December 9, 2010

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

Game of the Week?

More like Games of the Week. Or even better: They're all big games this week.

This time of the year, every game is a big game, that's why we'll once again have two Weekend Watches?

We wish we could highlight every game - especially all the state finals - but here are just a few of the big ones on Friday:

Weekend Watch
No. 11 Armwood
vs. No. 12 Dwyer
def. Sickles, 35-3
def. Hillsborough, 39-6
def. Charlotte, 28-12
def. Stranahan, 45-3
def. Hollywood Hills, 43-0
def. Palm Bay, 24-7

When: Friday 12/11, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: 12/11/09, Dwyer won, 41-15
Rankings: Armwood (13-0), No. 3 in Florida
Dwyer (12-1), No. 4 in Florida

ARMWOOD WINS IF: Its defense is up to the challenge. The Hawks defense has been its calling card for a long time; this season is no different. It has kept 10 offenses under 10 points this season and has had four shutouts, including one against No. 67 Plant earlier this year. It also has the revenge factor as it is going against a team that thrashed it in the playoffs last season, 41-15. Whether that is enough motivation to overcome the big three at Dwyer is yet to be seen.

DWYER WINS IF: Its role players come up big. Everyone knows what to expect from the big three (TE Nick O'Leary, QB Jacoby Brissett and DE Curt Maggitt), what the other members of the team do will be a determining factor. The Panthers' defense has been overlooked this season. It has allowed fewer points on the year than Armwood and has six shutouts allowing only two opponents to break 10 points - one of which was Cleveland (Ohio) Glennville on the first week of the season.

X-FACTOR: The Armwood offense. Much of the talk is centered on Armwood's defense and Dwyer's offense. But it will be the reverse of the two that will decide the game. Though not as heralded, Armwood has a big three of its own: Josh Grady, Matt Jones, and A.J. King. If Armwood is not able to score over 20 points, it likely can not beat Dwyer.

PREDICTION: Both teams have plenty of motivation entering the game. Dwyer is looking to finish the mission that it started when it was robbed of a victory on national television to start the season. Armwood is out to avenge the embarrassing loss from last year. There is no love loss in this one and both teams will leave everything on the field. - Dwyer 22, Armwood 16

Weekend Watch
No. 44 Westlake
vs. No. 74 Oaks Christian
def. Knight, 58-8
def. Palos Verdes, 49-28
def. St. Bonaventure, 37-27
def. Saugus, 34-8
def. Thousand Oaks, 57-34
def. Valencia, 42-33

When: Friday 12/11, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: 10/1/10, Westlake won, 31-12
Rankings: Westlake (12-1), No. 6 in California
Oaks Christian (11-2), No. 10 in California

WESTLAKE WINS IF: The team remains balanced. The Warriors have been able to force teams to respect both the run and pass this season with Tavior Mowry running and Nick Isham passing. If it is able to continue to mix its play calling and not allow Oaks to pin its ears back on defense and rush the quarterback, it will help.

OAKS CHRISTIAN WINS IF: It can step up the play on defense. The Lions allowed nearly 20 points per game this season - and over 30 points four times. At this point in the season, defense is the name of the game and Oaks will need to step up and make stops. In its games with ranked teams - Alemany, St. Bonaventure, and Westlake - the team was 1-2 and allowed nearly 28 points per game. If that is the case this week, a loss is likely to follow.

X-FACTOR: The emotional place of both teams. In the early season meeting, Westlake finally got its shot at the private school that it shares city limits with. It was pumped and it won. Now, two months later, Oaks has the motivation to avenge its loss. The first quarter of this game is a swing quarter. Whichever team is able to grab the early momentum is likely to hold it through the game and seal the win.

PREDICTION: While this is a revenge game - and it has been proven time and again how hard it is to knock off a team twice in one season - Westlake just appears to be the better team this season. Oaks Christian has made tremendous strides through the course of the season as has Westlake. This game can come down to which wants it more, and we think Westlake will. That, and it's the better team. - Westlake 34, Oaks Christian 18

Weekend Watch
No. 3 St. Thomas Aquinas
vs. No. 28 Manatee
def. Northeast, 35-13
def. Venice, 41-28
def. Bayside, 35-32
def. Coconut Creek, 59-0
def. Cooper City, 49-7
def. Boyd Anderson, 47-6

When: Friday 12/11, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: 12/11/09, Manatee won, 28-20
Rankings: Aquinas (13-0), No. 1 in Florida
Manatee (13-0), No. 6 in Florida

MANATEE WINS IF: The defense is healthy and playing at 100 percent. Last week, without two on the defensive line, Manatee survived a 35-32 scare against Bayside. St. Thomas Aquinas is much better than Bayside. Last season, Manatee scored a major upset win in this same round of the state playoffs. This year, Aquinas is focused and ready to play. Manatee will need to have its chinstraps buckled on tight. This will be a heavy hitter.

AQUINAS WINS IF: The team is truly focused. There is no reason to think that this year's version of Aquinas football is looking ahead to a state title game and taking Manatee for granted. The offense is balanced, being able to run and pass, and the defense may be better than it was a year ago. The motivation to make a statement is on the side of Aquinas and it will likely come out with an emotional high. It will need to take the lead early and keep building on its momentum.

X-FACTOR: The Manatee offense. Last year the team had more senior leadership on the offensive side of the ball and was able to put up nearly 30 points on Aquinas. This year, much of the focus has been on running back Mike Blakely, but the team is not a one-man gang. Blakely was injured for several games and sophomore quarterback Cord Sandberg has been able to raise his game from game manager to game changer. Blakely is still the go-to guy, but Sandberg can make plays with his arms or legs if he needs to.

PREDICTION: This is an experienced, explosive and motivated Aquinas football team. Manatee is a team that will need to come out prepared to play because Aquinas is on a mission to avenge last year's loss. Aquinas was tested early in the season against a run-heavy Camden County and came away victorious. The game is at St. Thomas Aquinas and it will be a hostile environment. Manatee is not healthy enough to overcome the talent disparity that separates the two teams this season. Aquinas 35, Manatee 16

Weekend Watch
Shiloh Christian
vs. Pulaski Academy
def. Ozark, 43-27
def. Ashdown, 38-0
def. Star City, 56-28
def. McGehee, 58-7
def. Nashville, 48-10
def. Robinson, 56-12

When: Friday 12/11, 7 p.m.
Rankings: Shiloh Christian (13-1), No. 2 in Arkansas
Pulaski Academy (13-1), No. 12 in Arkansas

SHILOH CHRISTIAN WINS IF: It can bring balance into the game and not get sucked into the aerial assault Pulaski will want to engage in. The Saints have Gatorade state Player of the Year Khiel Frazier at the helm. He threw for over 2,500 yards, rushed for over 1,100 and combined for 57 touchdowns. The team also has Garrett Harper to lean on offensively. Harper has tallied nearly 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year. Being balanced on the ground and in the air will help tremendously in a game that could be the game of the year in Arkansas.

PULASKI WINS IF: This game turns into a track meet - something it is likely to do. The Bruins put up over 7,000 yards this season offensively and have scored 85 touchdowns. The team has a 1,000 yard rusher (Greyson Skokos) and two 1,000 yard wide receivers (Garrett Lamp and Zac Reyna). The team has put up 644 points this season - 46 points per game - and figures to need that and more in this game.

X-FACTOR: Special teams - or lack thereof. Shiloh Christian has an explosive special teams unit. It has set the team up with good field position as well as scored points on its own. Pulaski Academy has not punted this season. Not because it hasn't been forced into a fourth down, but because it is the coaching philosophy not to punt. The Bruins were 31-for-71 on fourth downs this season, and depending on the situation, a field position swap could be made if Pulaski doesn't punt and is stopped on its side of the field.

PREDICTION: Bring a seat pad to this one it will be an all-nighter. Both teams like to pass and both teams like to score. Meaning there will be a slow moving clock and a lot of points going up on the board. A typical two-and-a-half hour game will likely stretch toward the four-hour mark in this game easily. Shiloh is still out to prove it is not the same team that the nation saw in Texas to start the season. Pulaski wants to show it is the best "small school" in the Natural State. - Shiloh Christian 57, Pulaski 46

Weekend Watch
No. 83 Evangel Christian
vs. John Curtis
def. Lusher, 47-6
def. Capitol, 38-8
def. Loreauville, 41-0
def. St. Charles Catholic, 35-15
def. Many, 54-6
def. University Lab, 42-13
def. Riverside, 33-19
def. East Feliciana, 40-8

When: Friday 12/11, 5 p.m.
Last Meeting: 12/11/09, Evangel won, 18-13
Rankings: Curtis (12-1), No. 6 in Louisiana
Evangel Christian (11-2), No. 5 in Louisiana

CURTIS WINS IF: It can control the pace of the game. The Patriots like to be a physical team and control the clock and the ball. Beating teams up is the bread-and-butter of this school and it needs to keep the game low scoring if it wants to win. The Patriots are not a Division I heavy team this year and will need to be working together as a unit in the state final. It comes in to the game in the underdog role - something that is very unfamiliar to the program. Using that chip as motivation, it needs to come out with a lot of energy.

EVANGEL WINS IF: It can exploit the Curtis secondary. The weak point in the Curtis defense is the secondary. If the Eagles work the edges and then use a double move, a big play or two could develop. Evangel is a near polar opposite of Curtis, throwing for more than 250 yards per game and rushing for under 70. The offensive line will need to protect the quarterback and open rushing lanes.

X-FACTOR: Torrey Pierce. The Curtis' offense flows through its quarterback Brandon Bourgeois. He has passed for over 1,200 yards and leads the team in rushing with 742 yards and 11 touchdowns. Evangel will be keying on him and make him give the ball to Pierce. After a breakout season as a junior, Pierce has slowed a little as a senior with 723 yards on 108 carries. If he has a big game it is a very good thing for Curtis.

PREDICTION: The two Class 2A powers are very familiar with one another and that familiarity has bred contempt. Two private school powers from different ends of the state have met before in the final and the coaches are ready to face one another again. Look for this game to be low scoring as the teams tend to play close to the vest and let the other make the first misstep. Evangel has played the more difficult schedule this year and that will help if the game stays tight. - Evangel 16, Curtis 11

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2010: 115-55)
Calhoun def. Buford, 20-13 (GEORGIA state final)
No. 15 Corona Centennial def. Vista Murrieta, 40-22 (CALIFORNIA playoffs) *E-Mail request*
No. 38 Jefferson def. St. Augustine, 17-13 (FLORIDA playoffs)
No. 7 Dr. Phillips def. Seminole, 41-30 (FLORIDA playoffs)
No. 24 Miami Central def. Cypress Bay, 30-26 (FLORIDA playoffs)
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Game of the Week record: 10-5
2010 Record for all games picked: 125-60

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