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Preseason N&O football rankings: Wake Forest and Garner lead top 15

The Wake Forest Cougars Shy'eem Mitchell (3) runs past Broughton Capitals defender Shakell Wilson (1) on a 10 yard gain on Friday, September 26, 2014. Wake Forest won 60-20.
The Wake Forest Cougars Shy'eem Mitchell (3) runs past Broughton Capitals defender Shakell Wilson (1) on a 10 yard gain on Friday, September 26, 2014. Wake Forest won 60-20. newsobserver.com

The News & Observer’s preseason high school football rankings start much the same way they ended last season – with everyone looking up at No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 2 Garner. The programs that clashed in the 4AA East final return enough players place them atop the top 15 for the greater Triangle area.

1. Wake Forest (15-1 in 2014, No. 1 final rank): The Cougars are tops until somebody knocks them off.

This week: vs. No. 10 Panther Creek.

2. Garner (13-2, No. 2): No Nyheim Hines? No problem. Garner has experience across the board.

This week: vs. Cary

3. Chapel Hill (11-4, No. 7): The way the Tigers ended last year raises expectations.

This week: vs. Riverside.

4. Hillside (9-5, No. 8): The Hornets have offensive help, which was all that was missing last year.

This week: at New Bern.

5. Southern Durham (13-1, No. 4): Few teams can bring back just six starters and keep expectations high.

This week: at Fayetteville E.E. Smith.

6. Millbrook (11-3, No. 3): It’ll be up to the offense early to buoy the team.

This week: vs. No. 7 East Wake.

7. East Wake (10-3, No. 9): The program-building process is paying off for coach John Poulnott.

This week: at No. 6 Millbrook.

8. Middle Creek (9-3, No. 12): No matter who is quarterback, there’s talent to help.

This week: at Wakefield.

9. Orange (12-2, No. 5): Lost an important class of seniors, but the program has earned respect.

This week: vs. Person.

10. Panther Creek (11-3, No. 5): Defense is starting over, but there was depth there last year.

This week: at No. 1 Wake Forest

11. South Johnston (5-7, N/A): The Trojans were young last year and ended the season hot.

This week: at Franklinton.

12. Cleveland (10-3, No. 11): League coaches picked Cleveland third, but the offense still is explosive.

This week: at Clayton.

13. Green Hope (10-3, No. 10): It might take a few weeks for the new offensive starters to gel.

This week: at Heritage.

14. Southern Lee (8-4, N/A): Like South Johnston, the Cavaliers got better with a young team.

This week: at Western Harnett.

15. Lee County (9-3, No. 13): Defense, defense, defense. The Yellow Jackets are hard to score on.

This week: at Warren County.

J. Mike Blake: 919-460-2606, @JMBpreps

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