Thanksgiving is a time for food, family and, perhaps most importantly, football. And not just in the NFL. This weekend's high school playoffs are equally full of intrigue, featuring a slate of games that should clear the national title picture. Here are 10 to keep an eye on.
The status of Trinity wide receiver James Quick remains uncertain, as he injured his knee in the fourth quarter of last week's victory. With or without him, the Shamrocks should roll. Trinity hasn't lost a post-Thanksgiving game in the Bob Beatty era (10-0) and should overpower Butler on the ground. Dalyn Dawkins' last two playoff games: 39 carries, 350 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
The pick: Trinity 49, Butler 7
Tune in to Thursday's early, early game, a 10:30 a.m. showdown between Don Bosco and St. Joseph. A rematch of last year's Turkey Day showdown -- a 42-7 Bosco rout -- the result should be the same. Though the Green Knights are stronger, running back Jabari Garvin (948 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns) has yet to face a front like Don Bosco's. Jabrill Peppers and the Ironmen offense are clicking at the right time.
The pick: Don Bosco 35, St. Joseph Regional 17
One week after dominating Dorman, the Indians face Boiling Springs, another familiar Class 4A foe. Since their meeting on Aug. 19 -- a 47-0 Gaffney shutout -- the Bulldogs have gone 10-2, outscoring opponents by more than 12 points per game. It may not matter. If Joey Copeland, Quinshad Davis and Gaffney's ball-hawking defense keep playing like they have, they'll secure a spot in the state title game -- and a likely showdown with last year's defending champ, Byrnes.
The pick: Gaffney 40, Boiling Springs 7
Coming off its worst outing of the season, one in which it allowed 361 yards and three touchdowns, Katy's defense looks to rebound. That could spell trouble for a La Porte, a team that has struggled to score in stints. The Tigers roll to the 5A Division 2 quarterfinals, benefiting from another stat-stuffing performance from freshman Rodney Anderson.
The pick: Katy 41, La Porte 6
After silencing a high-powered Allen offense, the Trojans prepare for an equally dangerous Martin unit. The similarities are striking: Allen averaged 41 points per game. Martin averages more than 44.
If we learned anything from last Saturday's clash, it's that Trinity -- led by linebacker Brian Nance -- has the talent to slow even the most explosive attacks. The Warriors won't go quietly, but the Trojans advance. Joel Kimpela is the difference.
The pick: Trinity 31, Martin 20
With two-time defending champion Butler out of the picture, it'd seem that Mallard Creek should cruise to the Class 4AA title. Not exactly. Page is unmistakably talented, boasting James Summers, an N.C. State-bound quarterback, and Jacob Green, a D-I caliber defensive end. The Mavericks move on, but just barely. Jela Duncan -- running behind five-star lead-blocker D.J. Humphries -- is too much to handle down the stretch.
The pick: Mallard Creek 45, Page 28
Don't be fooled by Cypress Bay's three losses. All three have come to quality Florida opponents: St. Thomas Aquinas, Miramar and Manatee. But the combined score of those three games -- 75-0 -- is troubling. Cornerback Tracy Howard and the Patriots' D keep the Lightning in check, and D'Vontis Arnold and the running game find the end zone enough to win.
The pick: Miramar 24, Cypress Bay 3
Camden County's 23 quarter scoreless streak finally ended last week, with Marietta managing a touchdown in the fourth. But the Wildcats' stats are staggering: They haven't allowed a double-digit point total since Sept. 30 and have racked up 28 sacks, including 10 from defensive end Vincent Hollerman. A fast-developing Colquitt County team hangs around early -- the Packers improved from 2-8 to 10-2 since MTV
The pick: Camden County 34, Colquitt County 10
After outscoring opponents 500-107 through 11 games, Carmel knocked off its last three foes by four, two and four points, respectively. That's not a bad thing. The contests taught the Greyhounds to thrive under pressure, experiences that should prove crucial against unbeaten Penn. In a back-and-forth contest, Big Ten commits Langston Newton, Shawn Heffern and Jimmy Herman outlast the Kingsmen in the Class 5A championship at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The pick: Carmel 24, Penn 17
Hamilton owns the nation's longest winning streak, capturing 53 straight games dating back to '08. On Friday, the Huskies make it 54. Coach Steve Belles and Co. can cap their third consecutive perfect season in the Division I final against Desert Vista, an opponent they've already beaten. On Oct. 6, Hamilton thumped the Thunder 35-10, with four-star safety Reggie Daniels reeling in two interceptions.
The pick: Hamilton 31, Desert Vista 14
• Expect No. 5 Armwood and No. 6 Bishop Gorman to dominate. The Hawks handled Hillsborough (Fla.) 38-16 during their meeting on Oct. 20, while the Gaels have knocked off each of their Nevada opponents by a four-touchdown minimum. Both trends should continue this week.
• Look for No. 17 Bellevue and No. 24 Prattville to battle until the fourth quarter. Both play in their respective state semifinals. Their opponents -- Kamiakin (Wash.) and Central (Ala.) -- are a combined 22-2.
• Take note of two Ohio matchups, St. Ignatius-Whitmer and St. Xavier-Pickerington Central. The winners meet in the Division I finals -- and likely challenge for a spot in the Top 25.
• Recruiting update: Ohio State landed its first five-star recruit in the class of 2012, adding Taft (Ohio) defensive end Adolphus Washington. The 6-5, 250-pounder is Luke Fickell's biggest commit to date -- and a reminder that the Buckeyes are still a contender for top talent.
• Add another milestone to the career of Johnathan Gray. Aledo's prolific running back passed the career 10,000-yard mark in last week's
• Rivalry to watch: Union (Okla.) meets Jenks (Okla.) in the Class 6A semifinals, a rematch of Union's 41-19 victory on Sept. 9. Their history goes deeper. The Sooner State powers have clashed in every championship since '06, with Union taking three of the past four. Expect another hard-hitting classic, and ultimately, another Redskins' triumph.