As the season reaches the the halfway point or close to it around the nation, USA TODAY High School Sports is assembling our midseason report with installments throughout the week.
RELATED: Midseason Report – Offensive Player of the Year
This installment features the biggest surprise teams around the nation through this point in the season.
Lose the national career leader in touchdown passes, your top running back, top receiver and six other offensive starters plus 10 defensive starters, and there was bound to be a step back, right? Well, Folsom is 6-0 after the departure of QB Jake Browning & Co. and has outscored the opposition 237-99. The only close game was a 27-26 victory in the season opener at Clayton Valley Charter (Concord, Calif.).
Folsom has been a traditional power and has lost great players before, but the volume of players is what makes this year a bit different.
Senior Jake Jeffrey has thrown for more than 1,500 yards with 18 TD passes and only two interceptions. Six of those TD passes have gone to senior Christian Huber. Could another deep postseason run be in the offing for the defending CIF Division I state champion.
American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.)
Coach Mike Rumph is a big believer in playing a challenging schedule and the two-time defending Florida 5A champions have done that again this season. Unranked in the preseason, American Heritage opened some eyes by beating IMG Academy on the road in a preseason kickoff classic that did not count in the standings. The Patriots won impressively against Stephenson (Ga.) in the Battle of the Border and are now 5-1 with the lone loss coming to No. 4 DeMatha Catholic by a point, 23-22. They are currently ranked No. 11 in the Super 25.
Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.)
The Palladins were ranked No. 15 in the Preseason Super 25 and had big expectations under former defensive line coach John Westervelt, who was elevated to head coach in the summer. They are off to a 1-3 start entering a key showdown Friday with Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.). With a defense anchored by Rashan Gary – the nation’s No. 1 recruit – Paramus Catholic surprisingly allowed 42 points in a season-opening loss to Eastern Christian (Elkton, Md.). The Palladins bounced back from that loss and have played better.
“I think that first loss was good for us,” Gary said. “We needed to calm down and become hungry. We had to focus on key things and techniques. We’re building up week-by-week, day-by-day, and we’re going to be better as the season goes on.”
Ocean Lakes (Virginia Beach, Va.)
It’s no surprise that Ocean Lakes is undefeated at this point and ranked in the Super 25 Top 10. The surprise is how dominant the team has been in the midst of turmoil surrounding coach Chris Scott. Scott was suspended in the summer for three games for the program’s violations of the Virginia High School League recruiting rules. He was not allowed to coach in practice beyond the first week of summer workouts. That was followed by online petitions of support in mid-September after rumors spread that his job might be jeopardy. Those proved to be unfounded, but two more games were added by the school district when it determined Scott had violated the terms of his suspension. Interim coach Chris Ramey kept the Dolphins together and led them to five wins by a combined score of 205-20. Scott returned to the practice field this week.
After a year that ripped the football-loving community apart because of a hazing scandal, Sayreville returned to the field this season for the first time since last October when school officials canceled the remainder of the season. New coach Chris Beagan, who returned to his alma mater, was tasked with trying to restart the program and heal many wounds. Beagan and the new coaching staff steadied the ship and did it surprisingly fast. The Bombers won their first two games of the season before losing their last two, but changing the culture and moving the program in the right direction will be what this season is about. That good things appear to happening to a program whose future was in jeopardy is noteworthy.