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October 6, 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.

We know the calendar has turned to October - and there's just a bit of chill in the air in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

We didn't know it was quite time to separate the pretenders from the contenders.

A look at this week's top games, however, tells us that it is.

Start with No. 4 St. Thomas Aquinas and No. 27 Miramar - this will give us an inside look at Florida.

The same goes in Maryland (No. 14 Good Counsel against DeMatha), Ohio (No. 51 Solon vs. No. 52 Mentor), Missouri (No. 94 Rockhurst and Jefferson City).

And if you want to see who has the inside edge to a potential CIF bowl game in California, then check out the Southern California matchup between No. 48 Oaks Christian and No. 84 Westlake.

Five regions ... five big games.

With that, our weekly breakdown on Weekend Watch:

Weekend Watch
No. 14 Good Counsel vs. DeMatha

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
GOOD COUNSEL
WR Stefon Diggs (6-0/185, Sr.)
DE Ryan Watson (6-3/270, Sr.)
RB Wes Brown (6-1/206, Sr.)
DeMATHA
DE Brent Wilkerson (6-4/265, Sr.)
DE Michael Moore (6-4/255, Sr.)
LB Sam Lebbie (6-2/240, Sr.)
When: Saturday, Oct. 8, 2:15 p.m.
Last Meeting: Nov. 21, 2010 - Good Counsel won, 42-3
Rankings: Good Counsel (5-0), No. 1 in Maryland
DeMatha (3-1), No. 4 in Maryland


Why it's big: Two of the best private schools in the D.C. area get together in the regular season as a tune-up to what is likely an inevitable rematch in the playoffs. Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy will try to play this like his team is the underdog and paint DeMatha as the big dog on the block. That may have been the case a few years back, but recent results have swung in the favor of his team - highlighted by a 42-3 victory at the end of the 2010 season. DeMatha, however, has too much pride to play second fiddle.


Best matchup: DeMatha offense against Good Counsel defense. DeMatha has been struggling to score points this season, averaging just under 19 points per season. It already was shut out (by Calvert Hall). Good Counsel, which already has played two teams better than DeMatha (wins over Gilman and Manatee) only is allowing 12.4 points per game.


DeMatha wins if: It wins the turnover battle. It is a rare for DeMatha to be outmanned at most every position on the field, but that will be the case here as Good Counsel is extremely talented and loaded with Division I talent. DeMatha can not just "play its game" and get a win. It will need help on turnovers and special teams and maybe a good bounce or two on some plays that normally wouldn't go their way. It is a rivalry game, so staying close early will be a big help. Getting down early could snowball.


Good Counsel wins if: It keeps DeMatha to its season average on offense. It is very unlikely that DeMatha can keep Good Counsel below 20 points so if the Falcons just do it its job on defense, the offense should take care of itself. Milloy will not allow his team to lose focus as an overwhelming favorite because he likely doesn't feel the team is an overwhelming favorite.


Prediction: This is not the DeMatha of old. It is not the Good Counsel of old. These two teams, this year, are pointed in different directions. DeMatha made a change at the top and it will take a few years for the new staff to take hold and get the program jumpstarted. Good Counsel is in the middle of a special season with two very good wins already. Many may think this is a third solid win but this is a name win not a resume builder.
- Good Counsel 30, DeMatha 6

-- For more on Maryland football, visit MdHigh.com

Weekend Watch
No. 4 Aquinas vs. No. 27 Miramar

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
QB Max Lescano (5-10/180, Sr.)
RB Dami Ayoola (5-10/201, Sr.)
DE Jelani Hamilton (6-5/249, Sr.)
DL Bryan Cox Jr. (6-3/240, Sr.)
MIRAMAR
DB Tracy Howard (6-1/173, Sr.)
WR Malcolm Lewis (5-11/170, Sr.)
WR Devonte Mathis (6-2/210, Sr.)
DE Trevon Coley (6-2/241, Sr.)
When: Thursday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 15, 2010 - St. Thomas Aquinas won, 23-7
Rankings: Aquinas (4-0), No. 1 in Florida
Miramar (4-0), No. 5 in Florida


Why it's big: St. Thomas Aquinas has designs on taking home another national title. Miramar has designs on knocking off the top dog and establishing this game as a rivalry that can go both ways. Each team enters the game with strong belief that it can exit with its goals achieved. For Aquinas, it is its fourth game of consequence of the early season. Miramar will be facing only its second stiff competition.


Best matchup: Miramar's receivers against the Aquinas secondary. With Malcolm Lewis and Devonte Mathis both showing flashes of brilliance out wide, the Patriots could exploit a secondary that is not as talented as it has been in recent years. The Raiders have been in mostly physical battles with Prattville, CyBay and De La Salle, so this will be something different altogether as Miramar will be able to attack through the air. That could become the undoing of Aquinas if it isn't prepared.


Aquinas wins if: Its defensive line dominates the play up front. Miramar has the players to hold its own in the trenches, but if Jelani Hamilton and Brian Cox can be disruptive and force early throws or get Miramar out of rhythm and behind the sticks, it will be a major advantage. The linebacking group for Aquinas will need to be quick to the edges in run support as well as the quick passing game.


Miramar wins if: It contains Aquinas's quarterback. Max Lescano has gotten off to an incredible start to his high school career. He has done most of the damage with his legs, keeping plays alive. His touchdown run against Prattville and two first-down pickups against De La Salle were momentum-stealing efforts. If Miramar allows him to escape the pocket and pick up large chunks of yardage, it will suffer the same fate as the previous two teams that didn't account for the quarterback.


Prediction: This game is absolutely loaded with talent and could be one of the best games of the year. Aquinas will be ready for the challenge at home and figures to take some of the air out of the ball and pound its running backs. Miramar will need to play its most fundamentally sound game of its season as the Raiders will not beat themselves. Either team winning would not be a surprise, but it is too hard to go against Aquinas.
- St. Thomas Aquinas 23, Miramar 13

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

Weekend Watch
No. 51 Solon vs. No. 52 Mentor

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
SOLON
DT Nathan Hoff (6-2/286, Sr.)
WR Tres Barksdale (6-1/180, Sr.)
DT Vincent Hill (6-2/263, Sr.)
MENTOR
DE Tom Stobel (6-6/245, Sr.)
LB Kurt Laseak (6-4/220, Sr.)
When: Thursday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 10, 2010 - Solon won, 31-21
Rankings: Solon (6-0), No. 4 in Ohio
Mentor (6-0), No. 5 in Ohio


Why it's big: Northeast Ohio football is steadily rising on the national level and these two teams will get to showcase a quality game on Thursday evening. Both are undefeated, both are nationally ranked and both are jockeying for playoff points in the same region. This game will decide the playoff paths of both teams as well as their national standings. It is a perfect midseason matchup that matters.


Best matchup: Mentor's receivers against the Solon coverage. This season, Mentor made a change back to a five-wide spread offense and it has been putting up points in bunches. Solon returned 18 starters to a team that beat Mentor last year and that has to provide some mental edge entering the game. It is a different Mentor team offensively but that is only one side of the ball.


Solon wins if: Its defense is up to the challenge. Entering the game, the Comets have only allowed two teams to score offensive points. They have shutout three opponents and gave up a safety to another, so Mentor could have a very hard time moving the ball. Solon has not been tested to the level of Mentor yet. Getting checked quickly will be the key against this now high-flying offense.


Mentor wins if: It can jump to a quick lead. The team is averaging 44 points per game on the season and has not scored fewer than 38. Against Solon, it will need to get out of the box quickly or Solon will only gain confidence. This is a game that Mentor has to start quickly in if it wants to stay the course, as its defense has given up many more points than Solon. If the game turns into a track meet, that may not be a bad thing.


Prediction: This is a home game for Solon one year after winning a 10-point contest on the road against Mentor. What is key here is that it is essentially the same Solon team returning - but a vastly different Mentor squad. The early season evaluations make this game out to be pretty even, so we are not expecting either team to run away with the game, but it would not be a surprise if either went on to win. The safe play is the home team with the experience and a win in its pocket.
- Solon 30, Mentor 18

-- For more on Ohio high school sports, visit OhioVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 94 Rockhurst vs. Jefferson City

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ROCKHURST
LB Michael Rose (6-0/225, Sr.)
RB Jordan Walker (5-11/181, Sr.)
OL Christian Eatherly (6-6/270, Sr.)
JEFFERSON CITY
RB Devon Moore (6-2/175, Sr.)
QB Thomas LePage (5-11/175, Sr.)
When: Friday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 8, 2010 - Rockhurst won, 34-10
Rankings: Rockhurst (6-0), No. 1 in Missouri
Jefferson City (6-0), No. 3 in Missouri


Why it's big: It is a contest between two of the best teams in the state and like the state's moniker reads: Show Me. Is Rockhurst worthy of the RivalsHigh 100 or is the best in the state one of many quality programs that is not quite on the elite level? Both teams have quality out-of-state wins so this is a measuring stick.


Best matchup: The Jefferson City rush offense against the Rockhurst front seven. There was talk early in the season that this Rockhurst defense was going to be among the most physical in the school history. Through the first four games, it did not look like that would be the case. The last two weeks it has looked much better, but it will now face its most potent offensive threat of the first seven games. Devon Moore is coming off of a three-touchdown game on the ground and if he can find space, a repeat performance may happen.


Jefferson City wins if: Quarterback Thomas LePage has a solid game mixing pass and run. Rockhurst is likely going to focus on stopping the traditional rushing attack, but it will need to at least account for LePage, who has rushed for several touchdowns this year and often keeps plays alive. His ability to find the open receiver will be a key to the game as well. Jefferson City will need to be near 30 points on the night.


Rockhurst wins if: Its running game is able to keep the clock moving. Jefferson City is going to be the most explosive offense the team has faced this season - much more so than the Hickman team it beat last week. Making this game the shortest 48 minutes possible is the best thing for this team to get the win. Running the ball and controlling clock will frustrate the Jays and make it easier for Rockhurst to maintain its No. 1 spot in the state.


Prediction: Rockhurst has played a very difficult schedule to open the season and this game will add to that list of challenges. Jefferson City has been another team that has sat at or near the top of the state rankings in the recent past, so it is a step on the ladder it knows how to reach. Rockhurst often gets overlooked nationally because it does not run teams out of the building very often - but it just keeps winning. That will be the formula for this week as well.
- Rockhurst 24, Jefferson City 17

-- For more on Missouri football, visit MoSports.com

Weekend Watch
No. 48 Oaks Christian vs. No. 84 Westlake

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
OAKS CHRISTIAN
DB Ishmael Adams (5-10/185, Sr.)
WR Jordan Payton (6-2/199, Sr.)
LB Carlos Mendoza (6-1/214, Sr.)
WESTLAKE
DT Justin Solis (6-3/287, Sr.)
WR Cody Tuttle (6-3/215, Sr.)
TE John Stuart (6-4/230, Sr.)
When: Thursday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Dec. 10, 2010 - Oaks Christian won, 29-28
Rankings: Oaks Christian (3-1), No. 4 in California
Westlake (4-0), No. 9 in California


Why it's big: The three-team dance in the Maramonte League continues with Oaks Christian and Westlake. Oaks already has knocked off St. Bonaventure while Westlake has not met either to date. Each of the three teams could see the other in the playoffs, too. This game also is a border battle as the two schools share Westlake Village. Pride, as well as national rankings positioning, will be on the line.


Best matchup: The Westlake defensive line against the Oaks Christian offensive front. Oaks was not able to muster much offense in its season-opening loss against Bellevue, but it has averaged nearly 50 points in its last three games by controlling the ball and making plays both on the ground and through the air. Westlake beat a solid Del Oro team to open the season, but its competition has decreased since and it could have inflated its defensive stats.


Oaks Christian wins if: It has truly been game-hardened. Oaks Christian has faced better competition on the season and that experience should get it ready for Westlake. St. Bonaventure had a seemingly better passing game than Westlake and Bellevue had a better rushing game that Westlake as well. If Oaks Christian learned from those two games, it should be able to shut down Westlake.


Westlake wins if: It is able to hit 30 points. That figures to be the magical number in this game. Whichever team gets closer to it, or goes over, will win. Westlake has averaged more than 50 points per game, including the 73 it piled on last week against Royal. We'll soon learn how much of that has been inflated, but Westlake's confidence should be high.


Prediction: The two have become familiar since Oaks invaded the Maramonte League and showed to be very competitive. It is a home game for Westlake but that is relatively meaningless as the schools are not separated by much of anything. Both have incentive: Oaks still plays with a chip on its shoulder as pundits have been doubting the program while Westlake can use this game to further its own claims to a potential California bowl game.
- Oaks Christian 30, Westlake 27

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2011: 51-12)
Game of the Week: Don Bosco def. St. Edward, 16-10
No. 31 Bellarmine Prep def. Valley Christian, 20-6
No. 32 McEachern def. No. 33 Hillgrove, 30-24
No. 35 Detroit Catholic Central def. Brother Rice, 10-3
No. 98 Jenks def. Muskogee, 30-13
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 5-2
2011 Record for all games picked: 56-14



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