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August 25, 2011

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

If the preseason favorites hold serve and win state titles in Florida this season, it is likely that some small portion of each program's national ranking will be determined this weekend.

Class 6A favorite, and the preseason No. 1 in the Sunshine State, Seffner (Fla.) Armwood will be taking on the best from Nevada - No. 7-ranked Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman.

The No. 2 team from the preseason and Class 7A favorite Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas is playing the national Game of the Week against Prattville (Ala.) High.

And three-time defending state champion, and the current No. 5 team from Florida, Cocoa (Fla.) High is in action against Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain - which is also the top ranked team in its state.

For a state that is always in the running for the top overall state for team talent, the weekend before Labor Day could bolster or burn down the perception this year.

Weekend Watch
Gaffney v Dorman

WR Quinshad Davis (6-1/190, Sr.)
LB Savon Dukes (6-2/210, Sr.)
DT Jaylen Miller (6-3/266, Jr.)
QB Trey Robinson (6-2/198, Jr.)
OL Patrick Destefano (6-4/275, Sr.)
RB Raymond Smith (5-9/181, Sr.)
When: Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m.
Last Meeting: Aug. 27, 2010 - Dorman won, 21-12
Rankings: Gaffney (1-0), No. 4 in South Carolina
Dorman (0-0), No. 7 in South Carolina

WHY IT'S BIG: This is an early season battle between two Top 10 teams in a state that has been on the rise in high school football. For a game involving two teams that are not in the RivalsHigh 100 (yet), this is a great matchup. Gaffney has been a team that many in the Upstate area have been circling as a breakout candidate; Dorman has a rich tradition and a reputation to uphold.

BEST MATCHUP: The Gaffney defense against the Dorman offense. After seeing Gaffney completely dismantle the Boiling Springs last week, 47-0, it will be interesting to see it go against the more formulaic attack of Dorman.

GAFFNEY WINS IF: It can contain Dorman on the edges. New Dorman quarterback Trey Robinson and running back Raymond Smith have good lateral speed and can stretch the edge of the defense. Gaffney has a solid linebacking core that will need to play assignment defense, strafe to the sidelines and keep the play in front of them. If it is able to keep Dorman in the teens, it will likely win.

DORMAN WINS IF: It can open the playbook and let Robinson freelance a little too. The Cavalier offense has been anything but cavalier in recent years; in fact, it has been more reticent. The vanilla playcalling and predictability has been its downfall as good defenses have been able to slow the team to a halt. With an athletic quarterback, it would be nice to see the team let him be explosive instead of saddle the junior with a pocket-pass read-and-release system.

PREDICTION: Sandlappers have to be excited to see this matchup to start the season - and likely the next string of games for Gaffney if the Indians are able to keep this early momentum going. There is still a quiet reserve to see if the team is ready to take a next step and into the regional rankings, but knocking out Dorman would make a strong case. Dorman has been nationally ranked the last two seasons and will not go down easily. - Gaffney 30, Dorman 16.

-- For more on both teams and South Carolina football, visit SCVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 10 South Panola v No. 73 Hoover

QB Sam Gillikin (6-1/188, Sr.)
WR Caleb Sims (5-8/175, Sr.)
DT Trent Dunne (6-1/275, Sr.)
DT Issac Gross (6-3/270, Sr.)
DE Temario Strong (6-2/210, Sr.)
ATH Antonio Connor (6-2/192, Jr.)
When: Saturday, Aug. 27, 3 p.m.
Last Meeting: First ever meeting
Rankings: South Panola (1-0), No. 1 in Mississippi
Hoover (0-0), No. 3 in Alabama

WHY IT'S BIG: It's a huge sectional matchup. So big that, when this game was first announced last year, it seemed to be a contender for Game of the Year. The game, which pits two traditional Southern powers, has been talked about and rumored to happen for several years is now finally here - and it is part of a home-and-home so it will happen again next season. South Panola won the national title last season; Hoover always has been fundamentally strong.

BEST MATCHUP: The Hoover offensive line versus the South Panola defensive front seven. The Buccaneers lost a lot of very big bodies in the trenches and will be breaking in a pretty new offensive unit from last year. South Panola already has a game under its belt - that is a major advantage from an execution standpoint. Hoover will need to be ready to protect its new quarterback (and running back… and receiver corps…)

HOOVER WINS IF: Sam Gillikin has a great game at quarterback. He will be making his first varsity start under center but summer reviews have been very impressive as he is a natural athlete. He won't beat you with his legs but you have to respect his ability to run. And if South Panola gets too aggressive in the middle of the defense, he can get to the edge and move the chains.

SOUTH PANOLA WINS IF: It has cleaned up its run game from last week. In its Week Zero win over West Point (Miss.) High, it was not as successful running the ball as it wanted to be but was able to move the ball through the air. The calling card for South Panola is the ground game; it will need to establish that to grind the Hoover team down. If it has to rely on passing again, it could be a long day.

PREDICTION: Both Hoover and South Panola are experiencing a major roster turnover. For many programs, losing the sheer volume of playmakers this pair had would be crippling, but both coaches (Josh Niblett at Hoover and Lance Pogue of South Panola) have the knowledge and the staffs in place to keep the train rolling along. Knocking off the rust could be a bit of a problem in the early going for Hoover. If South Panola can jump out early, it could run and hide in the second half. The first 10 minutes will be key.
- South Panola 24, Hoover 10.

-- For more on Mississippi football, visit MagnoliaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 13 Colerain v No. 18 Cocoa

LB Joe Bolden (6-2/226, Sr.)
DT Trae Clark (6-4/320, Sr.)
DB Andre Jones (6-1/185, Sr.)
LB Grady Redding (5-11/183, Sr.)
LB Tyrell Denson (5-11/179, Sr.)
DE Mike Ferguson (6-0/210, Sr.)
RB Tarean Folston (5-11/185, Jr.)
RB Antwan Lee (5-10/179, Jr.)
When: Sunday, Aug. 26, 3 p.m.
Last Meeting: First ever meeting
Rankings: Colerain (0-0), No. 1 in Ohio
Cocoa (0-0), No. 5 in Florida

WHY IT'S BIG: Cocoa (enrollment 955) will be taking its David-versus-Goliath act to Ohio to take on Colerain (enrollment 1674) - a school that hasn't lost at home since 1999. Cocoa beat three teams that had larger enrollments last year, including Abilene (Texas) High (enrollment 2283). The teams in Ohio have welcomed all-comers into their early season battles and Colerain, which ended its 2010 season with a disappointing loss, can begin to turn that around with a win on Sunday.

BEST MATCHUP: John Wilkinson versus Tom Bolden. These two teams have near identical philosophies - run the ball and play stifling defense - and they have fairly similar personnel to execute the game plan. This is likely going to be a low-scoring affair and could come down to halftime adjustments by the head coaches. Whether Cocoa's Wilkinson or Colerain's Bolden can create a wrinkle the other doesn't expect may make for a turning point in the battle.

COCOA WINS IF: Its defense forces turnovers and sets up field position. Cocoa fans are used to its defense being the best on the field - and with good reason - but in this game it is a toss up as to which will be better disciplined and more physical. The offense could be limited in opportunities, so if the defense can step up big and create a turnover or control the field-position battle, it will go a long way toward a win.

COLERAIN WINS IF: The offense can score more than 20 points. Only seven opponents in the last five seasons have scored 21 points or more against Cocoa while 21 have been shutout. Points will come at a premium. The Cardinals will need to be able to pass the ball because the 3-3-5 defense that Cocoa runs has shut down plenty of running attacks.

PREDICTION: While Colerain may not have the same number of shutouts over the last five seasons, it does have a similarly strong defense. It only has allowed eight teams to score 21 points or more so Cocoa will have a hard time moving the ball into the end zone. The travel could be a factor, but Cocoa has an experienced team that has been out of state before. For fans of offense, this game will not be for you as there may be more punts than touchdowns. - Colerain 16, Cocoa 10

-- For more on Ohio football, visit OhioVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 27 Katy v No. 44 North Shore

QB Brooks Haack (6-2/191, Sr.)
RB Adam Taylor (6-2/200, Jr.)
OL Aaron Sowell (6-1/276, Jr.)
DB Keon Harvison (5-10/171, Sr.)
LB Jarius Moore (6-0/213, Sr.)
LB Zach Whitley (6-2/210, Soph.)

When: Friday Aug. 26, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: November 27, 2010 - Katy won, 32-27
Rankings: Katy (0-0), No. 3 in Texas
North Shore, No. 6 in Texas

WHY IT'S BIG: It is the fourth year in a row for the two Houston area powers to meet in the opener of the season and it is again a game between two RivalsHigh 100 teams. North Shore hasn't won a game with Katy since winning 10-6 in 2008. It has lost their last three meetings. The two will battle for the early top spot in the area.

BEST MATCHUP: The North Shore offensive line against the Katy defensive line. North Shore has been held to10 points or fewer in three of the four recent meetings against Katy and it all begins up front. The Tigers, always aggressive on the defensive line, have been stifling the North Shore offense. If North Shore is going to get out of the loss column, the effort needs to start up front.

NORTH SHORE WINS IF: Its Class of 2014 is as good as everyone is expecting it to be. The top level players of the two teams are probably a wash, but the underclassmen at North Shore look as if they could give the team the advantage entering the contest. If those young kids are ready to get after it as sophomores, it could turn this series around for the next few years.

KATY WINS IF: Its running game keeps North Shore honest. The passing attack for the Tigers is actually pretty good this season so North Shore will need to be ready to take that away. Katy has been a historically strong running team and it will need to continue that tradition.

PREDICTION: Three of the last four games have been one-score games. This figures to be a struggle as well. Fans of Katy have been very active in saying that this team is a little overrated versus others in the past. Whether it was posturing or positive is yet to be seen. Not much separates the two schools and the score will not be that far apart either. - Katy 13, North Shore 7.

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

Weekend Watch
No. 5 Armwood v No. 7 Bishop Gorman

OL Cody Waldrop (6-3/215, Sr.)
OL Kevin McCoy (6-5/275, Sr.)
LB Eric Striker (6-1/190, Sr.)
RB Shaquille Powell (5-9/185, Sr.)
OL Ronnie Stanley (6-7/285, Sr.)
QB Jarrett Solomon (6-0/201, Jr.)
WR Ryan Smith (5-8/161, Jr.)
When: Friday, Aug. 26, 6 p.m.
Last Meeting: First ever meeting
Rankings: Bishop Gorman (1-0), No. 1 in Nevada
Armwood (0-0), No. 1 in Florida

WHY IT'S BIG: Two Top 10 teams from opposite sides of the country doing battle on national television. It is amazing that this is not the Game of the Week (or year for that matter). Bishop Gorman showed it can play with the best by beating Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral in the opener, but it will need a win against Armwood to truly convince the masses of its worthiness of being in the national title discussion. Armwood, which has had a couple of tough endings to its recent seasons, could use this as a springboard to a national title season of its own, but it will have to do so without its top player Matt Jones, who will miss the game with a knee injury.

BEST MATCHUP: The Bishop Gorman defensive line versus the Armwood offensive line. At times in the game against Chaparral, it appeared the Gorman defensive line was susceptible as the Firebirds were able to move the ball fairly well. Armwood has five seniors on the offensive line that will be headed to Division I football programs next season. This will be a true test.

ARMWOOD WINS IF: Its defense is as good as advertised. The mainstay for the Hawks has been a nasty defensive line and solid run support. Is that the case this season? We'll soon find out. Bishop Gorman has some horses on offense and it has shown it can move the ball. This game could easily turn into a track meet if someone doesn't bring its defense to the field.

BISHOP GORMAN WINS IF: Its offensive line comes to play for the entire game. The Gaels used a pretty astounding third quarter of pushing through Chaparral to get the win. It will need to come with that energy and tenacity to make this game a good one. If Gorman isn't ready for a much more physical battle in this game than it got from Chaparral, it could be a lonely Las Vegas night.

PREDICTION: A cross-country trip. Without its best player. And a 100-plus degree temperature at kickoff. Those are all things stacked against Armwood. A short week of practice. Already having a 2011 game tape out to scout from. And a seemingly limited passing attack. All of that is stacked against Bishop Gorman. These are two Top 10 teams and the pressure is amazing. Seeing which team can settle in first will go a long way to determine a winner. This game could the battle between rivals Euless (Texas) Trinity and Coppell (Texas) High last year as one of the best in a long time. - Armwood 38, Bishop Gorman 34

-- For more on Nevada football, visit NevadaPrepReport.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2011: 8-1)
Game of the Week: Prattville (Ala.) High def. Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, 26-17
No. 42 Cass Tech def. No. 26 Harrison, 33-24
No. 48 Moeller def. No. 63 Pickerington Central, 24-20
No. 76 Grant def. Folsom, 30-13
No. 88 Rockhurst def. Blue Springs, 21-6
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 1-0
2011 Record for all games picked: 9-1

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