August 18, 2010

Instant Analysis: Best games from Florida

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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.

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

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

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

Florida: Top 10 games for the 2010 football season
10. Miami (Fla.) Jackson vs. Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
Oct. 22 at Jackson
The Generals enter the season No. 5 in Miami-Dade. The Tornadoes enter 2010 at No. 16 overall in Florida. Neither are nationally ranked. This late season game will be a heated affair, but not the first test for either team. Jackson will take on Miami (Fla.) Dr. Krop and Apopka (Fla.) High before this showdown. Washington will take on Miami (Fla.) Killian and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern. So, technically, this could be a game being played for pride for each of these teams. Robenson Therezie, a safety for Jackson, is the highest-rated player in this game but that will not matter as the two teams do not particularly care for each other.

9. Pahokee (Fla.) High vs. Belle Glades (Fla.) Glades Central
Nov. 12 at Pahokee
By the time this game rolls around, it could be a meaningless game to national high school football observers and only be of significance to the passionate fans in the Muck. Pahokee enters the season with nearly no hype and is not ranked in the Top 25 teams in Florida. Glades, on the other hand, has some expectations, ranked No. 12 in Florida and No. 84 in the RivalsHigh 100, but the Raiders could face a deflation once its best player, 6-foot-6 Kelvin Benjamin, becomes ineligible following his passing of the 19-year-nine-month age limit. Of course, if Pahokee is able to win a couple of the four games it could lose before this game, it could become more intriguing. Either way, it is the Muck Bowl and makes the list.

8. Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest vs. Pensacola (Fla.) High
Sept. 3 at Pine Forest
Maybe the Niceville (Fla.) High against Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln is the bigger game in the Northwest, but maybe not. Pensacola starts the season at No. 6 in the state and No. 37 in the RivalsHigh 100. Pine Forest is the No. 24 team in Florida entering the year, but is the only team to get over on Pensacola last season, 6-3. The Tigers feel like they threw that game away and have revenge on their minds. Cordivido Grice leads the way for Pensacola on a defense that was one of the best in the nation in 2009 and that returns plenty of players on both sides of the ball.

7. Belle Glades (Fla.) Glades Central vs. Dallas (Texas) Skyline
Aug. 28 at Daytona Beach
One of a fantastic series of games in Daytona Beach to kick off the season will pit the No. 12 team in Florida against the No. 19 team in Texas. While that may not be the most appealing of ranked teams, it is a good barometer of depth among two of the best states for high school football. With the exception of student body population, the teams are very similar and that makes for an even better storyline. The highlight for evaluators will be seeing Skyline defensive back Franklin Shannon, an Oklahoma commit, in coverage helping with Kelvin Benjamin. The talent advantage is likely on the side of Skyline overall, but coming into a hostile environment will be interesting to see. Jamarious Rowley will be in his first game as the quarterback for Glades as well. That inexperience could play a major factor against a very fast defense.

6. DeLand (Fla.) High vs. Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland
Nov. 5 at DeLand
The Bulldogs were one of the best stories in high school football last season, continuing the march from winless in 2007 to state finalist in 2009. This is also a rematch of a 26-0 second-round playoff game in which DeLand won. Mainland was to be favored in the rematch, but the transfer of its quarterback and left tackle made this a more even game. However, the Buccaneers will still enter as a slight favorite due to the play of Marlin Lane and Cortez Davis - both Clemson commits. Not to be outdone, DeLand returns Trey Pitts, a Florida State commit, to the offensive line and De'Ante Saunders, a Florida commit, who will be all over the field. Quarerback Brandon Kush could be a determining factor for DeLand. The teams enter the season ranked very close to each other in the state with Mainland holding the No. 14 spot versus No. 17 for DeLand. All of that will certainly change before this season-ending showdown.

5. Miramar (Fla.) High vs. Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
Oct. 15 at Miramar
A matchup of two of the best teams in Broward finds its way to the list of important games in the state. St. Thomas Aquinas is the No. 1 team in Broward, No. 5 in the state and No. 36 nationally. Miramar comes in at No. 2 in Broward and No. 23 in the state. The two teams met one year ago - almost to the day - and it was a 31-6 victory in favor of St. Thomas Aquinas, this year the Patriots hope to turn the tables. The expectations are not as heavy for Aquinas this year which could lead to them being even more dangerous as they can fly under the radar. With no fewer than 10 players, including quarterback Jake Rudock (Iowa), who will commit to a Division I program, that radar will not be too far off of them though.

4. Lakeland (Fla.) High vs. Lakeland (Fla.) Kathleen
Nov. 12 at Lakeland
While neither team enters the season in the RivalsHigh 100 national rankings, neither is too far away. The top 12 teams entering the season in Florida were ranked nationally, while Lakeland checked in at No. 13 and Kathleen at No. 15, so expect both to see considerable time in the rankings. Last season, Kathleen appeared to be a team headed for a Class 4A state finals appearance, but an ineligible player finding cost them a chance at the title. Lakeland was bounced in the Class 5A semifinals by eventual state champion Tampa (Fla.) Plant, 20-0, and it's out for revenge this season. While this game does not impact playoff situations at all, it is a huge game locally as well as nationally to close the season for these two evenly-matched teams. Gionni Paul will lead the Kathleen defense, while Steward Butler and Javares McRoy headline the Dreadnaught offense.

3. Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas vs. Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County
Oct. 1 at St. Thomas Aquinas
What a contrast of styles and teams this game will present. Aquinas is the high-flying, high-profile private school with a ton of college prospects and a national title. Camden County is the blue-collar, grind-it-out, slow-play-the-game-to-a-halt-and-beat-you-up team from Georgia. Both styles have worked incredibly well for each team and this mid-season showdown could prove to be a measuring stick game for both states. Florida, typically the top state in the country, defending its home turf against a supposedly down state of Georgia's defending champion should make for a great watch. The pair of four-star wide receivers, Rashad Greene and Phillip Dorsett, could find plenty of open green in this game as a showcase for their talents.

2. Miami (Fla.) Northwestern vs. Miami (Fla.) Central
Oct. 8 at Northwestern
Figure you can just pencil this one in as Round One of an annual two-game battle between these two teams, who are all but certain to be second-round playoff opponents again. It is a shame that the regular season game televised last year was so sloppy as it was not a good indicator of how these teams can play. If the two schools were ever to merge, it would create an automatic national championship favorite almost every season. This year, it will be another great quarterback battle as Rakeem Cato will lead the Rockets into the shootout with Teddy Bridgewater and the Bulls. To say any game in the country would look more like a college game would be foolish, as each team will send at least 10 players to Division I colleges. There is not a talent edge to be found this year, so look for two amazing battles starting with this mid-season showdown.

1. Tampa (Fla.) Plant vs Seffner (Fla.) Armwood
Oct. 1 at Plant
Plant coach Robert Weiner has a heck of a job ahead of him. With games with Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee and Abilene (Texas) High already on the schedule, he went and put one of the best in the state on there too in Armwood. Smartly though, he gave the team a bye week following the trip to Texas to regroup and properly prepare for this game. It's a bye week that should not be overlooked, as this is always an intense battle. Last yea,r it was a 17-7 win for Plant, which halted a two-game winning streak for Armwood. If Joshua Grady and the rest of the Hawks can contain James Wilder Jr. on offense and make recent Alabama commit Phillip Ely beat them through the air, it could a very interesting battle.

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