With less than a month remaining in the high school football season, each outcome grows increasingly crucial in determining a national pecking order. The lack of a playoff system -- or any established ranking method whatsoever -- serves only to heighten the importance of each game. Teams face unprecedented scrutiny, a spotlight that should intensify as the postseason wears on.
Similar to the BCS shakeup, the prep scene also experienced a weekend to remember. Among the notable happenings: Allen (Texas), Lakes (Wash.) and Central Catholic (Pa.) all fell from the ranks of the unbeaten. Armwood's defense was picked apart by 5-5 Lakewood Ranch (Fla.). Gaffney, Good Counsel and Bishop Gorman rolled, while Grayson (Ga.), Hamilton (Ariz.) and Gilman (Md.) narrowly survived.
Entering the final stretch, this much is clear: The time to impress is now. Here are this week's rankings.
Trinity pummeled its opponent for the third consecutive playoff game, ousting St. Xavier 42-6. It was another trademark outing: Dalyn Dawkins racked up 226 rushing yards, and the 'Rocks led 29-0 entering the fourth quarter. For the postseason, they've now outgained opponents by an almost inconceivable margin: 1348-369.
That speaks volumes about Trinity's depth, a rare luxury in the prep circuit. Bob Beatty, the Shamrocks' 12th-year coach, summed it up during an interview with SI.com on Saturday morning.
"A lot of high school football teams can put four or five different good players on the field at a time," he said. "I feel like we can put 30."
It shows. And as Trinity's pursuit of a national title continues, additional content will follow. For now, here's Beatty's take on his team's relentless mindset.
"The thing that makes this group so different is the hungriness they have," he said. "By Thursday, it looks like about 110 ADHD kids bouncing off the walls."
On a Don Bosco roster brimming with talent -- with four U.S. Army All-Americans and seven players with Division-I scholarships -- sophomore Jabrill Peppers might be the best of the bunch. The 5-9, 150-pounder stated his case on Friday, galloping for a career-high 216 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He's already received offers from Rutgers and South Carolina. For good reason: He has 14 touchdowns in the past five games.
More importantly, the Ironmen turned in their most complete performance since Oct. 8 against St. Edward (Ohio), a big step toward reclaiming the No. 1 ranking. They'll have two more chances to prove their worth: Thanksgiving Day at St. Joseph Regional (9-1) and the Dec. 2 Non-Public Group 4 final versus Bergen Catholic (7-2).
For all the all of the praise given to Gaffney's offense, particularly the aerial tandem of Joey Copeland and Quinshad Davis, it's time to show the defense some love. If Friday's 33-3 rout taught us anything, it's this: Dan Jones' defense is of championship caliber.
After allowing 50 yards and a field goal on the opening drive, Gaffney limited Dorman to 72 yards for the remainder of the game. Cavaliers' feature back Raymond Smith -- 1,811 yards, 30 touchdowns in '11 -- was held to just 58 yards, and for the season, the Indians now have 37 turnovers (19 interceptions, 18 fumbles) and 37 sacks. They've been one of the most opportunistic units in the nation.
If defensive lineman Jaylen Miller and Co. can be similarly stifling in the final two rounds of Class 4A playoffs, Gaffney could secure a top three finish -- and potentially a mythical national title.
For the first time in 2011, Katy's defense looked vulnerable. Cy-Woods amassed 361 yards -- including an 81-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage -- and, at times, moved the ball seemingly at will. Gary Joseph's group struggled: A unit that allowed 28 points since Oct. 13 allowed 30 in a span of a few hours.
But something else, and more telling, was on display in Katy's 5A Division 2 second round win: the Tiger offense. Brooks Haack and Co. outperformed one of Texas' most dynamic units, and freshman Rodney Anderson raced for 215 yards and two scores. That explosiveness -- and striking resiliency in the face of adversity -- only bodes well for Katy's national chances.
In a largely unpredictable weekend, perhaps no outcome was more unexpected than Armwood's 35-31 escape over Lakewood Ranch. Entering the contest, the Hawks' defense allowed 36 points
Armwood survived. Alvin Bailey delivered a season-saving 65-yard punt return, and linebacker Antonio McCullough sealed the victory with a subsequent interception. But where stability reigned a week ago, questions now abound. Among them: Will the Hawks regain regular season form? Will future opponents mirror the Mustangs' strategy, one that saw McKenzie Hathaway rush for 127 yards? Most pressing, with offensive lineman Jack Lightsey
Bishop Gorman's in-state dominance is truly something to behold. Following Friday's victory over Palo Verde in the Sunset Region final, the Gaels are now 10-0 against Nevada opponents. They've outscored them 620-53.
Even more impressive, junior quarterback Anu Solomon has thrown for 2,250 yards and 34 touchdowns, tossing at least one score in 13 of 14 games (and 23 of 24 dating back to last year).
Good Counsel captured its third consecutive WCAC championship, blanking Gonzaga 42-0. It was déjà vu -- on more than one count. Here's how closely this year's Falcons resemble last year's squad.
The numbers are almost identical. But this season was different in one major way: Good Counsel clinched its first undefeated campaign in school history, cementing the legacy of Wes Brown and Stefon Diggs. The BCS-bound prospects both exited in style. Brown rushed for a game-high 132 yards and three touchdowns, and Diggs opened the scoring with a 70-yard end around.
Here's the scenario: There's 2:04 remaining in Trinity's second-round clash with Allen -- a rematch of last year's 37-35 classic -- in front of 40,000 fans at Cowboys Stadium. Trinity leads 28-21. Allen has the ball at the Trojans' eight-yard line. Fourth and eight. Eagles' quarterback Alec Morris handles the snap, hesitates for a moment and then plunges into the heart of Trinity's defense...
He's stuffed at the goal line. Turnover on downs. For the second consecutive season, Trinity -- a Class 5A powerhouse -- eliminates Allen in the waning seconds.
It's no fluke. The Trojans have become the Steelers of Texas preps, a perennial contender under almost any circumstances. They won state titles in '05, '07 and '09, and, with this victory, are positioned to make another deep playoff run. A remarkable 356-yard, two-touchdown outing from senior Joel Kimpela only reinforces the notion: In 2011, nothing has changed.
If Buford hasn't been adequately challenged in 2011, don't blame the schedule. Buford, quite simply, might be
If nothing else, few teams play a truer brand of smashmouth football than Jess Simpson's bunch. Following Friday's 31-0 triumph, Buford has rushed for 1,067 yards -- in the past four games alone.
Mallard Creek cracks the Top 10 for the first time in '11, advancing to the Class 4A regional final with a rout of Myers Park. The Mavericks exploded in the second half, racking up 35 points during a nine-play span. The usual suspects led the charge: Jela Duncan ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns, and Minnesota-bound receiver Jamel Harbison added rushing and receiving scores.
Perhaps more significant, the Mavericks' quest for perfection became significantly easier. Butler (N.C.), the two-time defending state champion, was upended by Greensboro Page