8) Wingate Christian High School - "The Blind Side"
This team built on the strength of offensive tackle Michael Oher slaughtered opponent after opponent. What gets lost is that the team wins games with a pretty inventive offensive scheme. Why they're not ranked higher: In the end, they'd be physically dominated by anyone else on this countdown.
7) Kilpatrick Mustangs - "Gridiron Gang"
Not only is the team intimidating with kids from the wrong side of the tracks, but with The Rock coaching? Forget it. Why they're not ranked higher: Any team that gets past the intimidation factor could have its way with the Mustangs, who would wind up fighting amongst each other when the game doesn't go their way.
Warner Bros. Pictures
6) Central High Wildcats - "Wildcats"
There's a soft spot in my heart for a Goldie Hawn-coached team that really took off when it made LeVander (Mykelti Williamson) the quarterback and moved Woody Harrelson to bartender -- sorry, running back. It was the first film for both Harrelson and Wesley Snipes (they went on to do another 46 together) and they suddenly gel as Hawn's character tries to win custody of her children -- that's Lombardi-like focus! Why they're not ranked higher: I see them as putting up a game fight and losing a heartbreaker to one of the teams ranked higher on this list, in the rain, as Goldie's mascara runs. But she still sings "Football" on the bus ride back.
5) West Canaan High - "Varsity Blues"
Look past James Van Der Beek, Ali Larter's whipped-cream bikini and the now-famous "I don't want your life" line. OK, it's hard to look past that, but this is one of those overachieving, small-town Texas football teams, not a juggernaut. Don't take them seriously and they'll surprise you. Why they're not ranked higher: They just had too much internal strife to succeed. Mox, the QB, yells at the head coach, who no one likes, yells at his dad who he doesn't like, and starts calling his own plays while making sure his teammates aren't pressured into taking drugs to combat injuries. Just too much to overcome here. Not even Tebow could help them.
Cinema Group Ventures
4) Taft Rockets - "The Best of Times"
A ragtag group at a small high school outside Los Angeles, led by a quarterback with a God-like arm, nearly upsets the best team in the region (they play to a 0-0 tie) and then actually wins a rematch years later when they're all adults and they play the tie game over. Reno Hightower was a highly recruited QB whose knee injuries derailed his career before it ever got off the ground. If they're playing as grown men against high school kids, I can see them pulling off one upset before running out of gas. Why they're not ranked higher: Reno's top wideout is Robin Williams, whose best weapon at distracting the opposition is stand-up.
Walt Disney Pictures
3) T.C. Williams Titans - "Remember The Titans"
This team was monstrous, especially when Sunshine took over at QB and Ryan Gosling was benched so he could go shoot "The Notebook." That defensive line tandem of Samcro's Opie and Avon Barksdale was dominant. Why they're not ranked higher: Eight plays! They only run eight offensive plays! Hey Denzel, we need a little variety here. The only other thing they run is a double reverse when they get end-of-game desperate.
Lucille Ball Productions
2) Ampipe Bulldogs - "All The Right Moves"
Their quarterback (nicknamed Rifleman) was a college-caliber signal-caller, getting a scholarship to Hofstra. Their middle linebacker was going to USC until he got his girlfriend pregnant. And Stef Djordjevic was a lockdown corner before the position ever had a name. And man, could Craig T. Nelson come up with a radical game plan to shut down the opposition (the 6-2 Stack Monster Defense should be copied by every NCAA team looking to slow an athletic quarterback). Why they're not ranked higher: You could count on Nelson for one coaching brain cramp per game -- like running the football in a rainstorm when all you have to do is have the QB fall down on the final play. You can't make mistakes like that against the team ranked number one.
1) Permian Panthers - "Friday Night Lights"
They make it to the Texas 5A state championship game, which is the highest level of high school football in the country. There are no Dallas Carters on this list to stop Mike Winchell, Don Billingsley and company, and just the soundtrack alone is enough to make you play harder than you ever thought you could. Why they're the best: They simply feed on controversy. Billingsley doesn't like Tim McGraw; Winchell fights a confidence problem but keeps sling-blading the ball successfully; Boobie Miles tears an ACL and the team finds a star in Chris Comer; Billy Bob Thornton is on the hot seat and keeps the victories coming. They'd beat anyone out of fear of losing and facing the wrath of their town. Clear eyes, full hearts.
More Photo Essays:
- Fantasy best fits for 2014
- Throwback Thursday - Michael Irvin
- All-Time Team - Green Bay Packers
- Mind-blowing stats for free agency
- Throwback Thursday - Extraordinary Combine Busts
- Mind-blowing stats for the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine
- Throwback Thursday - Wish you could've stayed
- NFL players from historically black colleges
- Top 10 coaching change fantasy winners