Borrowing the title from the classic 1960 western film -- and the 1996 United States women's Olympics gymnastics team -- the RivalsHigh 100 enters the ides of October with a Magnificent Seven.
While they are not the only contenders, the stars are beginning to align for one of Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, DeSoto (Texas) High, Allen (Texas) High, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, Montvale (N.J.) St. Joe's Regional, and Paramus (N.J.) Catholic to claim the RivalsHigh100 high school football national championship.
All seven are currently inside the top 10 of the national rankings and each still has multiple games against nationally ranked teams -- several of the teams may have to play one another -- that will determine the outcome of the poll.
Based on history, this is a rarity as the RivalsHigh100 national champion has been pretty well out in front of the pack by Week 7 of the high school football season. Each of the last three title winners have been atop the rankings by this point: River Ridge (La.) John Curtis took over the top spot during the Sept. 7 poll in 2012; Louisville (Kent.) Trinity moved to the top spot for the Oct. 3 poll in 2011; Batesville (Miss.) South Panola was nearly a wire-to-wire winner as it was atop the rankings on Aug. 30 in 2010.
The two previous victors were much further down the line as 2009 title winner, Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco, took over the top spot in the Dec. 7 poll after Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas lost in the playoffs as the Raiders were going for consecutive titles. St. Thomas Aquinas was the top team in the country for only the last three weeks of 2008 after Euless (Texas) Trinity lost prior to the Dec. 1 rankings.
Booker T. Washington jumped to the top of this season's rankings after defeating preseason No. 5 Norcross (Ga.) High and No. 1 Miami (Fla.) Central for the Sept. 9 poll it added a victory over Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman and still has a potential playoff game versus Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School.
But Washington is not a lock to stay No. 1 at this point and could be jumped by multiple programs even if it wins out.
If DeSoto and Allen both end up in the Division I bracket of the Texas 5A playoffs and advance to the semifinals, it will be a battle of No. 2 versus No. 3 which could boost either to the top spot with a state title. It is more likely that DeSoto would be the team to get the nod over Booker T. Washington due to its strength of schedule that it would gain with the current playoff path. Allen would be in the discussion but it may not get the boost as both have multiple quality wins on their respective resumes.
Both of those Texas teams -- as well as Booker T. Washington -- could also be jumped by St. John Bosco.
The Braves still have to prove to be the best team on the west coast -- potential games with Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra and Concord (Calif.) De La Salle could be their final two games of the year -- but the team flexed its muscle this weekend and showed balance in downing a quality Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita team, 56-12. It still must navigate the Trinity League with games against Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei and Anaheim (Calif.) Servite as well as the difficult Pac-5 playoffs.
St. Edward may be ranked ahead of the two New Jersey programs in the coming poll, but that could quickly change. Projecting this team to win the Ohio Division I title may still not be enough to push it ahead of several of the other undefeated teams that potentially remain on the list. It has wins over Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville, Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder and cross over games still to be played with Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius, Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller, and Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian before its playoff tests.
The two New Jersey programs have proven to be top 10 teams this year and will face each other Oct. 26 in a game that will likely help propel the winner into the top five.
Each has strong out-of-state victories as well as impressive in-state wins to add to the resume.
If Paramus Catholic winds up undefeated it will have wins over Baltimore (Md.) Gilman, Wayne (N.J.) DePaul, St. Ignatius, Don Bosco, St. Joe's, Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate, and Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic.
If it is St. Joe's Regional that winds up undefeated between the two it will claim victories over Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, Bergen Catholic, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep, Paramus Catholic, DePaul, and Don Bosco as well.
While those seven make up the heavy favorites there are programs such as Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University School, De La Salle, Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain, and Junipero Serra that could factor in, while others such as Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe, Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern, Suwannee (Ga.) North Gwinnett, and Katy (Texas) High would need a lot more help to climb the rankings ladder and end up as the No. 1 team in the RivalsHigh100.
With two months of football left to play, it is a nice change of pace to have a race still to be run.
OH MAN, OHIO
It was a weekend of reckoning in Ohio, and it caused a major shuffle within the state and subsequently the RivalsHigh100 rankings.
The top three teams from last week remained the same, but beyond that it is a brand new Buckeye State.
Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward was idle and remained at the top -- although it dropped from No. 6 to No. 7 in the national poll; Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain defeated previously-ranked Cincinnati (Ohio) Sycamore, which knocked Sycamore just outside the RivalsHigh100 and pushed Colerain up from No. 18 to No. 17; and Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller bettered Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder by three scores, moving Moeller up to No. 43 from No. 48 and pushing Elder down to No. 68.
A new No. 4 team in the state moved into the RivalsHigh100 with Pickerington (Ohio) North improving to 7-0 and jumping to No. 50 nationally.
The new top-ranked team in the Division II bracket is Loveland (Ohio) High which edged the previous favorite Cincinnati (Ohio) Winton Woods, 7-6. The win put Loveland at No. 69 and slid Winton Woods from No. 54 down to No. 70.
An impressive victory over a Fairfield (Ohio) High program that was gaining consideration for Top 10 in the Division I bracket helped boost West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West up from No. 77 to No. 73 as well as inched it forward in the state rankings.
The upward movement of teams inside Division I and Division II came at the cost of a Division III leader which moved down. Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic won again this week but dropped within the state rankings and fell 18 spots nationally to No. 74.
The No. 3 team in Division II pushed back into the national poll as well as Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville returned from its six-week absence in the poll. The talented Tarblooders improved to 6-1 and slid ahead of Massillon (Ohio) Washington and Avon (Ohio) High inside the rankings.
Washington was previously ranked but slid out after a victory last week. This week it was beaten on the field by Youngstown (Ohio) Austintown-Fitch, propelling the No. 7 team from Division I into the back of the rankings at No. 98 nationally.
Ohio set a new state record this week with 13 teams ranked as Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier remained ranked with a victory over Cincinnati (Ohio) LaSalle. The Bombers dropped from No. 72 to No. 99 in the re-ranking but with its difficult schedule it was given the edge over other programs with better records.
Teams such as Hilliard (Ohio) Davidson, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary, and Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne were in consideration for rankings as well.
The next tier in the state has become more confusing with losses by Centerville (Ohio) High to Clayton (Ohio) Northmont, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius to Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian, and Canton (Ohio) McKinley to Canton (Ohio) GlenOak.
GEORGIA JUST AS CONFUSING
Georgia didn't lose a team from the rankings this week -- in fact it gained one with Carrollton (Ga.) High making a jump. The state has just eight programs in the rankings but may have the greatest collection of teams just on the outside looking in.
Suwannee (Ga.) North Gwinnett, Norcross (Ga.) High, Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern, Moultrie (Ga.) Colquitt County, Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County, Buford (Ga.) High, and Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek all stayed within the RivalsHigh100.
After that group there the multiple teams within the state that have to all be stacked up with few separation points between them.
In Class AAAAAA alone there are handful of teams that are all webbed together.
Lovejoy (Ga.) High is probably the furthest separated from this group as it is 6-1 with a lone setback to Colquitt County. It wasn't that loss that knocked the program from the RivalsHigh100 in Week 4 but the following contest against Alpharetta (Ga.) High and compounded by a close win over Sharpsburg (Ga.) East Coweta. The Wildcats are still the most likely team from the highest classification to climb back into the RivalsHigh100 during the coming weeks.
The results this week sparked plenty of debate, and plenty of that is hinged to the near upset of North Gwinnett by Horschton (Ga.) Mill Creek. If not for allowing 29 points in the fourth quarter, it would have been a stunning upset but instead resulted in Mill Creek's third quality loss as it has also fallen to Norcross and Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge.
Peachtree Ridge was given consideration prior to the start of October largely due to the win over Marietta (Ga.) Walton and Mill Creek but it then fell on the road to Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill.
The win for Collins Hills shined the spotlight on that program which otherwise would not have been into the fray with the rest of its schedule. This week in its attempt to gain entrance into the RivalsHigh100 it was blanked by Norcross.
The victory over Walton by Peachtree Ridge was shared the following week by Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove which entered this weekend undefeated and being discussed for its placement inside the state and national landscape. That was all undone when it lost to previously ranked Kennessaw (Ga.) North Cobb.
North Cobb was a top-50 team in the preseason until it lost to Walton which accounted for the best win for Walton -- although like Mill Creek it has three other quality losses against Peachtree Ridge, Hillgorve, and Marrietta (Ga.) Lassiter.
The loss to Lassiter enters an entire new circle as the Trojans scheduling loop brings into play the team atop the Class AAAAA rankings due to its loss to Marietta (Ga.) Kell.
Kell owns as 35-20 victory over Lassiter which nearly matched that of McEachern which used its quick start to move into the RivalsHigh100. McEachern will be playing North Cobb this week and Hillgrove in two weeks which will undoubtedly further clog this drain.
Joining Kell atop the second-largest classification is three other teams that are all still unscathed and jockeying for position.
Tucker (Ga.) High earned a quality victory this week over Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson which holds a cross reference point to several Florida programs as it defeated Miami (Fla.) Norland to start the year.
Along with Tucker and Kell is undefeated Warner Robins (Ga.) Northside which is yet to add a quality win and holding it the furthest back in the pack.
Still lurking within the class is the defending champion, Gainesville (Ga.) High which was nationally ranked to start the season and could potentially the next to move in. The lone loss for Gainesville was a showdown with Buford that helped push the Class AAA top team into the RivalsHigh100.
All told, the Georgia programs that all sit outside of the RivalsHigh100 will most likely have to be sorted through the playoffs, and the state should finish with 10 teams inside the national poll.
WHO ELSE IS IN?
Between the breakdowns of Ohio and Georgia there has been a reveal of five of the nine teams to be joining the RivalsHigh100, so ending the suspense on the other four seems like the next logical step.
Joining Pickerington North, Loveland, Glenville, Austintown-Fitch, and Carrollton will be Pearland (Texas) High, Manvel (Texas) High, Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage, and Wayne (N.J.) DePaul.
American Heritage and DePaul enter with quality wins as the two Texas programs benefit from cumulative effect and a quality loss as neither has a victory that would be considered nationally relevant.
American Heritage has beaten Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay, Miami (Fla.) Columbus, Daytona Beach (Fla.) Mainland and added a stunning 60-21 victory over Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles this weekend to make its case. It also has suffered a 41-20 defeat at the hands of Miami (Fla.) Central.
DePaul dispatched of Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic by 30 points just two weeks after bettering Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco. It has fallen to Paramus (N.J.) Catholic and could see a second defeat versus Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph, but it is currently the No. 4 team in the Garden State and showing to be among the best nationally.
Pearland and Manvel have combined to beat opponents 518-75 on the season but have only played one quality team -- Galena Park (Texas) North Shore which defeated Manvel. The two play to start Novembe,r and it could be for a spot in the RivalsHigh100 depending on the outcome.
Leaving the rankings this week is previously ranked No. 29 Lake City (Fla.) Columbia; No. 52 Brandon (Miss.) High; No. 57 Mesquite (Texas) Horn; No. 74 Pinson (Ala.) Clay Chalkville; No. 78 Cincinnati (Ohio) Sycamore; No. 97 Bowling Green (Kent.) High; No. 98 Opelika (Ala.) High; No. 99 Honolulu (Hawaii) Punahou; and No. 100 Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County.