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August 26, 2010

Football is back.

A three-word phrase that is music to the ears of bored fathers, competition-hungry players, rabid fans and high school sports journalists.

Some around the country got a taste last week - when a handful of states kicked off the season - but the vast majority will start this weekend.

RivalsHigh will once again be providing a sampling of the best games around the country with our Game of the Week features (Wednesday), Weekend Watch (Thursday) and - new this season - Where We'll Be (Friday) to get you prepared for the weekend's slate of games.

This year will be a little different on the Weekend Watch. The series will focus on the best games in each RivalsHigh region: Atlantic East, Great Lakes, Heartland, South and West. We also will be taking e-mail requests for our 10 predictions each week.

With this week's Game of the Week focusing on a Southern battle between Hoover (Ala.) High and Duncan (S.C) Byrnes, we will look into games around the rest of the country.

Be sure to leave your thoughts on the game and 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. 17 Good Counsel v No. 43 St. Xavier
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
GOOD COUNSEL
DB Blake Countess (5-10/171, Sr.)
DT Vincent Croce (6-4/260, Sr.)
QB Zach Dancel (6-0/192, Sr.)
RB Dorian O'Daniel (6-1/184, Soph.)
ST. XAVIER
LB Steven Daniels (6-0/225, Sr.)
LB Sean Duggan (6-4/215, Sr.)
OL Jack Woodall (6-4/260, Sr.)
WHEN: Sunday 8/29, 3:00 pm
LAST MEETING: First ever meeting
STANDINGS: Good Counsel (0-0), No. 2 in Maryland
St. Xavier (0-0), No. 2 in Ohio

WHY IT'S BIG: Not only are these two of the top teams in their respective states, but also two of the top in the country. Both will carry the Jesuit flag into the game as well as plenty of talent and pride. The game is probably bigger for Good Counsel as they enter the matchup as the ranked favorites, but will be perceived as underdogs as Maryland high school football has not risen up to the level of Ohio high school football. The pressure will be on them to help the state make that leap.

BEST MATCHUP: The St. X defense lining up against the Good Counsel offense. This is not a contest that appears to come down to individual matchups but more so the combined effort of strength-on-strength. St. X runs a very aggressive 3-3-5 and has three linebackers who will be seeing time at Division I, while Good Counsel brings back the majority of its offense and is a well-oiled machine. Both teams like to pound the ball and control the line of scrimmage, so the similarity of philosophy will be an interesting dynamic.

ST. X WINS IF: The Bombers offense can establish the run and get points on the board. This game should become a fist fight with neither team wanting to give an inch. The odds that either team scores in the 20s are pretty low, unless there is a big defensive or special teams play. The Bombers lost a lot on the offensive side of the ball, so this game could be like looking in the mirror for them.

GOOD COUNSEL WINS IF: They can match the physicality of St. X. This will be the best defense that Good Counsel sees all season (including DeMatha and Gilman) and with 100 kids on the varsity roster, St. X can come at them in waves without letting up. Establishing the run and mixing in the pass will be huge for the Falcons.

PREDICTION: If this were a night game at St. X as opposed to a mid-day game, it would be an easy pick to take St. X with a hostile crowd to pull the ever-so-mild upset. However, with it expected to be a sunny afternoon, the home field advantage will not likely come into play. Depth for Good Counsel is a concern but the top-end talent and returning starters gives the Maryland team the edge. First team to 10 most likely wins. - Good Counsel 16, St. X 10

-- For more on Good Counsel, visit MDHigh.com and St. Xavier, visit OhioVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 55 Allen v No. 40 Cedar Hill
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ALLEN
WR Jonathan Lee (6-2/191, Sr.)
LB Melvin Spears (6-2/215, Sr.)
OL Brad McNulty (6-3/309, Sr.)
CEDAR HILL
QB Driphus Jackson (6-0/195, Sr.)
WR Lovett Gibson (6-1/185, Sr.)
WR Andre Anderson (5-10/180, Jr.)
RB Laquvionte Gonzalez (5-10/175, Soph.)
CB Johnathon Albercrombie (5-9/165, Sr.)
WHEN: Saturday 8/28, 7:30 pm
LAST MEETING: 11/10/05, Allen won 21-7
STANDINGS: Allen (0-0), No. 10 in Texas
Cedar Hill (0-0), No. 8 in Texas

WHY IT'S BIG: There could, and probably will, be a major game in Texas each and every week on the Weekend Watch. This is one of the biggest games in the state this season. The game is at a neutral site - SMU - between two of the most talent-laden programs in the state, which both start the year inside the Top 10 in Texas. This game will give one of the two a shot in the arm of confidence, and the other an exposure on a weakness or two.

BEST MATCHUP: The coaching chess match between Tom Westerberg and Joey McGuire. Both coaches have state titles, No. 1 Texas rankings, tons of talent, mutual respect and knowledge. The early season test will be iron sharpening iron in this one. Both teams like to score points and so a track meet could break out if the coaches decide to open the playbook. In the year of the Texas running back, look for an aerial assault in the Texas skyline on Saturday.

ALLEN WINS IF: It can force Cedar Hill to make mistakes. In one of a very few occurrences, Allen will be the underdog and lacking in the top-end talent department. The defense will need to rise to the occasion and make plays to slow the Longhorns down. Linebacker Melvin Spears will need to be very active on the field and bring his teammates up to the task.

CEDAR HILL WINS IF: It stays focused on the task at hand and doesn't let Allen hang around. Cedar Hill, which enters the game as the favorite, needs to have a killer mentality. If it can come out and let the offense dictate the pace with a quick score, and the defensive line is able to put pressure on Allen's young line and quarterback, it could make for a quick and decisive victory.

PREDICTION: Cedar Hill is the overwhelming talent favorite in this game, but Allen has done more with less in recent years, so it could go either way. Look for Cedar Hill, however, to come out and really flex its muscles, sending a message all across Texas that this is a year they are to be reckoned with. It doesn't happen much to Allen, but this could get out of hand. - Cedar Hill 38, Allen 17.

-- For more on both teams, visit TheOldCoach.com

Weekend Watch
No. 4 Glenville v No. 45 Warren Central
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
GLENVILLE
QB Cardale Jones (6-5/217, Sr.)
LB Andre Sturdivant (6-2/249, Sr.)
WR Shane Wynn (5-6/147, Sr.)
RB Robert Walton (5-10/215, Sr.)
OL Aundrey Walker (6-5/355, Sr.)
WARREN CENTRAL
DT Kris Harley (6-2/285, Sr.)
OT Kiaro Holts (6-5/270, Sr.)
LB Nick Temple (6-0/200, Sr.)
RB Anthony Davis (5-7/175, Sr.)
WHEN: Saturday 8/28, 7:00 pm
LAST MEETING: 8/25/07, Glenville won 38-36
STANDINGS: Glenville (0-0), No. 1 in Ohio
Warren Central (1-0), No. 1 in Indiana

WHY IT'S BIG: Like the Good Counsel/St. Xavier matchup, it is all about gaining respect for Warren Central and Indiana football and defending the reputation of Ohio football for Glenville. The unique difference is that Glenville is making the trip from Cleveland to Indianapolis instead of hosting the game. Unlike many of the teams that Glenville can beat by stepping off the bus in their district games, this Warren Central team will not be intimidated by seeing Division I athletes - they have their own, thank you very much.

BEST MATCHUP: It will be interesting to see how Glenville quarterback Cardale Jones can handle the pressure of leading the offense without a safety net against a very active Warren Central defense. Last year, in close and late situations, Glenville would make a switch to Christian Bryant at the helm. This year, that luxury is not there and the Tarblooders will have to show faith in their senior quarterback. Warren Central is likely to send five defensive players on to Division I schools; they will blitz, and can cover and stuff the run. This could be a telling game for Glenville's toughness.

GLENVILLE WINS IF: It can make the game a shootout. Often times, the Tarblooders make costly errors in close games or pressure situations. If they can play loose and get into the mentality of "who has the ball last wins," they should be fine. If it is a low-scoring game where each possession is pressure packed, it could force them to struggle. Matching the intensity early will be a key as well. Warren Central will be flying around and, if Glenville is not ready to match that, they could get left in the dust.

WARREN CENTRAL WINS IF: It plays like it wants to win. The team has some of the top players in the state of Indiana, but rumors of some of them becoming lazy and complacent now that the pressure of a college scholarship is behind them has really started to ramp up. For the Warriors to pull the mild upset, they will need to come out on fire for the season and for competition. Their opponent is like nothing they will see from Indiana competition this year.

PREDICTION: As much as it's tough to go against the rankings, this is a game that looks like it favors Warren Central in so many aspects. It is home, and the visitor is making a five-hour trip. The talent level is close to a wash - Glenville has the edge there, marginally. It is the better coached team. It also should be playing with more urgency and purpose in this one. If this game was in Cleveland, it would likely be a different prediction and all for the same reasons. - Warren Central 37, Glenville 31

-- For more on Glenville, visit OhioVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 79 Westlake v No. 37 Lake Travis
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
WESTLAKE
LB Lewis Guilbeau (5-8/185, Jr.)
RB Van Gramann (5-10/200, Sr.)
LAKE TRAVIS
QB Michael Brewer (6-1/175, Sr.)
OL Taylor Doyle (6-5/270, Sr.)
WR Conner Floyd (6-1/197, Sr.)
DB Colin Lagasse (5-11/195, Jr.)
WR Griffin Gilbert (6-5/190, Jr.)
WHEN: Saturday 8/28, 7:30 pm
LAST MEETING: 9/4/09, Lake Travis won 42-21
STANDINGS: Westlake (0-0), No. 12 in Texas
Lake Travis (0-0), No. 7 in Texas

WHY IT'S BIG: The two teams are separated by a few miles in Austin and the game will be played at the University of Texas to determine the pride of the city. The teams played last year, in a game dominated by Lake Travis, and both went on to the state finals with Lake Travis winning Class 4A and ending the year No. 2 in the nation and Westlake losing late (with controversy) to Euless Trinity. The preseason evaluations of these two teams have been varying depending on when you see them and who you talk to. It will be huge to get the teams on the field when it counts.

BEST MATCHUP: Lake Travis lost its coach and a handful of starters, but it returns its most important player - quarterback Michael Brewer. Seeing him and his receivers go against the secondary of Westlake will be the key to the game. Last year, Brewer was able to run-and-gun his way to a nice stat line and a very impressive win. The Chaparrals have improved dramatically since then, but the point of emphasis will be the same.

WESTLAKE WINS IF: It can make sure two big things happen. First, the pass defense will have to improve over last season. The line will need to put pressure on the quarterback and the secondary has to get better in its coverage. The Cavaliers will be throwing the ball all around the yard and the Chaps will need to slow that down. Second, the offense needs to be able to run the ball effectively and efficiently. Van Gramann had over 1,000 yards on the ground as a junior last year and a solid start to this season will go a long way toward earning a victory.

LAKE TRAVIS WINS IF: It keeps its head down and stays the course. The Cavaliers have won three consecutive state titles and have routinely beaten Class 5A teams in its non-district play, so the big stage is nothing new to this team. So long as new coach Hank Carter keeps on the same path that Chadd Morris laid out for him, it should be a successful season that starts with an opening game win.

PREDICTION: This game should stick true to the rankings. Lake Travis is the better team coming into the game and should walk away with a win. If it is as easy as last year, then we will need to make an adjustment to the rankings moving it into the Top 5 in Texas. Westlake is out for respect and can earn it by keeping this game close and showing it is an elite program this year. Do not expect a blowout, but do expect a Cavalier win. - Lake Travis 35, Westlake 20.

-- For more on both teams, visit TheOldCoach.com

Weekend Watch
No. 80 Folsom v No. 39 Grant
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
FOLSOM
QB Dano Graves (5-10/175, Sr.)
WR Tyler Trosin (5-11/185, Sr.)
WR Jordan Richards (5-11/185, Sr.)
WR Kori Babineaux (6-3/200, Sr.)
GRANT
DT Viliami Moala (6-2/325, Sr.)
DE Puka Lopa (6-3/255, Sr.)
DB James Sample (6-2/195, Sr.)
LB Darryl Paulo (6-2/230, Sr.)
DB Shaq Thompson (6-1/185, Jr.)
WHEN: 8/27, 7:00 pm
LAST MEETING: Teams have not met in the 2000s.
STANDINGS: Folsom (0-0), No. 11 in Calif.
Grant (0-0)No. 8 in Calif.

WHY IT'S BIG: NorCal football is on the rise in a big way. These are the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the region and both are looking for respect. Grant took the next step towards legitimacy two years ago, winning the state title and beating traditional Southern power Long Beach Poly. Last season was its attempt to repeat and it was stuffed short in the playoffs. This year, it is back for vengeance. Folsom, likewise, is on a quest for respect and hopes to use the reputation of Grant to elevate itself into the national spotlight. The winner of this game stands to gain an major bump up in the rankings. The loser likely does not fall too far from its current ranking.

BEST MATCHUP: The Grant defensive line against the Folsom offensive line will be the determining factor in this game. Folsom loves to take to the air, spread the field and score quickly. Grant is a physical and fast defense that truly takes pleasure in punishing teams. If Folsom can give All-Sacramento area quarterback Dano Graves time to find one of his many weapons, Folsom can stay in the game. Trying to disrupt that will be three Division I athletes in the front seven for Grant. If one of the groups has a decided performance edge in the contest, that team will win.

FOLSOM WINS IF: Dano Graves has time to stand up and deliver the ball to his receivers. Grant, for the things it does have on defense, doesn't have the ability to cover Jordan Richards, Kori Babineaux and Tyler Trosin at the same time. Graves can also move the chains with his legs. Do not be stunned to see some designed runs or have him break the pocket and improvise.

GRANT WINS IF: Its underclassmen step up in the secondary. The Pacers lost 18 starters off of last year's team and while it is not a school quite at the level to say it just reloads, it is getting close. With all of the high-level prospects that Grant possesses, this game - and the season - will likely come down to the determination if its new faces are good high school football players or not.

PREDICTION: This is a late start for folks on the East Coast, but it is certainly one to watch if you like high school football. There is a modest contrast of styles but not altogether different. Between Folsom, Grant, DeLaSalle, Rocklin, Del Oro and Granite Bay, there are some good teams emerging in the NorCal area and this is a nice sampling. Grant has the physical edge and that means a lot early in the season. Folsom will be able to score but it will be interesting to see if it can keep Grant from doing the same.
- Grant 40, Folsom 34.

-- For more on both teams, visit NorCalPreps.com

Weekend Watch
Kahuku v St. Louis School
RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
KAHUKU
LB Tigi Hill (6-2/210, Sr.)
LB Ben Mamea (6-1/200, Sr.)
WR Punga Vea (6-1/160, Sr.)
RB Aofaga Wily (6-0/185, Soph.)
St. LOUIS
OL Paulay Asiata (6-5/285, Sr.)
LB Starr Sua-Passi (5-11/215, Sr.)
DE Juda Parker (6-2/245, Sr.)
QB Marcus Mariota (6-4/185, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 8/27, 7:30 PM
LAST MEETING: 8/17/07, St. Louis won 21-6
STANDINGS: Kahuku (2-0), No. 2 in Hawaii
St. Louis (2-0) No. 1 in Hawaii

WHY IT'S BIG: This game was pegged before the season as one of the biggest showdowns in Hawaii, but after St. Louis and Kahuku have rolled to 2-0 records, many feel this is a matchup between the two best teams in the state. St. Louis has three of the state's best prospects, including first-year starter Marcus Mariota at quarterback, an Oregon commitment. Kahuku's defense will be the most difficult test the future Duck has ever taken on the football field.

BEST MATCHUP: The St. Louis offense against Kahuku's big and fast defense. Mariota has a frightening combination of size and speed, and has the ability to pick apart defenses via the ground or the air. He has passed for seven touchdowns in two games and used his blazing speed to get into the end zone in a season opening 48-8 win over Roosevelt. Kahuku is always strong on defense, and has one of the state's most dynamic defenders in Tigi Hill. He is a hybrid safety-linebacker prospect who will try to make sure Mariota does not break big plays to the outside.

KAHUKU WINS IF: It can do two things well - keep St. Louis' playmakers from reaching the outside and tackle well. St. Louis' receiving corps, led by Duke Bukoski, is very good after the catch. Simply put, St. Louis has a lot of playmaking firepower, and Kahuku will have to make tackles in the open field.

ST.LOUIS WINS IF: The Crusaders jump out to an early lead. Kahuku may be Hawaii's most difficult venue for opposing teams. An early score will help take some of the energy out of Kahuku's spirits.

PREDICTION: Scoring 48 points against Roosevelt and 42 points against Waianae is an accomplishment for St. Louis' offense. But high-powered attacks often get a dose of reality against the physical Red Raiders. Still, Mariota and St. Louis will make enough big plays to sneak out of Kahuku with a win.
-- St. Louis 21, Kahuku 14.

-- For more on both teams, stay with RivalsHigh.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2010: 1-0)
Game of the Week: No. 8 Hoover (Ala.) def No. 46 Byrnes (S.C), 17-7.
No. 10 Dorman (S.C) def Gaffney (S.C), 28-6
No. 15 Bingham (Utah) def Alta (Utah), 30-10
No. 85 Alcoa (Tenn.) def. Maryville (Tenn.), 42-16 *Email Request*
No. 87 Rockhurst (Mo.)def Blue Springs (Mo.), 24-21
Have your game picked next week: Email Dallas Jackson
2009 Record for games picked: 67-40



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