And then there were two. Following Gaffney's upset loss to Byrnes -- a 31-24 shocker in the South Carolina Class 4A final -- two primary contenders remain for the mythical national championship. Trinity (Ky.) and Don Bosco Prep. The question becomes: After both capturing their respective state titles over the weekend, which team is more deserving of No. 1?
There's no definitive answer. Both finished unbeaten, extending their winning streaks to 25 and 46 games, respectively. Both tore through grueling out-of-state schedules, with Trinity taking down Brentwood Academy (Tenn.), St. Xavier (Ohio) and Indianapolis Cathedral (Ind.) and Bosco beating Mission Viejo (Calif.), Manatee (Fla.) and St. Edward (Ohio). Both -- from start to finish -- showed few, if any, weaknesses.
Others still maintain an outside shot at the title. Miramar (Fla.) shoots to No. 3 after defeating Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) 35-7. Skyline (Texas) could enter the discussion with a Texas 5A Division I championship, and Grayson (Ga.) has excelled of late, eliminating Lowndes, West Forsyth and Colquitt County in succession.
But, as of now, it's Trinity and Don Bosco. Or Don Bosco and Trinity.
The final Power Rankings will be unveiled on Monday, Dec. 19. Let the debate begin.
Previous rank: 1
Last game: Beat Scott County (Ky.), 62-21
Next game: Season complete
With one final chance to leave a national impression, the Shamrocks didn't disappoint. Trinity turned in arguably its finest offensive performance of the year, racking up 604 total yards -- 396 in the first half --in a 62-21 rout. It solidified everything we've known all season: Travis Wright, Dalyn Dawkins and James Quick are unstoppable.
Wright went 18-of-21 for 323 yards and four touchdowns, upping his completion percentage to a gaudy 71 percent. Dawkins rushed for 153 yards and four scores, and Quick collected 144 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yard dagger to open the second half.
Here's the difference between Trinity and Bosco: Though the Ironmen have been more impressive of late, the 'Rocks have been more consistent all season. They've won by an average of 41.5 points (Bosco's margin is 32.7), and never trailed in the second half. Below is a chart comparing both teams' numbers, illustrating the depth of their dominance.
Things, however, could still change. Manatee, an out-of-state power that Bosco knocked off in September, remains in contention for the Florida 7A crown. With a win, the Ironmen's strength of schedule -- and ultimate national ranking -- could rise.
Previous rank: 2
Last game: Beat Bergen Catholic (N.J.), 42-14
Next game: Season complete
Now that's how to save the best for last. The Ironmen not only beat the Crusaders for the New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 title -- the third time they've done so since 2008 -- but they outright demolished them. Bosco's defense was magnificent: It notched eight sacks, four interceptions and a blocked punt, including a 21-yard pick-six by Elijah Shumate that sealed the game in the third quarter.
After a shaky start to the season, the Ironmen were brilliant. They whipped their final three foes (Paramus Catholic, St. Joseph Regional and Bergen Catholic) by a combined 125-17, and were dangerous at every position. Quarterback Mike Yankovich matured into a grizzled game-manager, Jabrill Peppers developed into a playmaker and Elijah Shumate -- one of four U.S. Army All-Americans -- punished opponents from both the backfield and the secondary.
There's no debate: Greg Toal and Co. are one of the best teams in the nation, something they've accomplished every season during his 13-year tenure (he's 143-10 since 1999). For now, though, without a decisive national championship, Bosco remains at No. 2.
Previous rank: 6
Last game: Beat Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.), 35-7
Next game: Dec. 9 vs. Columbus (Fla.)
Miramar's quest to honor lineman Isaiah Laurencin continues, with the undefeated Patriots pounding Palm Beach Gardens. It didn't start so encouraging. The Gators marched 83 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive, and led 7-0 entering the second quarter. For a moment, an improbable upset seemed possible.
That's when Tracy Howard, Cam Hudge and Devonte Mathis took over. Howard returned a punt 58 yards to the end zone, and Hugde accounted for 297 yards (262 passing, 35 rushing) and three scores. Mathis recorded 10- and 62-yard touchdown receptions, demonstrating just how dangerous the Pats are when their top-ranked recruits are clicking.
Amid other contenders' struggles, Miramar has thrived. And with two more victories, the consensus Class 8A favorites could elevate from proverbial dark horse to legitimate championship contender.
Previous rank: 5
Last game: Beat Gonzaga (D.C.), 42-0
Next game: Season complete
Another week, another rise in the rankings for the Falcons. Since the WCAC final on Nov. 19, they've watched Gaffney, Katy and Armwood flounder, subsequently climbing to No. 4.
And though Wes Brown and Stefon Diggs should receive the majority of credit for Good Counsel's success, the efforts of juniors Dorian O'Daniel and Kendall Fuller should also be lauded. O'Daniel rushed for 901 yards and 17 touchdowns in '11, and Fuller, a two-way star, amassed 526 receiving yards and six scores. Both boast offers to Oklahoma, Florida and Maryland, among others.
Previous rank: 13
Last game: Beat O'Dea (Wash.), 35-16
Next game: Season complete
The biggest jump in this week's poll, Bellevue vaults to No. 5 after capturing its 10th Washington Class 3A title in the past 12 years. It won it convincingly: Coach Butch Goncharoff and Co. led 28-7 through three quarters, and eventually triumphed 35-16.
Under the radar at the beginning of the season, the Wolverines emerged as a force to be reckoned with at the end. Their potent Wing-T offense tallied 18 touchdowns in the last four games, and their defense held O'Dea to just 37 passing yards in the final. But the real stars came on special teams. Sophomore Bishard Baker scored on an 89-yard kick return in the second quarter, and junior Scott Whiting returned a punt 80 yards to set up the game-clinching touchdown in third. Since 2004, Bellevue is now a staggering 99-7.
Record: 16-1 (including forfeit win over Western (Nev.))
Previous rank: 7
Last game: Beat Reed, 72-28
Next game: Season complete
From Aug. 20 through Dec. 3, Bishop Gorman played 16 consecutive games without a bye, a daunting feat for most NFL franchises. The Gaels handled it beautifully: They outscored the competition 838-135 en route to their third consecutive NIAA 4A championship.
Bishop was at its best Saturday against Reed. Shaquille Powell capped his stellar career with 156 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and wideout Ryan Smith corralled six catches for 193 receiving yards. Junior quarterback Anu Solomon threw touchdowns of 20, 58, 78, 26 and 57 -- in the first half alone.
In an interview with SI.com, coach Tony Sanchez credited his team's relentless work ethic.
"I don't think anybody does a better job in the offseason than we do," he said. "Yeah, we do a good job of X's and O's, but everyone's pretty smart. It's not about what you do, it's how you do it."
Previous rank: 11
Last game: Beat The Woodlands (Texas), 35-31
Next game: Dec. 10 vs. Carroll (Texas)
Perhaps no team has been more impressive in recent weeks than Skyline, topping DeSoto, Klein Oak and The Woodlands to advance to the vaunted Texas 5A Division I semifinals. Its latest victory was remarkable: Trailing by 10 points early in the fourth, the Raiders mounted two late touchdown drives, the second punctuated by a Devante Kincade fourth-and-one scamper with 2:59 remaining.
Following the rally, the road doesn't get any easier. Skyline plays Carroll (14-0) on Saturday, a matchup featuring more than two dozen Division-I prospects. Another win -- especially a dominant one -- could propel the Raiders toward the top of the high school hierarchy.
Previous rank: 8
Last game: Beat Carver (Ga.), 28-13
Next game: Dec. 9 vs. Calhoun (Ga.)
On Friday, for the first time in 2011, Buford was adequately challenged. The Wolves lost three fumbles in the first half and trailed at intermission for the first time since Sept. 3, 2010. Facing a Carver team riding an 11-game winning streak, Jess Simpson and Co. seemed ripe for an upset.
The Wolves responded beautifully. Their defense -- allowing 5.9 points per game -- gave up just 21 yards in the second half, and running back Andre Johnson rumbled for 133 yards on 18 carries. North Carolina commit Nathan Staub, Georgia Tech commit Sam Clay and Charlotte commit Rick Legrant also added third- and fourth-quarter scores.
One more victory in the Georgia 2A finals, and Buford locks up a Top 10 national finish.
Previous rank: 9
Last game: Beat Cedar Park (Texas), 14-9
Next game: Dec. 10 vs. Dawson (Texas)
Widely reputed as an offensive juggernaut, Lake Travis' defense made the difference on Saturday. It limited Cedar Park to a season-low 212 yards, cementing a 14-9 win behind a pair of crucial interceptions. The Cavaliers won despite a subpar outing from Baker Mayfield (3,227 passing yards, 40 touchdowns in '11) -- the mark of a well-rounded team.
Moving forward, don't expect Lake Travis to stay silent for long. Its next opponent, Dawson (13-2), has allowed an average of 28 points over its last six games.
Previous rank: 12
Last game: Beat Colquitt County (Ga.), 35-31
Next game: Dec. 10 vs. Walton (Ga.)
Entering the Georgia Class 5A semifinal, Grayson's defense surrendered 7.2 points per game. It allowed 31 to Colquitt County on Friday, blowing two separate two touchdown leads.
But this was more telling: The offense picked up the slack, executing an 87-yard touchdown drive to steal the victory in the waning seconds.
Quarterback Nick Schuessler played hero. He went 9-of-15 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning six-yard strike to Marcus Lundquist. The Rams also rushed for 290 yards, embodying the ground-and-pound philosophy coach Mickey Conn has preached all season.
Next five: Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.), Armwood (Seffner, Fla.), Carmel (Carmel, Ind.), Page (Page, N.C.), Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.)
Other notables: Miami Norland (Miami), Prattville (Prattville, Ala.), De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.), Miami Central (Fla.), Byrnes (Byrnes, S.C.), Gaffney (Gaffney, S.C.), Olive Branch (Olive Branch, Miss.), Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.), St. Ignatius (Ohio)
• Down goes Gaffney. After routing their first 14 foes by a minimum of three touchdowns, the Indians fell to Byrnes, 31-24, in the South Carolina 4A final. Turnovers doomed Gaffney: The Rebels notched two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, returning one of each to the end zone.
• Armwood's postseason trials continue. Though the Hawks beat Gainesville (Fla.) 17-14, they survived only after Kyle Gibson's forced fumble turned into points with 3:46 remaining. Coach Sean Callahan and Co. are advancing, but just barely.
• Westlake is firing on all cylinders. The Warriors led 45-0 at the half en route to a 62-0 decimation of Thousand Oaks (Calif.). They play cross-town rivals Oaks Christian (Calif.) in the CIF Open Division final.
• Dwyer (Fla.) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) staged the defensive showcase of the year. Averaging 32.5 and 31.2 points, respectively, the Panthers beat the Raiders a meager 6-3. After capturing the No. 1 national ranking on Sept. 26, St. Thomas Aquinas went a pedestrian 7-3 before losing in the Florida 7A quarterfinals.
• St. Ignatius is the best team in Ohio -- and it's not even close. The Wildcats whipped St. Ignatius 34-13, capping a sparkling playoff run. St. Ignatius also took down St. Edward, Mentor and Whitmer -- all former Top 25 teams -- to earn the Division I crown.
• A number of thrilling championships took place over the weekend.
No. 17 Prattville defeated Hoover (Ala.), 35-34. The Bucs failed to convert a potential game-winning two-point try, and Alabama commit Justin Thomas collected 304 total yards (153 passing, 151 rushing) and three touchdowns.
No. 22 Olive Branch defeated Petal (Miss.), 35-34. Dual-threat quarterback Todd Mays scored four second-half touchdowns to give the Conquistadors to their first Mississippi Class 6A title in program history.
Union (Okla.) upended Broken Arrow, 23-22. A week after edging archrival Jenks (Okla.), the Redskins clinched their fourth consecutive Class 6A title on a 32-yard fumble return by sophomore Coleby Evans.