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Can Kentucky Football Successfully Recruit the Nation’s Elite High Schools?

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Since recruiting expands each year under Mark Stoops and his staff, I thought I would give you a glimpse of the top high schools across the country, meaning those schools which have won two or more USA Today national championships.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Though recruiting at Kentucky is on the rise, Mark Stoops hasn't quite made it yet in efforts to gain commitments from recruits from the top schools. The Wildcats are going to have to be in the mix for an SEC East title before the recruits from the top high schools put Kentucky in the conversation at the schools I'm going to cover over the next few months.

Here a list of high school national champions. I plan to do an article over a few months on all those who have won a title since 2000.

In Kentucky, our minds tend to focus on Louisville Trinity and Fort Thomas Highlands. Across the Ohio River, we tend to think of Cincinnati's Archbishop Moeller. I plan to add these schools to my article list because they are consistently good football programs.

Saint Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

St Thomas Aquinas High School

This high school puts out the talent and they win championships. In the 2015 NFL Draft, Aquinas was the only high school that had three players drafted. Phillip Dorsett, a first round pick, marked the 6th straight year that has been taken in the NFL Draft. Dorsett played for the Miami Hurricanes.

Also picked was Rashad Green in the 5th round. He played for Florida State. Another Florida State player, Bobby Hart was drafted in the 7th round. I don't know about you, but I find that very impressive.

The Raiders have won two national championships (2008 & 2010), eight state championships ('92, ‘97, '99, '07, '08, '10, '12 &'14) and 30 district titles.

The history of this school is interesting.  it was originally named St. Anthony and began playing football under that name in 1947. The first three years, they had seasons of 1-7, 1-6, and 1-6. In 1950 and 1951, they had 3-4 records. Their first winning record came in 1952 when they eked out a 4-3-1.

They beat some teams with interesting names: Pompano Beach Beanpickers, Miami Gesu Crusaders (twice) and Miami Beach St. Patrick Shamrocks. They also had a name change from St. Anthony's to Central Catholic. Until the 1961 name change to St. Thomas Aquinas, they were the epitome of a marginal football program like Kentucky, after Paul Bryant left.

That 1961 season, though, was a 5-2 banner year. The raiders followed that up with a 0-8-1 season in 1962. Finally, in 1977, the Raiders won their first district championship. They lost their first state playoff game to the Key West Conchs.

In 1983, they finished with a 12-1 record and finished their season with a 2-1 playoff record. 1992 was the year Aquinas became a true Florida power, going 14-0 with a state championship. Or, so they thought. The following seasons, they went 6-5, 7-4 before going 13-2 in 1996.

If you're wondering when they decided to become a national program, it was 2008 when they were declared National Champions by USA Today. They beat Cincinnati Elder in their first game and went undefeated with a state championship at 15-0. If you'll click here, you can see a 9: 52 highlight film of their 56-7 state championship win over Lakeland.

In 2009, they began the season with a 52-7 win over the Upper Arlington Golden Bears in an away game in Columbus, OH. They also beat powerhouse Duncan (SC) Byrnes 42-34 at home. Aquinas finished the season at 13-1 after losing to the Bradenton, FL Manatee Hurricanes in the state championship game.

In 2010, they had another 15-0 record and beat Dallas Skyline in Dallas 31-3. They also beat Kingsland, GA Camden County at home 42-28 and beat Tampa Plant 29-7 for the state title and their second USA Today national  championship.

In 2011, they beat Prattville (AL) 34-31 at Prattville. They beat Concord, CA De La Salle 30-6 at home. They lost to Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer in the state championship game.

In 2012, they lost to Ramsey, NJ Don Bosco Prep 20-10 at home, went 13-2 for the season and beat Tallahassee Lincoln 41-25 for the state championship.

2013 saw another season where they played only one national power, but they beat New Orleans  (River Ridge) John Curtis 27-13. They finished a 10-3 season with a loss  to Dwyer 28-35.

Last year, the Raiders finished with a 14-1 record, another state title and a #11 USA Today national rank. Their only loss was on the road in New Jersey to Don Bosco 24-7.

This year, Aquinas opens with an ESPN nationally televised game against national powerhouse (Miami) Booker T. Washington. It appears they won't be playing another non-Florida team.

Let me end this by telling you that St. Thomas Aquinas has more active NFL players than any other high school in America. If you go here, you can see the list. There are no Aquinas players on the current Kentucky roster.

For the 2016 class, the following Rivals four and five star Aquinas players will be playing for:

5* Nick Bosa, DE - Ohio State

4* Sam Bruce WR - Miami

4* Ed Alexander, DT, LSU

When Stoops begins to get interest from top Aquinas recruits, you will know that Kentucky has become successful on the field and on the recruiting trail.