Monday, September 10, 2007

The week in review: 9/10/07

Cincinnati St. Xavier has done everything asked of it in order to hold its No. 1 ranking in the National Prep Poll.

Since starting the year in the top spot, the Bombers have defeated three opponents by a comfortable combined margin of 90-26. It includes wins over No. 13 DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) and Cleveland Glenville, which began the year ranked No. 49 in the preseason Power 50 rankings that I compiled for RISE magazine.

Did I mention that coach Steve Specht and company have done all this without the services of their best offensive player? Running back Darius Ashley, a two-time all-Ohio performer, has been sidelined with an injured ankle since St. Xavier's third offensive play of the season.

With all that said, holding the No. 1 ranking (or any ranking spot for that matter) in the National Prep Poll is not always permanent -- even if you don't happen to lose a game. It might seem that way in other polls, but not ours.

Even with another impressive victory against Midwest No. 10 Trinity (Louisville) this week, it is conceivable that St. Xavier might drop in the National Prep Poll next week.

Who? What? Why?

Simple. Each team in our poll is evaluated and re-evaluated each week during the season. That means during the course of the season, I actually watch the teams play -- as many as I can, on tape or in person -- and evaluate what I see.

I have tape of St. Xavier's first two games of the season. I have watched the Bombers perform well so far, especially in their ESPN-televised 28-7 win against DeMatha on Sept. 2.

But this Saturday, No. 2 Southlake (Texas) Carroll and No. 3 Miami Northwestern will get a chance to show their stuff to a national television audience.

Will either team play at such a level that moving them into the No. 1 ranking will seem like a no-brainer?

We will see.

One thing is for certain, Northwestern will have to play better than it did last week against Homestead. The
Miami Herald reported that the Bulls led the 0-2 Broncos by just 22-18 with less than three minutes to play, and quite obviously played the game with one eye looking ahead to Carroll.

While indeed the 'look-ahead' factor was probably in order, this is a Northwestern team that also gave up 41 points to Deerfield Beach in a preseason scrimmage. It's also a Northwestern team whose players endured a tumultuous course of events that led to nearly its entire coaching staff being replaced less than one month before the start of fall practice.

Miami Northwestern might have more future NFL players on its roster than any team in the country (or not), but that doesn't necessarily make them the best high school football team in the country.

Carroll has an inexperienced defense and only one regular season game under its belt with a new coaching staff.

Carroll will also face Northwestern with a significant home-field advantage. The game will be played less than 30 miles away from home at SMU's Ford Field in Dallas.

Northwestern is certainly not the type of team I expect to be intimidated by a large, Carroll-partisan crowd. But the physical effects of traveling half-way across the country the day before the game, sleeping in a strange bed, and the logistical minutia that goes along with organizing a trip for 60-70 teenage males is, I think, even more daunting.

I think Saturday's game should be an interesting and entertaining contest between two of the most talented teams in the country representing two of the very best high school football states in the country.

But would winning that game alone be enough to earn a team the nation's No. 1 ranking?

Probably not.

There's still plenty of games left to play after Saturday, after all.

Whatever happens on Saturday, I can't wait to see it.

SLC vs. Northwestern is not No. 1 versus No. 2, but ...

The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the National Prep Football Poll's national Top 25 still have never met on the field. This includes all rankings compiled by Doug Huff for World Features Syndicate (the copyright holder of our poll) from 1987 through part of 1999 and by yours truly from 2000 to the present.

However, it will not be the first time that two teams ranked in the National Prep Poll's Top 3 have played each other. The last time was in 2001 and 2002, when No. 1 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) played No. 3 Poly (Long Beach, Calif.). De La Salle won the 2001 matchup, 29-15, and the 2002 game, 28-7.

The games took place during De La Salle's run of 151 consecutive wins and four consecutive National Prep Poll titles.

Union makes a statement

Following a disappointing 7-4 season last year, things seem to be getting back to normal at Tulsa Union.

The eighth-ranked Redskins and No. 11 Jenks resumed one of the nation's top prep football rivalries last Friday. Union erased a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won the game in overtime, 43-42.

It was truly an instant classic. So much so that Tulsa World preps writer Barry Lewis vaulted it to No. 1 in his list of the best Union-Jenks matchups of the last two decades. It's quite an amazing list of games played between two teams that have won every Oklahoma 6A state title awarded over the last 11 seasons.

Incidentally, Tulsa Union's entry into this week's National Prep Poll at No. 8 is the first time a team debuted in the national rankings with a Top 10 ranking since 2004. Lakeland (Fla.) did it that year while securing the first of three consecutive 5A championships. The Dreadnaughts completed their ascent up the national rankings by winning the Prep Poll title last season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jamie - excellent points on the re-evaluation that takes place week to week on your poll. As a Colerain fan, it kills me that Lawlor has moved Colerain from 24 to 12 in 3 weeks and we haven't really beaten anyone, other than Hoover, to justify that kind of moving in three weeks. However, I look forward to Colerain doing what they do over the next 7 weeks and hopefully by the end of Ohio's regular season, they will have worked their way up near the top 10 in your poll setting up a great matchup with St. Xavier at some point.

BTW, what will it take for you to consider Elder in your top 25?