Strength of Schedule: As if playing high school football in "the state of Miami" isn't difficult enough, Miami Central assembled a non-league slate that would probably make the prominent college teams in Florida blush. Miami is one of the most fertile areas for athletic talent in the United States, and Central has plenty of it, but the Rockets chose to schedule three of the nation's top teams for its first three games of the season. And these aren't teams that "might" be among the nation's best. Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) and Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) are again the top two teams in this week's edition of Power Rankings, and sandwiched between those games was this past Friday's matchup against last week's No. 6 Booker T. Washington.
After struggling in a 35-3 loss against Grayson last week, Central had to rebound and prepare for a high-profile tilt against Washington at Sun Life Stadium. Washington demolished Central's league rival, Carol City, one week earlier while Central was bowled over by Robert Nkemdiche and the Rams.
The Rockets must not merely be athletic, but a resilient bunch as well.
Despite struggling in the first half, Central began lining up its star running back, Joseph Yearby, at quarterback, and the Rockets zipped to a 37-26 win over Washington. Running back Dalvin Cook summarized his team and himself quite succinctly.
"I'm fast," Cook told reporters after the game. "I don't know why, but I am just fast."
He is. So are the aptly named Rockets, but they'll need more than just speed when they take on the No. 1 team in the nation, Manatee, next week.
Patriots Exterminate Plant: While the high school football hierarchy changes annually, John Curtis somehow manages to keep its name in the mix. No matter which teams have the top talent, the Patriots always seem to emerge as one of the nation's top squads.
This year is no different.
Curtis demolished Plant (Tampa, Fla.) 33-3 in the All-State Sugar Bowl Prep Classic in a big matchup between two of the nation's top teams -- though only one of them looked the part by the time the game was over. Curtis executed its signature veer offense to near perfection while suffocating the Panther offense. Plant was held to 194 total yards of offense and 45 yards rushing on 31 carries. Curtis, meanwhile, rolled up 220 rushing yards and enjoyed a 27-3 lead at halftime.
Minnesota Nice: Osseo (Minn.) will probably not be mentioned among the top high school teams in the country this season, but captain Kevin Curwick earned the Orioles some national press over the past month. And all it took was a random act of kindness.
Unsettled by a series of vitriolic posts on Twitter, Curwick started a campaign labeled "Osseo Nice Things" intended to combat cyberbullying. Curwick stated that he wanted all new students to feel welcome at Osseo and that he noticed a series of increasingly negative barbs circulating on Twitter. So Curwick launched his campaign, one that he initially planned to keep quiet. In doing so, Curwick may have (at least temporarily) curtailed the perception of the towel-snapping, icy-hot-in-the-freshman's-jock-strap meathead football captain.
Curwick and the Orioles may not be as nice on the field; the Orioles are 2-0.
And now to the rankings:
Previous rank: 1
Last game: Won 49-7 over Riverview (Sarasota, Fla.)
Next Game: vs. Central (Miami)
We've already expounded about the quality of Manatee's offense, and at this point you should expect that the Hurricanes will take one quarter to put the game away. Manatee has had one quarter in each of its first three games (including the preseason matchup with Osceola) where it has logged at least 21 points. Now, the Hurricanes get Miami Central, who is fresh off of the aforementioned victory over Washington. There's your game of the week if you couldn't already tell.
Previous rank: 2
Last game: Bye
Next game: @ Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.)
Robert Nkemdiche and the rest of the Rams didn't have an opponent to batter this week. They return to action next weekend against a Parkview side that has scored three points all season.
Previous rank: 3
Last game: Won 55-0 over Trabuco Hills (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
Next game: vs. Carson (Calif.)
Star quarterback Johnny Stanton was at it again, throwing for three touchdowns and running for two more in a 55-0 annihilation of a Trabuco Hills side that came into the game with a 2-0 record. The Eagles should be able to pad the stats next week against winless Carson side, but a major non-league game against St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.,) awaits on Sept. 21.
Previous rank: 7
Last game: Won 33-3 over Plant (Tampa, Fla.)
Next game: vs. East St. John (Reserve, La.)
The Patriots get the big bump for such a dominating performance against another one of the nation's top teams. Rolling up yards in the running game and playing positively staunch defense means Curtis moves up as it enters league play.
Previous rank: 5
Last game: Won 35-7 over Bothell (Wash.)
Next game: @ Sammamish (Bellevue, Wash.)
After its big win over Trinity (Euless, Texas), Bellevue took a 35-0 halftime lead and coasted to an easy win over Bothell. The Wolverines should have another easy victory this coming weekend against city rival Sammamish; the Totems lost 55-0 to Pierce (Tacoma, Wash.), on Friday.
Previous rank: 4
Last game: Won 37-34 over Martin (Arlington, Texas)
Next game: @ Bowie (Arlington, Texas)
The Raiders put on another offensive show, but the questions on defense persist after another weak performance. Skyline has now allowed 62 points in its first two games of the season, and it gets a high-flying Bowie side next week. The Volunteers are coming off of a loss, but they have scored 126 points in their first three games.
Previous rank: 10
Last game: Won 30-13 over Mullen (Denver, Colo.)
Next game: vs. Saint Mary's (Stockton, Calif.)
Even with a difficult challenge from the 14-time Colorado state champion, the Spartans performed with their typical style and grace and eased to a big victory at home. It's rare that De La Salle even appears to struggle, so they get a bump for the second straight week for dominating on both sides of the football.
Previous rank: 8
Last game: Bye
Next game: vs. Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.)
First the Gaels hosted a team from Maryland, then they traveled to Hawaii; they probably deserved the week off. They'll need it; Gorman awaits the arrival of Bergen Catholic, the top team in New Jersey, this weekend.
Previous rank: 9
Last week: Won 32-28 over Northwestern (Rock Hill, S.C.)
Next game: vs. Clinton (S.C.)
In what may have been the biggest game in South Carolina all season, Byrnes fended off fellow Palmetto State powerhouse Northwestern, 32-28, in a high-scoring affair. While quarterback Shuler Bentley and receiver Akia Booker have provided most of the Byrnes offense this season, the Rebels got a sizable contribution from wideout Greg McHam, who went whole hog on Friday with four touchdown catches.
Previous rank: NR
Last week: Won 37-26 over Booker T. Washington (Miami)
Next game: @ Manatee
It may seem a tad ridiculous to bring the Rockets back into the rankings after dropping them all the way out last week, but it's important to recognize the impressive second half comeback and defeat of last week's sixth-ranked side. Don't look now, however; Central must pull off a major coup and beat top-ranked Manatee this week to save their spot in the top ten.
Next five: Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.), Trinity (Louisville), Lake Travis (Austin), Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.), St. Ignatius (Cleveland)
Dropped Out: No. 6 Booker T. Washington (Miami)