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September 9, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Four weeks into the high school football season, the battle for the top spot has already started to heat up as we have the first of what may prove to be multiple changes to the team in the pole position of the RivalsHigh 100.
Despite a 55-0 victory over Mission Viejo (Calif.) Trabuco Hills, the previously No. 1-ranked Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita will fall to No. 3 in the rankings when they are released on Monday.
The move capped a disappointing week that saw the program lose three-star offensive lineman and UCLA commit Erik Bunte to Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, marking the third transfer from Santa Margarita since the preseason ranking was released. Santa Margarita also had its strength of schedule take a hit with its best win, Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy, suffering an on-field defeat and subsequent drop out of the national rankings. Santa Margarita did not look impressive in its 27-14 victory to open the season, and with two exceptional showings by other schools, the preseason No. 1 has been leapfrogged in the rankings.
The preseason No. 1 team will have ample opportunity to re-claim the top spot with regular season games against ranked Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure and Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, as well as relevant Anaheim (Calif.) Servite, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Orange (Calif.) Lutheran. Combining an undefeated regular season with a playoff path that will include at least three other nationally ranked games, a push to the top spot will be hard to hold back.
Loganville (Ga.) Grayson moves into the top spot of the national rankings despite being on a bye this week as its statement-making 35-3 victory over Miami (Fla.) Central was given more power points when Central rebounded from that loss to down previously No. 7-ranked Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, 37-26. The top team in Georgia is anchored by a stellar defense led by the nation's top player, Robert Nkemdiche, and three-star DC David Kamara. And so long as the offense does not betray this squad, a repeat of a state title could be in the making.
River Ridge (La.) John Curtis also made a move from No. 6 to No. 2 in the RivalsHigh 100 after a 33-3 victory this week over then-No. 13 Tampa (Fla.) Plant. The game could have been as bad a 50-3 with how physically imposing Curtis was on both sides of the ball.
John Curtis also holds a 26-7 victory over Covington (La.) St. Paul's, which nearly edged nationally-ranked Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln.
Not to be ignored, Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee and Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes round out the Top 5 and each has impressive victories of its own.
Manatee boasts a 41-6 victory over Miramar (Fla.) High, and Byrnes has wins over two nationally ranked teams as it has bettered Chesapeake (Vir.) Oscar Smith and Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern.
With the better part of three months left in the season, there is still time for any and all ranked teams to make a move toward the top. But after the first four weeks, the Top 5 are all staking an early claim.
BAD WEEKEND FOR OKLAHOMA: In a war for national respect, the state of Oklahoma lost three major battles this weekend. While none were massacres, the three losses are added to the pile of evidence against the Red Dirt State.
Tulsa (Okla.) Union played well but fell to Euless (Texas) Trinity, 21-18.
Jenks (Okla.) High played close to DeSoto (Texas) High before falling off the pace in the second half, losing 46-27.
Broken Arrow (Okla.) High was unable to get anything going in a loss to Bentonville (Ark.) High, 20-10.
The trio of games were well-matched and well-played, but the three Oklahoma teams just were not able to make the plays when needed and none were able to take that next step forward.
All six teams involved were ranked, and so none of Union, Jenks, nor Broken Arrow will fall out of the RivalsHigh 100 this week. But all slide back accordingly and will have a tough time making much of an impact on the Top 25 until the season winds down.
MOVING IN: For the second consecutive week a team from California will enter the rankings inside the Top 40.
Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne, after its 56-0 victory over Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, will enter the RivalsHigh 100 at No. 33 and moves into the No. 4 spot in California.
The Narbonne offense is in very capable hands with four-star dual-threat quarterback Troy Williams' ability to spread the field and make the needed throws, but he is complemented by a sound offensive line and a running game that piled up over 300 yards in its opening week win.
The loss was the worst in the history of the Long Beach Poly program, and that alone says a lot for the Narbonne program.
The next three weeks will be buoy weeks for Narbonne as the team will take on Lakewood (Calif.) High, Gardena (Calif.) Serra, and Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.
With an undefeated regular season and playoff run through the L.A. City Section, this team should push well into the Top 25 and be in a battle for a CIF Regional Bowl berth.
Narbonne is not the only team making an appearance this week. The California team will be joined by rankings regulars, Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway, Coppell (Texas) High, Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, Galena Park (Texas) North Shore, and Fort Pierce (Fla.) Central.
With victories over Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton and Phoenix (Ariz.) Desert Vista it will mark the first time that Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe has been ranked in the history of the poll.
ON THE SLIDE: As one of the most successful high school football programs over the last decade, it is rare to see Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco suffer a defeat. But following its 13-6 loss to Baltimore (Md.) Gilman, the Iron Men are on the slide.
Don Bosco won a high school football national championship in 2009 and finished as the runner-up in 2011, but this weekend it was unable to overcome the losses from graduation and transfers and was bettered by a two-loss Gilman team.
The loss snapped a 46-game winning streak that dated back to 2008 for Don Bosco and was completed as Gilman quarterback Shane Cockerille punched in a one-yard touchdown with less than five minutes left in the game.
The typically tough Don Bosco defense was on display as both Gilman scores were set up as the defense watched: a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown before halftime and a 35-yard punt return in the fourth quarter boosted the score for Gilman.
Offensive limitations werethe story of the day for the visitor as Don Bosco was barely able to move the ball after its opening drive resulted in a touchdown.
Don Bosco will move from No. 32 to No. 67 in the RivalsHigh 100 this week, and the road does not get any easier as it will travel to Florida this coming week to play No. 23-ranked Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas.
KEEP AN EYE ON: ... how the state of Mississippi works itself out.
It is rare that Mississippi does not have a representative in the RivalsHigh 100, but for the second consecutive week the state does not have a single team ranked.
The top teams have yet to separate, but Picayune (Miss.) High, Olive Branch (Miss.) High, Meridian (Miss.) High, and Brandon (Miss.) High are all on the charge and could push into the rankings soon.
Olive Branch has a measuring stick game this week against nationally ranked Memphis (Tenn.) University School.
Picayune currently occupies the top spot in the state and has a victory over Top 5 Petal (Miss.) High at home but does not have much else on the schedule that can boost its profile nationally.
Usual state power Madison (Miss.) Central will be carrying the flag in another out of state contest against Monroe (La.) West Monroe this week as each team will try to right the ship after losses this week.
ON HIS SHOULDERS: With a 20-19 score in the closing minutes of the first half, Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller turned to its powerful running back Keith Watkins to get over on a quality Detroit (Mich.) Catholic Central team.
The No. 16-ranked Moeller team rattled off the next 27 points, building a 47-19 lead before the final minute of the third quarter.
Watkins piled on four touchdowns in the contest and ran for 177 yards on 17 carries.
The three-star Northwestern commit averaged 10.4 yards per carry and had a long of 35. He also caught two passes with both going for first downs.
ON TAP THIS WEEK: This week there will be nine games between nationally ranked teams, slightly down from the 15 from last week but a very strong slate early in the year.
The headliner will be between No. 11 Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman hosting No. 28 Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic as each will be representing a non-power state in a major out-of-state contest. Bishop Gorman owns a victory over nationally ranked Olney (Md.) Good Counsel and had a bye last week, while Bergen Catholic kicked off its season by soundly beating a quality Melville (NY) St. Anthony's team.
A second big game will be held in Florida where No. 4 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee will play host to No. 39 Miami (Fla.) Central. Central got back on track by besting Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington last week and in doing so helped push Loganville (Ga.) Grayson to the No. 1 spot nationally.
No. 14 Louisville (Kent.) Trinity will take on No. 57 Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier; No. 22 Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter plays Marietta (Ga.) Kell; No. 23 Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas hosts a No. 67 Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco team that enters the game limping a little; No. 32 DeSoto (Texas) High squares off with a No. 49 Euless (Texas) Trinity team that will be a measuring stick for many programs this year; No. 40 Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington will travel to play No. 58 Cedar Hill (Texas) High after each lost last week; No. 50 Tulsa (Okla.) Union and No. 92 Broken Arrow (Okla.) will battle for a single spot in the rankings; and No. 74 Mission Hills (Calif.) Alemany will travel to take on No. 81 Corona (Calif.) Centennial.