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August 3, 2010

RivalsHigh 100: Teams 40-36

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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.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on July 26 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Monday, Aug. 9 - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about teams 40-36

Top 100 countdown
No. 40 Westlake, California

COACH: Jim Benkert
LAST SEASON: 14-0, California Northern Division Champions
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 16 in California

KEEP AN EYE ON: The scoreboard, because it will be hard to keep up with the score. Westlake averaged more than 41 points per game last season and had a point differential of nearly four touchdowns. They return plenty of offensive firepower and will be hard to contain.

BACK-TO-BACK? Winning back-to-back championships is never easy but the Warriors are looking forward to taking the next step to the state championship. They return six starters on offense and eight on defense from their undefeated team, including the quarterback, top running back, top receiver, and top defender. The schedule doesn't look overly difficult, so the team may be easy to navigate the few pitfalls this season.

STRENGTHS: The Warriors have plenty of experience and talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Nick Isham will direct the offense and his favorite passing target will be Nelson Spruce. Both excelled in several passing tournaments over the summer. Isham threw for 2,128 yards last season and completed an incredible 74 percent of his passes. He had only three interceptions while throwing for 30 touchdowns. Spruce, meanwhile, caught 18 of those touchdown passes while totaling 1,325 yards. The duo had one touchdown play for 94 yards. Running back Tavior Mowry rushed for 1,353 yards and 12 touchdowns last year and is set for an even bigger season. The defense is led by Max Winsberg at linebacker, and 6-foot-3, 295-pound Justin Solis on the line. Between them, they totaled 200 tackles last year. Solis got through for seven sacks while Winsberg tallied four interceptions.

QUOTABLE: "Westlake is one of the top teams in a state loaded with talented teams," CaliforniaPreps analyst Dave Keefer said. "They ended last season on a 14-0 run and, if they continue that streak, they will have a chance to be ranked as one of the top teams in the nation. They have the returning talent and experience to pull it off."

Top 100 countdown
No. 39 Lake Travis, Texas

COACH: Hank Carter
LAST SEASON: 16-0, Texas UIL Class 4A State Champions
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 2 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Cavaliers respond to having a new head coach. Following the run to a No. 2 national ranking and being the first 4A team in a really long time to be widely accepted as the best team in Texas football, the team's coach Chadd Morris went to the University of Tulsa. Now longtime assistant Hank Carter is at the helm. Carter has been with the program for 11 years, so his face is not new to the kids, but the pressure to keep up the winning ways just got a little heavier on his back.

STRENGTH: Experience with winning is something that many teams have to learn, but not Lake Travis. The team has done nothing but win, reeling off three-consecutive state titles. This year's squad brings back six starters on both sides of the ball and has plenty of big game experience.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Throwing the ball all over the yard and following in the footsteps of Garrett Gilbert is quarterback Michael Brewer. The 6-foot-1 gunslinger is committed to Texas Tech and is ranked the No. 10 dual-threat quarterback in the country. Some rumblings about teams coming in to steal Brewer's commitment have been quickly squashed. Brewer committed to Tommy Tuberville and his staff and has been solid on that decision since day one.

QUOTABLE: "I think it is great for the community to have us playing [Austin (Texas)] Westlake," Carter said. "We are right down the street from one another and both very good programs. Last year, they got so much better after they played us. It was great to watch both teams make those runs into the state title games."

Top 100 countdown
No. 38 Stony Point, Texas

COACH: Craig Chessher
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 69 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether this year's team is ready to turn the corner. In years past, the Tigers have been an oh-so-close team. To end the 2008 season, the team lost in the playoffs by two points to eventual state champions Allen (Texas) High. Last year, it was another close defeat, dropping a seven-point decision to Euless (Texas) Trinity who also went on to win the state title.

STRENGTH: Stony Point has a pair of returners on defense who will lead by example. The team's best players, Jordan Wade and P.L. Lindley, are the two that the rest of the team looks to lead. Both players are committed to Oklahoma and will have to anchor a defense that only returns four starters.

VOCAL LEADERS: While Wade and Lindley will let their play do the talking, the emotional leaders of the team have to come from elsewhere. According to coach Craig Chessher, there are two players on defense and one on offense that take care of firing up the team. The team's safety, Chris Spikes, and linebacker, Trevor Casswell, take care of the defense. Offensively, it is center David Mareno that will lead. Mareno is also one of the strongest players on the team, benching 375 pounds.

QUOTABLE: "Still being in preseason, I don't know how we will be. I have to get the kids to be hungry and stay humble," Chessher said. "I think we have the talent to win states, but it will take quite an effort. If all the teams we figure to be there in the playoffs, we would have to go through some very talented teams."

Top 100 countdown
No. 37 Pensacola, Florida

COACH: Mike Bennett
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 11 in Florida

KEEP AN EYE ON: If this team can hold up to the pressure and expectations. The Tigers had one of the best defenses in the country last year and, to maintain its lofty ranking nationally, will need to play just as well. Allowing just 95 points in 15 games may be a bit much to expect a full repeat performance from the team, but the returning talent is definitely capable - at least on paper - of doing so. Now, it becomes a matter of actually doing it on the field.

STRENGTH: Pensacola's strength is its sheer volume of players returning. The team brings back nine starters on offense and five starters on defense, and adds two players - one who moved in from Virginia and a transfer from nearby Escambia. Three of the defensive front four return as well, making this a very hard team to run against.

OVERLOOKED ON PAPER: While many say that Cordivido Grice is the star of the team - and he very well may be - one thing that went without much attention is the spectacular play on special teams from athlete Quan Johnson. Johnson took six kicks/punts back for touchdowns last year and turned the field over on multiple occasions with long returns. His playmaking ability is a key to the team.

QUOTABLE: "People from South Florida get all wrapped up in their prospects and their recruits," coach Mike Bennett said. "But we have our fair share of good teams up here. We represent well in state finals and that is where it counts. They may have more teams in terms of volume and sheer numbers, but we play some good football up here as well."

Top 100 countdown
No. 36 St. Thomas Aquinas, Fla.

COACH: George Smith
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 27 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: If this version of the Raiders comes back with the hunger of two years ago ... or the complacency from the end of 2009. St. Thomas Aquinas won the national title in 2008 and was favored to repeat in '09, but looked like a team going through the motions against Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely and then lost to Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee to end its season. The talent is always there, but will the desire to win be there? Teams are going to give the Raiders their best game and St. Thomas will need to match their intensity.

STRENGTH: The aerial attack that the Raiders can put on display will be quite impressive if the offensive line can protect the quarterback. Returning at quarterback is Jake Rudock, an Iowa commit, and two Division I wide receivers in Rashad Greene (Florida State) and Phillip Dorsett (Miami). If Bobby Hart and his offensive linemen can hold down the fort up front, they will be in good shape.

STAR ON THE RISE: One of the fastest rising prospects in the southeast is the defensive back for Aquinas, Marcus Roberson. He is ranked as a four-star prospect at defensive back and, standing 6-foot-1 and weighing 170 pounds, is nearly an ideal size for the position. His ability to make plays on the ball and support the run is what separates him from the pack.

SCHEDULE TO COMPETE: Last season, Aquinas took on Columbus (Ohio) Upper Arlington and Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes in its out of state games. While it may have been tough to step up that competition, the Raiders managed to do it. Aquinas will open this season at Cowboys Stadium against Dallas (Texas) Skyline. Then, just under a month later, the team will take on two-time Georgia AAAAA state champion, Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County. They also take on Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson and Miramar (Fla.) High before the playoffs even start.

QUOTABLE: "The talent supply just seems to be endless at STA," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Barton Simmons said. "With a full compliment of weapons coming back in the passing game and some good young backs, Coach Smith is going to have a balanced team. It is almost unfair how quickly that program reloads."

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