December 8, 2011

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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.

The season goes a little longer in some states.

And judging by the group of title games we have this weekend, we have to say it's worth the wait.

Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Virginia have all produced championship games of the highest quality. In some cases, more than one.

But if you think this weekend is all about Southern football, think again. A battle in the Pacific Northwest may be the highlight of the weekend as two top 50 teams (Sheldon and Lake Oswego) fight for the Oregon 6A crown.

Here's a look at all of them:

Weekend Watch
No. 9 Grayson vs. No. 22 Walton
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 8 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade
Rankings: Grayson (14-0), No. 2 in Georgia
Walton (14-0), No. 3 in Georgia

Why it's big: RivalsHigh recently named Georgia the No. 1 football state this season and this is the big finale between two of the top-ranked teams. Grayson has been a favorite to make it to this point for much of the season while Walton was a midseason addition to the rankings. When the brackets came out, it looked as though Walton could make it here but Grayson would have the tougher path. Both proved projections correct.

Grayson wins if: It has anything left in the tank on defense. The Rams are a defensively grounded team but have been in some wars. In three of their last six games, Grayson has faced a nationally-ranked opponent. In the semifinal, it was pushed to the brink against Colquitt County. The team should easily be able to get up for one last game but legs could get heavy down the stretch. The talent is on the side of Grayson, so if things go as scripted, the Rams should take home a title.

Walton wins if: Its stars shine. Walton has been blessed with a very talented gene pool as seven players have parents who have played professional sports. Tyren Jones, the team's leading rusher, is son of Arena League player Tyrone Jones. Harrison Davis, an all-state player, is son of John "The Refrigerator Mover" Davis. Tyrone Poole and Mookie Blaylock also have contributing sons on the team. Likely, it will come down to Jones and the rushing attack. If he is able to find space in the Grayson defense, it will help in a big way.

Prediction: This was certainly not an "if not now, when" year for Mickey Conn at Grayson, but the talent was there and even Conn admitted in the preseason this was the most offensively dangerous team he has had in his time with the school. Walton was an under the radar team in the early season but has stormed to the finish and can certainly win this game by keeping it close and playing smart. The pick is with the chalk in this one. The game should be close but Grayson hoists the title and cements a Top 10 finish nationally.
- Grayson 16, Walton 10

Weekend Watch
No. 21 Sheldon
vs. No. 41 Lake Oswego
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 8 p.m.
Last Meeting: Nov. 26, 2010 - Lake Oswego won, 45-14
Rankings: Sheldon (13-0), No. 1 in Oregon
Lake Oswego (14-0), No. 2 in Oregon

Why it's big: This was a strong season in Oregon with two teams pushing into the Top 50 for the first time in the history of the RivalsHigh 100. There is talk that regardless of the outcome that both of these teams belong higher in the final rankings. The two are high-scoring offenses and the scoreboard should be very active in the Class 6A final in the Pacific Northwest. It will also be a showdown of quarterbacks with Lake Oswego's Alex Matthews and Dion Miller of Sheldon. Fans should settle in and get popcorn ready.

Lake Oswego wins if: Its defense brings is absolute best. The team gave up nearly 250 points on the season but has scored more than 600, so a track meet will not have it worried. But the common logic is that it gave up more than 20 points in six games and even 46 in one win early this season. Going against a Sheldon team that has also scored nearly 600 points, it will have to get a couple of stops to get the job done.

Sheldon wins if: It plays its game. The team has scored just 20 fewer points than Lake Oswego on the year but has given up more than 130 fewer. It showed that it could win tough games, and the team downed what many considered the best defense in the state in the semifinal against Central Catholic. If Sheldon plays mistake-free football, it figures to come out on top.

Prediction: There was a five-team discussion at the start of the season for which would emerge from Oregon and while none of the five disappointed, Sheldon and Lake Oswego got way out in front of the pack. This showdown was circled when the brackets were released. Sheldon has been the most complete team in the state and maybe the region this season and it can see the finish line. Lake Oswego is certainly no slouch and should not be taken lightly. At the pace of play, it could come down to a few plays here or there - and that edge goes to Miller and the Irish.
- Sheldon 34, Lake Oswego 30

-- For more on Oregon football, visit

Weekend Watch
No. 74 Neville vs. Karr
When: Friday, Dec. 9, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade
Rankings: Neville (13-0), No. 2 in Louisiana
Karr (11-3), No. 12 in Louisiana

Why it's big: Louisiana is a state that is on the rise in a big way nationally. After the devastation and displacement of Hurricane Katrina, there was a massive drop in play. Now, just six years since the event, football in the state has begun to come back to life. Neville is a traditional power in the state and its path to the final game is expected and somewhat predicted. Karr was expected to finish in this spot at the start of the season but after a 1-3 start in which the team looked as though it was not going to complete a pass this year, its run to the championship game is one of the better stories in the state. Finishing with a state title would be huge for the development of this program.

Neville wins if: It can pound the ball and maintain possession. The team has rushed the football at a nearly five-to-one rate this season. It has only turned the ball over nine times while forcing 22 takeaways. This formula has led to wins over some of the better teams in the state in both the regular season against Ouachita Parish and in the playoffs against Breaux Bridge. To get by the explosive Karr team, it will be best to keep the ball out of the hand of the opposition and grind on the defensive line for four quarters.

Karr wins if: It makes the big play early and plays with a lead. The last thing this team needs is to have to play from behind against a ball-controlling opposing team. Karr would like to play fast and finish one of the most amazing turnarounds of the season. The quarterback play for Karr will have to look like it has since November and not what it was in August and September. A lot of the credit for this has to be given to head coach Jabbar Juluke, who adjusted the play-calling to fit the limitations and strengths of his team instead of forcing the issue and wasting the season.

Prediction: If you missed the first month of the season altogether, it would be no shock that these two teams are here. If you saw the Karr games against St. Paul and Arlington Bowie, it would be a simple stunner. Karr was outscored to open the year 74-13 and has been nothing short of sensational since October. Neville has been the steady train this season in Class 4A and figures to churn to another state title. Consecutive second-place finishes for Karr will be tough to deal with, but getting to this point is something to be very proud of.
- Neville 20, Karr 12

-- For more on Louisiana football, visit

Weekend Watch
No. 84 Carencro vs.
No. 92 West Monroe
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 11 a.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade
Rankings: Carencro (13-1), No. 3 in Louisiana
West Monroe (12-2), No. 5 in Louisiana

Why it's big: West Monroe continues its run of state title appearances even in a season when many thought it would miss the chance. Carencro has more wins this season than the last three years combined, but it is not a shock that the Bears made the finals as it was an early season pick to click with a very talented roster. Finding which will weigh heavier, the talented Carencro roster or the experience-filled West Monroe team, is an interesting storyline for the Class 5A state title.

West Monroe wins if: This is an ugly football game to watch. West Monroe is not the same team it usually is and its run to the state final is still somewhat surprising even for one of the name-brand teams in the state. West Monroe could have trouble with the punishing run attack of Carencro and so it will need to create turnovers and go for the ball. The pile will not be a place to be on Saturday morning and if West Monroe can steal a couple turnovers, it can win the game.

Carencro wins if: It can punish West Monroe. A little like West Monroe's final opponent last year, Acadiana, Carencro will run and run and then run again. Eventually it will break a big gainer, but it is patient enough to wait for it. Last week, in the semifinal win over Byrd, the Carencro team took a 26-play drive and 14:52 off the clock. Drives like that are demoralizing for an opponent, not to mention remarkable.

Prediction: This is a game that could start with an 11 a.m. kickoff and be over before 1 p.m., including the extended state final halftime. As both teams figure to run the ball, the clock may just keep ticking. Putting up points will be key and likely come at a premium. The experience of being in a state final and playing at the Dome and all that the amenities come with will benefit West Monroe. What will help Carencro is the talent on the team and that will win out in the end.
- Carencro 24, West Monroe 16

-- For more on Louisiana football, visit

Weekend Watch
No. 86 Booker T. Washington
vs. Bolles
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade
Rankings: Washington (12-1), No. 10 in Florida
Bolles (12-1), No. 16 in Florida

Why it's big: This is a little old school versus "nu skool" for the Class 4A state title in Florida as Bolles and its misdirection run offense will take on the speed and spread of Booker T. Washington. It also pits a nationally legendary coach, Corky Miller, taking on one of the rising stars in Florida, Ice Harris. It is also a private versus public battle. There could not be more polar opposite programs fighting for a state title than these two and it should be one heck of a battle.

Bolles wins if: It can grind out yards behind its big, physical offensive line. The key to all of Bolles' many successes is the running game and that will start up front. All-American candidate John Theus is the anchor to the line and his ability to push the pile forward will be a circled point to the game. Defensively, Bolles will be challenged. There may not be a team on its schedule this season with the speed and talent of Booker T. Washington so forcing the team into making some mistakes will help ease the pressure off the offense.

Booker T. Washington wins if: It doesn't make mistakes. This is a junior-heavy team. Its run to the final isn't a shock, but it may be a year early. That talent, however, is undeniable and if it can keep from getting out in front of itself and play a consistent and steady game, it will be in the winner's circle. Staying fundamentally sound on defense is a key to staying in the game with Bolles. And while the team has seen teams with more skill players than Bolles, it may not have seen any as fundamentally sound.

Prediction: This game may be the truest toss-up of the weekend even with plenty of close finishes expected. There are a lot of variables at play in this game but weather seems to be ruled out as cool and 60 is expected to be the low on Saturday night with no rain in the forecast. Both teams can be physical and explosive so picking a side to really favor is hard. In this winner-take-all situation, it could come down to the team with the propensity for a big play. For that, it looks like Washington has the edge with plenty of playmakers on the edge of both sides of the ball and in special teams.
- Washington 18, Bolles 7

-- For more on Florida football, visit

Weekend Watch
No. 88 Madison County
vs. American Heritage
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 1 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade
Rankings: Madison (13-1), No. 11 in Florida
American Heritage (11-1), No. 14 in Florida

Why it's big: It's two small school teams in Florida playing on a big stage and each has the potential to finish inside the Top 10 in Florida, which is almost always a guarantee to the final Top 100 nationally. Each is built on defense first so this is going to be a football purist's game of delight. The two teams combined have not given up 250 points all season so those wanting a high-scoring affair may want to skip this game. Each had a hard-luck loss in the early weeks of the season and have coursed to the final with big wins. This should be a spectacular title game.

Madison County wins if: It uses the formula that has been so successful the last decade at the school - playing great defense. The team has allowed three points through the first three games of the playoffs and it will need to come up with a similar performance against a team that will be looking to play a similar style. Field position will be a difference-maker and that can play into the hands of Madison County. The team has played the marginally more difficult schedule but being battle-tested will not win this game - being the better team will.

American Heritage wins if: Its defense is better than Madison County's. The team showed that it could shut down the high-flying University School offense in the quarterfinal round but this will be much different. University wants to get into a track meet and Madison County wants to wait you out in a boxing match. This will be a slugfest that American Heritage will need to match. It has not been tested like this since the early weeks of the season against Glades Central - which is still not as physical as Madison County.

Prediction: The small-school final weekend in Florida could give the big schools a run for the money in terms of quality games. This is a prime example. The favorite to take the title is Madison County, but it has not been tested in the playoffs like Heritage was and its path was all but assured to get here. Taking a title back to Boot Hill would be a fantastic end to a season that started with a controversial loss to Colquitt County.
- Madison County 10, American Heritage 0

-- For more on Florida football, visit

Weekend Watch
Oscar Smith vs. Centreville
When: Saturday, Dec. 10, 4 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade
Rankings: Centreville (13-1), No. 1 in Virginia
Oscar Smith (13-1), No. 3 in Virginia

Why it's big: Like the previously previewed game in Louisiana between West Monroe and Carencro, this is a traditional power in Oscar Smith going against a newcomer in Centreville. Like Carencro, Centreville has as many wins this season as the previous three combined. Centreville was expected to be good this season but a state final appearance may be a surprise to most everyone not wearing Wildcat colors. The parity in the state has left Virginia without a team inside the RivalsHigh 100 for much of the season with Centreville flirting in and out twice this year but not remaining a constant. This game could show one team deserves to be among the national elite or it could illustrate that parity reigned supreme.

Centreville wins if: It is able to bring a physical edge to the game. The team has become quite battle-tested through the playoffs with close wins over Lake Braddock, Westfield and Hermitage. All of those teams played more into the favor of Centreville, where as Oscar Smith is a bit of a challenge to defense for this type of team. If Centreville is going to win, it will need to keep Oscar Smith in the low-20s or it may not be able to keep up.

Oscar Smith wins if: It sets the pace of play. When the brackets came out, the talk was that Oscar Smith could get to the final game and win it if was not muscled up. To this point, it has averaged 40.25 points per game. Needless to say, not many teams were able to pick the pace that the game was played at. Many have said that this is not the usual Oscar Smith team, but it is back in the state final with a good opportunity to win. If Oscar Smith gets into the 30s, this game is over and maybe it can win going away. If it has to fight to get to the 20s, it may not walk away with a title.

Prediction: If there was any team in the tournament that matched up well with Centreville, it is Oscar Smith. The Tigers have the speed to spread the field and make Centreville defend the pass getting out of its normal defensive set and putting additional skill players on the field. Centreville will have to control the clock with its running game and force turnovers to win. This was a great run for the Wildcats, but it looks like it may end in this game.
- Oscar Smith 29, Centreville 17

-- For more on Virginia football, visit

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