The RivalsHigh100 national championship dreams of Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University and Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett came to an end with a pair of high profile losses in Week 9.
University School entered the weekend ranked No. 13 and had a real chance to chase the crown had it been able to finish out the season with an undefeated record. The path would have seen it go through No. 16 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, No. 4 Miami (Fla.) Central, and No. 1 Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington during the last month of play.
The Suns did not make it through the first turn as they fell in the national game of the week against Manatee, 28-24.
The game was billed as a test for University in the trenches -- while it had the speed advantage on the outside -- and the outcome proved the old axiom correct: Games are won on the line of scrimmage. Manatee ran the ball 61 times for 291 yards even as it fell behind by three scores early.
The first three drives of the game all resulted in touchdowns for University as it built a 21-0 lead, but over the next three quarters the Hurricanes would slowly climb back into the game before setting the final margin with just over six minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
University four-star quarterback Sean White finished the contest with 380 yards passing, while Manatee rode the legs of two-star running back Trevon Walters for 134 yards on 30 attempts and quarterback Josh Meyer for another 119 on 21 carries.
North Gwinnett would have had a much more difficult path to the RivalsHigh100 title as its stock was falling over the last three weeks -- one of which included a furious fourth quarter comeback to defeat Hoschton (Ga.) Mill Creek -- but its coffin was nailed shut as it was soundly beaten by Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill, 53-28.
The back-and-forth battle saw four lead changes but North Gwinnett was unable to sustain its offense in the second half as it lost two-star quarterback Hayden Sphire with an ankle injury when he was hit delivering an 80-yard touchdown to Nate Brown. The Bulldogs defense played well but junior QB replacement John Urzua was unable to protect the ball as Collins Hill won the final 20 minutes of the game, 19-3, to seal the contest.
Collins Hill had been on the fringe of the rankings the last three weeks and will move inside the RivalsHigh100, while North Gwinnett will fall from No. 11 to No. 64. With playoffs starting and the uncertain health of Sphire, it could be in danger of ending the season unranked after being considered the favorite for a Georgia Class AAAAAA title much of the year.
BACKING IN, AGAIN
This week there will be an eight-team turnover in the RivalsHigh100, and of the eight moving in, five are programs which were ranked at one point this season.
All five of the re-entries will come in between No. 96 and No. 100, keeping the revolving door moving at the back end of the national poll.
At No. 96 will be Brandon (Miss.) High which has been outside of the poll since a Week 7 loss to Petal (Miss.) High knocked it from the top spot in the state. It has since defeated Meridian (Miss.) High and Hattiesburg (Miss.) Oak Grove to reclaim its pole position. The game this week with Oak Grove was for the No. 1 placement within the state, and it knocked Oak Grove from No. 57 to outside of the rankings.
Broken Arrow (Okla.) and Bentonville (Ark.) High will re-enter at No. 97 and 98, respectively. The pair had been ranked in the 90s earlier in the season but fell out of the rankings following Week 4. Since that time both have solidified their places within the state rankings -- Broken Arrow at No. 3 in Oklahoma and Bentonville atop Arkansas -- and have been pulled back into the rankings as the teams they lost to continue to win and move up the rankings.
Bentonville was beaten by Broken Arrow, 24-17, and then fell to Euless (Texas) Trinity, 21-13. Broken Arrow owns its win over Bentonville but fell to Tulsa (Okla.) Union, 38-21, and Jenks (Okla.) High, 28-7. Both Trinity and Union have been slowly climbing the poll, and the crossover contests helped push the two other schools back into the picture.
Hilliard (Ohio) Davidson was a team that left the rankings after a victory and has been on the outside looking in since Week 1, but it is now 9-0 and could potentially earn the top seed in its region of the Ohio Division I playoffs due to the formula that the state uses. Davidson has historically been a team that does not impress when it gets off the bus but continues to win with quality high school football players, fundamentals and coaching. It is still No. 10 in Ohio according to the RivalsHigh100 and will be earning its place during the coming weeks.
The final spot in the poll went to Bowling Green (Kent.) High. The program had never been ranked higher than No. 97 in the three prior rankings periods and stunningly fell from the poll in Week 7 despite a 91-10 victory. The program has been the top team in Kentucky for five weeks, but the overall quality of the teams in the state is down this year and that has caused its ranking to buoy.
The other three teams entering will be Suwannee (Ga.) Collins Hill, Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge, and Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Oakland.
Leaving the RivalsHigh100 will be Santa Ana (Cali.) Mater Dei, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius, Oak Grove, Arlington (Texas) Martin, Anaheim (Cali.) Servite, Wilmette (Ill.) Loyola Academy, and Lake Zurich (Ill.) High.
There has been a season-long perception battle between trusted reporters, coaches and analysts regarding the landscape of quality football in California, and it is continuing as upsets and odd scores blister the rankings.
There has been little doubt that the top teams in the state have been -- in some order -- Bellflower (Cali.) St. John Bosco, Concord (Cali.) De La Salle, and Gardena (Cali.) Serra, and the three will be atop the state again.
The second tier has been pretty well narrowed to Folsom (Cali.) High from NorCal with Mission Viejo (Cali.) High and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly from SoCal. While several programs have bounced in and out of the discussion from the southern half of the state, none have displayed staying power.
From there it has become a mix of opinions, and it has caused the state to be stunted in its overall rankings.
Southern California features teams such as Santa Ana (Cali.) Mater Dei, Anaheim (Cali.) Servite; Newhall (Cali.) Hart; West Hills (Cali.) Chaminade; Westlake Village (Cali.) Oaks Christian;, Corona (Cali.) Centennial; and Mission Hills (Cali.) Alemany that have all either been ranked or discussed for a ranking.
Northern California may have fewer in numbers, but there is decent quality. San Mateo (Cali.) Serra nearly entered the poll this week despite having its worst performance since losing to De La Salle; Elk Grove (Cali.) lost to Elk Grove (Cali.) Franklin, crushing its bid to re-enter; Elk Grove (Cali.) Pleasant Grove won by five points against Carmichael (Cali.) Jesuit, which is a crossover game with Folsom, which won by 42; San Jose (Cali.) Archbishop Mitty was making a move upward but needed a blocked field goal to defeat Mountain View (Cali.) St. Francis in the closing seconds; and San Jose (Calif.) Bellarmine was defeated this weekend by San Jose (Cali.) Valley Christian.
As with many states, the playoffs will tell the final tale, but right now it looks as though the overall state is down this season, and it may not crack double-digit teams in the RH100 moving forward.
ESCAPES, INJURIES AFFECT RANKING
Granted, injuries are part of the game; but that doesn't make them any less difficult to deal with when ranking programs.
Historically the RivalsHigh100 has negatively adjusted the position within the poll for programs based on injuries and their projected impact. We also follow the fundamental belief that just winning is not good enough to hold a previous ranking due to the sheer number of teams across the country.
This week there will be several prime examples of both injury adjustment and performance penalties.
Katy (Texas) High was the highes-ranked program to take a slight slide this week as its star running back Rodney Anderson missed his fourth consecutive game with a foot injury. The team emptied its bench in beating Houston (Texas) Strake Jesuit, but even in victory it begged the question: Would Katy really be pushing toward the top 15 if it had a tougher schedule without Anderson?
The movement was not major as the Tigers dropped only from No. 17 to No. 19 and Miramar (Fla.) High and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas got a bump. The gap between Katy and the next two teams within the Greater Houston Area closed as Lamar (Texas) High moved to No. 20 from No. 22, and Houston (Texas) North Shore made a jump from No. 32 to No. 25.
It was a double whammy for Santa Ana (Cali.) Mater Dei this week as the previously ranked No. 31 program fell to Rancho Santa Margarita (Cali.) Santa Margarita on the field amd also saw the game end with running back Justin Allen on crutches. His injury status is unknown but will likely keep him out of the upcoming game with Bellflower (Cali.) St. John Bosco and pushed the program out of the RivalsHigh100.
A quartet of Georgia programs punctuate the situation -- both negatively and positively.
Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett had been on the downward trend with poor performances but this week fell to Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill and lost its quarterback -- Hayden Sphire. The team will drop from No. 11 to No. 64 and keep its status as a falling stock with the potential issue at quarterback.
Moultrie (Ga.) Colquitt County is still working without top players O'Shay Williams and Jamiyus Pittman on defense and it has struggled to find consistency on offense. This week it trailed Valdosta (Ga.) High into the fourth quarter before winning, 17-10. The team has lost only to Hoover (Ala.) High and could prove to be the best team in the state, but its performance and MASH unit keeps it ranked in the mid-40s.
Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County was one of the greatest droppers on the weekend as it fell from No. 59 to No. 86 after escaping against Brunswick (Ga.) High. The team trailed 12-3 at halftime before rallying to win 18-12, but it has a few too many performances like this for its inclusion in the top 50.
Norcross (Ga.) High was boosted back into the top 25 and to the top of the stat thanks to a fourth-quarter comeback. It drove 90 yards in 15 plays to knock off Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge, 24-20.
The win over a quality Peachtree Ridge program was a game that spoke to the quality of both teamsm and both moved up.
The complete RivalsHigh100 will be available Monday Oct. 28.