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September 22, 2011

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Coaches will tell you that earning the No. 1 spot is easy. Keeping it, though, is hard.

Week after week, you have to prove yourself in what suddenly becomes the game of the year for your opponent.

It's not always easy.

Our Weekend Watch games this week include three No. 1 teams facing significant challenges.

In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Central Catholic figures to get a game from Woodland Hills;

In Nebraska, Burke will have its hands full with Papillion-LaVista;

In Ohio, Moeller has its annual battle with St. Xavier.

Big games? They're always big games when you're the No. 1 team in the state.

And they're never easy.

With that, an in-depth look around the antiat some of the top games of the weekend:

Weekend Watch
No. 25 Central Catholic v Woodland Hills

RB Damion Jones-Moore (5-6/171, Sr.)
DB Anthony Nixon (6-1/185, Sr.)
QB Perry Hills (6-3/205, Sr.)
WR Shakim Alonzo (6-5/205, Sr.)
LB Mike Caprara (6-0/215. Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 23, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 24, 2010 - Central Catholic won, 24-7.
Rankings: Central Catholic (3-0), No. 1 in Pennsylvania
Woodland Hills (3-0), No. 12 in Pennsylvania

WHY IT'S BIG: Two of the Top 15 teams in the state will be doing battle on both of their home turf (Central Catholic does not have a home field and shares with Woodland Hills). The game likely will determine the winner of the WPIAL Big East conference. The pair are two of the top teams in the class and could meet up later in the playoffs, but this is the biggest test of Central Catholic for the remainder of the regular season.

BEST MATCHUP: Woodland Hills run defense against RB Damion Jones-Moore. Jones-Moore has been a major playmaker with the ball in his hands this season and really showcased his ability early in the year against Archbishop Wood. If Woodland Hill is going to have success in this game it will be if it can make Central Catholic one-dimensional.

CENTRAL CATHOLIC WINS IF: It remains balanced. It has been a strong pass-run balance this season for Central Catholic with Maryland-commit Perry Hills throwing the ball and Jones-Moore running it. The defense is very solid against the run and it has been able to get good pressure without many blitz packages. This is a solid team; it needs to remain balanced.

WOODLAND HILLS WINS IF: It can get out to an early lead. Central Catholic is not built to be a come-from-behind squad. If the Wolverines can take quick control of the game, it will force the Vikings out of their comfort zone. It is rare that Woodland Hills enters a game less talented than its opponent, but that is the case this week. It will need a few breaks to go its way.

PREDICTION: This game should not go all too differently from last season, when Central Catholic controlled the pace and the scoreboard. The team is on the rise and a win over Woodland Hills could send a shot around the WPIAL that this team is poised to make a run to Heinz Field and Hershey for the district and state titles.
- Central Catholic 27, Woodland Hills 7

-- For more on Pennsylvania football, visit PaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 94 Bolles v Fleming Island

OT John Theus (6-5/292, Sr.)
OT Jon Heck (6-6/280, Sr.)
DT Max Tejada (6-3/286, Sr.)
ATH Craig Brodsky (5-10/192, Sr.)
OL Armando Bonheur (6-4/276, Sr.)
LB Cameron McCurry (6-0/215. Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 23, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Bolles (3-0), No. 10 in Florida
Fleming Island (3-0), No. 32 in Florida

WHY IT'S BIG: This is smash-mouth football at its best when Northeast Florida's measuring stick school (Bolles) goes up against the larger, and on the rise, Fleming Island. It is a battle between two very good coaches as the legendary Corky Rogers of Bolles squares off with Jeff Webb. Bolles slid into the RivalsHigh 100 this week as the evaluations of teams No. 10-No. 16 in Florida continue to turnover. This game could help push the Bulldogs up or send them to the doghouse.

BEST MATCHUP: Bolles' offensive line versus the Fleming Island defensive line. The Bolles' offensive line has two players committed to major Division I schools in John Theus (Georgia) and Jon Heck (North Carolina), both of whom are over 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds. The road-graders will try to push through the Fleming Island front.

BOLLES WINS IF: It can score early and then get a stop. Bolles is still working with a young quarterback and breaking him in would go better if there wasn't as much pressure on him. The team has not been challenged in its three wins so far this season but that will soon change. And if the players think that Fleming Island is going to come out flat, they are mistaken.

FLEMING ISLAND WINS IF: It is able to bully the bully. Bolles likes to play physically and push teams around - and it has the players in place to do it regularly. Fleming Island is a regional player that is moving up the rankings board each year. Coach Webb has this team ready to turn the corner after going 14-1 last season. A win over Bolles would be huge. The Class 7A team should have a depth advantage but that only matters if the first team does its part.

PREDICTION: This game could go either way. Fleming Island is a team to watch out for in Class 7A, but Bolles is the early favorite in Class 4A. It is a home game for Bolles, and while that may not mean too much in intimidation points, it does mean Fleming Island has to travel to get to the game. Both teams will be running the ball so the clock should be running most of the game. Whichever team makes the mistake first could lose. Bolles is more fundamentally sound and has the better offensive line. That is the difference.
- Bolles 20, Fleming Island 16.

-- For more on Florida football, visit FlaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 13 Moeller v No. 29 St. X

WR Monty Madaris (6-2/186, Sr.)
WR Michael Means (6-1/185, Sr.)
TE John Tanner (6-4/231, Sr.)
QB Griffin Dolle (6-2/193, Sr.)
RB Conor Hundley (5-11/205, Sr.)
LB Nate Gerbus (6-1/219, Sr.)
DB Andrew Arand (6-2/200, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 24, 2010 - Moeller won, 17-7.
Rankings: Moeller (4-0), No. 1 in Ohio
St. Xavier (3-1), No. 2 in Ohio

WHY IT'S BIG: It's a battle of GCL-South foes for the top spot in Ohio and a possible spot in the RivalsHigh 100 Top 10 (for Moeller). This year, the game is being moved to the University of Cincinnati and should sell a ton of tickets. The two are very familiar foes and this should be a war. It has a little different feel this year with Moeller looking faster than ever, but a fight for yards is always expected with these two teams.

BEST MATCHUP: St. X secondary against the Moeller receivers. Yes, that is correct, a game in Cincinnati that could be decided through the air. Last week, St. X did an acceptable job on Louisville Trinity receiver James Quick. This week it will be Monty Madaris of Moeller and his teammate Michael Means. St. X was able to adjust and slow Pickerington Central after getting burned on a few plays. If it is unable to keep Moeller from getting deep into the secondary this could be a long night.

ST. XAVIER WINS IF: It opens the playbook. Consistently the complaint of St. Xavier is conservative play-calling and a steady dose of running between the tackles. It has been a winning combination for Steve Specht for a number of years and that makes it a hard ship to turn, but teams are figuring out how to stop it. If St. X can come out and pop a big play or two to open the holes for RB Conor Hundley, it will go a long way toward winning.

MOELLER WINS IF: It can keep St. X under 14 points. While Moeller has looked like a well-oiled machine scoring 68 and 63 points against Hamilton (Ohio) High and Clayton (Ohio) Northmont, the reality is that the offense is probably closer to the 14 points it scored against Pickerington (Ohio) Central to open the season. Moeller will likely score in the 17- to 24-point total this week. Keeping St. X off that range will be the test.
PREDICTION: St. Xavier is playing its fourth RivalsHigh 100 team in its first five games - and three of them have been on the road - so it has to be getting tired of playing quality opponents. Moeller beat an overrated Louisville St. Xavier team last week rather unimpressively, but if it comes in overconfident, it will leave with a thumping. Neither team will take this game lightly; that plays well for Moeller, which appears to be the more talented squad on paper. Expect a low-scoring affair with a quick-moving clock.
- Moeller 20, St. X 9.

-- For more on Ohio football, visit OhioVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 93 Burke v Papillion-LaVista

RB Jordan Nelson (5-9/163, Sr.)
OL Hunter Greer (6-6/280, Sr.)
OL James Anderson (6-3/306, Jr.)
DT Dylan Utter (6-3/300, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 23, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 24, 2010 - Burke won, 41-20.
Rankings: Burke (4-0), No. 1 in Nebraska
Papillion-LaVista (4-0), No. 5 in Nebraska

WHY IT'S BIG: Two top teams in a non-power state both enter the game undefeated and both with high-scoring offenses. It is a rare treat to feature a game from Nebraska that has national relevance outside of a state final. This could be one of the best games of the year. Burke has scored 171 points in four games (after not breaking 350 all of last year) and Papillion-LaVista already has tallied 188 points (after only scoring 219 last season). Neither team is allowing many points either. It has all the makings for a spectacular game.

BEST MATCHUP: Burke offensive line against the Papillion LaVista defensive line. There generally are not many Division I prospects to come out of the Huskerland area, but this game may feature three just in the trenches. LaVista defensive tackle Dylan Utter (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) is tough to stop, but Burke offensive lineman Hunter Greer (6-foot-6, 280 pounds) and James Anderson (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) could be up to the challenge.

BURKE WINS IF: Running back Jordan Nelson has a big game. The 5-foot-9 running back was poised to have a breakout season in 2010 but an injury slowed him down. Now back at full strength, he could have a major game with the national focus being on him. A lot of that will come back to the offensive line, which has been up to the task.

PAPILLION-LaVISTA WINS IF: It can turn this game into a shootout. While LaVista has not given up more than 14 points in any game this season, it only has faced one team that averages more than 16 points per game on the season so its defensive statistics are skewed to a deceiving light. This game could easily get into the high 20s and 30s for the loser. The more points it can score will be key.

PREDICTION: Burke has as much or more talent as any team in Nebraska and this could be a game to flex those muscles. LaVista looks like a completely different team from the same time last year and that is a very good thing. Burke is expected to win this and every game from here on out. Justifying its ranking inside the RivalsHigh 100 will begin this week. Check the first box off the list on the march to a state title.
- Burke 44, Papillion LaVista 28.

-- For more on both teams and Nebraska football, visit HuskerlandPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 81 Poly v No. 84 Mission Viejo

LB Salamo Fiso (6-0/200, Sr.)
LB Matthew Rowe (6-2/223, Sr.)
DE Alonzo Williams (6-4/245, Sr.)
WR Richard Smith (5-8/160, Sr.)
OL Colby Cyburt (6-5/265, Sr.)
QB Alex Bridgford (6-3/205, Sr.)
OL Austin Maass (6-4/275, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 24, 2010 - Mission Viejo won, 37-7.
Rankings: Poly (3-0), No. 9 in California
Mission Viejo (2-1), No. 10 in California

WHY IT'S BIG: All evaluations of the Southern California football scene, from preseason to now, have said the area is down this season. Here's further proof, only the winner of this matchup may still be ranked. Poly has been quite the escape-artists this season with narrow wins over Sacramento (Calif.) Grant and Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne. Mission Viejo fell in its only true test of the season, against Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco. While each will play plenty of other quality opponents, it is a test of the region right now.

BEST MATCHUP: The Poly trio of receivers against the Mission Viejo pass defense. In three games this season the Jackrabbits have been held in check offensively. The biggest impact the three Arizona State commits have mustered was a blocked extra point to seal the game against Grant. If Poly wants to make a run up the national rankings its pass game will need to come to life. Viejo has a solid defensive line that could put pressure on the passing game.

POLY WINS IF: Chaiyse Hales protects the ball. The senior quarterback has plenty of weapons and a coach that keeps him on a sort leash and loves to run the ball. Hales has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns thus far. That cannot happen and against better competition. The split in playcalling is nearly five-to-three in favor of the running attack, so when Poly drops back, it can not be intercepted.

MISSION VIEJO WINS IF: It can run the ball and take pressure off of Alex Bridgford. Between Marcus Collins and Jahleel Pinner, the pair needs to get 25 touches in this game to keep the Diablos on the field and running the clock down. The Diablos should have the advantage in the trenches with a better offensive line, but it will need to get to the second level and clear out the active Poly linebackers.

PREDICTION: This game should not look much like the 30-point loss that Viejo hung on Poly last year with Viejo taking a step back and Poly taking a step forward on the field. This game could go either way, and if it were played 10 times it could be a 5-5 split. This is a home game for Mission Viejo and that will actually play in the hands of Poly as its fans can be hard on the team when at home. Look for this to go down to the end and that is where the Jackrabbits have shined this season.
- Mission Viejo 22, Poly 17.

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2011: 36-9)
Game of the Week: St. Thomas Aquinas def. De La Salle, 24-13
No. 10 Trinity def. Heritage, 34-10
No. 39 Gilman def. Georgetown Prep, 45-6
No. 40 St. Bonaventure def. No. 72 Oaks Christian, 27-22
No. 41 Detroit Catholic Central def. Warren De La Salle, 23-17
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 3-2
2011 Record for all games picked: 39-11

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