Columbus Day weekend, without question, was the most exciting thus far in the 2011 season. There were surprises, statement victories and shocking upsets. There were eye-popping performances from many of the nation's premier players. There was even a clash between two Top 15 programs. After a wild week of action, here's what we learned.
• St. Thomas Aquinas isn't invincible. The previously top-ranked Raiders suffered their first defeat since 2009 -- and first home loss since '06 -- in a stunning 27-20 overtime thriller to Miramar (Fla.).
• Trinity (Ky.) and Gaffney (S.C.) solidified their status as national powers. Both continue to transcend in-state success, furthering one of the season's defining storylines.
• Armwood's defense may not surrender another point. The Hawks' unit blanked another opponent on Friday, limiting Sickles (Fla.) to 135 yards of total offense.
But more on that later. The most telling matchup of the weekend happened in the Bronx, where Don Bosco Prep and St. Edward, New Jersey and Ohio's top-ranked teams, faced off. Bosco entered with a 39-game winning streak. St. Ed's countered with a 21-game stretch. Then they took the field, and Bosco -- unmistakably -- dominated.
Allen watched its title dreams teeter before a dramatic escape, and Our Lady of Good Counsel maintained its machine-like WCAC stronghold. Moeller and Miramar, unranked as of last week, both also cracked the Top 15.
There certainly was no shortage of drama. With less than a month until playoffs, here's how the rankings stand.
Previous rank: 2
Last game: 38-7 over St. Edward (Ohio)
Next game: Oct. 21 at Passaic County Tech (N.J.)
That's what we've been waiting for. After a tumultuous start to the season, one that included shaky victories against Manatee (Fla.) and Ridgewood (N.J.), Bosco was back and better than ever during its showdown with St. Ed's. The defense was unforgiving, surrendering 12 first downs. The offense was surprisingly dangerous, with quarterback Mike Yankovich completing 15-of-20 passes for 165 yards. It was the Ironmen's most complete performance to date, reestablishing the team as undisputed frontrunners.
Now, it's back to the Garden State. After defeating three touted out-of-state opponents (Mission Viejo (Calif.), Manatee, St. Edward), the Ironmen take on four in-state foes -- including 5-0 St. Joseph -- before the playoffs. Win out, and this Ramsey group could be staring at a second national title in a span of three years.
"We wanted this schedule," safety Kyle Sakowski told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. "We wanted teams that were going to give us a shot at being the national champs."
For now, mission accomplished.
Previous rank: 5
Last game: 58-7 win over DuPont Manual (Ky.)
Next game: Oct. 14 at Male (Ky.)
Following a 58-7 beatdown of previously undefeated DuPont Manual, Trinity has outscored the competition 319-69. More impressive, those same opponents own a combined record of 31-21, with seven losses coming at the hands of the Shamrocks. The Louisville upstarts have become the Ironmen's biggest threats, and their schedule doesn't let up: Trinity hosts 12th-ranked Moeller (Ohio) on Oct. 28, a game loaded with national implications.
For the seventh straight game, there was no answer for Travis Wright, Dalyn Dawkins and James Quick. The trio registered 387 yards and six touchdowns in the win.
Previous rank: 4
Last game: 35-0 win at Sickles (Fla.)
Next game: Oct. 14 vs. Strawberry Crest (Fla.)
The streak continues. With a 35-0 shutout of Sickles, Armwood's defense has held opponents to 20 consecutive scoreless quarters, a stretch dating back to the fourth quarter of its Aug. 26 win at Bishop Gorman. Since then, the only points the Hawks allowed have come on a kick return and a blocked punt. It's truly something to behold.
Expect more of the same next Saturday. Armwood's opponent, Strawberry Crest, is 0-5 and has scored just 19 points all season. There should be plenty of turnovers for Eric Striker, Jarvis McCall and Co. to go around.
Previous rank: 3
Last game: 42-38 win at Plano East (Texas)
Next game: Oct. 14 vs. Plano West (Texas)
If there's something to be said about resilience, Allen's never-say-die mentality speaks volumes. For the second consecutive week, the Eagles trailed in the second half. And for the second consecutive week, the Eagles rallied for an inspiring win -- in this case, a 42-38 classic at Plano East.
There is cause for concern. The Eagles have consistently struggled against inferior opponents are developing a reputation as slow starters. They failed to enter the red zone once in the first half, troubling for an offense with Alabama commit Alec Morris and Missouri commit Jonathan Williams. It could spell serious issues in bouts at Marcus (Texas) and Hebron (Texas) later in the month.
But Allen won. It remains squarely in the national title hunt. And wide receiver Andrew Rodriguez continues to amaze. A-Rod hauled in acrobatic 69 and 45 yard touchdowns, giving him 11 scores on the season.
Previous rank: 6
Last game: 55-3 win at Clover (S.C.)
Next game: Oct. 14 at Rock Hill (S.C.)
Separated by 80 miles on I-85 North, Gaffney shares more in common with Clemson than a South Carolina zip code. The Indians have similarly surprised in '11, transitioning from nonfactor to national contender by midseason. Coming off Friday's 55-3 drubbing of Clover, they're one game closer to a perfect campaign.
The remainder of the road won't be easy. Gaffney's final four opponents all boast better than .500 records, including Northwestern (S.C.), which thumped the Indians 42-28 during their meeting last October. It won't matter if Joey Copeland -- who threw for six touchdowns at Clover -- continues his torrid tear.
Previous rank: 8
Last game: 35-21 win at DeMatha (Md.)
Next game: Oct. 15 at Bishop McNamara (Md.)
The legend of Stefon Diggs continues to grow in Olney, Md. With three key plays against DeMatha, the 6-0, 185-pounder demonstrated the dynamic ability that has three dozen D-I programs bidding for his services.
Clinging to slim a 7-6 lead, Diggs returned a punt 60 yards to the end zone. It provided insurance before the half, offering a sorely needed boost for an offense that totaled just 79 yards.
After the Stags stormed back to tie the game at 21, Diggs corralled a 19-yard, third-and-nine reception to keep the offense on the field. Two plays later, Dorian O'Daniel raced for a 58-yard touchdown to give Good Counsel a lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Perhaps most important, facing fourth-and-11 with just minutes remaining, Diggs reeled in a 22-yard first down grab. It set up another O'Daniel score to cement the Falcons' 35-21 triumph.
Look for Diggs to inflict similar damage next week. The Falcons' next opponent, Bishop McNamara, went 0-10 last year and lost to Good Counsel 48-0 during their meeting last October.
Previous rank: 7
Last game: 69-0 win at Pahrump Valley (Nev.)
Next game: Oct. 14 at Spring Valley (Nev.)
Bishop Gorman's demolition of Nevada competition is equivalent to that of an SEC squad in a Pop Warner league. Here are the results from their five in-state games, none of which have been closer than seven touchdowns.
This is also telling of the amount of playing time being given to second-stringers: Shaquille Powell, the team's primary running back, has 68 carries. Backups Lorenzo Fertitta, Nathan Starks and Tajon Allen have 71.
Previous rank: 1
Last game: 27-20 OT loss to Miramar (Fla.)
Next game: Oct. 14 vs. South Broward (Fla.)
Midway through the fourth quarter of Thursday's matchup with Miramar, St. Thomas Aquinas led 20-13. It was driving, poised to overcome a subpar performance from quarterback Max Lescano (who finished just 7-of-23). Then five-star cornerback Tracy Howard intercepted Lescano at the goal line. It set in motion a dizzying sequence of events.
Miramar's Devonte Mathis tied the game with a 10-yard score. Howard blocked Nolan Bieck's game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. D'Vontis Arnold scored on a one-yard touchdown in overtime, and the Raiders were silenced after Lescano's fourth down pass to fell harmlessly to the turf. The Raiders' 19-game winning streak, and dream of a repeat national title, was vanquished.
It's a devastating blow, to be certain. But Aquinas remains in the Top 10 thanks to impressive early wins over Prattville (Ala.), Cypress Bay (Fla.) and De La Salle (Calif.). It also remains the favorite in the Florida 7A playoffs, and should likely roll through the rest of the regular season before they kick off in November.
Previous rank: 9
Last game: 71-0 win at Clarkston (Ga.)
Next game: Oct. 21 vs. Greater Atlanta Christian (Ga.)
Ready to believe in Buford? The Wolves continue to state their case for national recognition, this time with a 71-0 stomping of Clarkston. It was an exercise in domination: Ten Buford players scored touchdowns, and the team led 37-0 by the end of the first quarter.
More outrageous? Buford led 51-0 at half despite running just 12 offensive plays from scrimmage. That's remarkable efficiency.
Previous rank: 10
Last game: 45-7 win at Morton Ranch (Texas)
Next game: Oct. 13 at Mayde Creek (Texas)
With quarterback Brooks Haack already on Division-I radar, it's time to turn attention to top target Jordan Thompson. The shifty 5-9, 155-pound wideout has been instrumental to the Tigers' quick start, and collected five catches for 89 yards and a score against Morton Ranch. He now has 719 yards and nine touchdowns on the year, and is certainly one to watch as the season progresses.
The Tigers' running game was also impressive. Rodney Anderson, Ricky Bickham and Cody Gomez combined for 137 yards and two touchdowns, helping Katy's offense continue to function despite the injury to Adam Taylor.
Next five: DeSoto (DeSoto, Texas), Moeller (Cincinnati), Miramar (Miramar, Fla.), Harrison (Farmington Hills, Mich.), Trinity (Euless, Texas)
• Miramar quarterback Cam Hodge also deserves credit for the upset of Aquinas. For all the mention of the Raiders' shortcomings, Hodge was heroic in stints, finishing with 215 yards and a touchdown. He's now thrown for 908 yards and nine scores, sparking the Patriots' 5-0 start.
Though Miramar remains ranked behind Aquinas -- a team it just defeated -- that could change as early as next week. The Pats face another stiff test in 5-0 Boyd Anderson (Fla.), and should catapult into the Top 10 with a victory.
• Moeller (Ohio) continues to rise. The Fighting Crusaders improved to 7-0 with a 36-10 win at Elder (Ohio). Junior Keith Watkins added rushing, receiving and kickoff return touchdowns in the victory.
• Union's (Okla.) 94-game district winning streak is over. Owasso (Okla.) toppled the Tulsa heavyweight during an emotional 41-38 win. The Rams overcame a 21-point deficit in the final 5:38.
• The last 91 seconds of the game between Valdosta (Ga.) and Lowndes (Ga.) were spectacular. Valdosta scored, recovered an onside kick and scored again to clinch an incredible 21-17 victory, helping the Wildcats improve to 6-1 and end a seven-game losing streak against the Vikings.
• The nation's top-ranked recruits dazzled. Dorial Green-Beckham had 354 receiving yards and three touchdowns, Johnathan Gray collected 264 yards and five scores and Jameis Winston accounted for four total touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) in respective Hillcrest (Mo.), Aledo (Texas) and Hueytown (Ala.) wins. Ho-hum.
• High school kickers made some incredible headlines. Pinckney Community High's (Mich.) Brianna Amat kicked the game-winning 31-yard field after being named homecoming queen, and Carson High's (Nev.) Austin Pacheco converted a 64-yard kick with 27.4 seconds remaining. Both happened two weeks ago. Both warrant mention again here.
• Don't forget about Pulaski Academy (Ark.). Coach Kevin Kelley's unconventional bunch bettered its record to 6-0 with a 42-14 triumph at De Queen (Ark.). Fredi Knighten continues to do it all: With another stellar performance, he's racked up 2,268 passing yards, 425 rushing yards, 36 total touchdowns and 11 defensive sacks on the season.