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November 17, 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 have made it: Thirteen weekends into to the season and it is now "win or go home" time coast-to-coast.

The postseason is underway everywhere in the country; in some parts, they are even playing the finals.

If you want to make our Weekend Watch, you have to stand out in the crowd. These do.

How about Central Catholic vs. Upper St. Clair? Two of the better teams in the WPIAL - if not all of the state of Pennsylvania - are meeting to play North Allegheny or Gateway next week at Heinz Field.

The same goes down in Georgia, where Grayson and Lowndes - both nationally relevant - are playing a second-round game.

It is now the regional finals for the Division I tourney in Ohio, where every game is great, but with ranked Moeller and St. Xavier playing a rematch, it is a must see.

Speaking of great matchups, Trinity finally has one in Texas, where it will take on Allen at Cowboys Stadium ... in a second-round game.

Out West, we've got Bishop Gorman and Palo Verde - two teams that have been ranked on the top lines in Nevada all season - playing for a spot in the Final Four.

That's big stuff.

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

Weekend Watch
No. 25 Cent. Catholic v No. 91 U. St. Clair

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
CENTRAL CATHOLIC
RB Damion Jones-Moore (5-7/173, Sr.)
DB Anthony Nixon (6-1/185, Sr.)
QB Perry Hills (6-3-205, Sr.)
UPPER ST. CLAIR
QB/LB Dakota Conwell (6-1/209, Sr.)
OL Ian Park (6-4/295, Sr.)
TE Jack Schwaba (6-5/240, Sr.)
When: Friday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 24, 2009 - Central Catholic won, 31-7
Rankings: Central Catholic (11-0), No. 1 in Pennsylvania
Upper St. Clair (10-1), No. 3 in Pennsylvania


Why it's big: For the first time in a few years, the semifinals in the WPIAL produces two great games (Gateway and North Allegheny being the other). This is certainly a headliner. Central Catholic fans have had this season circled for the past two years and it looks as though the Vikings are poised to make a run to a PIAA final. Upper St. Clair already has played a tough battle with North Allegheny this season and will be ready for what it will face on Friday.


Best matchup: Upper St. Clair defense against the Central Catholic offense. Upper St. Clair has allowed fewer than nine points per game this season but has yet to really face a test as balanced and explosive as Central Catholic. While the Vikings do prefer to do most of their damage on the ground, the vertical game can not be slept on.


Central Catholic wins if: Quarterback Perry Hills has a good game. The Maryland commit is most often labeled as a game manager, but he has the ability to be a game-changer. If he is on with his decision-making, then it will be an easy night for Central Catholic. The run game will be featured, and that includes Hills moving the chains with his legs, but being able to see the field and throw while on the run is a dangerous weapon.


Upper St. Clair wins if: It can control the game on the ground. Like many teams in the Pittsburgh area, it is a run-heavy team. And at a nearly four-to-one clip rushing the ball this year, it will be imperative that the team is able to sustain drives and move the ball. Dakota Conwell, the senior quarterback, is the team's leader with nearly 1,000 yards both passing and rushing. His ability to find the end zone will be a major factor.


Prediction: Central Catholic has had a couple of tests against strong defenses but maybe none as solid as Upper St. Clair. That same sentence could be written for Upper St. Clair. This could be a low-scoring game with teams grinding the clock as well as their gears offensively. Central Catholic has a singular focus this season and that is to win the WPIAL and a PIAA title. The game is being played at Chartiers Valley and that will be almost a perfectly neutral field for these two teams. Central Catholic is more well rounded and gets the win.
- Central Catholic 21, Upper St. Clair 7.

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

Weekend Watch
No. 14 Grayson v Lowndes

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
GRAYSON
QB Nick Schuessler (6-4/196, Sr.)
WR Korey Jones (6-2/181, Sr.)
DB Devin Gillespie (5-11/201, Sr.)
DE Robert Nkemdiche (6-5/260, Jr.)
LOWNDES
ATH Josh Harvey-Clemons (6-5/208, Sr.)
DB Justin Evans (6-0/183, Sr.)
When: Friday, Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Nov. 28, 2008 - Grayson won, 17-7.
Rankings: Grayson (12-0), No. 2 in Georgia
Lowndes (8-3), No. 11 in Georgia


Why it's big: It's one of what could prove to be at least four great second-round games in Georgia. This one gets the nod because of the cache that Lowndes brings to the table. The defensive battle that likely will be put on display with these two teams has fundamental football fans' heads spinning.


Best matchup: The Lowndes offense against the Grayson defense. Good luck moving the ball, boys. Grayson has given up 70 points all season. It has five shutouts and all but three teams were held under 10 points. Lowndes offense has been held in check in multiple games, scoring 13 in a loss to McEachern, 17 in a loss to Valdosta, seven in a loss to Colquitt County and only seven in its win against Stephenson in a first-round game. The Vikings' ability or inability to move the ball will be the box score stat to look at.


Lowndes wins if: Its defense keeps playing well. It has two straight shutouts itself. Holding a Stephenson team to next to nothing a week after it scored 49 was impressive. Grayson has been offensively challenged in its own respect so the Vikings can stifle the Rams and get the win. This game should be low scoring - and that will keep the Vikings in it until the end.


Grayson wins if: It opens the playbook and takes some risks. Of course that would be against the grain for its supremely defensive-minded head coach Micky Conn, but the Rams may have more offensive weapons this year than at any time in his tenure. If there were a time to show some of the firepower, it would be this week.


Prediction: It does not look like either team is going to run away and hide from the other in this one. Grayson has the firepower to do it, but that generally is not the way this team operates. Lowndes doesn't have the firepower. And even when it did, that was not the way it operated against upper-level opponents. The winner of this game is likely to see Hillgrove, another stellar defensive team, next week and the battles will continue. This is not the Lowndes teams of recent state-winning memory and this figures to be the end of the line for the Vikings in 2011.
- Grayson 20, Lowndes 7.

Weekend Watch
No. 84 Moeller v No. 85 St. Xavier

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
MOELLER
WR Monty Madaris (6-2/193, Sr.)
WR Michael Means (6-1/185, Sr.)
TE John Tanner (6-4/230, Sr.)
ST. XAVIER
LB Nate Gerbus (6-1/225, Sr.)
OL Brandyn Cook (6-2/290, Sr.)
RB Conor Hundley (5-9/187, Sr.)
When: Saturday, Nov. 19, 2:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 16, 2011 - Moeller won, 27-10.
Rankings: Moeller (9-3), No. 5 in Ohio
St. Xavier (9-3), No. 6 in Ohio


Why it's big: This is a regional final game in Ohio with two teams from the same conference that already have met once this season playing for a spot in the semifinals. Both teams also are playing to prove themselves worthy of a spot in the national rankings as well as advance their seasons. Both stumbled to an end of the year with multiple losses - including a couple of really bad losses. Pride - and continuing in the playoffs - is on the line.


Best matchup: The St. Xavier offense against the Moeller defense. We know each and every week what to expect from the Bombers defense. So does Moeller. The variable every time the team steps onto the field is whether the offense is going to move the ball at all, or at will. Last week against Colerain, the passing game came out on fire and opened up a 21-0 lead before it took the air out of the ball and cruised to a win. Moeller has been up and down all season and its last-second loss to Indianapolis Cathedral took a lot of wind out of its sails. The team still has a chance to prove it is better than it ended the season; this is a chance to show that.


Moeller wins if: It gets to 20 points. If Moeller is moving the ball well enough to score three touchdowns on St. Xavier, it will be a good day for the Crusaders and that will be a major step in the right direction. If this game is a race to double-digits, it strongly favors St. Xavier - so getting out of the gates and getting the ball to its playmakers will be important in getting the game moving.


St. Xavier wins if: It forces turnovers. St. Xavier is never a major threat to pop off big scores. In fact, it has had a very hard time moving the ball. Moeller, while it wouldn't be advantageous, could play field position with St. X and be in a good spot. The Bombers can use pressure from their linebackers to force bad throws and get interceptions and change the tide of the game.


Prediction: St. Xavier coach Steve Specht is a playoff wizard and has a football version of Michigan State basketball coach, Tom Izzo, about him. Undermanned, out-gunned, and backs against the wall is when he does his best work. The more doubters pile on, the better he coaches. Moeller coach John Rodenberg is not foolish enough to start looking at Toledo Whitmer and will have his team totally focused on the task at hand. The game could be close, but Moeller will outplay the Bombers.
- Moeller 17, St. Xavier 10.

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

Weekend Watch
No. 9 Allen v No. 20 Trinity

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
ALLEN
RB Jonathan Williams (5-11/208, Sr.)
QB Alec Morris (6-3/226, Sr.)
WR Andrew Rodriquez (5-10/170, Sr.)
OL Abe Abdelkarim (6-6/31-, Sr.)
TRINITY
LB Brian Nance (6-3/215, Sr.)
OL Hiva Lutui (6-3/285, Sr.)
DE Polo Manukainiu (6-6/258, Sr.)
When: Saturday, Nov. 19, 3:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2010 - Trinity won, 37-35.
Rankings: Allen (11-0), No. 2 in Texas
Trinity (11-0), No. 4 in Texas


Why it's big: The second last season's game ended, fans in Allen already circled this second-round rematch with Trinity. And so did every fan of high school football in Texas. This game may be more hyped than even the state title game. It will be played on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in front of upward of 30,000 fans. Allen had risen to No. 1 in the nation for a few weeks in September but slid down the rankings to No. 9. A good showing here against No. 20 Trinity could help begin its climb back toward the top.


Best matchup: The Allen defense against the Trinity offense. And the other way. Neither team has played the typical defense that most have grown accustomed to from the top teams in Texas. Allen has given up a lot of points and has had to come from behind in multiple games. Trinity - usually one of the top defenses in the country, let alone the state - has been hampered by poor play this year and has given up nearly as many points as it did in its entire 2007 state title run.


Allen wins if: It decides to play for all four quarters. The team has yet to play a dominant game since its Sept. 9 showdown at Longview, when it crushed the Lobos and pushed to the top spot in the country. Since then, it struggled to put away Lewisville, and came from behind against Plano East, Flower Mound Marcus, Hebron and Keller Central. If it decides to take the first half off against Trinity, it will be another tough end to a season with a lot of promise.


Trinity wins if: It plays the better game. It is hard to make heads or tails of Trinity this year. It was challenged against its quality opponents - Abilene, Heritage and Bell - but otherwise has not played many teams that would factor into many equations. The health of the team is starting to come together and linebacker Brian Nance is finally getting back into the form he was in before his knee injury. This team, like Allen, has taken off a couple of first halves - including last week against Duncanville. If it does that again, it has to hope Allen is not into the game, either.


Prediction: With so much anticipation and build up for this game, it is hard to imagine both teams not coming out with their hair on fire and playing fast and physical football. For Allen, this is a game that many in Texas feel it has to win. It has a better quarterback, receiving squad and running back. The questions for both teams lie on defense. Allen's linebackers have struggled in coverage as well as with speed to the point of impact, which has caused missed tackles and big plays. Trinity just is flat not as good as it was last year and that hurts the bottom line. Its struggle to move the ball in the air will be its undoing.
- Allen 35, Trinity 23.

-- For more on Texas football, visit TheOldCoach.com

Weekend Watch
No. 6 Bishop Gorman v Palo Verde

RIVALS HIGH KEY PLAYERS
PALO VERDE
LB Josh Symonette (5-10/209, Sr.)
ATH Jerrol Garcia-Williams (6-3/204, Sr.)
LB Eric South (6-1/210, Sr.)
BISHOP GORMAN
RB Shaquille Powell (5-9/197, Sr.)
OL Ronnie Stanley (6-7/291, Sr.)
DB Marc Philippi (5-11/205, Sr.)
When: Friday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Nov. 27, 2010 - Bishop Gorman won, 28-10.
Rankings: Bishop Gorman (12-1), No. 1 in Nevada
Palo Verde (11-0), No. 2 in Nevada


Why it's big: While it isn't the official state final, it might as well be with the two best teams playing for a spot in the Final Four. Bishop Gorman has been on a mission this season. With two major out-of-state wins (Chaparral and Servite) and a close loss to Armwood, the Gaels showed the country that they could play with anyone, anywhere. Palo Verde is the public school version of Bishop Gorman and has been nationally ranked itself in the last three seasons. If there is a team in Nevada that could give the Gaels a game, it is Palo Verde. Seeing what the other is made out of will be interesting.


Best matchup: Bishop Gorman offense against Palo Verde defense. With the exception of Armwood (but including Servite), this will be the best defense that Bishop Gorman sees this season. Palo Verde has allowed 82 points through 11 games and has only allowed one team to get to 20 points all year. Gorman has been rolling since its out-of-state slate of games against pretty porous defenses so it may come as an early shock to see this fast of a squad.


Bishop Gorman wins if: It doesn't underestimate its opponent. Bishop Gorman has scored 49 points or more against every Nevada opponent it has faced this season, so it does not appear that the team is overlooking anyone and it is trying to blaze a trail to a state title. This may be the most talented team to come through the school. Blowing out Palo Verde could put an exclamation point on the season.


Palo Verde wins if: A lot of things go its way. Gorman may be better at every position to a man and that makes it hard to win. Palo Verde is a good squad that could go to most every state and be competitive, but it may simply be playing above its head in this game. It will need turnovers, bounces and a little luck to get the win.


Prediction: It is no shock to see these teams meeting at this point in the season. The two top teams in the state since the opening whistle were destined to see one another in the playoffs. Another state title is likely headed to the trophy case at Gorman. And while the team shouldn't be able to name the final score, it is likely to be over rather quickly.
- Bishop Gorman 35, Palo Verde 14.

Weekend Watch
Total Predictions (2011: 98-32)
Game of the Week: Lakes def. Bellevue, 24-18.
No. 34 DeSoto def. No. 23 Skyline, 27-20
No. 70 Butler def. Page, 30-21
No. 83 St. Ignatius def. No. 65 Mentor, 20-16
No. 92 Jesuit def. East St. John, 31-29
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 9-4
2011 Record for other games picked: 89-28



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