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September 23, 2010

It's easy to call this a state-ment weekend.

After all, we'll learn a little bit more about how teams stand in Pennsylvania (No. 91 Central Catholic vs. Woodland Hills), Alabama (No. 4 Hoover vs. Gadsden City), Ohio (No. 77 Moeller vs. St. Xavier) and Texas (No. 22 Abilene vs. Longview).

Not to mention our Game of the Week in Massachusetts (Brockton vs. Xaverian Brothers).

But the most interesting matchup may involve a single team from Nevada.

No. 41 Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman is the undisputed top team in the state. In football - and likely basketball and baseball, too.

Because of it, the Gaels need to measure themselves against out-of-state competition. An opening-game loss to Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton let them know they aren't a Top 10 team. This week, a trip to No. 29 Concord (Calif.) De La Salle figures to let them know where they stand in the Top 100.

Don't get us wrong, we love the intrastate matchups - and we'll see more of them each week as teams figure out where they stand locally. (For De La Salle, that moment ultimately may come in a CIF bowl game in December.)

But it's nice to get one more interstate battle - a game that figures to be the biggest of the year for Bishop Gorman.

With that, a look at five of the top games in the country:

Be sure to predict the winning score on the Game of the Week for a chance to win a free Rivals.com subscription to the site of your choice.

Weekend Watch
No. 91 Pgh. C.C. vs. Woodland Hills
LB Louis Taglianetti (6-2/185, Jr.)
RB Damion Jones-Moore (5-6/165, Jr.)
WR Dustin Lowman (6-0/162, Sr.)
ATH Lafayette Pitts (5-11/185, Sr.)
DE Quinton Jefferson (6-4/225, Sr.)
LB Ejuan Price (6-0/235, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/24, 7 p.m.
LAST MEETING: 11/13/09, Woodland Hills won, 36-3
STANDINGS: Central Catholic (3-0), No. 1 in Pa.
Woodland Hills (1-2), No. 16 in Pennsylvania

WHY IT'S BIG: The state of Pennsylvania desperately needs Central Catholic to win this game. The Keystone state has had three different No. 1 teams in the first five weeks; Bishop McDevitt, LaSalle previously held the spot. Whether Central Catholic can get a meaningful win will go a long way toward bringing back some of the luster that has been rubbed away from what usually is a top state. The game is listed as a home game for Central Catholic, but it is being played at the Wolvarena - the home field of both teams. The crowd figures to favor Woodland Hills.

BEST MATCHUP: Woodland Hills' defense against the Central Catholic offense. With the exception of the second half of its opening game against Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, when its two best defensive players went out with injury, the Woodland Hills defense has allowed just 16 points. It posted a shutout last week against Plum (Pa.) High and allowed only seven points against Pittsburgh (Pa.) North Hills. Central Catholic is averaging 35 points per outing.

WOODLAND HILLS WINS IF: Its offense comes to the game. The Wolverines scored 16 points in their opener, but a last-second touchdown padded that number. They were shutout in the second game, and only managed 21 points against Plum. Central Catholic's defense may not be as good as Manatee's, but it is certainly not worse than Plum's. If Woodland Hills is only able to put up 10 points, it won't win.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC WINS IF: It toughens up. This is a game that is a total contrast of schools. Central Catholic is a private school in Pittsburgh; Woodland Hills is the opposite - a large public school. Woodland Hills certainly will play the "have-nots" card in this game and be out to punish its opposition. If Central Catholic is not ready for a fight, it will not win the game.

PREDICTION: Central Catholic may be getting back to its fundamental roots. This game will test the team's mettle in a big way. Woodland Hills was expected to be defensively led but not offensively inept. A 1-3 start would be a major setback for a team that had preseason state championship aspirations. The Vikings score late to win. - Central Catholic 9, Woodland Hills 6.

-- For more on both teams and Pennsylvania football, visit PaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 4 Hoover vs. Gadsden City
WR Jaylon Denson (6-3/190, Sr.)
QB Ryan Carter (6-2/180, Sr.)
LB Teyrence Glaze (5-10/205, Sr.)
DT Max Elliott (6-3/247, Sr.)
DB Anthony Swain (6-3/215, Sr.)
WR Daryl Collins (6-0/190, Sr.)
WR T.J. Worthy (6-2/180, Sr.)
LB Terrick Wright (6-2/188, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/24, 7 p.m.
LAST MEETING: 11/27/09, Hoover won, 35-0
STANDINGS: Hoover (4-0), No.1 in Alabama
Gadsden City (4-0), No. 4 in Alabama

WHY IT'S BIG: Hoover has opened the season outscoring opponents 168-0. It's impressive until you pull back the curtain to realize its opponents are a combined 4-13 on the season and the best win is against a 2-2 Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes team. Gadsden City also is undefeated. Its opponents are not much better, combining to be 6-11. This is a rematch of last season's Class 6A semifinals, making this a quality game for both teams.

BEST MATCHUP: Gadsden City's offense against the Hoover defense. The Buccaneers not only haven't been scored upon this season, their second- and third-team defense have looked just as dominant as the first. Gadsden has been able to move the ball fairly well this season and could pose a legitimate threat to putting a number other than zero up on the scoreboard. The strength of Gadsden is at wide receiver with Alabama commit Daryl Collins and Ole Miss commit T.J. Worthy on the outside. It can also run the ball with three-star running back Alonzo Harris.

GADSDEN CITY WINS IF: It can withstand the Hoover offensive surge. Hoover can come at opponents in waves and is relentless. Gadsden City must force some turnovers and stay close enough to win in the end. Gadsden City will not be intimidated - the team has at least six players who will be going Division I. But being confident against Hoover isn't enough; it needs to be offensive, too.

HOOVER WINS IF: It keeps playing like it has. Hoover is one of the best coached teams in the country and it shows from the first string to its JV. The defense is not big at all, but it is fast and flows to the ball. The team likes to put pressure on the passer, which masks a sometimes suspect secondary. Offensively, the team can run and pass, enabling it to adjust to whatever Gadsden City gives them.

PREDICTION: Hoover is simply too good this year for any team in Alabama. The great news for Hoover fans is that Coach Niblett will not let one kid think that for one second. The Bucs will come out with a fire for greatness in each game and look to make a statement each week. This is a statement game for them; the team will be ready for it. The shutout streak should go out the window, barely.
- Hoover 30, Gadsden City 3.

Weekend Watch
No. 77 Moeller vs. St. Xavier
LB Steven Daniels (6-0/225, Sr.)
LB Sean Duggan (6-4/215, Sr.)
OL Jake Woodall (6-4/260, Sr.)
DE Jesse Hayes (6-4/230, Sr.)
LB Kendall Walker (6-1/210, Sr.)
RB Tucker Skove (5-10/190, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/24, 7:30 p.m.
LAST MEETING: 10/31/09, St. Xavier won, 13-10
STANDINGS: Moeller (4-0), No. 7 in Ohio
St. Xavier (3-1), No. 9 in Ohio

WHY IT'S BIG: It is the Greater Catholic League South opener for both teams and it should be a dandy. Moeller has opened the season with four wins and only one real test. St. Xavier opened the season with a loss to Olney (Md.) Good Counsel but has since reeled off three wins against other top opponents: Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral, Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier and Trinity. The winner of this game gets the early lead in what may come down to just a two-team race in the GCL.

BEST MATCHUP: St. Xavier's offense against the Moeller defense. The weakness versus weakness matchup may be more intriguing than the flip side of the coin with the Moeller offense against the St. X defense. Moeller has been a team that has played very suspect defense this season while St. X is notoriously poor on offense. It should be a battle either way, but whichever team can stay out of its own way when these two units are on the field will be the better for it.

MOELLER WINS IF: It can solve the St. X defense early and can make this as much of a track meet as a game with St. X can be. It isn't as if the Crusaders do not have the talent on defense to be a very respectable unit, it just hasn't all come together yet. The more physical and defensive this game is, the worse it is for Moeller.

ST. X WINS IF: Its defense carries it to victory. This is not breaking news to anyone who follows Ohio football or Moeller. The Bombers defense is led by some very athletic linebackers in Steven Daniels and Sean Duggan. Those two being active in shutting down the Moeller run game will go a long way toward getting a win for St. X.

PREDICTION: St. X and Moeller have gone back and forth in this series; this looks like a game that is very close as well. Both the Bombers and the Crusaders need this win to stay inside the Ohio Top 10 and both want this game to establish early-season supremacy inside the 275 loop. St. X's defense is very good, but its offense is not. Moeller steals a game that it gets physically dominated in. - Moeller 10, St. X 7.

-- For more on both teams and Ohio football, visit OhioVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 22 Abilene vs. Longview
RB Herschel Sims (5-10/190, Sr.)
QB Ronnell Sims (5-8/165, Sr.)
WR Darius Joseph (6-0/175, Sr.)
WR LaDarrin Robertson (6-3/215, Sr.)
OL Conrad Greene (6-5/300, Sr.)
RB Jhaston Faggins (6-0/180, Jr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/24, 7 p.m.
LAST MEETING: Teams have not played in the 2000s
STANDINGS: Abilene (3-1), No. 3 in Texas
Longview (1-3), No. 36 in Texas

WHY IT'S BIG: For all the talk of the tough opening stretch for Abilene, it has been nearly as difficult for Longview. The Lobos lost to Allen (Texas) High, 24-20, and Lufkin (Texas) High, 28-21, in consecutive weeks. This will be another great test for both teams before district play starts. Abilene has been a part of the national game of the week each of the last two [Cocoa (Fla.) High and Tampa (Fla.) Plant] weeks and is now playing in the biggest game in the Heartland region this week. The team will be amazingly battle-tested before the playoffs.

BEST MATCHUP: Ronnell Sims against the Longview defense. Since the injury to Herschel Sims' shoulder against Franklinton on Sept. 4, more of the responsibility of the offense has fallen on his cousin, Ronnell. Herschel will play but he's still not 100 percent. The Lobos will be able to put a spy on Ronnell, blitz, and make the Eagles go to the pass. If Ronnell Sims is able to break big runs like he did against Plant, it will be another tough defeat for Longview.

ABILENE WINS IF: Ronnell Sims guides it to victory. Herschel Sims will again be limited this week and Ronnell will have to do some damage on the ground and through the air. The gusty wind in the Plant game made his throws look worse than they have been in previous weeks. Being able to throw will open up the defense.

LONGVIEW WINS IF: It plays a complete game. Each of the last three opponents have led Abilene late in the game but only Cocoa was able to finish it off. The Lobos already have had two tough losses and this game should be close from start to finish. If it suffers another last setback, it could be a major morale letdown.

PREDICTION: Longview has played with the big boys and has come up short on two occasions. Abilene has this game and then a bye week. It is a light at the end of a long early-season tunnel for the Eagles. The blueprint has been put in place for beating the Eagles this year, and while the convocation is a little thinned out, Abilene is ripe for the picking. An inspired performance gets Abilene to the bye week at an improbable 4-1. - Abilene 24, Longview 18

-- For more on these teams and Texas high school football, visit TheOldCoach.com

Weekend Watch
No. 29 De La Salle vs. No. 41 Gorman
QB Bart Houston (6-3/186, Jr.)
DE Dylan Wynn (6-3/234, Sr.)
LB Blake Renaud (6-2/233, Sr.)
RB Lucas Dunne (5-6/173, Sr.)
DE Jalen Grimble (6-4/255, Sr.)
DB Evan Zeger (6-2/200, Sr.)
OL A.C. Patterson (6-0/299, Sr.)
RB Shaquille Powell (5-10/185, Jr.)
WHEN: Saturday 9/25, 7 p.m.
LAST MEETING: Teams have not met in the 2000s
STANDINGS: De La Salle (2-0), No. 4 in California
Bishop Gorman (3-1), No. 1 in Nevada

WHY IT'S BIG: It is the definition of a measuring-stick game for two programs in remote areas. De La Salle is always one of the top teams in NorCal and traditionally challenges its players with out-of-state competition before the playoffs start. Bishop Gorman is a relative newcomer to the national high school football scene and knows playing only Nevada teams would not help its cause. This season it gave stiff competition to Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton but fell short. A solid effort, or even a win, in this contest would legitimize the Gaels program nationally.

BEST MATCHUP: The Gorman defensive line against the De La Salle offensive line. Bishop Gorman's defensive line looked solid against Hamilton in the opening game of the season. Hamilton has one of the best lines in the nation and needed the full 48 minutes to defeat the Gaels. If the Spartans are expecting to push this team out of the way, it may have another thing coming. De La Salle is generally not a giant team up front, usually relying on athletic lineman versus road graders. If the matchup in the trenches is equal, that is an advantage for De La Salle. If Gorman dictates that aspect of the game, it could be a long day for the Spartans.

DE LA SALLE WINS IF: It gets better play out of its skill players on offense. The season is still early but the Spartans are really only giving teams two players to worry about. Quarterback Bart Houston has thrown for slightly more than 350 yards so far and running back Lucas Dunne has run for nearly 300. Beyond that, there isn't a standout playmaker offensively. Some may call that balance; others, like Coach Bob Ladouceur, call it worrisome.

BISHOP GORMAN WINS IF: Shaquille Powell has a big game. The junior running back for Gorman is a pace-setter for the team's explosive offense. If the offensive line is opening holes and Powell is gaining big yards, that will be a major win for the Gaels. Bishop Gorman was one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation last year, but it lost a lot of players and is not on the same pace. This type of tough game could jump start the team for the rest of the season. The team will not see a team as well coached as De La Salle the rest of the year, getting one over on the Spartans will be huge.

PREDICTION: If Bishop Gorman expects to maintain its nearly 40-points-per-game pace, it is in for a rude awakening. Only four teams have broken 30 in the last five years against De La Salle: Don Bosco and Lakeland in 2009, Corona Centennial in 2007, and Cincinnati Elder in 2006. De La Salle is not intimidated by playing teams with more Division I athletes. That's good because Gorman is the more high-profile, prospect-laden team. De La Salle is prided with solid football players from the best player on the roster to the last. It may not matter in this game as Bishop Gorman pulls the mild upset.
- Gorman 27, De La Salle 21.

-- For more on Northern California football, visit NorCalPreps.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2010: 18-12)
Game of the Week: Brockton (Mass.) High def. Westwood (Mass.) Xaverian Brothers, 20-10
No. 21 Don Bosco def. St. Ignatius, 35-3 *E-mail request*
No. 45 Jesuit def. Lake Oswego, 26-10
No. 53 St. Edward def. Cincy Elder, 36-10
No. 61 Smyrna def Ensworth, 31-13
No. 87 Ely def. Deerfield Beach, 20-6 *E-mail request*
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Game of the Week record: 3-2
2010 Record for all games picked: 25-15

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