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September 8, 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.

Summer is over and Labor Day weekend is in the rear-view mirror.

But in one way that's a good thing - it means high school football is ready to hit its stride. And it's hitting its stride in a big way this weekend.

Any of these regionally highlighted games could have easily been the national Game of the Week (an honor that went to Saturday's battle between No. 28 Good Counsel and No. 29 Gilman in Maryland at the Patriot Classic).

When this many good games are on the schedule, it's bound to be a stellar weekend of high school football, no matter where you live.

Here's a look at some of the nation's best matchups.

Weekend Watch
No. 40 Mission Viejo v No. 1 Don Bosco

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
DON BOSCO
DE Darius Hamilton (6-4/245, Sr.)
DB Yuri Wright (6-2/180, Sr.)
DB Elijah Shumate (6-1/206, Sr.)
QB Mike Yankovich (6-0/180, Sr.)
MISSION VIEJO
QB Alex Bridgford (6-3/205, Sr.)
OL Colby Cyburt (6-5/266, Sr.)
OL Austin Maass (6-4/281, Sr.)
When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: First-ever meeting
Rankings: Don Bosco (0-0), No. 1 in New Jersey
Mission Viejo (1-0), No. 4 in California


WHY IT'S BIG: Choose your own adventure of why this is a big game: It is the first game of the season for the team that is currently in the driver's seat for a national championship; it is a cross-country battle between two high-profile teams; it's a chance for the somewhat shaky Southern California region to get a victory in an out-of-state headliner game. This is a big game nationally whichever path you take.


BEST MATCHUP: The Mission Viejo offensive line against the Don Bosco defensive front. The Diablos have a solid front that is both big (averaging 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds) and talented (headlined by a pair of three-star starters in Colby Cyburt and Austin Maass). If they can keep the aggressive Don Bosco defense at bay, it will be big for the offense.


DON BOSCO WINS IF: Quarterback Mike Yankovich has a good game. A lot has been written in the off-season about the quarterback position at Don Bosco being a major question mark. Yankovich will have plenty of eyes on him to make good decisions and keep Don Bosco on the top line nationally. If he can manage the game and eliminate mistakes, it will be huge.


MISSION VIEJO WINS IF: Its offensive line clearly wins the battle. For Mission Viejo, this is not a game where winning in the trenches can be debated. The Diablos have to make time for Alex Bridgford to throw and Jahleel Pinner to run. If Viejo doesn't score into the mid-20s or low-30s, it is not likely to win - and few teams have piled on that many points against Don Bosco.


PREDICTION: Mission Viejo was able to knock the rust off last week with a game against Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial. And if the theory holds true that the most improvement for a team comes between the first and second game, the Diablos should be ready to roll. Don Bosco is a stellar team that will look completely different than Centennial. This will be a defensive test for Don Bosco, but one the Iron Men should pass.
- Don Bosco 38, Mission Viejo 14.

Weekend Watch
No. 97 St. Paul's v No. 98 Acadiana

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ST. PAUL'S
RB Dylan Long (5-10/218, Sr.)
ACADIANA
LB Darius Ridgeway (6-0/197, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 9, 8 p.m.
Last Meeting: November 26, 2010 - Acadiana won 41-20
Rankings: St. Paul's (1-0), No. 4 in Louisiana
Acadiana (1-0), No. 5 in Louisiana


WHY IT'S BIG: This is the headlining game for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic at the Louisiana Superdome and it matches last year's state champion, Acadiana, against one of the early season favorites from the New Orleans area, St. Paul's. The two teams were evaluated fairly evenly in the preseason so this was a game that was on the radar before both moved into the RivalsHigh 100 after solid opening-week wins.


BEST MATCHUP: The Acadiana rush attack against the St. Paul's run defense. It is no secret that the Wreckin' Rams will want to move the ball on the ground and punish its opposition. St. Paul's will need to be mentally prepared for that type of physical play. Acadiana may not be as talented as last season, but this type of offense is not wholly dependant on Division I talent. Getting in gear early could make for a long night.


ST. PAUL'S WINS IF: It forces Acadiana into third-and-long situations on defense. It isn't that Acadiana can not pass (like Edna Karr last week was unable to do against St. Paul), but it would prefer to get into third-and-short and continue to chew up the clock and run the ball. If Acadiana has attempted more than 15 passes at the end of the game, it will be a good indication that St. Paul's rush defense was stout.


ACADIANA WINS IF: It's the aggressor. St. Paul's should enter this game with more confidence after beating Edna Karr (while Acadiana beat Northside), but if Acadiana can establish that it will be the bully in this matchup, it will win. The Wreckin' Rams are a team that feeds off of emotion and could just as easily get down if it starts slow.


PREDICTION: This is a great game that could go either way in a tight battle - or it could become a runaway game for either team if they go on tilt. The beauty is in this being a one-game situation and not a 10-game series, so the variables will play bigger into the outcome. Many in Louisiana think that Acadiana should be the No. 1 team until it gets knocked off; a loss here would end that uprising. - St. Paul's 20, Acadiana 9

-- For more on Louisiana football, visit PelicanPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 26 St. Xavier v No. 8 Colerain

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
COLERAIN
LB Joe Bolden (6-2/226, Sr.)
DT Trae Clark (6-4/320, Sr.)
DB Andre Jones (6-1/185, Sr.)
ST. XAVIER
LB Nate Gerbus (6-1/218, Sr.)
RB Conor Hundley (5-10/189, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: November 13, 2010 - St. Xavier won 24-23
Rankings: Colerain (2-0), No. 1 in Ohio
St. Xavier (2-0), No. 4 in Ohio


WHY IT'S BIG: Two of the better teams from the Lakes region will go head-to-head with major national rankings implications on the line. Colerain will also be looking to get revenge from a playoff defeat last year, when it felt as if it gave away the game to St. Xavier. Both teams can use this game to prove itself as an early threat to win a very difficult Ohio Division I state title.


BEST MATCHUP: The St. Xavier offense against the Colerain defense. Or vice versa? The knock on St. Xavier under coach Steve Specht has been that the offense generally lags behind the defense. Some feel it has cost it some games and maybe a state title or two. This year it appears that the team can move the ball through the air as well as use its typical punishing run style. Colerain struggled to move the ball against Cocoa (Fla.) High in its opener, leading some to wonder how it will do against a very solid St. X front.


ST. XAVIER WINS IF: Conor Hundley is able to break a couple of big runs. St. Xavier will have a hard time sustaining long drives against a very good Colerain defense so Hundley will need to break a few big ones to help shorten the field. The passing game for St. X looked like it was able to get the better of Pickerington Central's secondary last week - but that will be in the coaching film for Colerain. Hundley will need to be the difference-maker.


COLERAIN WINS IF: It can control the field-position game. This figures to be a low-scoring affair, but if the game is played on the Colerain side of the field that will play to the advantage of St. Xavier. Colerain will need to make a stop early and keep the game being played on the Bombers' side of the field. Linebackers Joe Bolden and Jake Blust will be keys to that effort.
PREDICTION: The game is being played at Colerain, where the Cardinals have not lost since 1999. And although it is just a short trip from St. X to Colerain, it will be an intimidating environment for the visitor. The quarterback play will be a major point of emphasis as both teams focus on defense first. Whichever team makes the first mistake may be buried early. Coming back from two scores could be impossible, so jumping out early will be important as well.
- Colerain 17, St. Xavier 10

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

Weekend Watch
No. 2 Allen v No. 27 Longview

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ALLEN
QB Alec Morris (6-3/231, Sr.)
RB Jonathan Williams (5-11/208, Sr.)
LB Thaddeus LaGrone (6-2/196, Sr.)
LONGVIEW
WR Eric Hawkins (5-11/172, Sr.)
DB Jordan Burton (6-1/193, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: September 10, 2010 - Allen won 24-20
Rankings: Allen (2-0), No. 1 in Texas
Longview (2-0), No. 3 in Texas


WHY IT'S BIG: Allen and Longview are both in the Top Three in Texas. In the Lone Star State, a Top-Five interstate matchup before the playoffs is pretty rare, despite all of the great games that do get played each week. Longview is incredibly tough to play at home so while this would be an upset in the rankings, it wouldn't entirely be a surprise. The last time Allen went to Longview it returned home with a 28-25 loss.


BEST MATCHUP: The Allen pass offense versus the Longview secondary. The strength of the Longview defense is its defensive line and linebackers. That group will need to step up big to put pressure on Allen and take pressure off of the secondary. Allen quarterback Alec Morris threw for over 350 yards and 5 touchdowns last week against Justin Northwest - but the Eagles will not be facing that squad this week. If the Longview secondary can rise to the occasion, it could end the Allen national title campaign early.


LONGVIEW WINS IF: Its offensive line can control the line of scrimmage. The Lobos are now two games into the season with an entirely new group of starters on the line and that transition has gone moderately well. The competition level of Marshall and John Tyler is a little different than what it will face against an aggressive Allen team and it will need to play well.


ALLEN WINS IF: It starts fast. The intensity level will be cranked up to 11 in Longview for this game so the Eagles will need to get the crowd out of it early. Allen has been in plenty of shootouts and tight battles in recent years. It would like to avoid both of those scenarios by getting out early and putting the game away. A strong showing here is very important as the rest of the Allen schedule before playoffs is not as strong. Beating Longview would be a great win.


PREDICTION: This game is huge for both teams and it is a major game to watch nationally. Longview follows this game with home dates with Lufkin and Abilene before taking on the Mesquite-area teams and closing with the new talk-of-Texas, DeSoto - a game that likely will decide which team wins the district. So while this isn't a must win, it would be nice to get one over on the top-ranked team in the state. This game is likely going to be a see-saw battle that could go either way. If it comes down to one drive to win it, our money is on the Eagles.
- Allen 27, Longview 23

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

Weekend Watch
No. 44 St. Bonny v No. 35 Centennial

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ST. BONAVENTURE
QB Marc Evans (6-2/207, Sr.)
DE Ben Dixon (6-3/235, Sr.)
RB Shaun Wick (5-11/190, Sr.)
CENTENNIAL
DT Milo Jordan (6-2/285, Sr.)
OL Lio Lafaele (6-4/315, Sr.)
DE Ngata Tuihalamaka (6-1/230, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Centennial (0-0), No. 3 in California
St. Bonaventure (0-0), No. 5 in California


WHY IT'S BIG: With the California Bowl System based on a selection process and not a true playoff, this game could be an early season elimination from an Open Division Bowl bid for two of the highest-ranked teams from Southern California. St. Bonaventure has been overlooked in recent years despite some very good teams (a forfeited 2009 season certainly hurt, too. Corona Centennial has taken a step forward off of the victory over De La Salle in the CIF Open Bowl in 2008. Both will battle perception issues if it loses this game.


BEST MATCHUP: The Corona Centennial offensive line against the St. Bonaventure defensive line. The Huskies return all five players up front while St.Bonaventure only returns one starter from its defensive line. If Centennial can control the line of scrimmage, it will ease its new skill position group into the season. If St. Bonaventure is able to disrupt the plays in the backfield, it would signal that the team is ready for much more this season.


ST. BONAVENTURE WINS IF: Marc Evans and the offense carry the load. The senior quarterback grew up in a big way last year against Westlake late in the season and his leadership can help guide the team to a win to start the year. St. Bonaventure returns seven on defense and eight on offense so this is an experienced group - but it will come down to Evans making plays.


CORONA CENTENNIAL WINS IF: It is able to run the ball. The experience of this team is in the trenches. Coach Matt Logan likes to spread the field, but recently he has had quarterbacks who can tuck and run the ball. Replacing skill position players has not be a difficulty at this school so there is minimal concern about that turnover - especially with the bodies back on the offensive line. But running the ball effectively and keeping St. Bonaventure watching would help.


PREDICTION: The strength of these two teams are in opposite positions so it could make for a great game to watch. Centennial has the strength in the trenches and St. Bonaventure has an experienced quarterback and defensive back seven. This could very easily turn into a high-scoring affair where the last team with the ball has the best chance to win. If that is the case, there is more faith in the experience of St. Bonaventure as opposed to the tradition of Centennial. The first game of year between two fairly evenly matched teams is a battle of clichés. If the battle is won in the trenches, it goes to Centennial. If experience spells the difference, it is all St. Bonaventure.
- St. Bonaventure 38, Corona Centennial 30

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2011: 21-6)
Game of the Week: Good Counsel def. Gilman, 20-16.
No. 5 Warren Central def. Ben Davis, 27-10
No. 30 Union def. No. 63 Jenks, 20-17
No. 32 Bellevue def. No. 90 Skyline, 30-17
No. 89 Olive Branch def. Smyrna, 30-20
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 1-2
2011 Record for all games picked: 22-8



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