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July 30, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 45-41

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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.

Rivals.com began its 2011 countdown last Monday, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Wednesday, Aug. 8 - just 10 days from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Aug. 27 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

View the complete rankings timeline if you missed anything | Final 2011 Expanded Rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 45 Servite, California

COACH: Troy Thomas
LAST SEASON: 10-2, Pac-5 quarterfinalist. Ranked No. 19 in California
Fast Fact: The Trinity League is often considered the toughest league in California but Servite has dominated of late. The Friars have claimed the league title the last seven seasons.
Key Player: Quarterback Neil Pau'u. Pau'u is currently a soft verbal commitment to BYU. The junior quarterback has eliminated some of the pressure from his situation, but all eyes will still be on him as the season plays out. The Trinity League is going to be tougher this year than the last few with Santa Margarita expected to be among the nation's elite, Orange Lutheran has a new coach and is on the rise, while St. John Bosco is a Top 10 team in Southern California entering the season. Mistakes at the quarterback position will be magnified.
The Good: Mental toughness. Servite is never out of a football game, but also never closes out a football game. The team has played so many close games over the course of the last five seasons that players within the program know that it is going to be a full game fight more often than a second half time to rest. This allows the team to keep battling when others would be ready to shut it down.
The Bad: Killer instinct. Part of the downside of being in a lot of close games is that sometimes it feels like the team is keeping bad teams around. There are many instances where the Friars are playing to the level of the competition and opportunities for blowouts and resting the starters are often missed because of that.
The bottom line is:not every game needs to come down to the fourth quarter. Neither side of the football has been particularly dominant as the team has not scored over 500 points in any of the last five seasons and has only allowed fewer than 220 points in one of the last five seasons. There is no denying this is a well coached and very talented team, but can the Friars take the next step has become the question.

Top 100 countdown
No. 44 Moeller, Ohio

COACH: John Rodenberg
LAST SEASON: 9-4, Ohio Division 1 quarterfinalist. Ranked No. 7 in Ohio.
Fast Fact: Following a 7-0 start and a move into the Top 10 nationally during the 2011 season, a team goal of a National Title was added at Moeller. The team lost four of its next six games to finish unranked nationally.
Key Player Quarterback Spence Iacovone. A three-year starter at Moeller, Iacovone will enter his senior season with high expectations attached to his name. Alex Gall, Shane Jones and Evan Jansen are bigger prospects, but with the loss of skill players Monty Madaris, John Tanner and Michael Means, there will be more pressure on Iacovone to make plays with his legs and smart decisions with his passes.
The Good: The offensive line. At 6-foot-5, Gall is the biggest prospect on the offensive line. The Miami commit will anchor a group that also returns Matt Noble and Chris Hanke. When in jumbo packages, look for the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Jansen to be used on the line as well. With Iacovone and Keith Watkins being the leaders of the offense, Moeller could rely heavily on the ground game this season and that may not be a bad thing.
The Bad: The defensive line. Losing three skill position players comes in a close second, but the defensive line is very inexperienced and it cannot be repeated enough how important playing solid defense in Ohio (or really any state) is. The schedule is not going to do Moeller any favors as it will play four teams ranked in the preseason RivalsHigh 100 in No. 72 Gilman, No. 83 Cincinnati St. Xavier, Indianapolis Cathedral and Louisville Trinity. The team will also have to play some of the best in Michigan, hosting Grand Rapids Christian and traveling to Detroit Catholic Central.
. The bottom line is: Moeller could be the top team in Ohio or it could be the No. 10 team in Ohio. At this point, it appears to be the best bet for a top team in the state with a returning quarterback, running back and offensive line. The schedule sets up to be brutal and then a trip through the Ohio Division I playoffs will be no picnic either. Multiple losses could be on the horizon.

Top 100 countdown
No. 43 Cass Tech, Michigan
COACH: Tom Wilcher
LAST SEASON: 11-3, Michigan Division 1 Champions. Ranked No. 45 nationally.
Fast Fact: Cass Tech opened the season with a 43-7 loss at the hands of Farmington Hill Harrison. The team rebounded to win a state title and gave up 43 combined points over its final seven games.
Key Player: Offensive lineman David Dawson. The Michigan commit is the right kind of nasty to be a lineman and he brings an attitude about the way he plays that can fire up the team. There are plenty of talented players on this Cass Tech team, but anchoring the offensive line is an attitude adjustment. Dawson feels disrespected in the recruiting process and wants to take it out on every opponent he lines up against. That kind of motivation, combined with that kind of talent, is a scary combination.
The Good: The defense. With a tip of the cap to the offensive line, it is the defense that can shine at Cass Tech. Kenton Gibbs will be the anchor of the defensive line and three FBS-level commits will roam the secondary. Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill and DaJuan Rogers are committed to Michigan, Iowa, and Toledo respectively. The linebackers will be made up of three talented juniors in Deon Drake, William White and Gary Hosey. All three check in between 6 feet and 6-feet-1 and weighing between 215 and 230-pounds.
The Bad The offense. As talented as this team is and as prospect-heavy as the offensive line will be, Cass Tech will likely struggle to consistently score points. There were four games in 2011 that the Technicians scored 49 points or more. There were six games in 2011 that the team did not break double digits. The inconsistency is a major concern, as the defense cannot be expected to hold every team to a field goal or less.
The bottom line is: there aren't many seasons where the top team in Michigan begins ahead of the top team in Ohio, but such is the case this season. Cass Tech has a lot of talent and plenty of expectations, but the Technicians have fallen short before. With the state title from last season already hanging, will this team be hungry enough to win again? The bet is that Dawson will have the team seeing red and march to another title.

Top 100 countdown
No. 42 Union, Oklahoma

COACH: Kirk Fridrich
LAST SEASON: 13, 1, Oklahoma Class 6A State Champions, Ranked No. 44 nationally.
Fast Fact: En route to its fourth straight state title in 2011, Union needed every point that it scored, winning its last three playoff games by one point each. The team defeated Edmond North, 17-16, Jenks, 30-29, and Broken Arrow, 23-22.
Key Player: Quarterback Hunter Atyia. Listed on Rivals.com as a receiver, Atyia led the Redskins to another state championship in 2011 and will be called upon to keep the winning ways rolling. The quarterback stepped up over the course of the final month of the season after running back Kendall Holmes was indefinitely suspended from the football team. Atyia will need to keep that play elevated this season.
The Good:The offensive line. Union tends to be a run heavy team, with a near two-third split in run versus pass last season. That figures to remain true in 2012 with two big prospects returning on the line. Dalton Rodriguez, an Oklahoma commit ,and Blake Mejia, a three-star prospect with a current offer from Memphis, will pave the way this season. Additionally, Chris Hall is ranked as the No. 5 fullback in the country and can pick up a blitz and clear out a linebacker to spring a big run.
The Bad: The secondary. Union will be returning a relatively inexperienced defense this year, which could prove to be costly. The team has to replace three starters in the defensive backfield as Joniko Thomas, Ahque Smith and Javon Bowler are all gone. With pass-happy Broken Arrow making a move in the state, this could prove to be an undoing.
The bottom line is: this is Union's state until otherwise notified. Broken Arrow is making strides and may be the most talented team in the state, but the anchor of never winning a state title is still a weight on the team. Union has been a more complete team in recent years and the ranking reflects that. The team will open with a brutal four-game stretch against No. 79 Jenks and No. 77 Euless Trinity, before playing Broken Arrow and a revenge game against Owasso.

Top 100 countdown
No. 41 Valor Christian, Colorado

COACH: Brett Vieselmeyer
LAST SEASON: 14-0, Colorado Class 4A State Champions. Ranked No. 42 nationally.
Fast Fact: Valor Christian, which is moving up to 5A in the next two-year cycle in Colorado, was kicked out of its league and will now play an independent schedule. The team was first formed in 2007 and has won state titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Valor Christian's success has drawn the ire of many in Colorado, prompting the exclusion from a league.
Key Player: Quarterback Luke Del Rio. If the name sounds familiar that is because it is. Son of NFL coach Jack Del Rio, the three-star quarterback is the leader of the Valor Christian offense and the No. 3-ranked player in the state of Colorado. This will be the third school in three years for Del Rio as he played at Jacksonville (Fla.) The Bolles School and Jacksonville (Fla.) Episcopal while his father was the coach of the Jaguars. Now in Denver, Del Rio has settled on Valor and will try to lead the team to its fourth state title in as many years.
The Good: The offense. Vieselmeyer was the architect of the Orange (Calif.) Lutheran offense before coming to Valor Christian. Since his departure, Lutheran has not come close to repeating its success while he was there and Valor has become a machine that can score at will. Valor outscored its opponents 634-90 last season. It figures to be more of the same this season as the school is clearly the best team in the state.
The Bad: The competition. It is hard to take this success too seriously as the opposition has not been very strong. Colorado is barely in the top half of high school football states in the country. Therefore, rolling through sub-par teams with regularity has its limitations. Early games against Denver Mullen (even though this is a down Mullen team) and South Jordan (Utah) Bingham could provide a measuring stick for this group.
The bottom line is: Valor Christian is hurt by its surroundings. Even as teams in the state waive the white flag, there isn't enough quality play to give this team the benefit of the doubt. As it moves towards being the clear-cut best athletic program in the state, Valor will need to follow the lead of other private schools such as Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman and Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco, which must leave its state to prove its merits.

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