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Xaverian No. 1 in Preseason Football Poll

We kicked off our fifth year of high school coverage this morning with our statewide preseason MIAA Top 25 football poll. To view it, CLICK HERE.

The next poll update will be on Monday, Sept. 8, following the first week of action.

A few notes and observations about this week's poll:

Xaverian in top spot: For the first time in our poll history, Xaverian comes into the preseason ranked No. 1 in the state. The Hawks were a unanimous choice for the top spot by our panelists, with a loaded defense led by the reigning ESPN Boston Defensive Player of the Year, Joe Gaziano. A trio of Division 1 commits -- Gaziano (Northwestern), offensive tackle Joe Parsons (UMass) and safety Damion Wood (Coastal Carolina) -- give the Hawks star power, but there is plenty of talent to go around, between quarterback Jake Farrell, sophomore cornerback Mekhi Henderson, and linebackers/running backs Kenny Kern, Noah Sorrento and D'Aundre Holmes.

The Hawks have previously had two brief spells at No. 1 over the history of our poll. Last season, the Hawks shot to No. 1 after blowing out Bridgewater-Raynham at home, only to fall the next week at Barnstable and slide back down the rankings. Back in our inaugural season of 2010, the Hawks climbed to No. 1 in late September before falling to Everett in the first of several "No. 1 vs. No. 2" battles over the last few years.

CMass coming in strong: A record five teams from the Central Mass. district are represented in our first poll of the season, including Top 10 selections St. John's of Shrewsbury (5) and Shepherd Hill (8). Both of those schools are led by a Boston College commit and returning All-State selection (SJS' Davon Jones, Shepherd Hill's Chris Lindstrom). Also representing Central Mass. in the poll are Leominster (16), Doherty (20) and Auburn (22).

For St. John's, No. 5 is its highest preseason ranking since our inaugural season of 2010, when the Pioneers started the year fifth in our preseason poll behind current Green Bay Packers rookie Richard Rodgers. For Shepherd Hill, this is the Rams' first appearance in a preseason poll in our site's history.

MVC showing well: The Merrimack Valley Conference has two teams represented in the first seven spots, with reigning Division 1 state champion Central Catholic coming in at No. 2 followed by Lowell at No. 7. Defending D3 state champ Tewksbury begins the year at No. 21, after finishing last season ranked No. 5.

Times a-changing in the Hock? The Hockomock League is represented well again, with defending D2 state champ Mansfield coming in at No. 4 after finishing last year in the top spot. But for the first time ever, Hock mainstay North Attleborough is nowhere to be found in the poll. Meanwhile the Red Rocketeers' cross-town nemeses, Attleboro, start the year at No. 18 after runaway success in 2013 behind first-year coach Mike Strachan, making a surprise run to the D1 South Final. The Blue Bombardiers are a strong contender D1 South behind lineman Kyle Murphy, running back Damon Belin and wide receiver Brendan Massey. Are the tides changing in the Hockomock?

As always, here's how the first poll of the year breaks down by league and divisional affiliation:

Catholic Conference - 3

Merrimack Valley - 3

Atlantic Coast - 2

Bay State - 2

Hockomock - 2

Old Colony - 2

Southern Worcester County - 2

Big Three - 1

Central Mass. Conference - 1

Greater Boston - 1

Inter-High - 1

Mid-Wach A - 1

Northeastern - 1

Patriot - 1

Suburban - 1

Tri-Valley - 1

Division 1 - 9

Division 2 - 7

Division 3 - 4

Division 4 - 4

Division 5 - 1