August 16, 2010

Instant Analysis: Best games from California

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com 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.

In the fourth of an eight-part tour we look at the best games inside the state lines of California.

We have already profiled the best in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Ohio.

We will still take a look at the best games in Florida and Texas as well as the "Best of the Rest" from east and west of the Mississippi River before the games really fire up on Aug. 20.

California: Top 10 games for the 2010 football season
10. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian vs. Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure
Sept. 17 at Oaks Christian
The public outcry can be put to rest early. Gone are the days of the guaranteed wins for Oaks Christian in the Tri-Valley league. Enter some legitimate competition from teams in the Marmonte. The new league schedule kicks off with one of the tougher teams in the league, St. Bonaventure. The Seraphs will not be in awe of Hollywood High's star power, as they bring a pair of Division I players and a couple of Division II players to the field themselves. Look for Cody Kurz and Jalen Jefferson to have St. Bonaventure ready to play.

9. Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame vs. Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Sept. 3 at Notre Dame
Taking this season's title of "hyped California team without much competition" will be Gardena Serra. The Mission League is not chalk full of strong opponents and so, to beef up its resume in hopes of landing a legitimate CIF Bowl, the team has added Notre Dame and Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne. The game with Notre Dame opens the season and could be a nice balance of power game in the Southern Section. The talent is vastly in favor of Serra with five-star George Farmer and a pair of four-stars in Jason Gibson and Marqise Lee. While Notre Dame is not devoid of talent, they certainly will struggle to line up "mano y mano" and go at Serra in this one.

8. Norco (Calif.) High vs. Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
Sept. 10 at Norco
They say that timing is everything, and that is one of the key points of intrigue in this game. Crenshaw enters the year at No. 2 in California and No. 13 in the nation, but will be returning from a cross-country trip to take on Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett the week before. The team will likely be facing some level of jetlag, a short week of practice, and then will have a near 50-mile bus ride past Chino to take on Norco. The Cougars should have the talent advantage on the field, with all-everything running back De'Anthony Thomas, but Norco gave this squad all it wanted last year in a 47-44 Crenshaw win at Crenshaw. This looks like a prime candidate for an upset in the making.

7. Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral vs. Corona (Calif.) Centennial
Sept. 24 at Chaparral
Chaparral enters the season as the No. 13 team in California and just outside of the RivalsHigh 100. Centennial comes in with a No. 4 ranking in state and No. 20 nationally. Some say those two rankings may need to be flipped and this is a great game to weigh those two opinions. In what should be a very good game, the highlight will be the matchup of the Centennial offense, led by three-star quarterback Michael Eubank, against the Pumas defense and San Diego State commit Darius Guillory. It isn't that the two teams don't like one another, but this is an early battle for supremacy in the Inland.

6. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian vs. Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake
Oct. 1 at Oaks Christian
This is the put-up or shut-up game for Westlake. The team went undefeated last year but did not earn much respect nationally for its accomplishment, even ranking below its same city counterpart. This year, the two square off for city bragging rights as well as the early lead in the Marmonte league. Oaks Christian has the higher profile players with Trevor Gretzky (son of Wayne Gretzky) and Trey Smith (son of actor Will Smith), but they may not have the quality in terms of depth that Westlake will be able to play with. Westlake, most likely, won't be able to play the underdog card as it enters the season No. 7 in the state, two spots ahead of Oaks Christian.

5. Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei vs. Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
Oct. 29 at Angel Stadium
This is a very large stage for two of the top teams in the Anaheim area, as both teams enter the year ranked in the Top 10 in California. Both teams will have some navigating to do to enter this game undefeated, as Servite also plays Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison and Chaparral before this game and Mater Dei will entertain Centennial, Edison, and Orange (Calif.) Lutheran. That said, this game should be a fairly entertaining aerial display as two of the best pass-catching targets nationally will be on the field. Four-star Victor Blackwell for Mater Dei and 6-foot-7 Troy Niklas for Servite will trade showcase opportunities in very different ways. Blackwell can stretch the field while Niklas is nearly undefendable in close to the end zone.

4. Corona (Calif.) Centennial vs. Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Sept. 17 at Centennial
This game may not be a "bigger" or "better" game than that between Servite and Mater Dei, or even Centennial and Chaparral for that matter, but it is first and thus it is very important to the status of the other two games. Whichever team loses this game will be behind the eight-ball with very difficult schedules awaiting them. Corona enters the season No. 4 in California and No. 20 nationally, while Mater Dei enters No. 6 in California and No. 31 nationally. This game looks to be a defense-optional game on paper, with both teams being led by very dynamic quarterbacks. The headliner here will be the quarterback from "Heisman High," Max Wittek. Wittek is yet another polished and prized quarterback to come from Coach Rollinson. He is already committed to USC, as is his main weapon in Victor Blackwell.

3. Folsom (Calif.) High vs. Sacramento (Calif.) Grant
Aug. 27 at Folsom
This early season game could be a defining moment for both teams. Grant is coming off a disappointing third-round 21-19 playoff loss to Rocklin (Calif.) High. Likewise, Folsom suffered a tough 43-42 third-round playoff loss to Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro. Both teams have been counting the days to get back on the field and put that memory behind them. One of the two will be on a two-game losing streak at the end and most likely out of the national rankings picture. The strength of Grant is undoubtedly its defense with two four-star players, Viliamia Moala and James Sample, and two three-star players, Puka Lopa and Darryl Paulo. Folsom counters with a high-octane offense led by All-Sacramento quarterback Dano Graves and weapons Jordan Richards, Kori Babineaux, and Tyler Trosin.

2. Concord (Calif.) De La Salle vs. Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
Sept. 25 at De La Salle
There are very few out-of-state measurement games this year following a year when more major California teams made trips than ever before. However, the top team in the Northern California will take on the No. 1 team in Nevada. While we do not believe in the transitive property of football, it will be good to compare these two teams with the performance of Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton who also takes on Bishop Gorman. Gorman was one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation in 2009 and, while the Gaels do lose a lot of players, their philosophy will be similar. De La Salle is always a team to consider for national rankings and a solid team to take California stock in. This year they should be stronger on offense but will have a good core of defensive players returning, including linebacker Blake Renaud, a Boise State commit, and Dylan Wynn, an Oregon State commit.

1. Long Beach (Calif.) Poly vs. Mission Viejo (Calif.) High
Sept. 24 at Poly
Mission Viejo, despite a solid 2009 finish and national ranking, did not figure into the preseason RivalsHigh 100. With a win in its opening game against Bothell (Wash.) High, combined with either Grant or Folsom falling out after week one, the Diablos will likely be ranked by the time this game rolls around in week four. Also, despite finishing 7-5 and unranked nationally, Poly gained plenty of national attention with its No. 2 national ranking entering the season. The team returns nine starters on both sides of the ball and has a solid reputation. This game will, most likely, be its biggest challenge to that ranking. Of course, the Jackrabbits have to get past St. Bonaventure and Narbonne before this game. So nothing is a given. Bob Johnson has worked with many of the best players nationally in his time at Mission Viejo, so his offense should be clicking despite being a defensively-led squad.

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