LEESBURG — Dean Fabrizio used plenty of coach-speak when talking about Saint Frances Academy this week.
“We’ve got to be precise on offense, not giving them a lot of opportunities,” he said. “And we’ve got to execute really well. And defensively, we’ve got to keep playing at the level we’re playing at, doing a good job with ball security.”
Fabrizio and Lee County High School will play host to the powerful Panthers, a Maryland private school located in the heart of Baltimore, Saturday night in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series at 7:30 p.m. The game, from Trojan Field, will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
Some high school publications are calling St. Frances the best high school football team in the nation. USA Today ranked them as the top team in its Super 25 East rankings this week, while MaxPreps ranked the Panthers 15th nationally.
A little more than a week after Lee County defeated Northside-Warner Robins 14-0 to win its second straight Georgia High School Association Class 6A state championship, Fabrizio said one of the hardest things he thought about when the game was announced was getting the Trojans motivated.
Athlete Jammie Robinson said that won’t be a problem.
“Getting us motivated won’t be hard at all,” he said. “For a lot of us, this is a chance to play one last football high school game. It opens up a lot of opportunities.”
Fabrizio said the game has the perfect storyline.
Saint Frances has compiled an all-star team from the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. Some players are from as far away as northern Virginia. He compared the program to the IMG Academy, a private boarding school in Bradenton, Fla. that specializes in sports training in eight different sports. Its football program is a national powerhouse.
“We’re kind of the old-school high school team … everybody we have lives in our attendance zone,” Fabrizio said. “St. Frances gets the best players from the Baltimore, D.C. area and beyond. We’re two very different programs. But they are talented, clearly the most talented team we’ve ever played, and we’ve played some really talented teams in my time here.”
The Panthers have allowed no more than six points in any game this season, and they are outscoring their competition by a combined 434-18. All of the points they allowed were in the first three games of the season. They haven’t been scored upon since a 64-6 victory over Clarkston Football North of Canada on Oct. 5.
St. Frances also hasn’t played since Nov. 16. Lee County, however, doesn’t expect their opponent to be rusty.
This will be the second straight year the Panthers have played in the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series. Last year, they whipped Bingham (Utah) 41-3 and finished fourth nationally in the USA Today Super 25 rankings.
The two schools will play in the first of two games Saturday night. In the nightcap, Centennial High School of Peoria, Ariz. will host Eastside Catholic High School from Sammamish, Wash. at 10:30 p.m.
ESPN play-by-play commentator Jay Alter and analyst Craig Haubert will call the game.
Fabrizio said he was excited about the exposure with the game being in prime time on television.
“We are excited about this game,” he said. “Our kids like to practice. They are going to really enjoy playing in this game.”