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Central, Booker T., Aquinas, University nationally ranked by MaxPreps

South Florida's four defending state champions will each open the season ranked nationally by CBS Max Preps, which released its preseason Top 25 poll Monday morning.

Central, last year's Class 6A champs and winners of two of the past three state crowns in that classification, will debut at No. 2 behind top-ranked De La Salle (Ca.).

Booker T. Washington, the defending Class 4A champs, are ranked No. 9.

St. Thomas Aquinas, which won its seventh state title last year winning Class 7A, is ranked No. 16.

University School, a first-time state champ in Class 3A last year, is ranked No. 24.

The only other Florida team ranked was defending Class 8A champ Apopka, which beat Cypress Bay in a memorable 53-50 thriller last year.

-Central will be under the tutelage of new coach and former Northwestern coach Roland Smith, who was hired last month to replace Telly Lockette following his departure to coach running backs at the University of South Florida.

Central's schedule includes an opening date with Plantation American Heritage, a Week 2 showdown with Booker T. Washington, a Sept. 21 road date at Don Bosco Prep (NJ), and a regular-season finale against University School in addition to a tough district slate that includes Northwestern, Norland, Carol City and Homestead.

-Booker T. already showed last weekend how strong it still is by walloping St. Pete Lakewood 62-14. The Tornadoes face a brutal opening stretch that begins with an Aug. 24 road game at Norcross High, Georgia's defending large school state champ, which is ranked No. 3 by MaxPreps. Booker T. then faces Central, Carol City, and later on Northwestern and a road date at MaxPreps No. 25 Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas (Oct. 4). Adding to the tough task of repeating is the fact that University moved up to Class 4A creating a potential huge second-round playoff clash between the two defending state champs.

-St. Thomas has reloaded despite losing a few key players on the offensive side of the ball and should still have one of the strongest defenses and offensive lines in the nation. The Raiders open with a highly-anticipated showdown with Northwestern Aug. 31 at Sun Life Stadium and will take on perennial Louisiana state champion and defending consensus national champion John Curtis Christian, ranked No. 8 by MaxPreps, on Sept. 13 at the Superdome.

-University School returns numerous key players on both sides of the ball and faces its most daunting schedule to date. The Suns take on Homestead (preseason), Miami Central, Norland, Belle Glade Glades Central, Bradenton Manatee, Cypress Bay and Boyd Anderson, and could potentially square off with Booker T. in the regional final round of Class 4A.