Thursday, September 04, 2008

Weekend Warm-Up: Week 3

The good folks at ESPN got even more than they bargained for with Mater Dei's highly entertaining three-overtime 46-43 win over Carson last night.

Let's face it, the network's primary reason for showing the game on ESPN2 to a national audience was that it featured the ESPNU 150's top-ranked player: Monarchs quarterback Matt Barkley.

I don't think anyone expected Mater Dei to need three overtimes -- and a little luck -- to beat Carson, a team not included in the Los Angeles Times' preseason Top 25.

I know that nobody expected Barkley to throw four interceptions in the game.

The USC recruit struggled with his accuracy, completing just 15 of 31 passes for 301 yards.

However, he did throw six touchdown passes, including the game-winning toss to Derek Campbell in the corner of the end zone.

Even the reigning Gatorade National Player of the Year deserves an off night. Right?

I'll say this: Mater Dei's offense showed some of the continuity issues that led me to put the Monarchs lower in our preseason rankings than most other polls.

On the other hand, a gut-check kind of win like this can help build a mountain of confidence and help carry a team during the rest of the season.

Speaking of ESPN, the next stop on the Family of Networks' prep football cross-country tour is Tampa, Fla., on Friday night. No. 8 Armwood begins the regular season at regionally ranked Plant, which is led by Georgia recruit Aaron Murray at quarterback.

Plant's season ended at the hands of Armwood in last year's playoffs, so you know the Panthers have had this one circled for awhile.

Plant looked good in its spring and preseason scrimmages -- not to mention winning the Nike 7-on-7 title over the summer -- so watch out for what would be a minor upset here.

More teams on upset alert this weekend include No. 10 North Shore, No. 18 Skyline, No. 19 Rockhurst, and No. 25 Center Grove.

Just one week after a draining 10-6 win over defending state champ Katy, No. 10 North Shore must prepare for an extremely talented and explosive Eisenhower squad with five 3-star or better recruits, according to

No. 18 Skyline can stake its claim as not only the top team in Washington but the entire Pacific Northwest by beating defending Oregon 6A champion Sheldon at PGE Park in Portland. Two highly touted junior quarterbacks will battle in this one. Skyline's Jake Heap threw for over 3,100 yards and 31 touchdowns as a sophomore. Jordan Johnson of Sheldon had over 2,900 total yards and was named MVP of the state championship game.

Coaches never like a short turnaround to prepare for their next opponent, but this week it was particularly inopportune for No. 19 Rockhurst. Not long after the Hawklets played and won a rare Sunday game against Blue Springs South on ESPN, Coach Tony Severino and staff went to work breaking down film of three-time defending state champion Hutchinson (Kan.). The Salt Hawks own 36 consecutive wins and have a history of brilliantly executing the triple-option offense.

I guess nobody else would consider it an upset if regionally ranked Carmel beats No. 25 Center Grove. Since the National Prep Poll is the only place where the Trojans are ranked higher, I suppose a Center Grove win would actually be the upset. Either way, this should be a dandy early season game in the Indianapolis metro. Remember, Carmel won the 5A championship last season but lost a home game to Center Grove. Sixteen starters are back for the Trojans compared to 12 for Carmel.

Good high school football teams that play in Northern Kentucky often feel overlooked and underestimated by the general Ohio prep football fan populous. Some of those feelings could change this weekend if Kentucky 5A power Fort Thomas Highlands, which is ranked nationally by USA Today, can upset regionally ranked Cincinnati Colerain (which is No. 1 in the nation according to the Massey Ratings computer poll).

Highlands has won two state championships the last four seasons in Kentucky's second-largest classification, but the Blue Birds are zero for their last five in games against Cincinnati, Ohio, teams.

There's already a bit of fall in the air here in mid-America. Now, go out and enjoy some high school football this weekend!

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