to an ACL injury, and Brown picked up a season-ending injury during the playoffs. That should tell you how loaded they were and still are. They have plenty of up and coming talent in the 2019 class.
We’ll kick it over to another Metro Catholic school at St. John Vianney. Tionne Harris (Quincy University) was an electric four-year starting quarterback. Harris led the Golden Griffins to a Class 5 State Championship victory in 2016. Perhaps his best attribute is his throwing on the run ability and was arguably the best in the state at keeping plays alive in the pocket. He’s a playmaker and amazing making something out of nothing.
Another quarterback is Tyler Foote (South Dakota) from John Burroughs. His biggest achievement was winning the Bombers a Class 3 State Championship in 2015. If you look at him, you would think he’s too big to be a quarterback and would probably be a linebacker or defensive end. Although he did play as a linebacker this past season on defense, he’s a natural signal caller with maybe the best arm out of anyone in St. Louis and I’ll put him up against anyone else in the state.
There’s a reason why Lutheran North is nicknamed “Scholarship High” although they might’ve originally given themselves that title, regardless they’ve earned it. Besides Perkins, there’s the running back trio of Donovan Marshall (Arkansas State), Canaan Brooks (South Dakota), and Nick Lotts (Northwest Oklahoma State). Devin Ruffin (Bowling Green) is another highly rated player in the front seven on defense. Oh, and there’s more in the 2019 class.
There’s public school talent as well.
Hazelwood Central always has talent, and 2018 was just another year for the Hawks. A four-year starter, Dallas Craddieth is a four-star recruit according to Rivals is a shutdown defensive safety and has an exceptional football IQ. He’s on him to be an Iowa Hawkeye.
Hassan Haskins out of Eureka is built like a machine. The running back was a workhorse for two seasons and garnered plenty of attention at the start of his senior year. Ultimately he signed for the Michigan Wolverines. He’ll out-run or physically run over anybody, and it’s kind of a shock that he’s only listed at 6-foot-1 given how built he is.
The Lindbergh Flyers were probably the most surprising team in the area and maybe the state as they had one of their better seasons in school history in 2017. The speedy wide receiver duo of Rico Payton and David Grenia are both heading to SIU-Carbondale. They had a quarterback who did a splendid job of getting them the ball in Parker Powell who earned a scholarship to Missouri State. On defense, Theo Price excelled at linebacker that led him to sign for Northwest Missouri.
The Ritenour Huskies boasted linebacker and Texas signee Ayodele Adeoye, whose stock blew up after the 2016 season. However, he transferred to the nationally renowned IMG Academy to further his talents. The Huskies had two big men in the trenches with Nick Williams (Kansas) and Blake Rogenhofer who is receiving offers D2 schools. Dual-threat quarterback and strong safety Mann McGruder was being underrecruited, but his success finally got attention, and he is now going to Lindenwood on a full scholarship.
It was evident since they were sophomores that the Pattonville Pirates had a huge 2017 season coming and it turned out to be true. Kaleb Eleby (Western Michigan) was a four-year starter at quarterback who threw for over 2,000 yards in each of those seasons. Simply incredible. Dakari Streeter (Missouri Western) was yet another talented linebacker to come out of Pattonville. Mario Rowland (Iowa Central CC) was a late-bloomer lineman but has a high ceiling. Charles Shelton IV (Eastern Illinois) is a speedy two-way player, and that led the team in receiving yards.
If you travel southbound from Pattonville on 141, you’ll stop by Parkway Central High School. One of the top 10 successful football programs in St. Louis produced one of the best classes in their history. Arthur Green (Arkansas State) is a tall wide receiver with blistering speed who started three seasons for the Colts. DeAndre Campbell is quite possibly the best overall athlete in Central history being the all-time leader in points in basketball as well as a four-year starter in both basketball and football. A wide receiver and safety, Campbell is still deciding on choosing basketball or football. Twins, Cory (defensive end) and Devin (linebacker) Rice will be attending Quincy University.
Class of 2019
There’s still plenty to determine with the 2019’s, and of course, the ultimate judging point is what they can do on the field when it matters for the 2018 season, which starts in five months.
The Trinity Catholic Titans are home to an unprecedented number of highly rated and ranked athletes that St. Louis has never seen before on one team.
The player who is the crown jewel in this pack is dual-threat quarterback Isaiah Williams. Ranked 37th and 27th in the country by Rivals and 247Sports respectively, iWill is what you could call a “YouTube Football Player” based on his remarkable ability to out-juke and out-run defenses going sideline to sideline. He is the third player from St. Louis ever to be ranked as a five-star recruit. The other two were Sheldon Richardson and Blaine Gabbert who are in the NFL. His running ability is undeniably amazing, while his passing capabilities has some colleges raising questions coupled with his size.
Williams has an embarrassment of riches to throw to. No. 1 is Marcus Washington. Rivals place him right behind Williams in their Missouri state rankings, while 247 ranks Washington No. 62 in the country. I got to see him in person in that memorable game against Lutheran North and could see why he’s rated so highly. It’s clear that he’s tall, fast, and has great hands, but it was his sixth-sense and composure that had me sold. He always seems to know where he is and what’s around him with an awareness that’s difficult to teach. He recently released his top 10 list of colleges: Alabama, Florida State, Iowa State, Mizzou, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, and USC.
Four-star outside-linebacker Shammond Cooper highlights Trinity’s defense that is overlooked a bit because of the offensive star power. Tall, strong, and naturally athletic, Cooper is solid at reading plays and chasing down opposing running backs. A linebacker like Cooper almost takes away the option for an offense to run the ball to the outside because of his skills mentioned above. An Army All-American as well, Cooper released his top 10 schools a day ago as I type this: Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mizzou, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas A&M.
The remaining junior stars are Ira Henry, a three-star lineman who is starting to get high-major interest. The Titans have an excellent running back too, and his name is Alphonzo Andrews. A three-star recruit as of right now, Andrews is small but quick and stocky. Bryce Childress is another wide receiver that Trinity boasts and owns a three-star rating from 247. All three of these players have at least ten offers.
Trinity and Lutheran North have a friendly rivalry given the fact they both have an awful amount of recruited players as well being Class 2 private schools in North County. The Crusaders will graduate a lot of talent, but they’ll maintain the same expectations with a talented, proven senior class.
Four-year starting linebacker Isaiah Azubuike will lead them. A three-star player who could very well also play at running back as well this upcoming season should be a workhorse regardless. A fast, active athlete, Azubuike is a proven leader on and off the field.Three-star D’Vion Harris is right up there with the best defensive linemen in Missouri and is coming off a great season lining up alongside Ronnie Perkins. Taller, but leaner than Perkins, Harris is explosive at defensive end and will look to do more his senior season. Offensive linemen Jack Buford was the star player in the vaunted Lutheran North offensive line that paved the way for the Brooks-Lotts-Marshall running back tandem. He holds 19 offers at the moment and will have much more before the 2018 season starts.
Kyren Williams has been tearing it up since his sophomore season at Vianney. Officially listed as receiver, he also plays a lot of running back whenever the Golden Griffins put him in the jumbo pack. A three-star recruit by Rivals, I think he should have an additional star, but at the end of the day, nobody shouldn’t lose sleep over it.
Additionally, Cam Coleman is a senior at IMG Academy but started alongside Williams at Vianney for two seasons. He’s a four-star wide receiver and is ranked 131 nationally by Rivals.
Jalani Williams, another Parkway North product is a four-star recruit and has started at various positions since his freshman year. Being tall, fast, and stable makes J-Will perhaps the hardest hitting safety around, and there’s evidence on his Hudl highlights. I’m not sure if he’ll play on offense, but with his height and speed, Williams will make for a talented wide receiver.
Speaking of Parkway North wide receivers, C.J. Boone has recently gotten the attention of college coaches with offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Mizzou, and Nebraska. Rivals have him down as a three-star.
Two players from Ladue have suddenly risen in the last two months. 6-foot-7 three-star Moses Okpala was part of the monster Rams defensive line that led them to a Class 4 state-runner up. Okpala has only played football for two full seasons, and we could see his stock rise faster than anyone that has been or will be mentioned in the 2019 class. The other Ram is the wide receiver, Dale Chesson. A smart, explosive athlete, Chesson holds ten offers from mostly mid-major schools, but it’s still early in the recruiting process.
The class of 2019’s strong point is wide receivers.
We’ve mentioned Washington, Kyren Williams, Boone, Chesson, and Childress, but there’s plenty more. Another Williams is from Cardinal Ritter, first name Jameson. He holds an astounding 32 D1 offers from the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State and TCU. Maurice Massey who transferred to Kirkwood is ranked sixth in the state of this class in the Rivals Missouri rankings. Expect him to make a big difference at his first and only season for the Pioneers because he’ll fit into the offense just fine. Derrick Miller from John Burroughs is another three-star with offers from Arkansas, Iowa, Iowa State Mizzou, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
If you’re looking for a drop off from the CBC Cadets, barring injuries, you won’t find it. Brett Gabbert, the younger brother of Blaine and Tyler, is on pace to win more games than both of them did at Parkway West. Like his older brothers, Brett is a dual-threat quarterback and had the keys to a Lamborghini with Baab, Brown, Walton, and others the past two seasons. So far he’s produced an impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio and will only get better. His recruiting was surprisingly slow and held few offers after his sophomore year, but now holds a decent amount mainly from mid-major schools and is a three-star by Rivals.
On defense, the Cadets have M.J. Anderson. A 6-foot-4 three-star recruit, Anderson forced his way into the starting defense because of his impressive work rate. He’ll be much more under the radar this upcoming season.
This concludes the first part of this series. Part’s 2 and three will feature the Class of 2018’s top offensive and defensive players. You’ll see a lot of names that aren’t as decorated like the previous ones mentioned. They deserve to be recognized given their hard work and production.