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October 14, 2010

Coaches will tell you that earning the No. 1 spot is easy. Keeping it, though, is hard.

Week after week, you have to prove yourself in what suddenly becomes the game of the year for your opponent.

It's not always easy.

Our Weekend Watch games this week include three No. 1 teams facing significant challenges.

  • In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Central Catholic figures to get a game from Gateway;
  • In Illinois, Wheaton-Warrenville South will have its hands full with Glenbard North;
  • In Oregon, Jesuit has its annual battle with Aloha.
  • Big games? They're always big games when you're the No. 1 team in the state.

    And they're never easy.

    With that, an in-depth look around the antiat some of the top games of the weekend:

    Weekend Watch
    No. 54 Pittsburgh Central Catholic
    vs. Gateway

    LB Louis Taglianetti (6-2/185, Jr.)
    RB Damion Jones-Moore (5-6/165, Jr.)
    WR Dustin Lowman (6-0/162, Sr.)
    LB Armstead Williams (6-3/210, Sr.)
    RB Sascha Craig (6-2/220, Sr.)
    LB Nolan Toran (5-11/180, Sr.)
    LB DeMond Haynes (5-10/220, Sr.)

    When: Friday 10/15, 7:30 p.m.
    Last Meeting: 11/23/07, Central Catholic won, 35-34
    Rankings: Central Catholic (6-0), No. 1 in Pennsylvania
    Gateway (4-2), No. 26 in Pennsylvania

    WHY IT'S BIG: Pennsylvania is down, but Central Catholic is beating all of the teams that were expected to be good. A win over Gateway, combined with victories over Bethel Park, Woodland Hills and Penn Hills would help solidify its case for the No. 1 spot in the state. The playoffs are set to start soon and Gateway is finally getting in gear, winning its last four games, albeit against lower competition. Pulling an upset here would be a great signal of a team coming together before November starts.

    BEST MATCHUP: The Central Catholic defense against the Gateway offense. As noted above, Gateway apparently has figured things out offensively. The Gators have reeled off point totals of 38, 35, 48 and 33 in the last four games, but none of those games have come against stiff competition. Central Catholic has yet to yield more than 20 points in a game and has held four of its six opponents to seven points or less. The most talented offensive team that Central Catholic has seen was Penn Hills in a 35-20 win. Penn Hills beat Gateway 18-7 in Week Two of the season.

    PENN HILLS WINS IF: The Gators truly have found a substitute for Dondi Kirby, who was lost to a preseason knee injury. The last three wins for Gateway have been against two 3-3 teams and an 0-6 opponent, which are all games the team was expected to win. Central Catholic is likely to be the best defense the team has seen this season and that includes the shutout loss to Bishop McDevitt to open the season.

    CENTRAL CATHOLIC WINS IF: It is not outplayed. One thing is for certain, Gateway head coach Terry Smith is a very proud man - a three-loss regular season would be a tough pill to swallow for him. The game is a road game for Gateway, but Central Catholic doesn't have a true home field (instead playing its two lone home games at nearby Carnegie Mellon University) so the crowd is likely to be evenly split. Central Catholic was not expected to be in this spot so the team may still feel like the underdog despite the higher ranking.

    PREDICTION: This is not the same Gateway team as it has been the last few years. The top-end talent is way down, but that may be a good thing as the unit could be stronger. It already has been shown that Central Catholic can handle teams that are more athletic than they are in beating Woodland Hills and Penn Hills. The Vikings continue the run. - Central Catholic 23, Gateway 10

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

    Weekend Watch
    No. 59 Northwestern
    vs. Columbus

    QB Teddy Bridgewater (6-3/185, Sr.)
    WR Eli Rogers (5-10/180, Sr.)
    OL Everette Slocum (6-4/260, Sr.)
    LB Demetrius Allen (6-0/200, Sr.)
    DE Anthony Rabasa (6-3/220, Sr.)
    WR Tacoi Sumler (5-8/151, Sr.)

    When: Thursday 10/14, 7 p.m.
    Last Meeting: 10/16/09, Northwestern won, 15-13
    Rankings: Northwestern (4-1), No. 10 in Florida
    Columbus (5-0), No. 17 in Florida

    WHY IT'S BIG: Columbus is an up-and-coming team in South Florida. This season, it may have the talent to get into the discussion of the best teams in Miami. Last year, the Explorers nearly pulled the upset, falling short, 15-13. Northwestern has played back-to-back exhausting battles against Booker T. Washington and Miami Central and could be ripe for the picking. If it is sleeping in this one, it could suffer another setback.

    BEST MATCHUP: Northwestern defensive backs against Tacoi Sumler. Last week, the Bulls held their own against the very talented passing attack of Miami Central. And while Central had more weapons at its disposal, none were as good as Sumler. If the Bulls can lock him down, it could be interesting to see if Columbus can win as a one-dimensional team.

    COLUMBUS WINS IF: Its ability can match its intensity. No doubt this is the biggest non-playoff game on the Explorer schedule. The team will be amped to prove it belongs in the national rankings discussion, as well as looking to earn local respect by beating one of the best national name-brand teams around.

    NORTHWESTERN WINS IF: It isn't spent. The Bulls eeked out a 26-25 win over Washington two weeks ago, saw its perfect season end 25-22 last week against Miami Central and now has to take on another talented Miami-based team. It is also the last home game that Northwestern will play until the regular season finale, almost a month away, Nov. 12.

    PREDICTION: Columbus will be coming out fired up; its emotion could help or hurt. If it makes mistakes and gets down early, that hype and energy would quickly turn. Northwestern is all but accustomed to getting its opponent's energy and A-game; whether the team will have enough in the tank to take on another quality opponent is the prevailing question. Columbus, again, nearly pulls the upset.
    - Northwestern 20, Columbus 18.

    -- For more on both teams and Florida football, visit FlaVarsity.com

    Weekend Watch
    No. 24 Wheaton Warrenville South
    vs. Glenbard North

    QB Reilly O'Toole (6-4/215, Sr.)
    OL Luke Luhrsen (6-5/275, Sr.)
    OL Paul Wisniewski (6-4/290, Sr.)

    When: Friday 10/15, 7 p.m.
    Last Meeting: 10/16/09, W-W South won, 35-7
    Rankings: W-W South (7-0), No. 1 in Illinois
    Glenbard North (7-0), No. 6 in Illinois

    WHY IT'S BIG: Wheaton Warrenville South is the No. 1 team in the state. Glenbard North is the No. 1 team in Class 8A. Both are undefeated. That is very simple math. It is a measuring stick game for the pair and the biggest game on the Illinois schedule until the playoffs.

    BEST MATCHUP: The Glenbard North offense against the Wheaton Warrenville South defense. The one thing that is a given is that W-W South will be scoring points. The pleasant surprise is how few the Tigers have given up. If Glenbard North wants to stay close, let alone win the game, it better be prepared to score 40. And that's a tall order, seeing as it has only done it once this season and W-W South has only given up 54 total points all season.

    GLENBARD NORTH WINS IF: It plays a perfect game. That is in all aspects. Coaching, offense, defense, special teams will all need to be on point and make big plays. The difference between South and the rest of the state is a pretty wide gap right now and this Glenbard North team may not have what it takes to close it without a little luck as well.

    WHEATON WARRENVILLE SOUTH WINS IF: It comes out with the butt-kicking mentality it had against Maine South earlier this season. The Tigers looked like a team on a mission in that matchup and need to bring that mentality with them to the field Friday night.

    PREDICTION: A No. 24 ranking may be not be good enough for Wheaton Warrenville South this season; an undefeated state title will surely see that number move closer to single-digits. A victory would be another feather in the cap along the way. A win is expected. Frankly, a big win is expected.
    - Wheaton-Warrenville South 44, Glenbard North 13

    -- For more on both teams and Illinois football, visit EdgyTim.com

    Weekend Watch
    No. 65 Coppell vs.
    Southlake Carroll

    RB Cam McDaniel (5-11/192, Sr.)
    DB Bennett Okotcha (6-0/175, Sr.)
    QB Joe Minden (6-3/193, Sr.)
    LB Brandon Mullins (6-2/205, Sr.)
    DB Shawn Hogalund (5-10/175. Sr.)
    WR Peyton Williams (6-1/185, Jr.)

    When: Friday 10/15, 7 p.m.
    Last Meeting: 10/09/09, Carroll won, 24-6
    Rankings: Coppell (7-0), No. 6 in Texas
    Carroll (5-1), No. 38 in Texas

    WHY IT'S BIG: Coppell has been slowly climbing up the Texas and national rankings. Its wins over Mesquite Horn and Denton Guyer are both very good, but neither have the national cache as a district win over Southlake Carroll. Carroll has done well on the field, considering the off-the-field eligibility drama involving quarterback Daxx Garman that swirled around the program. A win in this game would prove the Dragons are nationally relevant.

    BEST MATCHUP: The Carroll defense against the Coppell offense. Coppell has put up a lot of points so far this season. Carroll has given up a lot of points this season. That equation seems to indicate Coppell will score a lot of points with relative ease. But in its only other game against a ranked opponent, Carroll lost to Copperas Cove, 35-14.

    CARROL WINS IF: It can keep up on the scoreboard. It doesn't look like Carroll will be able to slow Coppell down so the Dragons will need to keep up. One way to help that cause will be a special teams touchdown or a big defensive play. With how the Dragons have allowed points, it will have to be on special teams - or a combination of both.

    COPPELL WINS IF: It plays smart. We have used this answer before in the Weekend Watch, but it doesn't make it any less true. When the better team is playing at home, there is no need to make it a pressure-packed situation. Let the game develop and play out without taking the chances and Coppell should win. If the coaching staff tries to get cute and it backfires it could inspire Carroll.

    PREDICTION: This game would have been different if Garman became eligible to play for Carroll. But he isn't. This game should be an open-and-shut case for Coppell if it has designs on being a legitimate championship contender and not just a speed bump for Trinity in a month.
    - Coppell 38, Carroll 17

    -- For more on both teams and Texas football, visit TheOldCoach.com

    Weekend Watch
    No. 52 Jesuit
    vs. Aloha

    RB Jordan Talley (5-10/180, Sr.)
    TE John Rizzo (6-3/215, Sr.)
    ATH Miles Weatheroy (6-1/170, Sr.)
    WR Nicholas Rothstein (5-11/195)
    RB Thomas Tyner (6-0/200, Soph.)
    OL Brayden Kearsley (6-5/250, Soph.)
    OL James Euscher (6-7/285, Sr.)
    RB Johnathan Shaffer (5-8/190, Sr.)

    When: Friday 10/15, 7:30 p.m.
    Last Meeting: 10/16/09, Jesuit won, 49-14
    Rankings: Jesuit (6-0), No. 1 in Oregon Aloha (5-1), No. 5 in Oregon

    WHY IT'S BIG: Jesuit has been hanging by a thread onto its No. 1 spot in Oregon by narrowly escaping Lake Oswego and Sunset by three points each. This week, it will likely see its toughest competition until deep into the state playoffs. Aloha is a Top 10 team in Oregon and has the horses to get over on Jesuit.

    BEST MATCHUP: Jesuit's Jordan Talley against Aloha's Thomas Tyner. Both of the team's leading rushers are exciting but in a different way. Talley already has nearly 1,500 yards on the season as a workhorse. Tyner is nearing 17 yards per carry as an explosive option out the backfield. The super sophomore, who ran the third-fastest 100M in the country as a freshman, is exploding onto the scene.

    ALOHA WINS IF: The young guys come to play. Aloha has a monster offensive tackle in 6-7, 285-pound mountain, James Euscher. The Oregon commit will be asked to pave the way for Tyner and his fellow skill players in the backfield. If Aloha can keep this game fast paced and make Jesuit score to keep up, it could pull the mild upset and propel Sheldon into the No. 1 spot in the state.

    JESUIT WINS IF: The better team shows up. The Crusaders have had four 20-point wins and two three-point wins. So it knows how to win in the crunch or playing from ahead. It would be beneficial to the result if the fundamental version of the team comes out to play and not the one that shoots itself in the foot and allows the competition to hang in the game.

    PREDICTION: This game will come down to a major mistake and a game-changing play. It could happen early in the game or late in the contest, but a major momentum swing will lead one team to victory. It will not be a typical field position battle or no-defense track meet. Look for Jesuit to be more opportunistic.
    - Jesuit 23, Aloha 17

    -- For more on both teams and Oregon football, visit OregonPreps.com

    Weekend Watch
    Other Predictions (2010: 47-23)
    Game of Week: No. 1 South Panola def. Tupelo, 44-12
    No. 8 Hoover def. Vestavia Hills, 24-3
    No. 34 St. Edward def. St. Xavier, 20-7
    No. 71 Bradford def. Franklin, 46-28 *E-mail request*
    Kingsburg (Calif.) def. Exeter, 40-10 *E-Mail request*
    Aiken (S.C.) def. Sumter, 17-13 *E-mail request*
    Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
    Game of the Week record: 4-4
    2010 Record for all games picked: 51-27

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