St. Frances football considered national championship contenders in preseason poll

With Blake Corum (24; third from left) and another loaded roster, St. Frances Academy football is hoping for another big season in 2019. The Panthers are No. 2 in MaxPreps’ preseason national poll.

St. Frances Academy will not be eligible for the MIAA A Conference football championship this coming season, but the Panthers have a shot at a lofty title.

The East Baltimore school is ranked No. 2 in MaxPreps’ Xcellent national preseason Top 25. St. Frances finished sixth in MaxPreps’ final national poll last season and fourth in USA Today’s Super 25.

The Panthers (10-0 last season), who’ve won 23 consecutive games, have 11 players in’s Maryland Top 35 seniors including linebacker Chris Braswell (No. 2), defensive back Jordan Toles (4th), defensive linemen Demon Clowney (5th), defensive back Luke Hill (7th), running back Blake Corum (No. 8) and linebacker Osman Savage (9th).

Braswell, the country’s No. 22 overall prospect, is committed to the University of Alabama. Clowney and Toles both pledged to LSU while Corum and Savage are Michigan commits. Hill, a transfer from St. John’s College in the District, is committed to Oregon.

The East Chase Street school’s meteoric rise from a middling MIAA A program to national powerhouse has been scrutinized. Late last spring, MIAA A opponents Archbishop Spalding, Calvert Hall College, Gilman School, McDonogh School and Mount St. Joseph decided not to play the Panthers, citing safety and competitive imbalance concerns.

Last August, MIAA declared St. Frances the 2018 A Conference champion due to the Panthers’ fellow league members decision to “not play scheduled contests,” and the timing. St. Frances played a 9-game regular season independent schedule, mostly against Canadian teams.

St. Frances, which routed Georgia’s Class 6A state champ Lee County as part of the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series last December, will have a more attractive schedule in 2019. St. Frances will play at California’s Mater Dei, MaxPreps’ preseason No. 1, in a nationally televised match in October.

The Panthers opened the 2019 season at Miami’s Central, ranked No. 9 in MaxPreps’ preseason national ranking, on Aug. 24. The match will be televised on ESPN.

It will be one of five Florida programs St. Frances will play, capped with an Oct. 18 matchup at perennial national power IMG Academy (No. 6 in MaxPreps preseason poll). IMG is the last team to beat the Panthers.

St. Frances will play at New Jersey’s St. Joseph’s Regional (No. 22 by MaxPreps), which won the Non-Public Group 4 state championship last year.

St. Frances and Loyola Blakefield are playing an independent schedule this fall. Loyola Blakefield decided to go independent following the 2017 season.

Mount Carmel and St. John’s Catholic Prep are also playing an independent schedule this fall after the MIAA C was effectively dissolved after Annapolis Area Christian School and Concordia Prep moved to the B league.

Loyola, Mount Carmel, St. Frances and St. John’s Catholic remain MIAA members.