Xavier, the defending Class LL champion and the top-ranked team in The Courant final state and area ratings last year, is the No. 1 team in The Courant's preseason state and area rating.: THE STATE
1. XAVIER-MIDDLETOWN (13-0 last year): Lost some quality starters, including quarterback Pat D'Amato, running back Mike Mastroianni, safety and Courant defensive player of the year Ryan Jacobucci. Falcons remain formidable with aggressive, physical defense and quarterback Tim Boyle. Opener: at Notre Dame-West Haven on Friday.
2. HAND-MADISON (13-0): Tigers lost some quality players on both sides of the ball, but return many good ones. Linebacker/fullback Matt Walsh and defensive end Peter Gerson are two of them. Opener: Amity-Woodbridge on Friday
3. STAPLES-WESTPORT (11-1): Defending FCIAC champion has quarterback Jack Massie (1,617 passing yards and 14 TDs), running back Joey Zelkowitz (1,019 yards) and linebacker and top tackler Kevin Kearney (13.1 per game) returning. Opener: St. Joseph-Trumbull on Friday.
4. ANSONIA (14-0): The Chargers, who won the Class M championship last season, are in S this year. There should be little drop, though, in their performance with the superb Arkeel Newsome (3,763) in the backfield. Opener: at Torrington on Friday.
5. WINDSOR (11-1): Looks to be the top team in the CCC. Quarterback Quinn Fleeting (2,802 passing yards and 30 TDs and 522 rushing yards and four TDs) and receiver Ryheime Moore (911 receivingyards and nine TDs) are a dynamite combination. Defense will be athletic and quick in pursuit. Opener: at Wethersfield on Friday.
6. GREENWICH (8-2): The Cardinals, who lost to Staples in the FCIAC final last year, haven't made the Class LL playoffs since 2007. Expect them to end that skid. Opener: at Ridgefield on Friday.
7. LEDYARD (11-2): Both lines will be formidable. Quarterback John Rainey will direct the offense, which had 2,903 rushing yards last year. Opener: Waterford on Thursday.
8. HOLY CROSS-WATERBURY (12-1): Class S winner of a year ago may challenge Ansonia in the NVL. Adrian Brown, who ran for over 1,000 yards; and No. 1 receiver Isaiah Wright are back. Opener: Watertown on Friday.
9. BERLIN (10-2): Most of the starters are back from the team that lost to Ansonia in an M semifinal. Offensive line, anchored by guard Chris Meucci and tackle Mitch Blanchette, is solid. Opener: at East Catholic-Manchester on Saturday.
10. HILLHOUSE-NEW HAVEN (7-3): Running back Harold Cooper (183.5 yards per game) will be the team's premier offensive weapon, and quarterback Je'Vaughn Moore is an elusive runner. Opener: at Foran-Milford Thursday.
5. GLASTONBURY (8-3): Tomahawks have a solid core of returning starters from their Class LL playoff team, headed by quarterback Ben Berey running back Ty Janssen, defensive end Josh Hill and linebacker/receiver Nick Karp. Opener: New Britain on Friday.
6. FARMINGTON (9-1):
7. HARTFORD PUBLIC (8-2): Richard Jernigan moves to quarterback, and last year's starter Jordan Spruielle goes to cornerback. The Owls will utilize its speed with receivers Kahleil Abrams-Harris, Devon Hazel and Victor Mack. Linebacker Audley Fletcher should break Elijah "Peanut" Joseph's career sack record (25). Opener: Maloney at Dillon Stadium-Hartford on Friday.
8. CONARD-WEST HARTFORD (9-2): The tradition of being a run-oriented, winning team will continue. Quarterback Owen Snyder returns at quarterback. Opener at South Windsor on Saturday.
9. CROMWELL (10-3): The Panthers lost quarterback Anthony Morales, who led the state in passing yards (3,688) and TDs (43), to graduation. But they have talented running back Derrick Villard (2,125 yards). Opener: East Hampton/Vinal Tech on Saturday.
10. COVENTRY/WINDHAM TECH/BOLTON (9-2): Tight end Tommy Meyers, who's headed to UConn, two-way lineman Darick Orange, running back/linebacker Kyle Wing and others make the Patriots a contender in the Pequot Uncas. Opener: Gilbert-Winsted/Northwestern Regional-Winsted on Friday.