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September 1, 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.

Let's see Florida, Texas and California. Check.

And don't forget Ohio and Pennsylvania. Or North and South Carolina. And then there's Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.

It's easy to get caught up in the power states - and the almost power states - when covering high school football. We don't at RivalsHigh.

We scour the country for the best games and the best teams. And they're not always in the aforementioned states. Take a look at two early battles this weekend.

In Maryland, No. 27 Olney (Md.) Good Counsel takes on No. 76 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee.

In the Kansas-Missouri region, No. 85 Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst takes on unranked but always dangerous Hutchinson (Kan.) High.

Big teams and big games in not-so-big football areas. At least not yet.

High school football is getting better everywhere. Don't worry, each week, we'll tell you where you can find it.

Weekend Watch
No. 27 Good Counsel v No. 76 Manatee

WR Stefon Diggs (6-0/185, Sr.)
RB Wes Brown (6-1/200, Sr.)
DE Ryan Watson (6-3/274, Jr.)
LB Darius White (6-1/191,Sr.)
DB Clinton Heaven (6-1/190, Sr.)
QB Cord Sandberg (6-2/191, Jr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: First-ever meeting
Rankings: Good Counsel (0-0), No. 1 in Maryland
Manatee (0-0), No. 12 in Florida

WHY IT'S BIG: With the rise of out-of-state games, it has become apparent that Florida is the top-tier state that is willing to send its teams all over the country to take on the best from around the nation. So far this season, the state has represented very well. Manatee would like to keep that going. Good Counsel is trying to do the same for Maryland football. It took a first step last season beating Cincinnati St. Xavier. A victory here would be worth just as much.

BEST MATCHUP: The Manatee offensive line against the Good Counsel defensive front. In its kickoff classic, the Manatee offensive line looked sloppy, slow and in serious trouble. If the team can not keep Good Counsel out of the backfield, it will be a long day. Ryan Watson, Roderick Chungong and Olushola Shokunbi will be ready to get after the quarterback.

GOOD COUNSEL WINS IF: It opens the playbook. The knock, and maybe appropriately so, of Northern teams is that the creativity in offensive play-calling just isn't there. While running on first and second down, then throwing if needed on third, may work in the snowy playoff conditions, it seriously hinders you in the summer months. Good Counsel needs to open it up and show that it has the speed to spread the field - because it does.

MANATEE WINS IF: Cord Sandberg has a national coming out party. The junior quarterback is now the main star of the team. He will need to put the team on his back. If the pocket breaks down, he has the wheels to make plays. And if he has time to throw, he can do that as well. Good Counsel is the more talented team so Manatee must limit its mistakes.

PREDICTION: Good Counsel got a taste of the national attention last season against St. X, but then dropped its next game to Gilman and was quickly dismissed. The talent on the roster is enough to talk about national titles if the team can run the table. That said, Manatee is as physical as any team it will see this season - even if it isn't as talented. Florida players love to compete and win and they have a fire to succeed that few teams can match. In this one, Good Counsel will.
- Good Counsel 24, Manatee 16.

-- For more on Maryland football, visit MdHigh.com and Florida football at FlaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 26 Lowndes v No. 57 McEachern

DB Tiquan Lang (5-9/178, Jr.)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (6-5/205, Sr.)
OL Kofi Amichia (6-4/255, Sr.)
QB Trent Thompson (6-2/185, Sr.)
DE Darius English (6-6/212, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 2, 8 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 3, 2010 - McEachern won, 23-22.
Rankings: Lowndes (2-0), No. 4 in Georgia
McEachern (1-0), No. 7 in Georgia

WHY IT'S BIG: Last fall, in the first take of this home-and-home series, McEachern pulled a mild surprise by beating Lowndes. The rematch is much more on the national scene as McEachern has steadily improved over the last few seasons. Both teams are ranked inside the Top 10 in Georgia - which is almost always a state in or around the Top 5 for high school football. This is a game that is another measuring stick between the Atlanta metro area and South Georgia.

BEST MATCHUP: Rested-but-tested McEachern against cruise-control Lowndes. Both of these teams have looked good in the off-season and in their opening-week wins, but they enter this week off of much different opening. McEachern opened its season with an impressive win over North Gwinnett and then had a bye week. Lowndes has rolled South Gwinnett and Pebblebrook in consecutive weeks. Lowndes has not faced much adversity in doing so and it will need to be ready for a step up in competition - like McEachern has already faced.

MCEACHERN WINS IF: It is ready to make tackles. Lowndes has been on a five-to-one run-to-pass ratio to open the season. McEachern will need to be ready to make the tackle on the first impact and not let the Vikings get into the open field and break big plays. In the 2010 game, 42 of Lowndes' 50 plays were rushing attempts so McEachern knows what's coming. It just needs to execute.

LOWNDES WINS IF: It doesn't allow the big play. McEachern beat the Vikings in 2010 with a 60-yard run, a 58-yard pass and a last-second score after a moderate drive. If Lowndes makes McEachern drive the field to score, it could be a long day.

PREDICTION: Revenge is a great motivator and Lowndes, which is a prideful program as well, will certainly have a chip on its shoulder. McEachern is a team on the rise. It graded out in the preseason to be on the same line as Lowndes - and it wants to prove last year was not a fluke. With the game being in South Georgia, the advantage swings even more to the favor of Lowndes, which will get it done.
- Lowndes 20, McEachern 16

-- For more on Georgia high school sports, visit GaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 13 Camden County v Glenville

DE Brian Attaway (6-4/246, Sr.)
DT Devlyn Cousin (6-2/270, Sr.)
QB Brice Ramsey (6-3/195, Sr.)
DB De'Van Bogard (5-11/173, Sr.)
DB Sean Draper (6-1/169, Sr.)
DE Alex Pace (6-0/278, Sr.)
When: Monday, Sept. 5, 12 p.m.
Last Meeting: First-ever meeting.
Rankings: Camden County (1-0), No. 1 in Georgia
Glenville (0-1), No. 11 in Ohio

WHY IT'S BIG: This is the headliner game of the Ohio version of the Herbstreit Classic and will showcase two of the traditionally top-end teams in two football power-states. The last time many saw Glenville was a year ago, when it was stealing a game against West Palm Beach (Fla.) Dwyer on Labor Day weekend. The talent on the Tarblooder team is not what it was last year, but it may be more fundamentally sound. Camden returns almost all of its defense from last year and none of its offense.

BEST MATCHUP: The Glenville offense against the Camden County defense. Glenville was held to 14 points against the Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward defense in its opener and Camden County shutout its Week Zero opponent. Glenville is not as explosive as it has been in the past and it will need to score more than 14 to win.

CAMDEN COUNTY WINS IF: Quarterback Brice Ramsey has a solid game. The junior Georgia commit does not need to light up the scoreboard or play a perfect game, he just needs to make solid decisions and not put his team in a tough spot. Camden County is the better team entering this game. Ramsey is the focal point of the offense, but he does not need to do anything more than what is asked of him.

GLENVILLE WINS IF: It has become more explosive in the last 10 days. The offense looked pretty easy to defend in the St. Edward game and the youth that was on the field showed. The biggest improvement for most teams comes between games one and two. That is encouraging for a team that has played front-and-center on many nationally-televised games.

PREDICTION: Glenville is playing at Buckeye Stadium, its home away from home in Ohio, and it will be very comfortable in its surroundings. Camden is making a major trip from just north of Jacksonville to Columbus. The two teams played very different opening-week games with Glenville having vastly superior competition. That will play a factor, but not enough to make a difference.
- Camden County 33, Glenville 13.

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

Weekend Watch
No. 31 Union v Evangel Christian

WR Kendal Davis (6-2/171, Sr.)
DB Joniko Thomas (5-11/175, Sr.)
ATH Brandon Stewart (5-8/167, Sr.)
OL Jake Wallace (6-2/277, Sr.)
WR Judah Jones (6-1/188, Sr.)

When: Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: Sept. 3, 2010 - Union won 44-32.
Rankings: Union (0-0), No. 1 in Oklahoma
Evangel Christian (0-0), No. 5 in Louisiana

WHY IT'S BIG: This may be bigger for Union than it is for Evangel, but it is a good measurement for two programs who are always on the first few lines of the state rankings. Oklahoma football has been looking for a perception boost. And while one of the largest schools in the state beating a small private school from a better state won't provide much of a boost, losing would be a bad thing for the reputation of Oklahoma.

BEST MATCHUP: The Evangel pass offense against the Union secondary. Evangel will be breaking in a new quarterback after several years of David Dee Duron. It could be tough to move the ball in the first game against a proven winner and a strong pass defense - especially on the road. Evangel is going to have to protect the ball and ease into the game. Surviving the first-quarter emotions will be a big thing in this contest.

EVANGEL WINS IF: It can win in the trenches. Union struggled in several scrimmages this summer. Teams were able to make plays against its offensive line on defense and have been able to neutralize its rush on offense. If Evangel can consistently win the trenches, it will be in a better position to win. This game needs to stay low scoring for the Eagles to steal the victory.

UNION WINS IF: It keeps Evangel out of the air. The secondary has three players that have plenty of experience and can hold their own in coverage. If Union can force Evangel to stay on the ground and drive the field without big plays in the passing game, it could have the game wrapped up by the start of the fourth quarter.

PREDICTION: Of the ranked teams that are playing unranked opponents this weekend, Union is the one that needs to be on high alert for an upset. Evangel is a solid program that has had plenty of success in Louisiana and abroad. Being at home will help - as will the fact that Evangel is facing a lot of roster turnover. This game could be a blowout if Union jumps out early, but likely it will be close.
- Union 27, Evangel 23.

Weekend Watch
No. 2 De La Salle v No. 33 Bellarmine

QB Bart Houston (6-4/201, Sr.)
LB Michael Barton (6-1/205, Sr.)
LB Michael Hutchings (6-2/210, Jr.)
QB Travis McHugh (6-3/205, Sr.)
OL Connor Lambert (6-1/244, Sr.)
LB Joe Gigantino (6-1/211, Sr.)
When: Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: De La Salle (0-0), No. 1 in California
Bellarmine Prep (0-0), No. 3 in California

WHY IT'S BIG: These are two big-time programs in Northern California which have not been able to meet up in the recent seasons. Bellarmine has been on a steady rise while De La Salle has sat atop the high school football world numerous times. If Bellarmine can take this game, it would end De La Salle's dream of another national title and prove to the rest of the country there are teams in NorCal that can play with the Spartans.

BEST MATCHUP: The Bellarmine run defense against the Spartan rushing attack. Bellarmine returns nearly all of its starters on defense and the experience could play dividends against a team that is very formulaic in its attack. De La Salle likes to control the pace of play in the trenches and Bellarmine has the horses to neutralize that. Whichever can establish dominance early will be big as De La Salle is used to being the bully.

DE LA SALLE WINS IF: It can hit a few big plays through the air to stretch the defense back out of the box. Bart Houston is the highest-rated quarterback to come through the program in nearly a decade and he can throw the ball as well as make good decisions in the run game. It would not be a surprise or a bad decision to come out throwing and put Bellarmine on its heels.

BELLARMINE PREP WINS IF: It doesn't get frustrated. De La Salle trusts its coaches and its scheme to the point it will not panic. If the game is low scoring and both teams are struggling to move the ball - which wouldn't be a surprise - Bellarmine will need to keep its head up and play until the end. Having as many returning players as it does this will help because the team can win this contest.

PREDICTION: This is a fantastic NorCal game and one that will provide a true test to De La Salle in the early goings. While the top-end talent will favor De La Salle - something that usually is not the case - the depth and quality high school football players may be on the other sideline. Bellarmine has been circling this season and it is time to take its shot against De La Salle. A great coaching job could win the game.
- De La Salle 18, Bellarmine 10.

-- For more on NorCal high school sports, visit NorCalPreps.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2011: 15-3)
Game of the Week: No. 35 Oaks Christian def. No. 36 Bellevue, 31-17
No. 28 Pittsburgh Central Catholic def. No. 95 Archbishop Wood, 27-22
No. 65 Dwyer def. No. 83 Glades Central, 34-31
No. 70 Grant def. No. 73 Poly, 37-27
No. 85 Rockhurst def. Hutchinson, 24-16
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 1-1
2011 Record for all games picked: 16-4

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