With 13 of the Top 25 teams inactive over the weekend, including five of the Top 10, today's Power Rankings take on a bit of a different feel. Instead of using this space to endlessly analyze Trinity (Ky.) and Don Bosco Prep's (N.J.) dominance -- something I've covered in exhausting detail -- I'm recapping the latest in the high school playoff circuit. Though only a number of contenders took the field, there was no shortage of intrigue. In fact, with Carroll and Grayson making championship cases, it may have been the most compelling weekend to date.
The updated Top 25 is included at bottom, and the final Rankings will be released on Dec. 19. For now, here are this week's storylines, beginning with a thriller in Texas.
Southlake Carroll outfoxed Dallas Skyline. Not only did Carroll upset previous No. 7 Dallas Skyline -- rallying from a 10-point deficit in the final two and a half minutes -- but it scored the game-winning touchdown as a gray fox sprinted across the field. That's right, a fox. You can't make this stuff up.
Here's the stunning sequence: Juan Ramos converted a 34-yard field goal with 2:26 remaining, giving Skyline a commanding 24-14 lead. Junior quarterback Kenny Hill pioneered an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the margin to three, and wideout Ray Crockett -- the son of the former Lions, Broncos and Chiefs' cornerback -- recovered a perfectly executed onside kick with 1:07 to go. Then the incredible happened. Following a 15-yard run by sophomore A.J. Ezzard, Hill exploded down the right sideline, shedding multiple tacklers -- and outpacing a fox -- on his way to the end zone. A photo of the scene is pictured above.
The moment was euphoric. It also served as a potent reminder of why Carroll can't be overlooked.
Since quarterback Riley Dodge's graduation in '07, the Dragons have had few high-profile Division-I recruits. Only four seniors on this year's team hold scholarships to the next level, in stark contrast with Skyline, which has BCS-caliber talent at seemingly every position. But Carroll's success speak volumes about its resiliency: It's 103-11 since 2004, boasting three Texas 5A Division I titles.
Saturday's stunning finish -- though baffling in many ways -- made this much clear: 2011 is no different. Despite being shut down for the majority of the game, the Dragons found a way to win. If coach Hal Wasson and Co. can beat Fort Bend Hightower at Cowboys Stadium next week, they'll secure a Top 10 -- and potentially a top five -- national finish.
Grayson isn't just the best team in Georgia -- it's one of the best in the country. Perhaps no team had a more daunting road to a championship than Grayson, which faced Lowndes, West Forsyth, Colquitt County and Walton in the vaunted Georgia Class 5A bracket. The Rams handled the schedule remarkably: They outscored the competition 149-62 en route to their first state title in program history.
Their 24-0 blanking of Walton was a microcosm of the season. Grayson held the Raiders to 95 total yards, including negative 19 in the first half. It allowed just seven first downs, keeping dynamic tailback Tyren Jones (2,298 rushing yards, 38 touchdowns in '11) in check. The offense was equally efficient: In racking up 24 points, it attempted -- and completed -- a mere three passes.
The message was evident: Grayson deserves mention in the national championship discussion. It was a fitting, and memorable, 100th career victory for head coach Mickey Conn.
Westlake exacted revenge, but just barely. A year after losing to Oaks Christian (Calif.) in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship -- a 29-28 thriller that ended on a missed Alex Ross field goal -- Westlake seemed poised to let history repeat itself. It trailed 21-7 in the second quarter, allowing seldom-used wideout Francis Owusu -- who had five touchdowns entering the game -- to corral three scores in the first half alone. After defeating the Lions 43-21 on Oct. 6, the Warriors seemed ripe for an upset.
They bounced back beautifully. Westlake rattled off 28 unanswered points and thwarted a late Oaks Christian comeback to earn a 49-42 victory and clinch its second state title since 2009.
UCLA commit Dashon Hunt was the difference-maker. He collected 125 rushing yards and five total touchdowns (four rushing, one pick-six), including a 26-yard scamper that gave the team a lead it wouldn't relinquish. And coming off their most satisfying victory to date, the Warriors have another chance to prove their merit: They play De La Salle in the CIF Open Division Bowl game on Saturday. The winner, quite simply, earns bragging rights as the top team in California.
Lake Travis returned to form in a major way. Following last week's pedestrian outing against Cedar Park (Texas), one in which he completed just 48 percent of his passes and compiled 132 yards, Lake Travis quarterback Baker Mayfield became the subject of widespread concern. He seemed uncomfortable in the pocket, and after dissecting defenses for 30 touchdowns during the regular season, his performance begged the question: Did the 5-11 signal-caller lose his touch?
He silenced any such doubts against Dawson (Texas). Mayfield's numbers from Saturday's 45-14 rout: 15-for-26, 285 yards and four scores.
Even more encouraging for Lake Travis, senior Colin Lagasse re-emerged as a potent receiving threat. After tallying just 38 receiving yards in his last three games, he made six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, including a 72-yarder that sealed the game in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers take on Midway (12-2) with a shot at an unprecedented fifth consecutive Texas 4A Division I crown.
Buford and North Allegheny were the latest upset victims. Formerly ranked No. 8 and No. 19, the Wolves and Tigers suffered heartbreaking losses in their respective state championships. Calhoun upended Buford, 27-24, capitalizing on running back Andre Johnson's costly fumble in overtime, and Central Dauphin edged North Allegheny, 23-20, connecting on a 21-yard game-winning field goal to snap the Tigers' 21-game winning streak. Both served as crushing endings to otherwise perfect seasons.
Lake Oswego is a runner-up no longer. Previously 0-3 in state championship games, Lake Oswego captured its first Oregon Class 6A title with conviction. The Lakers didn't just beat Sheldon, they pummeled it: They won 47-14, outscored the favored Irish 30-0 in the second half and didn't punt the entire game. Running back Steven Long was unstoppable. The Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year ran for 322 yards and four touchdowns, bettering his season totals to 2,205 yards and 37 scores.
After averaging 46.4 points over five playoff games, the Lakers proved they can contend with anyone. That's reflected in the rankings below: Oswego (No. 24) cracked the Top 25 for the first time all season.
Archbishop Wood knows how to run the football. In the outrageous statistic of the week, The Vikings registered 568 rushing yards -- 365 in the first half -- in a 70-14 beatdown of Allentown Central Catholic. Wood advances to the Pennsylvania Class 3A finals, where it'll meet blue-chip defensive end Noah Spence and Bishop McDevitt.
Following several crucial outcomes, a trio of tantalizing matchups have emerged in the Florida Class 6A, 7A and 8A finals.
• 6A: Armwood (14-0) vs. Miami Central (13-0). Armwood's attack has appeared unstoppable of late, accumulating 121 points in four postseason games. Central's offense has been equally dangerous, with sophomore wunderkind Joseph Yearby upping his season totals to 2,059 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns. Expect a high-scoring affair -- and the winner to likely secure a spot in the national Top 10.
• 7A: Manatee (12-2) vs. First Coast (13-0). Since losing two of its first three games to Good Counsel and Don Bosco Prep, Manatee has allowed an average of just 10.8 points. First Coast averages 34.8, boasting the state's top receiving corps in Alabama-bound Chris Black, Troy-bound Brandon Brooks and Elon-bound Justin Osborne. A classic could be brewing -- and something's got to give.
• 8A: Miramar (13-0) vs. Plant (13-1). After taking care of business in their respective semifinals, two of Florida's premier quarterbacks clash in the 8A title game. Miramar's Cam Hudge (2,426 passing yards, 27 touchdowns) and Plant's James Few (2,462 passing yards, 29 touchdowns) share nearly identical numbers, and both look to cap sensational seasons with prep football's ultimate prize.
Here is the updated Top 25, with Grayson, Westlake Carroll and Miami Norland on the rise. All 25 finish their seasons following next week's slate of games.