August 25, 2013

RivalsHigh 100 Primer: What to do at the top?

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The opening weekend had plenty of unexpected results, but none more than what happened outside of Atlanta on Saturday night.

The game between No. 4 Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington and No. 5 Norcross (Ga.) High was expected to be a separation battle between two programs that returned the majority of the players from their state title-winning teams in 2012. When the final whistle sounded on the 55-0 beating, it was a launching point for a discussion of whether Washington should be moved to the No. 1 spot in the RivalsHigh100 before the three teams ahead of it even play a game.

Senior quarterback Treon Harris told the Miami Herald after the game that the team was looking to validate itself.

"This sends a big statement because only one national scouting report thought we'd win," he said. "We showed we deserved to be No. 1."

Harris is a four-star prospect committed to Florida State. He is listed as an athlete at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, and he is ranked No. 127 in the Rivals250 presented by Under Armour.

Against a Norcross defense that returned 10 starters -- including five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter, who did not register a sack -- Harris completed 23 of 28 passing attempts for 284 yards and five touchdowns. He ran for 65 yards on 10 carries.

The receivers -- who all look like clones of each other at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds -- routinely found lanes and got behind the defense. West Virginia commit Lamar Parker had eight catches for 83 yards and a score, while Appalachian State pledge Deltron Hopkins hauled in five passes for 64 yards.

The offensive line returned three starters from last season and held the Norcross defense at bay, while on the other side of the ball the Tornadoes turned four early turnovers into 20 points and sealed the game before Norcross had a chance.

Washington opened the scoring with a 10-yard pass to Samford pledge Krondis Larry.

From there, the defense set up everything in the first half.

The ensuing Norcross drive ended on a fumble that resulted in a Washington touchdown.

Norcross running back Josh Boyd fumbled on the next possession, giving Washington the ball at the 25. That drive resulted in a Harris-to-Parker score on fourth-and-21 from the 22.

Two drives later, Washington defender Brandon Boyd intercepted A.J. Bush and returned the ball to the Norcross 13. On the next play, Mark Walton scored on a rush up the middle.

While the final score read 55-0, it was over at 27-0 and Norcross was defeated entering the locker room at halftime.

Washington coach Tim "Ice" Harris said this was a great win.

"I'm so proud of our student-athletes because this trip truly brought us together," he told the Herald. "These guys committed to themselves, and this really worked out because of it."

3 2 1 Questions!

The impressive win by Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington brought the immediate question of what to do with the No. 4 team in the RivalsHigh100.

No. 3 New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr, No. 2 Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco and No. 1 Miami (Fla.) Central were officially idle this week, but they scrimmaged. Is the lone official game being played enough reason to leapfrog Washington over the teams that have yet to suit up?

Karr will not play its first game until Sept. 6 against Covington (La.) St. Paul, but then it has showdown games with nationally ranked New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine and River Ridge (La.) John Curtis.

It scrimmaged Amite (La.) High on Friday and scored 84 points. The offense was led by a six-touchdown performance by its own athlete-turned-quarterback, Speedy Noil.

St. John Bosco opens next weekend against Compton (La.) Dominguez but will not play a ranked team until Nov. 1 against Santa Ana (Cali.) Mater Dei. It scrimmaged Huntington Beach (Calif.) High on Thursday and will scrimmage nationally ranked Long Beach (Cali.) Poly on Monday.

Miami Central opens when it travels to Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage on Friday.

The top-ranked Rockets played a kickoff classic game against Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) Dwyer on Saturday and routed the respected program, 44-13.

Central returns 10 players on offense and six on defense. It defeated Booker T. Washington, 37-26, last season.

Ultimately, whether the Tornadoes move up this week will become a moot point because Washington will have its chance to stake its claim to the top spot in two weeks when it plays Central at Traz Powell Stadium -- a location that the two programs share for home games.

Crabcakes and football?

Three teams from the Capital Beltway were in action this weekend, and all could be sliding down the rankings based on those performances.

No. 15 Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha took to the road and bettered Hampton (Va.) Phoebus, 24-21. Normally a victory on the road against an opponent of consequence is good enough to at least stay put in the RivalsHigh100, but this win was not that impressive.

Phoebus has built a reputation as one of the toughest teams in Virginia and has produced a lot of talent, but the 2013 version is not as highly regarded as the team has been historically. The Phantoms are not ranked nationally and are currently No. 2 in the Class 4A rankings by VirginiaPreps.com.

DeMatha is loaded with talent, but its offense was not impressive and its toughness was tested against an inferior opponent. Its next two games are against No. 99 Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby and No. 41 Montvale (N.J.) St. Joe's. Godby and St. Joe's will be moving up the rankings based on more impressive victories in kickoff classic games, and each could be the favorite entering the meeting with DeMatha.

No. 30 Olney (Md.) Good Counsel fell to No. 64 Baltimore (Md.) Gilman, 20-14. Both could slide back in the rankings come Monday.

Good Counsel looked to be on its way to an impressive victory when it jumped out to a 14-0 lead -- on only four offensive plays in the first 1:08 of the game -- but the loss of running back and Western Michigan pledge Leo Ekwoge ended the offensive output for the day.

Ekwoge had 72 yards on three carries, but it was his 33-yard run negated by a penalty that ended his day. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound prospect was tackled awkwardly and was on the field in obvious pain. He spent the rest of the afternoon with ice wrapped on his knee and on crutches.

Without Ekwoge, Good Counsel managed just 119 yards the rest of the contest.

Gilman was equally uninspiring in victory. It scored on a quarterback run by class of 2015 athlete Kai Locksley and a Jelani Roberts punt return, and it sealed the game following an interception inside Good Counsel territory with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kasim Hill to John Fitzgerald.

The extent of the injury to Ekwoge has not been announced, but without him it could be hard for the Falcons to move the ball against a very talented Immokalee (Fla.) High team on the road next week. The time in the national rankings for the program may be nearing an end.

Gilman will take on No. 48 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee next weekend at the University of Maryland, followed by a contest with No. 37 Paramus (N.J.) Catholic and five-star prospect Jabrill Peppers.

All three Maryland programs will slide down the rankings on Monday and two could be eliminated when the first RivalsHigh100 of September is released.

Three teams out

No. 85 Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph, No. 91 Gainesville (Fla.) High and No. 94 Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central are the first three teams to become formerly ranked in the RivalsHigh100.

St. Joseph and Gainesville were the victims of poor performances in kickoff classic games, while Warren Central is the only team to have an official blemish on the record.

While neither St. Joseph nor Gainesville received a loss in the record column, it has long been the philosophy of the RivalsHigh100 that every time on the field is an evaluation point, whether it's an in-person evaluation of practice, a televised kickoff classic or live action.

St. Joseph suffered a 56-7 defeat at the hands of Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph and looked physically outmatched and a step slow. It will take on Dallas (Texas) Jesuit this week before facing another New Jersey power in Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco. It could open the season 0-2.

Gainesville fell 13-9 in its kickoff classic against Palm Bay (Fla.) Heritage, and the questions regarding the offense -- specifically the quarterback -- were answered negatively. The loss does not factor into the season, but it matters at the bottom of the rankings when teams No. 75 though No. 135 are very closely packed at this point of the season.

Gainesville will stay in contention for a bounce back into the rankings with games on the road against Lake City (Fla.) Columbia and at home versus Madison (Fla.) County in the next three weeks.

Warren Central was a calculated but risky pick for the top spot from Indiana in the preseason, and it fell, 21-10, in its first test against Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove. The program is on its third coach in four years but returned a majority of its starters from a team that lost six games last season by a combined 28 points. The Hoosier State has a cluster of programs at the top of its rankings, and it may be midseason before another team gets its chance to crack the rankings.

Darlington down Apopka out>

The game between No. 39 Apopka (Fla.) High and No. 71 Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes was one of the most entertaining of the weekend, but enjoyment soured immediately when Apopka three-star quarterback Zack Darlington lay motionless on the sidelines following a hit midway through the fourth quarter.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound dual-threat player was unconscious and motionless as he was carted off the field during the 51-36 loss. He was taken by helicopter to a nearby hospital.

Initial media reports suggest that Darlington will be fine medically, although he is suffering from the fallout from a serious concussion.

While being sensitive to the serious nature of traumatic brain injuries, speculation remains as to the damage not only to Darlington but the entire Blue Darters team. He is the catalyst to the single-wing, read-option attack.

The schedule is such that the team can rebound from the loss, but with many talented teams in Class 8A it is unlikely that Apopka can repeat as state champion without its Nebraska-bound passer.




 

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