GAME OF THE WEEK
Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) 8-1 vs. No. 22 Servite (Anaheim, Calif.) 8-1 at Cerritos College, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Since there are no games this weekend between FAB 50 teams, this matchup comes the closest because Santa Margarita was No. 44 before the Eagles suffered their only loss 21-14 to Mater Dei of Santa Ana.
Servite beat Mater Dei 35-28 last weekend and enters the game needing to beat Santa Margarita to complete a third straight perfect run through the Trinity League, which is one of the toughest leagues, if not the toughest, in California. If the Eagles win, they would force a tie at the top and would take the league’s No. 1 seed into the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs by virtue of a head-to-head win.
The Friars, who suffered their only loss 31-28 to FAB 50 No. 7 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas), have been as good as advertised on offense behind quarterback Cody Pittman. It seems like a different running back in every game takes the lead role, but Pittman has been consistent throughout. On defense, Servite’s clear leader is BYU-bound Butch Pauu. The linebacker flies sideline-to-sideline making plays and also has been a standout pass-catcher and blocker on offense.
Santa Margarita has shown it is vulnerable to an opponent with speed, but the Eagles’ dominance up front could be the difference against Servite and in the CIFSS playoffs. The offensive line is led by 6-foot-5, 275-pound Max Tuerk (committed to USC) and 6-4, 320-pound junior Riley Sorenson. In last week’s win against St. John Bosco, junior quarterback Johnny Stanton also had a big game. He passed for 153 yards and rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ken Hill, Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas)
The 6-2, 210-pound junior quarterback has led the Dragons to a 10-0 regular-season mark and a No. 46 spot in this week’s FAB 50 rankings. Last weekend, the son of former Texas Rangers pitcher Ken Hill passed for 309 yards and four scores and rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-29 win over Denton Guyer (Denton, Texas). That boosts his season totals to 1,996 passing yards and 19 TDs plus 756 rushing yards and 12 scores.
Hill, who passed for 1,752 yards as a sophomore, opened his junior season with a 402-yard passing effort in a 38-31 win over Copperas Cove (Copperas Cove, Texas). This weekend, Carroll opens the Class 5A state playoffs against Plano East (Plano, Texas). Even though Plano East is just 6-4, it’s not going to be easy for the Dragons, who may need another huge game from Hill to advance. Plano East won its game last week 52-28 against Lewisville (Lewisville, Texas) and lost one of its games by just 41-38 to FAB 50 No. 3 Allen (Allen, Texas). The Eagles had to score in the game’s final minute to win, too.
Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.) 7-3 vs. No. 49 Stephenson (Stone Mountain, Ga.) 9-1, Saturday at Haliford Stadium
This could be the best opening-round game in the Georgia Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Looking at comparative scores, Stephenson should bounce back from its hard-to-believe 50-49 loss to M.L. King (Lithonia, Ga.) last week, but recent playoff history has not been kind to the Jaguars. One year ago, they lost their final regular-season game and then were eliminated in their first playoff game by current FAB 50 ranked Hillgrove (Powder Springs, Ga.). Two years ago, Stephenson went out in the second round while in 2007 and 2008 they were gone by the second round, as well.
Lowndes has had stronger teams in the past, but it’s still Lowndes, a traditional power that can spring a surprise at any time. Two of the losses by this year’s team have come by close scores against strong teams McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) and Valdosta (Valdosta, Ga.) and the team enters this week’s game after wins of 36-16 against Coffee County (Douglas, Ga.) and 21-0 over Tift County (Tifton, Ga.).
The Jaguars will be looking to spring University of Florida-commit Mike Davis to frequent long runs. Davis is among the state leaders this season with 1,793 yards rushing. Lowndes will try to keep pace with running back Mike Moore and quarterback Lance Jarriel leading the way.
Upset alerts so far this season: 5-5
TEAM ON THE RISE?
Rockford (Rockford, Mich.)
The Rams have been one of Michigan's top Division 1 programs for several years, but may have gotten lost in the rankings mix by opening the season with a 28-7 setback to Lowell (Lowell, Mich.). Since then, Rockford has won 10 straight games while scoring more than 40 points in seven wins.
Last weekend, the Rams won a second-round playoff game 42-14 over Grand Ledge (Grand Ledge, Mich.). The Rams led 35-0 at halftime against a team that hadn't allowed more than two TDs to any foe this season. This week, the third-round opponent is Grand Blanc (Grand Blanc, Mich.).
The tradition-laden program with more than 700 all-time wins has won three state titles since 2004 with the last in 2008 when the Rams went 13-1. Two 11-win seasons followed with Rockford seeking to match that win total this weekend.
Coach Ralph Munger's team is led by 6-6, 285-pound offensive lineman Ben Braden, a Michigan recruit, and quarterback Matt LaPrairie.