ESPN RISE FAB 50 Analysis
Mark Tennis & Brian Stumpf
Now it's really time for some high school football. All but four of the ESPN RISE FAB 50 teams will be in action this weekend, with football officially kicking off for the first time this season in some major states like California, Florida and Pennsylvania.
No. 3 Elder (1-0) vs. Colerain (0-1) -- ESPN, Sunday, noon ET
This matchup is a terrific contrast in styles as Elder's wide-open passing attack locks horns with Colerain's power run game. That rushing attack was unable to get going last week for the then-No. 30 Cardinals, who were shut out by St. Xavier 16-0 and dropped from the rankings. That could make them almost more dangerous this week. Elder defeated Colerain 27-20 in double overtime in last year's regional finals.
No. 4 Katy (1-0) vs. The Woodlands (1-0)
The Woodlands destroyed Katy last year, 47-0, as the Tigers began the year 0-2. The Tigers regrouped, however, and won 13 of their next 14 games en route to the Class 5A, Division II state title. The Woodlands brings back eight starters from the team that crushed Katy, including Alabama-bound OL Chad Lindsay, WR Randy Knust (who has committed to Arizona State) and standout junior RB Daniel Lasco. The Woodlands routed Cy-Fair 42-6 in its opener last week.
Peachtree Ridge (1-0) vs. No. 7 Lowndes (1-0)
Peachtree Ridge, ranked No. 18 in the ESPN RISE Southeast Region Top 20, travels south to face perennial power Lowndes, which scored a school-record 75 points last week against hapless Woodland. But the Vikings should see a much stiffer test this week from the Lions. Peachtree Ridge was last year's Class AAAAA state runner-up and is pushing for a FAB 50 spot. These teams also met in the second week of the season last fall, with Lowndes securing a 22-7 win.
No. 9 Skyline, Wash. (0-0) vs. Jesuit, Ore. (0-0)
This is the first of two big out-of-state games for No. 9 Skyline as arguably the top program in Washington will face arguably the best in Oregon on Saturday at Qwest Field. In 2008, Skyline opened with a 21-0 victory over defending Oregon state champion Sheldon, and this year it will challenge Jesuit, which went 10-2 a year ago and enters 2009 as the preseason state No. 1 and No. 20 in the ESPN RISE West Region rankings. To top the Crusaders, Skyline will need to contain dynamic Keanon Lowe, a speedy 5-foot-10, 165-pound WR/DB who has committed to Washington.
No. 21 Dwyer (0-0) vs. Glades Central (0-0)
Big things are expected out of Dwyer this year with returnees like Florida commits Matt Elam and Gerald Christian as well as big-time junior QB Jacoby Brissett. Dwyer will first need to deal with perennial power Glades Central. Glades opens as the No. 2 team in Florida's Class 2A. Glades topped Dwyer a year ago in a 6-0 defensive slugfest.
No. 22 Miami Central (0-0) at Mainland (0-0)
Perhaps no team in the country can match Central at QB, RB and WR with the returning talent they have at those positions. But the defense is a concern, and Mainland, which went 11-1 last year and returns star junior RB Marlin Lane, should test that defense right away. Look for a lot of points here as the preseason No. 2 and No. 4 teams in Florida's Class 6A square off.
No. 24 Hamilton (1-0) at Westview (1-0)
Hamilton made a huge jump in the FAB 50 last week after crushing St. Mary's, but don't look for it to put up 73 points again this week against Westview, which currently sits at No. 18 in the ESPN RISE West Region Top 20. Westview was a state finalist last fall and opened with an easy 41-7 win.
No. 33 Southlake Carroll (1-0) at Arlington (1-0)
The Dragons crushed Arlington 44-10 a year ago, but with the talent the Colts welcome back this fall, led by the Joeckel twins (QB Matt and OL Luke, both committed to Texas A&M) and a deep group of receivers, Arlington could make this very interesting. Again, expect a lot of points here.
No. 34 Wheaton Warrenville South (1-0) vs. Maine South (1-0)
Two of the top squads in Illinois face-off in Week 2. Maine South appears in some other national rankings and has a workhorse in Indiana-bound RB Matt Perez, who runs behind junior All-American OL Victor Nelson. The Hawks went 14-0 last year while averaging 45 points a game. They showed the same explosive offense in a 64-35 opening win over Schaumburg last week. WWS will not have much opportunity to celebrate last week's win over then-FAB 50-ranked Hinsdale Central if it wants to move to 2-0 on the year.
No. 38 South Pointe, S.C. (1-0) vs. Independence, N.C. (2-0)
South Pointe, which won a South Carolina state title last fall in just its third year of varsity football, has an opportunity to show it's here to stay as a state and national power with a win over Independence. Despite some heavy losses from last year, the Stallions more than held their own in a scrimmage with No. 2 Byrnes in the preseason and then routed Mann 55-7 in their opener. A win over perennial North Carolina power and Southeast Region No. 20 Independence would stamp South Pointe as a legitimate national program and a near-equal of Byrnes in the Palmetto State. Independence is led by QB Anthony Carrothers.
No. 40 Long Beach Poly (0-0) vs. Servite (0-0)
Poly's nonleague gauntlet starts off with a trip to a Servite team that is expected to be amongst SoCal's best this year and ranks No. 17 in the West Region Top 20. The Friars have a big, physical front and an experienced QB in Cody Fajardo and should challenge the young Jackrabbits on both sides of the ball. Expect points to be at a premium here.
No. 41 Lakewood (0-0) at Crenshaw (0-0)
Is Lakewood ready for the hype? The Lancers jumped into the FAB 50 last week before they even played one game and have to be careful not to overlook Crenshaw, a perennial challenger in the L.A. City Section and home to Division I talent each year. Lakewood has a bevy of talented options, starting with Elite 11 QB Jesse Scroggins, a USC commit, but will be without suspended star RB Jerry Stone for the season. Crenshaw's running game should be terrific, led by junior De'Anthony Thomas. Lakewood bested Crenshaw 42-34 last year.
No. 43 Liberty (0-0) at North Penn (0-0)
What an opener this is in Pennsylvania, as defending AAAA state champ Liberty clashes with perennial state contender North Penn. The two teams split two meetings a year ago, with North Penn taking the season-opener 23-15 and then rattling off 13 more consecutive victories before falling to Liberty 21-14 in a state semifinal. So revenge will be on the Knights' minds Friday night. Liberty is led by dynamic QB/DB Anthony Gonzalez.
No. 50 Shiloh Christian, Ark. (0-0) vs. Evangel Christian, La. (0-0)
Is Arkansas small-school power Shiloh Christian really deserving of a spot in the ESPN RISE FAB 50? We'll find out Friday night as the Saints host one of the top teams in Louisiana year-in and year-out, Evangel Christian. The Saints went 13-1 a year ago and won a smaller class state title in Arkansas, but that one loss is what raises the questions about whether this team should be nationally ranked -- a 47-9 rout at the hands of ... Evangel Christian.