GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 14 Warren Central (Indianapolis) 11-0 at No. 43 Carmel (Carmel, Ind.) 10-1, 7 p.m., Friday
The two in-state Metropolitan Conference rivals play every regular season and, as is the case this year, sometimes there's a rematch in the Class 5A postseason. In 2009, Warren Central defeated Carmel 42-36 in the title game after Carmel won the regular-season game 24-22. In 2006, Warren Central capped a 15-0 state title season with a 35-14 win over Carmel after besting the Greyhounds 28-0 in the regular season. Last season, the Warriors won the regular-season matchup 37-27.
From 2003 to 2006, Warren Central won four straight state titles, and the coach of those first three clubs was Kevin Wright, the current second-year coach at Carmel.
Wright's first 2011 Carmel matchup against his former team came down to a final-play field goal earlier this season. The Warriors, now coached by John Hart, who guided them to the 2009 state crown, prevailed over Carmel 22-20 as sophomore place-kicker Max Hernandez booted a 38-yard field goal as time expired.
Both teams boast explosive offenses and stingy defensive units. Warren Central has outscored foes 492-168, but Carmel has a more impressive margin of 500-107. Both running backs -- Deionte Buckley of the Warriors and Jalen Duncan of the Greyhounds -- have had stellar outings in recent weeks, and the team that does a better job of stopping the opposing back will probably win.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Justin Moore, Westlake (Westlake Village, Calif.)
There are whispers around California that Moore could be a candidate for State Junior Player of the Year. He has definitely done a great job stepping into the starting quarterback role for a team that has climbed to No. 3 in the state and No. 34 in the FAB 50.
The 6-foot-0, 175-pounder played as a freshman in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division championship when starting quarterback Nick Isham went out with an injury; Moore scored a touchdown as the Warriors completed a 14-0 season. He backed up Isham last year, when Westlake's hopes for back-to-back 14-0 seasons were dashed in a one-point loss to Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) in the same section final.
Entering this weekend's next-to-last regular-season game, Moore has passed for 1,386 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 643 yards rushing plus eight more scores. He can play defense, as evidenced by his 37 tackles as a sophomore starting safety last season, but it's what he's done on offense that has helped push Westlake toward the top of California.
Brother Rice (Birmingham, Mich.) 6-4 at No. 9 Harrison (Farmington Hills, Mich.) 10-0, 7 p.m. Saturday
This one really would be an upset since Harrison has become a top-10 team and the loss would be to a team coming in at 6-4.
To insiders in Michigan, though, it wouldn't be that shocking. After all, the two teams played last year in the state playoffs, and it was hard to believe that Brother Rice lost 37-27, considering that all the Warriors had to do was run out the clock late in the fourth quarter for a 27-22 win. Then disaster struck as a fumble was returned for a touchdown, followed by an interception return for a score.
Brother Rice's four losses this year have all been to strong teams in close games by scores of 21-20, 10-9, 21-19 and 21-13. The Warriors also are used to winning big games since they are guided by veteran coach Al Fracassa, who earlier this season won his 400th game.
Yet another reason that Harrison could be ripe to get knocked down: Versatile senior quarterback Jake Vento may not be able to play due to an ankle injury. Vento's status won't be known until game time, but he rarely comes off the field for the Hawks. Who do you think returned that fumble for a go-ahead score last year?
Even without Vento, Harrison can still get through this game. The Hawks have a coaching legend of their own on the sidelines in John Herrington. Many of the backups, including quarterback Lamarr Mitchell, have gotten a lot of reps because every game has been over somewhat early. Super sophomore running back Lorenzo Collins is another weapon for Harrison and is only getting better each time he plays.
Upset Alerts so far this season: 4-5
TEAM ON THE RISE?
Lafayette County (Oxford, Miss.) 11-0
The Commodores made history last season when the Class 4A state champions became the first team in Mississippi history to finish with a 16-0 record. They have since extended the win streak to 27 games after capping an 11-0 regular season with a 49-7 rout last weekend over North Pontotoc (Pontotoc, Miss.).
Lafayette opens defense of its state crown Friday with a first-round playoff game against visiting Leake Central (Carthage, Miss.).
Lafayette entered the season ranked No. 2 overall in Mississippi behind two-time defending Class 6A state champion South Panola (Batesville, Miss.). The Commodores took over the top spot when the Tigers lost their first in-state game at Gulfport (Gulfport, Miss.) and have been on the FAB 50 bubble the last few weeks.
Lafayette is led by 6-foot-4, 260-pound run-pass quarterback Jeremy Liggins, who earned first team all-state honors last season. This season, he has passed for 1,207 yards and 11 TDs and rushed for 527 yards and 11 scores. Liggins is joined in the backfield by productive running back DeMarkus Dennis, who leads the team with 1,677 rushing yards and 20 scores.
With the postseason starting in most states, and some ranked teams dropping out of the national list, the Commodores are poised to make a serious run up the FAB 50 rankings.