August 13, 2010

Instant Analysis: Best games in Pennsylvania

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to and follow him on Twitter.

High school football is upon us. The games have started in Alaska and are set to kickoff all around the country.

The RivalsHigh100 football rankings have been released and the top players have been named.

The only thing left to do is take a trip around the country to check out some of the best games.

We start the eight-part tour in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania and the best 10 games that will take place inside the state lines.

We will also look at the best games in California, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas before the games really fire up on Aug. 20.

Pennsylvania: Top 10 games for the 2010 football season
10. Bridgeville (Pa.) Chartiers Valley vs. Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson
Oct. 8 at Chartiers Valley
There are many in the state who thinks that Chartiers Valley could be a team to be reckoned with in AAA. Anyone who follows Pennsylvania football knows that Thomas Jefferson is always a team that is considered a threat to win it all. The two will meet mid-season in a Big Seven conference battle that will most likely decide who wins the league. By the time October rolls around, both teams should have a handle on what type of team they have. The contrasting styles - Chartiers Valley's spread versus Thomas Jefferson's power rushing attack - will make for a great game to see.

9. State College (Pa.) High vs. Harrisburg (Pa.) Central Dauphin
Oct. 29 at State College
One of the late season games in Pennsylvania that looks like it could have playoff-seeding implications will also be a revenge game. Central Dauphin topped State College, 24-22, at Landis Field early in 2009 when State College was dealing with a rash of injuries. This season, it is a late season game that will have plenty of intensity, as both teams could enter the game with two losses. The star power that this game had last year is slightly toned down, but Central offensive lineman Artie Rowell will have Pittsburgh fans tuning in.

8. Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson vs. Cocoa (Fla.) High
Sept. 4 at Woodland Hills
While this game does not have any major implications to the ultimate success of either team's season, it is a great measuring-stick game across state lines. Thomas Jefferson is a typical Western Pennsylvania AAA power while Cocoa is a two-time defending state champion in Florida looking for more national respect. The talent advantage would seem to favor Cocoa in this matchup, with the Tigers returning seven starters to its 3-3-5 style defense and one of the best running backs in Florida in Chevelle Buie. However, the travel from Florida to Pennsylvania is a long one and the game is being played at the Wolvarena - one of the most intimidating stadiums in the country - which could play into the hands of the Jaguars.

7. Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway vs McKeesport (Pa.) High
Oct. 29 at Gateway
This battle of WPIAL foes could lose a lot of the national luster by the time the game actually rolls around if Gateway is not able to recover from the loss of Dondi Kirby. If everything goes as planned, this game will be for the Foothills Conference title and will be played on the last weekend of the regular season. Gateway has two early season games that may be more intense, but the proximity of these two schools plus what may be on the line gives it the nod over the earlier season game between Gateway and Pittsburgh (Pa.) Penn Hills. McKeesport should be able to stop the running attack with its two big defensive linemen, Branden Jackson and Delvon Simmons, so the Gators may have to rely on a passing attack that has been inconsistent at best over the past three seasons with a proven quarterback - a luxury the team does not have this year.

6. Imperial (Pa.) West Allegheny vs Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell
Oct. 28 at West Allegheny
The two WPIAL teams enter the season as No. 2 and No. 3 in AAA and this game will be one that could determine the Parkway Conference title. Hopewell will be paced by Class of 2012 stud running back Rushel Shell and stopping the 6-foot, 210-pound phenom will be the key to the West A attack. Likely to shadow Shell will be Mike Caputo, a three-star safety at West Allegheny. Caputo recently committed to Wisconsin and is a physical safety that can make plays in the secondary or get his nose in on running plays. The teams split two games last season, with Hopewell winning the regular season game at home, 34-26, but losing in the WPIAL final at Heinz Field, 36-28. Figure there will be two battles between these two again.

5. Pittsburgh (Pa.) Woodland Hills vs Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee
Sept. 4 at Woodland Hills
This has the potential to be the signature game for the WPIAL and Pennsylvania football for the 2010 season with one of the best in Florida coming to play in a kickoff classic. Manatee gained national recognition with its upset win over then No.1-ranked Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas in the Class 5A playoffs and has a very good team coming back for the 2010 season being ranked No. 49 nationally in the RivalsHigh 100. Woodland Hills has most of its defense back this season and just narrowly missed being ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 but could certainly use this game as a springboard toward that end. With this game being played at night in the Wolvarena, there is a major home-field advantage for Woodland Hills. But, will that be enough to overcome what could be a talent disadvantage?

4. Manheim (Pa.) Manheim Central vs Selinsgrove (Pa.) High
Sept. 17 at Manheim Central
A non-conference game early in the season will square off a rematch of the state Class AAA finals from 2009, a game which Selinsgrove won 10-7. Selinsgrove enters this season at No. 1 in Class AAA with Manheim Central at No. 4. While neither team is loaded with national prospects, they both play very good high school football. Selinsgrove scored 680 points while only allowing 96 last year and the team brings back a handful of key players. Manheim Central, likewise, scored a bunch of points - 616 - and only allowed 177. Two very balanced teams from the Central/Eastern part of the state will give a preview to what may be a repeat of the finals.

3. Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt vs Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway
Sept. 4 at Bishop McDevitt
What was supposed to be an early season size-up of the top two teams in Pennsylvania has shifted in perception but still an equally important game. This was supposed to be Dondi Kirby versus Jameel Poteat. Supposed to be No. 1 versus No. 2. But an injury to Kirby has made this a game that McDevitt is expected to win. And a game that Gateway has to show up and play with its backs against the wall. McDevitt has high expectations for the season and plenty of talent on both sides of the ball to make those expectations a reality. Gateway has been the oh-so-close team from the WPIAL that gets the hype has not been able to back it up. This season, it will open with doubters and could use that to fuel a fire that has not been seen in recent years. Look for McDevitt to flex its muscles and show what the Mid-Penn Keystone Conference is all about.

2. Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph's Prep vs Wyndmoor (Pa.) LaSalle College High
Oct. 30 at St. Joseph's
The defending Quad A state champions in Pennsylvania will close out the year with a very difficult road trip to St. Joe's in what could determine the Philadelphia Catholic Conference title. The two teams split the games last season, with St. Joe's winning the regular season game and claiming the league title, 24-17, and LaSalle taking the second-round playoff game, 35-28, and eventually winning the state. While the Philly Catholic League is not as nationally recognized as the Cincinnati Catholic league, the football is very good and very similar. The teams enter the year with LaSalle as the No. 3-ranked team and St. Joe's at No. 6.

1. Lansdale (Pa.) North Penn vs Wyndmoor (Pa.) LaSalle College High
Sept. 3 at North Penn
The No. 1 game in the regular season for the Keystone state happens on the opening weekend of play as the No. 2 team, North Penn and the No. 3 team, LaSalle will do battle in a non-conference game. The two teams have not played this decade but the game should be extremely physical and fun to watch. North Penn may have the talent on their side of the field but recent success has to point to LaSalle. The two schools are only separated by 15 miles and should be a packed and rowdy crowd. North Penn was the favorite to win the PIAA Quad A last season but fell to Folsom (Pa.) Ridley and saw its season end in disappointment while LaSalle was able to hoist the crown. A battle of Eastern Pennsylvania teams could give an early hint to the balance of power. But a rematch in the playoffs is certainly a possibility.

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