August 17, 2010

Instant Analysis: Best games from Texas

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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 fifth of an eight-part tour we look at the best games inside the state lines of Texas.

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

We will still take a look at the best games in Florida 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.

Texas: Top 10 games for the 2010 football season
10. Denison (Texas) High vs. Sherman (Texas) High
Oct. 22 at Denison
No matter the records of these two teams, this is one of the biggest games every year in Texas. It is even bigger when the teams are good - which both figure to be this year. The Battle of the Axe is the longest continuous rivalry in the state, having been played annually since 1931. Sherman leads the series 65-38-8. Denison won its third-straight last year, 43-28, but the Bearcats appear to be the stronger team entering this year's contest. As it is the Year of the Running Back in Texas, it figures that Sherman will lean on 5-foot-11, 200-pound Zach Whitfield in this contest.

9. Southlake (Texas) Carroll vs. Denton (Texas) Guyer
Nov. 5 at Carroll
For the first time in a long while, neither of these two teams enter the season in the RivalsHigh 100. Carroll checks in at No. 20 in our Texas rankings, while Guyer comes in at No. 25 in the state rankings - regardless of classification. Thanks to the UIL re-alignment moving Guyer back into Class 5A, this becomes a great District 7-5A game and one that could decide the winner of the district on the last week of the regular season. Oklahoma State commit J.W. Walsh will lead the Wildcats into the showdown against the Dragons - who are fighting to get back to elite status, entering this season having not played for a state title since 2006. The Dragons will counter with thier own Division I quarterback, Daxx Garman.

8. Abilene (Texas) High vs. Franklinton (La.) High
Sept. 4 at Abilene
This is the first in a serious of four very tough games for Abilene. Franklinton is a high-octane offense that likes to stretch the field and will test the Eagles vertically. For Abilene, it is almost an early must-win game to re-establish itself following an impressive run to the state title in 2009. Both teams enter the game ranked with Franklinton checking in at No. 44 in the RivalsHigh 100 and Abilene sitting at a lofty No. 3. It is hard enough to win one state title, but now Abilene will have a bull's-eye on its back all season. The pressure will fall on Herschell Sims and his cousin, Ronnie, this season.

7. DeSoto (Texas) High vs. Miramar (Fla.) High
Sept. 11 at DeSoto
The finale to the Florida-Texas showdown in DeSoto will feature two of the better teams in each state. Miramar made a remarkable run to a Florida Class 6A state title in 2009 and returns defensive back Steven Montgomery among others. The Patriots also welcome possession receiver Sean McVay into the fold. McVay could be an unsung hero for the team as a go-to type player to keep the chains moving. DeSoto will be led by its quarterback Ryan Polite and its high-flying offense. The scoreboard operator could get tired by the time this one is over. This one will be a real treat for the fans as this game will look like a 7-on-7 track meet.

6. Galena Park (Texas) North Shore vs. Katy (Texas) High
Aug. 27 at North Shore
For the third straight year, this fist fight will open the season for these two Houston-area powers. North Shore won 10-6 in 2008, Katy turned the tables with a 9-7 win in 2009 and this rubber match appears to be headed for another low scoring, physical affair. North Shore already has five Division I commits and is headlined by its offensive lineman Sedrick Flower, a Texas commit. Katy will come in a little less heralded on the prospect front, but will focus its attack with running back Donovonn Young. It's a solid assumption that the first one to 10-points wins - if even either gets that far.

5. Euless (Texas) Trinity vs. Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian
Sept. 6 at Cowboys Stadium
The top team in Arkansas will invade Jerry's World to take on Euless Trinity, an experienced team making its third-straight Herbstreit Classic appearance. Both teams enter the season ranked in the RivalsHigh 100, Trinity at No. 6 and Shiloh at No. 22. The two teams are very different, but that doesn't mean this doesn't have potential to be a great game. Trinity will look to run the ball with a spread zone-read style offense. The Saints, meanwhile, will run a Gus Mahlzan-style of the spread and will try to air the ball out at all times. The key will come down to the trenches and who can control the line of scrimmage. Even that is not a given as Trinity, which usually has a massive offensive line, is a little undersized up front while Shiloh Christian brings back a bunch of multi-year starters to protect Kiehl Frazier. The depth favors Trinity, but if Shiloh can find holes in the defense, it will exploit them.

4. Allen (Texas) High vs. Cedar Hill (Texas) High
Aug. 28 at SMU
Buckle up and get ready for an exciting football game to open the season. The No. 8 team in the Texas rankings, Cedar Hill will look to make a statement over the No. 10 team in the Lone Star State, Allen. Both teams use the spread and have plenty of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. It sounds like a broken record, but this is another track meet in Texas where the defense will be doing a lot of chasing. Driphus Jackson is the key to the Cedar Hill attack. The team has lost in the playoffs the past two years to the eventual state winner, and this would be a solid confidence booster early. Baylor commit Jonathan Lee will stretch the field and keep the Eagles in the game. The winner has the inside edge at a Top 5 finish in the state.

3. Katy (Texas) High vs. Katy (Texas) Cinco Ranch
Nov. 6 at Rhodes Stadium
Could there be a changing of the guard in Katy? The folks at Cinco Ranch think so and, building off of the momentum of a narrow 21-20 loss in 2009, the Cougars appear ready to take the next step. It may not be conventional wisdom, but Cinco Ranch enters the season as the higher ranked team at No. 3 in Texas and No. 28 nationally while Katy enters at No. 9 in Texas and No. 53 nationally. This is another battle of running backs in an amazingly strong year for the position in Texas, with SMU commit K.C. Nlemchi leading the Cougars against Donovonn Young and Katy. Look for a packed, raucous crowd for the game that could tip the balance of power in a football-rich area.

2. Austin (Texas) Westlake vs. Austin (Texas) Lake Travis
Aug. 28 at University of Texas
Wow, what an opener to the season for both of these teams. Lake Travis rolled in the game last year and eventually finished ranked No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the RivalsHigh 100. Westlake steadily improved as the season went on and made it to the Class 5A Division I state finals. This season opens with both teams jockeying for early positioning in the rankings nationally. The opinions vary dramatically on these two squads with rankings as high as No. 4 nationally for Lake Travis in one poll and Westlake being ranked as high as No. 3 in Texas in another respected poll. The RivalsHigh rankings see the teams settling in at No. 7 in Texas and No. 39 nationally for Lake Travis and No. 12 in Texas and No. 81 nationally for Westlake. Texas Tech quarterback commit Michael Brewer leads Lake Travis into the city showdown against the Chaparrals.

1. Abilene (Texas) High vs Tampa (Fla.) Plant
Sept. 16 at Abilene
This is the 2010 version of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas versus Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes, without a doubt. Both of these teams are among the best nationally and from two of the best football states. It is not a guarantee that either finishes the year, or enters this game for that matter, undefeated. Plant, despite the travel, comes into the season as the No. 1 team nationally with Abilene as the No. 3 team nationally. Herschell Sims will go head-to-head with James Wilder Jr. in a showcase game of two of the best overall players in the country. Both teams are fundamentally sound, so it should not be a penalty flag-filled affair, but that does not mean the points won't get into the 30s. This game wraps up three consecutive out-of-state games for Abilene and is a sandwich game for Plant, which will have to head home and take on another of the nation's best in Seffner (Fla.) Armwood. This game will have it all.

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