In what may have ultimately been an upset in ranking only, Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco defeated Paramus (N.J.) Catholic on Friday night, 20-13, ending the Paladins quest for an undefeated season and a RivalsHigh100 high school football national championship.
It was the first of two games that provided a major shake-up near the top of the RivalsHigh100, and both have ties that will clump nearly 10 teams in the middle of the rankings.
Paramus Catholic entered the contest at No. 9 in the nation, while Don Bosco limped in with losses in three of its last four and had dropped out of the national rankings. The Ironmen showed the heart of a champion and the confidence of a program that had won the last 13 contests in the series. The 2009 National Champions did not make any mistakes and capitalized on those that its opposition made in a 20-13 victory.
Behind backup quarterback Nick Crusco -- who also lead the team to a victory last week against Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate substituting for injured Temple commit Frank Nutile -- told The Star Ledger that the team had a singular focus this week.
"We took our licks in the beginning of the season," he said. "We wanted to come out this week and show everyone in the country who we are."
In addition to the 2009 title, Don Bosco had also ended the 2011 season No. 2 in the nation and has been a fixture in the top 15 throughout the life of the RivalsHigh100, but it entered this week unranked for only the third week in the last six years.
It had been beaten by Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, Miami (Fla.) Central and Wayne (N.J.) DePaul and did not look like the team was ready to take down Paramus Catholic.
The victory thrust Don Bosco back into the rankings this week.
Returning to the RivalsHigh100 with Don Bosco will be Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius, which upended Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward in the Holy War, 23-17, on Saturday.
St. Ignatius was previously ranked but had losses to ranked programs Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice and Paramus Catholic before falling from the rankings to start October.
St. Edward was No. 7 in the country entering play with victories over Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville and Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder.
The Wildcats were boosted by the return of quarterback John Thomas and running back Michael Vitale and aided by multiple miscues by St. Edward in the victory.
Thomas had not played in four weeks and Vitale had been out since the second game of the season but were productive as Thomas' second quarter touchdown was a perfectly thrown pass and Vitale was a workhorse gaining 75 yards on 31 carries in the contest.
The two games caused a massive pack of teams to form.
Mission Viejo (Calif.) High was pulled upward from No. 82 and leads that pack as it remains unbeaten and has a win over Don Bosco on its resume.
Following Mission Viejo are four teams from New Jersey -- still led by Paramus Catholic despite the loss this weekend. Paramus Catholic is followed by Wayne (N.J.) DePaul, Don Bosco, and then Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep.
Paramus Catholic was given the advantage in the group because it holds a 14-point win over DePaul, which has a 10-point victory over Don Bosco in round-robin grouping.
St. Peter's in not involved in the Big North Conference interplay but placed one slot ahead of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha by virtue of a better win against Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga and a better loss to Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional.
The victory for St. Ignatius helped push Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian into the RivalsHigh100 for the first time since it was nationally ranked in the preseason poll for the 2012 season. Eastern Christian has a close loss to St. Peter's Prep and a narrow victory over St. Ignatius on its resume. It will play St. Edward in two weeks.
The other team with a win over St. Ignatius also moved up into this cluster as Brother Rice, already the No. 2 team in Michigan, is climbing.
St. Edward moved to the back of this grouping with the loss and it could pull Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller back with it if the Eagles can rebound next week at home.
OTHER TEAMS RETURNING
Don Bosco and St. Ignatius are the two highest-ranked to return to the RivalsHigh100 this week but they are not alone in pushing back into the rankings. Of the six teams that are moving into the poll this week, five were previously ranked.
Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb -- which a ranked opponent in Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern, 28-26 -- is back in the rankings, as are Gainesville (Ga.) High and Cibolo (Texas) Steele. Each returns to the RivalsHigh100 after showing steady improvement as the season has progressed, and the latter two have won 12 straight games after suffering setbacks in September.
Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian was the lone team to gain entrance this weekend that had not been previously in the poll as it was in the clump of programs tied to New Jersey and Ohio programs.
Of the six teams that were replaced this week, only Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier lost.
Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville, Lowell (Mich.) High, Baltimore (Md.) Gilman, Youngstown (Ohio) Austintown-Fitch, and Elk Grove (Calif.) High all won on the field this week but dropped out of the RivalsHigh100.
Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, Gardena (Calif.) Serra, and Concord (Calif.) De La Salle are surprisingly inching closer to where they began the season.
The trio of California programs began the year at Nos. 2, 8 and 11, respectively, but through the first seven weeks of the season each has fluctuated up and down.
St. John Bosco was the lone program to stay in the top 10 as it buoyed between second and fifth. This week it will be at No. 6 in the national poll as defensive lapses against Chandler (Ariz.) High and Orange (Calif.) Lutheran have raised questions about its ability to slow either of the two other California powers.
Serra had fallen as far as the mid-30s but has been on a steady climb back up the RivalsHigh100. Following its surprisingly easy victory over West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade, the program will jump from No. 19 to No. 7.
De La Salle has been one of the more fluid programs that has maintained its top 25 ranking but yo-yoed, going from No. 11 to No. 23 and back up. This week it will crack into the top 10 for the first time this year at No. 10.
Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, Folsom (Calif.) High comprise a second tier of programs all ranked between No. 31 and No. 52.
SoCal programs Anaheim (Calif.) Servite and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly cling to the lower rungs of the rankings ladder at No. 87 and 88, respectively. NorCal teams Elk Grove (Calif.) High, San Mateo (Calif.) Serra, and Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove remain outside the RivalsHigh100, but each has been earning more consideration.
Neither Bowling Green (Ky.) High nor Louisville (Ky.) Male made it in the final cut for the RivalsHigh100 this week but both earned a spot in the rankings primer as the two public schools are on the top line of the state.
Following the pair is Ft. Thomas (Ky.) Highlands, and that trio marks the first time in a nearly decade that it has not been a private school atop the state.
Male defeated Louisville (Ky.) Trinity this week, becoming the first Jefferson County public school to defeat Trinity since 2003 and a week ago it also became first public program to have defeated Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier since 2006.
Bowling Green had already secured a victory over St. Xavier earlier this season and spent several weeks ranked in the RivalsHigh100.
Ft. Thomas Highlands will be playing at Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder this coming week, and a victory could push all three teams into the national rankings.
If the teams can finish out the season unbeaten, it could also mark a first for the RivalsHigh100 with three Kentucky public school programs being ranked at the same time.
SCORING AT WILL
For the 27th consecutive drive -- and to conclude the 74-0 victory over Maynardville (Tenn.) Union Country -- Knoxville (Tenn.) Fulton scored a touchdown.
The team has punted three times in eight games this season.
Quarterback Penny Smith has two fewer touchdowns (17) than incomplete passes (19) on the year. Running back Daryl Rollins-Davis has 1,269 yards and 25 touchdowns on 86 carries. Receiver Xavier Hawkins has scored a touchdown on more than half of his receptions with 12 scores on 23 catches for 658 yards to go with three rushing touchdowns, two punt return TDs and an interception for a score.
The trio of two-star prospects are leading one of the most explosive offenses in the nation and has the team positioned as the top team in the state and No. 94 in the RivalsHigh100.
Through the first eight games the team has been held under 50 points just once and is outscoring its opponents 482-29.
If it is able to repeat as state champion -- and continue this pace -- it will push toward 900 points on the year, which could set a national record currently standing at 903 by Albermarle (N.C.) High set in 2001.