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October 14, 2012

RH100 Notes: Bouncing back in a big way

RANKINGS: View the RivalsHigh 100

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.

For teams separated by nearly 1,000 miles, the first two months of the high school football season at Southlake (Texas) Carroll and Loganville (Ga.) Grayson have been mirror images.

Both schools entered the year as defending state champions from the largest division of power states; both were in the preseason Top 10 of the RivalsHigh 100; both had national title aspirations; and both suffered surprising, emotion-filled losses.

Southlake Carroll fell first, losing to Allen (Texas), 24-0, in a season- and stadium-opening setback on Aug. 31. Grayson dropped a game two weeks later to Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview in the team's first week atop the national rankings, 22-7. It was a game in which Parkview used Grayson's ranking as motivation.

Since that time, both teams have leveled off and have been perfect. The two schools have combined for nine wins and have outscored opponents by a cumulative score of 488-51.

In this week's RivalsHigh 100, the pair will move from the mid-30s back into the Top 25, and each will leapfrog the teams that had previously defeated them.

Grayson will move from No. 37 to No. 17, while Parkview will slide from No. 36 to No. 43.

Meanwhile, Southlake Carroll improves from No. 38 to No. 18, while Allen stays the course at No. 21.

Southlake Carroll quarterback Kenny Hill, a Texas A&M commit, said that the early loss may have saved the season.

"I think that losing like we did shocked us back awake," he said. "We got back into the weight room and our practices starting improving right away. I don't think we were reading our own headlines or anything like that, but we thought it would be easier than it was.

"If we would have come in and won that game, I don't think we would have the focus we do right now."

Hill has been one of the most impressive players in the state, and his goal of winning a state title in back-to-back season has been something he has focused on.

"I have become a more vocal leader," he said. "The last few years we had older guys that took that role on, and so I didn't have to really do it. But coming into the season I tried to, and after we lost I really got after it reminding guys what we want to accomplish."

His team has followed suit and has been playing as expected entering the season. Similarly, Grayson has forgotten about that early season loss as well.

Since the team's turnover- and penalty-plagued loss to Parkview, Grayson's defense has shined. The nation's top prospect, Robert Nkemdiche, has been exceptional this season. Meanwhile, the offense has been churning out yards with Clemson commit Wayne Gallman, leading the way.

The "As Seen on TV" logo that had brazenly adorned the Grayson banner may now be returned -- and borrowed by Southlake Carroll -- as both have returned to form and are playing as advertised.

MAJOR MOVER: Last week, the Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School team was highlighted as a program on the rise as it moved into the Top 50 of the country.

This week, the team is on the rise again, making an incredible jump into the Top 10 and settling at the No. 8 spot in the RivalsHigh 100.

The Class 3A program is loaded with talent and has several key wins on its resume, but it was the major beneficiary of a strength of schedule boost this week as Cocoa (Fla.) went on the road and knocked off then-No. 24 Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, 24-14.

Just one month ago, University played against Cocoa -- on Cocoa's home field -- and won the game 49-3.

University also has a nationally televised 33-14 road victory over Trotwood (Ohio) Madison to go with its victory over Cocoa.

The path to a state title and higher national rankings will likely go through Madison (Fla.) Madison County or nationally ranked Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage.

CLOSE AT THE TOP: As the season nears the playoffs and strength of schedule can be more of a cumulative and comprehensive comparison, the debate will start to rage as to what to do at the top of the rankings.

River Ridge (La.) John Curtis has maintained the top spot for the last three weeks, but as each week passes, the level of competition the team plays hurts its argument for the top spot. Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius and DeSoto (Texas) High all have more quality wins, and all will have the potential to gain upwards of five more quality victories playing in more competitive playoff paths. Curtis could only add two more quality wins, depending on the team's playoff course.

While the mathematics limit the fairness of the comparison, this is shaping up to be a debate akin to a college football poll having a team from outside of the big six conferences atop its ranking. That begs the question: How good is Curtis when it is beating only bad teams?

If there is an undefeated Manatee, St. Ignatius or DeSoto team at season's end, it may be unlikely for Curtis to hoist the RivalsHigh 100 National Champion Trophy.

FIVE-TEAM TURNOVER: University School was not the only beneficiary of the Cocoa victory over Bergen Catholic.

That single game returned Cocoa to the national rankings at No. 78. It also boosted Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph's Prep, which defeated Cocoa to open the season in Florida.

St. Joe's enters the RivalsHigh 100 at No. 50 nationally. This squad was previously the No. 5 team in the state and just outside the rankings, but with its win over Cocoa, as well as victories over nationally relevant Lansdale (Pa.) North Penn, Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood and Wyndmoor (Pa.) La Salle, the team moved up to the No. 2 spot in a much-improved state.

Following the loss of Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary's to Detroit (Mich.) Catholic Central, the push into the rankings from Toledo (Ohio) Whitmer was complete as the No. 8 team in Ohio climbed into the RivalsHigh 100 at No. 95.

Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips moved into the rankings, which makes it 12 teams from Florida in the national poll this week. The undefeated squad is making believers out of many in Central Florida, and in a relatively wide open Class 8A, this team could storm to a state title.

Claiming the No. 100 spot in the rankings is Lee's Summit (Mo.) West, which has buoyed in the bottom of the rankings for the duration of the season. The top team in Missouri has stiff completion from several other strong schools in the state for that top billing.

ON THE SLIDE: Entering the year as the No. 1 team in the national rankings placed plenty of outside attention on Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita.

The team lost three transfers to Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, and then its star player, quarterback Johnny Stanton, went out for the season with a torn ACL.

This week, Rancho Santa Margarita suffered its first on-field loss to Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, 24-7.

The loss will drop Santa Margarita from No. 39 to No. 91 and boost Mater Dei from No. 58 to No. 31.

Facing one of the more daunting schedules in the country, the loss of Stanton could be magnified with remaining games against nationally relevant Orange (Calif.) Lutheran and San Juan Capistrano (Calif.) Serra Catholic, as well as nationally ranked Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco.

This team could end the year outside of the RivalsHigh 100 after beginning the season in prime position for a national title.

KEEP AN EYE ON… … Ohio high school football this week.

The state is always among the best in the county, and because of an incredibly flawed computer points-based playoff system, the top teams always play during the regular season. This week will certainly showcase some measuring-stick games.

Currently the top team in the state and No. 3 in the nation, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius will take on No. 54 Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier.

St. Xavier is coming off of a tough defeat at the hands of No. 32 Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, which can ill-afford a letdown as it will play a No. 62-ranked Cincinnati (Ohio) Archbishop Moeller team that bounced back from a tough loss to Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder by throttling Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral.

Elder will again be tested this week when it battles with out-of-state foe Ft. Thomas (Ky.) Highlands.

Lastly, Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain will be in action against a quality opponent as well. No. 11 Colerain team will take on a West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West program that narrowly missed the national rankings.

ON HIS SHOULDERS: Broken Arrow (Okla.) junior quarterback Coleman Key had just 686 yards passing and five touchdowns entering the contest against Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City.

But during a 20-of-27 evening, Key added 305 yards and four touchdowns to that total as Broken Arrow downed its District 6A-2 foe, 42-0.

The first three drives for Jenks resulted in touchdowns -- two of those through the air -- as the team built a big halftime lead.

Broken Arrow coach Steve Spavital told the Tulsa World after the game that he was happy to get the victory and put last week's loss to Jenks (Okla.) behind the team.

"After our tough loss last week, that was very important to come out and do well early," Spavital told the paper. "I thought our kids really responded well and got us off to a fast start."

Key led that charge, completing four of five passes on the first drive and capping it with a touchdown. He followed that up with a long scoring strike on the next possession, which gained momentum for the team.

Broken Arrow remains the No. 3 team in Oklahoma and stayed at No. 88 in the RivalsHigh 100.

ON DECK THIS WEEK: The middle of October brings several good games of national importance this week.

Only three games feature two nationally ranked teams, but there are plenty of games that bring upset potential.

No. 3 Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius will travel to take on No. 54 Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier; No. 31 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei will host No. 67 Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco; and No. 32 Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward will head to No. 62 Cincinnati (Ohio) Archbishop Moeller.

In addition to those three featured matchups, there are 11 other games that will have an impact on the RivalsHigh 100.

No. 2 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee will travel to take on a 6-1 Venice (Fla.) team; No. 11 Colerain will host West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West; No. 13 Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter returns from a bye week to play a one-loss Milton (Ga.) High team on the road; No. 23 Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth will host the No. 5 team in the state, Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy; No. 28 Goose Creek (S.C.) will play its first game as the top team in South Carolina against an undefeated Mt. Pleasant (S.C.) Wando team; No. 32 Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern will also face a tough test as it hosts a York (S.C.) team that is reeling from its first loss on the season; No. 53 Mission Viejo (Calif.) will travel to take on a Rancho Santa Margarita (Cali.) Tesoro team that was on the verge of national rankings before losing last week; No. 61 Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder makes the short trip across state lines to play Ft. Thomas (Kent.) Highlands; No. 65 Baltimore (Md.) Gilman will go on the road to play a Baltimore (Md.) Calvert Hall program that got beat twice last year by a combined nine points; No. 91 Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita will have to regain its footing against Orange (Calif.) Lutheran; and No. 93 Spring Branch (Texas) Smithson Valley will travel to Converse (Texas) Judson to play.


Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.



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