Top H.S. teams separate from pack
Four weeks into the 2011 season, the high school hierarchy is starting to take shape. Pretenders have been exposed. Sleepers have started to emerge. Many teams have already claimed quality out-of-state wins, bolstering resumes for this year's title bid.
Sure, it's early. But as conference play creeps closer, the top tier is separating itself from the pack. And if last week was any indication, Don Bosco Prep, St. Thomas Aquinas and Allen could still be making championship cases well into December.
California powerhouse Mission Viejo traveled 2,800 miles for its out-of-state clash with Don Bosco on Saturday. More than 10,000 fans packed Granatell Stadium to watch. Anticipation finally bred action, and when all was said and done, Bosco proved it's every bit as good as advertised.
The Ironmen cruised 35-7 in a game they dominated from the outset. The defense justified its lofty hype, tallying five sacks and four interceptions. The running attack, spearheaded by bruising junior John Wilkins, rumbled for 208 yards and five scores. "We got our (butts) kicked," Viejo coach Bob Johnson admitted to reporters after the game.
However improbably, Bosco may be even better than imagined. And with standout performances from Wilkins, Jabrill Peppers (two rushing touchdowns), Kyle Sakowski (two interceptions) and Isaiah Hill (51 receiving yards), it showed it's far deeper than simply a quartet of U.S. Army All-Americans.
Following a 34-0 win over Cypress Bay, its second straight thrashing of a top 100 opponent, Aquinas has cemented itself as a national force. Running backs Fred Coppet and Dami Ayoola combined for 188 yards and four touchdowns. The defense stifled the Lightning from start to finish. Aquinas looked every bit as polished as it did against Prattville two weeks ago, and perhaps no team has notched two more impressive victories.
That's a scary thought. If the Raiders can win subsequent contests against California's De La Salle (Sept. 23) and Florida's Miramar (Oct. 6), additional top 50 foes, they could potentially supplant Don Bosco as national title frontrunners.
Quarterback Alec Morris has officially put his early season struggles behind him. The 6-3 gunslinger dissected Longview's defense -- a unit that allowed 20.6 points per game last season -- for 365 yards and five touchdowns, adding another score with his legs. He's established a dangerous rapport with wideout Andrew Rodriguez, who hauled in 11 passes for 212 yards and two scores, his second 200-yard game of the year.
Most striking was Allen's efficiency without Missouri commit Jonathan Williams, who missed his second straight game with back spasms. He rushed for 2,078 and 19 touchdowns last season and should bolster an already prolific attack upon his return.
For as good as the Hawks have been in 2011 -- 2-0 with convincing victories over Bishop Gorman and Brandon -- they could soon get significantly better. Matt Jones, Armwood's injured four-star running back, is slated to return next week against Tampa Bay Tech. That could spell trouble for opponents already struggling to stop the Hawks: Jones rushed for 1,300 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2010.
All aboard the Travis Wright bandwagon. The junior quarterback was brilliant for the third consecutive game, picking apart Elder's defense for 177 yards and three touchdowns. His three game totals are listed below.
The rest of the offense wasn't bad, either. The Shamrocks racked up 586 yards in Friday's rout, and have now outscored opponents a whopping 167-35.
Trinity was largely inconsistent during last week's 34-17 win over Abilene, raising several questions about the Trojans' staying power. Can the offense limit costly turnovers? Is the team becoming complacent following a state title in '09 and 15-1 record last year?
Silence those doubts. Trinity played a near perfect game in Friday's 64-0 demolition of Richland.
The Trojans led 48-0 at the half. Joel Kimpela -- emerging as one of Texas' top tailbacks -- rushed for 115 yards and four touchdowns. The defense allowed just 59 total yards and four first downs.
They even looked the part: Trinity is the first high school program to don
Harrison's headliners all impressed during Friday's rout of Stoney Creek -- Gairus Coleman and Devin Funchess had receiving touchdowns, Mario Ojemudia blocked a punt for a safety -- but the performance of the night belonged to senior Jake Vento. He went 9-of-10 passing for 230 yards, contributing three total touchdowns (two passing, one receiving) in the 37-0 win. His versatility betters a Hawks offense that, when healthy, has as many weapons as any in the nation.
Problem is, Harrison won't soon have a chance to prove it. Over the next three weeks, it plays Oxford, Southfield-Lathrup (Mich.) and Oak Park (Mich.), cupcakes that went a combined 6-21 in 2010.
Is it unfair to dock De La Salle three spots following a bye week? Perhaps. But here are the facts: The Spartans underwhelmed in a last-gasp 26-23 double overtime win against Bellarmine Prep. Trinity (Ky.), Trinity (Texas) and Harrison -- the trio of teams that jumped De La Salle -- won by a combined 157-7 this week. Until Bart Houston and Co. show that they can consistently beat the best, they'll hover near the bottom of the top 10.
Their ascent might not take long. The Spartans play St. Mary's and St. Thomas Aquinas in the coming two weeks, programs that both won at least 11 games each of the past three seasons.
Good Counsel proved that it's deeper than just Stefon Diggs in Saturday's 26-21 win over Gillman, the Falcons' second over a top 30 opponent in as many weeks. While the multifaceted senior was held relatively in check (two catches, 39 yards; four rushes, 23 yards), others, particularly running back Wes Brown, rose to the occasion. His 40-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth served as the eventual game-winner.
The defense also deserves recognition. A week after forcing Manatee (Fla.) into a turnover on downs in double overtime, it secured another dramatic victory by stuffing Gillman's Cyrus Jones, a five-star recruit, on fourth-and-one at the six-yard line with just 2:50 remaining.
Few league rivalries are as one-sided as the one between Prattville and Robert E. Lee. Counting this week's result, the Lions have now won each of the past 12 meetings, outscoring the Generals 407-71 since 2000. Friday was no different: Prattville won 43-7, and led 21-0 before nine minutes had ticked off the clock.
The secondary was especially dominant: Both Lawon Debardelaben and De'Ante Lawrence had interception returns for touchdowns.
Aledo's defense hasn't mirrored his success. It has surrendered 117 points over three games, and is largely responsible for the Bearcats -- Texas 4A champs in 2010 -- 1-2 start.