The high school football season is headed down the homestretch towards the playoffs and teams are seperating themselves each week. This week brings some high profile measuring stick game for the tenth week of Weekend Watch 2009.
In Texas, two district foes will be battling for the title and for RivalsHigh 100 ranking. As the current No. 31 The Woodlands will go into battle Lufkin, a team that is 5-0 against The Woodlands since they both joined the same division.
Lufkin, which won last year's game, 15-13, is rolling, coming off a 51-20 victory last week. It will look to star quarterback Deauntre Smiley. The Woodlands counter with star running back Daniel Lasco, who leads the district in rushing.
Both teams will look to the sky, as well. The forecast is for a temperature in the low 50s with a chance of rain.
Another good matchup is taking place in Ohio as perennial powers as No. 13 Moeller meets up with No. 62 St. Xavier.
St. Xavier, perhaps the best two-loss team in the country, could become the best three-loss team in the land if it doesn't figure out a way to handle Moeller linebacker Marcus Rush.
And there's always a big game in Florida. This week is no exception.
Manatee and Venice square off in a measuring stick game for both teams before the playoff runs begin.
How Manatee handles Venice quarterback Trey Burton, one of the top dual-threat QBs in the state, could be the difference.
WHEN: Friday, October 30th 7:30 pm LAST MEETING: 11/1/08, Lufkin won 15-13.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Woodlands Highlanders enter Friday's game with an 8-0 record and a No. 5 state ranking. In 2008, the Panthers stunned the undefeated and state ranked Highlanders 15-13. Last week the Lufkin Panthers' offense came out firing on all cylinders easing past College Park, 51-20. Lufkin's Deauntre Smiley had his best day as a Panther completing all 19 of his passes, throwing for 239 yards and three touchdowns. Smiley ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. It was Lufkin's best performance since a 28-14 win over the Longview Lobos earlier this season. Keep an eye on what offense shows up for the Panthers. In week eight, The Woodlands rose above its mistakes, four turnovers - three of them occurring in the first quarter, to pull away from Conroe High for a 55-21 victory. Those types of miscues would cost the Highlanders against this Lufkin squad. This is one of the most intense rivalries in the district.
STAR POWER: Both teams are always loaded with talent. The Highlanders rely on Junior running back Daniel Lasco, the district's leading rusher, who pushed his season total to 1,217 yards with 148 hard-earned yards against Conroe High's defense. The Panthers will have to hold Lasco in check to have a chance at the victory. The Woodlands' offense starts on the LOS with big Alabama commit, Chad Lindsay. John Outlaw's Panthers counter with the hot handed quarterback Deauntre Smileywho spreads the ball around. Last week the Panthers had five receivers that had two or more receptions but his favorite target is Quinn Trimble who had six receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns last week. Lufkin's defense is led by Texas commit, defense back, Carrington Byndom.
BEST MATCHUP: The matchup to watch starts on the LOS. If the Lufkin defense holds up against one of the state's most physical offensive lines and if they can put pressure on Highlander quarterback, Trent Eckel, who threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns against Conroe, they have the opportunity for a win. There are playmakers on both sides of the ball but it will come down to defense and special teams to make the big plays.
PREDICTION: Lufkin is 5-0 against the Highlanders since the teams joined the same district in 2004. The Panthers have not lost since the season opener against state ranked John Tyler. You can throw out the stats and past game comparisons, the coaching staffs know each other well, this showdown will decide the district championship, Texas high school football at its finest, what else do you need?
The Woodlands' Lasco is certainly looking forward to the big game.
"That (game) has been circled on our calendar ever since the beginning of the season," Lasco said. "We got through Katy, now it's time for Lufkin. So we're going to go down there and do the best we can."
The weather could be a difference maker with rain chances around 40% and temperatures in the low 50's at kickoff.
Take the Panthers at home in the BIG upset: Lufkin 31, The Woodlands 28
WHEN: Saturday 10/31, 7:30 pm
LAST MEETING: 11/24/08, Moeller defeated St. X 17-14.
KEEP AN EYE ON: It is time to pass the torch at St. Xavier. When Luke Massa and Matt James were sophomores they were asked to come up big down the stretch during the Bombers' state championship run in '07. Now they need to instill those leadership skills into sophomore running back Connor Hundley, linebacker Nate Gerbus and freshman wide receiver Kevin Milligan if they are to contend for another title. St. Xavier could very easily be undefeated had they taken better care of the football against #22 Highlands (KY) and #10 Cleveland St. Ignatius. It is imperative that they hold on to the football against the relentless pressure defense that they will face on Saturday.
PLAYER'S TO WATCH: Moeller linebacker Marcus Rush, a Michigan State commit, has a knack for coming up with big plays in big games. The senior has 19 sacks, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries in his last 19 games. Teammate Nick Galvin has 15.5 sacks in the last 17 Crusaders' contests. The St. Xavier offensive line will have their hands full trying to protect their quarterback. On the opposite side of the field, Moeller has not asked Notre Dame-bound Andrew Hendrix win a game with his arm because their ground game has been so solid.
BEST MATCHUP: The Moeller defensive line has gotten push off the ball all season long. The Crusaders are giving up just 3.3 yards per carry and 16 points per tilt. Opponents have only converted 33 percent of their third downs. The St. Xavier offense has averaged little more than that on the season. The Bombers will need to find ways to stretch the field vertically. They will need to neutralize the Crusaders pass rush with a solid ground game in order to give Massa enough time to throw.
PREDICTION: Almost like clockwork this decade the best team in the GCL South each year seems to be the one that most mirrors their head coach on the way to the state final four. This year the Crusaders are a spitting image of head coach John Rodenberg. They are a workman-like, crisp, clean cut, efficient, no nonsense group. Those characteristics could very easily propel them to the title. Moeller is a team that is driven to make their place in school history and that focus will lead them to victory. Moeller 21, St. Xavier 13
WHEN: Friday 10/30, 7:00 pm LAST SEASON: 10/31/08, Venice won 31-16.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Venice QB Trey Burton. You won't find too prospects playing at the level of Burton. The versatile dual threat quarterback has shown he can hit the big homerun ball with TE Beckett Wales, and everyone knows about his ability in open space. Preparing to even slow down Burton has been a challenge with the star quarterback averaging nearly 100 yards on the ground in the past three outings, which include a 31-28 win over Charlotte one of the top teams out of the Southwest Florida area. Last year it was the Venice Indians who stole the show as Burton, along with senior tailback Dre Archer carved up the Hurricanes defense en route to a 31-16 win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Pick your poison on either side of the field as this game is loaded with game breakers. For the Venice Indians it all starts with the ever elusive Trey Burton. The 6-foot-3, 203 pound quarterback runs like a deer but with the strength of a tank between the tackles. Not even Charlotte could slow down Burton. However, the four-star quarterback is hardly a one man show with RB Justin Grant back in the mix for the Indians. OL Brian O'Leary who just committed to UAB this past weekend anchors the line. Manatee is equal to the challenge with a pair of stars of their own in QB Brion Carnes a 6-foot, 181 pound standout who has given his verbal commitment to South Florida. Carnes a strong armed right hander is deadly through the air, and his top weapon has to be slot receiver Ace Sanders who has started to move up everyone's want list on the college front.
BEST MATCH-UP: The top match-up this weekend will be between the stellar defensive front of Venice against the explosive pass happy wide open attack of Brion Carnes and the passing game. Two weeks ago we saw the Indians force four turnovers against QB Kyle Midgett and Charlotte could the same hold true for Carnes? The biggest factor could be how well that offensive line for Manatee holds up early in the contest. In the past three weeks the Hurricanes have struggled to get in sync with their offense. In contrast the Indians have dominated the competition with stellar play from defensive lineman Clay Burton, and Brock Wilkenson.
PREDICTION When these two teams hook up you can really truly throw the records out of the window. This game almost never goes as expected as turnovers have played a big role into the decision of the past four meetings. Last year the Indians won that battle. I think when you breakdown this match-up however the inability of Manatee to stop the run is the big difference maker for Venice. The Manatee defense hasn't given us any indication that this will change so with that factor you have to give the Indians the edge again in this key district match-up that will decide the district title. However, while Round one goes to Venice this could be only a prelude to an even bigger battle in late November when the playoffs begin. Venice 31 Manatee 21