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October 21, 2012

RH100 Notes: Katy soars by staying grounded

RANKINGS: View the entire RivalsHigh 100

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Entering a contest against Katy (Texas) High, it is pretty simple to figure out what will be coming at you all night; the Tigers average 43 rushing attempts per game vs. just 11 passing attempts. The tough part is figuring out which player to key on.

Katy has given carries to 14 different players on the season, and eight different Tigers have scored at least one touchdown on a rushing attempt. The balance on offense was put in focus again this past Friday when five different players scored a touchdown, four of them on the ground, in a 38-13 victory over Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes.

The victory was paced by four-star standout Adam Taylor, who ran for 124 yards and a touchdown, which was slightly under his season average of 126 yards per game.

Taylor has rushed for 883 yards and 16 scores on the year but is sharing the workload as he continues to work back from a knee injury that limited his junior year to just two carries.

His then-replacement, sophomore Rodney Anderson, has carried the ball for 260 yards and leads the team in receiving with 17 catches and 309 yards this year as he has shifted into a back-up role with Taylor returning to full strength.

The addition of senior running back tandem Ricky Bickham and DeMonte Davenport gives the team a quartet of players capable of leading Katy to its first state title since 2008.

"It's great," Taylor said. "When you get winded you can have a great back come in. With Rodney, Rickey and DeMonte, we have some great backs. Other people don't have the luxury of having so many great backs."

Combine the rushing numbers of those four with starting quarterback Kiley Huddleston, and they account for 242 of the team's 303 carries and 1,678 of its 2,114 rushing yards.

The ability to play physical defense as well as that ball control offense has Katy ranked as the No. 1 team in the state, which is good enough for the No. 4 spot in the national RivalsHigh 100 rankings this week, just ahead of No. 5 DeSoto (Texas) High.

The Texas playoffs are broken into two divisions per classification based on the top four teams in each district. The two schools, regardless of record, with the highest enrollment move into the Division I bracket and the two lower enrollment programs are placed in the Division II bracket. At this point in the season, it is a mathematical improbability that the two top-ranked teams in Texas will play on the field to determine the final rankings.

For Taylor and the Tigers, ensuring that they are not the first class of Tigers to go without at least one state title since the graduating class of 1996 is of more importance than national rankings.

"My main goal is focus on my team," Taylor said. "Accomplish what we wanted for the last four years and win states."

TRICKLE DOWN EFFECT?: Common knowledge suggests that innovations from the college level make their way down to the high school level, and we're starting to see it in the polls.

The college football polls have the trio of Alabama, Florida, and Oregon battling perceptions, resumes and results for where each belongs nationally. Likewise, the RivalsHigh 100 has to come to grips with how to weigh its own top three teams of River Ridge (La.) John Curtis, Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee, and Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius.

While none of the top high school programs are mirror images of the college counterparts, the similarity in the arguments for and against are remarkably close.

Playing the role of top-ranked Alabama will be John Curtis, Oregon's plight is shared by Manatee, and the claim made by Florida can be overlapped with that of St. Ignatius'.

Like Alabama, John Curtis has a devastating running game and a defense that is relentless. The team has one significant victory on its resume in the early weeks against a team that was highly regarded in the preseason, but that victory has been marginalized. Curtis, since administering a staggering beating to Tampa (Fla.) Plant, has not played a team worth much of anything. And despite a defense allowing only one touchdown against its first team, the call to slide is starting to be heard.

Manatee, like Oregon, has the most explosive offense and the least impressive defense of the trio. The team has a couple of solid victories, but nothing that jumps off the page. And while a playoff run by Manatee should include some quality teams -- much like the back end of the Oregon schedule -- the relative strength of Florida high school football, like the Pac-12, is lacking this season.

St. Ignatius boasts the best resume of the three but is the least sexy pick with the most substance on the season. Also, like Florida, the offense is not based on a singular strong suit but relies on balance and smart play. The defense can create turnovers and create field position. What may be the ace in the hole for St. Ignatius is that it can still add more quality victories than any team ahead of it. Like the annual World's Largest Cocktail Party to be played next week in Jacksonville between Florida and Georgia, St. Ignatius will engage in the Holy War, a nationally recognized rivalry with Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward.

For this week, the RivalsHigh 100 will remain unchanged with John Curtis, Manatee, and St. Ignatius on the top lines. How long that remains the alignment is yet to be determined.

TOP 25 TINKERING: For the second time this season there will be no teams dropping out of the Top 25, but this time not all the teams held the same spot as the week prior.

The move that may have the most impact for the push toward a national title comes in Texas where Katy (Texas) High and DeSoto (Texas) High switched places from last week with Katy moving up one to No. 4 and DeSoto down to No. 5. DeSoto currently has the better resume of wins, but Katy has been more consistent with its play. If both were to win out it would become a great debate as to which should be higher and possibly which should claim a national title.

Also in the Top 10, Bellevue (Wash.) High jumped two places, moving ahead of Hoover (Ala.) High and Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) University from No. 9 to No. 7. The trio of teams are dramatically different from one another in nearly every aspect but have been closely compared over the last two weeks. This is far from a final placement for any of the three.

Loganville (Ga.) Grayson continues to climb back toward the Top 10 as it jumps from No. 17 to No. 14 and becomes the highest-rated one-loss team. Grayson had ascended to the No. 1 position earlier in the year before it was upset by Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview. Grayson is the third Georgia team inside the Top 15, joining Kingsland (Ga.) Camden County and Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter.

Finally, Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth broke into a quartet of teams from Texas as it moved from No. 23 to No. 20 on the heels of its shutout victory over Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy on national television. Cornelius Elder racked up more than 300 yards on the ground in the win. Ensworth has been the top team in the state all season and inside the Top 25. The win over Brentwood Academy, which remains the No. 5 team in the state, was enough to push Ensworth up three places.

JERSEY UNSURE: There are very few districts across the country that could argue for being more difficult than the Big North in New Jersey.

This week's slate of games proved again to be a rankings changer as Paramus (N.J.) Paramus Catholic unveiled its version of the Wildcat to down the presumed top team in the state, Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional, 44-35.

Behind the amazingly talented Jabrill Peppers, Paramus Catholic stormed out to a 35-7 lead before St. Joe climbed back to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

A last-minute field goal figured to be the difference in the game before a St. Joe fumble was returned for a touchdown to spell the final outcome.

The result will push four of the Big North's United division programs into the RivalsHigh 100 with Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco taking its turn atop the state rankings followed by Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, Paramus Catholic, and St. Joseph Regional.

The rankings will likely have a very short shelf life as Don Bosco is set to play Bergen Catholic this week, and all four will trade blows on Thanksgiving as Don Bosco will play St. Joseph and Paramus Catholic will square off with Bergen Catholic.

ON HIS SHOULDER: After suffering its first defeat of the season -- and falling from the Top 10 -- Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes took to the field this week against a Mauldin (S.C.) team that was looking for its first significant win of the year. And behind a stellar night passing from junior quarterback Shuler Bentley, Byrnes claimed a 72-27 victory.

Bentley, son of offensive coordinator Bobby Bentley, threw for 406 yards and seven touchdowns in the game.

Byrnes trailed 13-6 early in the contest, but used a defensive stop to turn the tide and the arm of Bentley to break open the contest.

Bentley spread his touchdowns to five different receivers. Running back Evan Sudduth and receiver Tavin Richardson hauled in two apiece, while Akia Booker, Greg McHam and Dylan Quinn each caught one.

Booker had seven catches for 115 and McHam gained 150 yards on six receptions.

Coincidentally, nearly three years to the date prior, Bentley's adopted brother Chas Dodd threw five touchdowns in a 72-27 victory over Mauldin.

ON DECK THIS WEEK: It isn't an official rivalry week across the country but it might as well be with the slate of games this week.

The three nationally ranked matchups this week are headlined by The Holy War in Cleveland as No. 3 St. Ignatius will take on Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward. Not to be outdone, No. 65 Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco and Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic will take their battle to the fairgrounds for what may be the most attended regular season game in New Jersey this year.

The third ranked game is between two teams separated by less than 100 miles, No. 12 Louisville (Kent.) Trinity and No. 62 Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller.

Rivalry games litter the nationally relevant schedule in games with ranked versus non-ranked teams.

No. 2 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee will host undefeated but largely untested Palmetto (Fla.) High; sharing the same city pairs No. 26 Miami (Fla.) Central with Miami (Fla.) Northwestern; a bitter battle between No. 33 Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes and Roebuck (S.C.) Dorman will ignite; Trinity League action will showcase a pair of games with No. 52 Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco against Anaheim (Calif.) Servite as well as No. 52 Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei will take on Orange (Calif.) Lutheran; a Monday makeup game will feature Baltimore (Md.) Gilman against Baltimore (Md.) Calvert Hall; opposite sides of Tampa will be showcased when No. 71 Tampa (Fla.) Plant looks to get over on a Seffner (Fla.) Armwood team that has had the better of the series; and No. 82 Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany looks to continue its strong season against previously ranked Encino (Calif.) Crespi.

Other non-rivalry but very relevant games on the slate include No. 35 Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage traveling out-of-state to play West Monroe (La.) High; No. 36 Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe will take on York (S.C.) High; No. 57 Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier squares off with Louisville (Kent.) St. Xavier; and Gainesville (Fla.) High will go to Boot Hill to take on Madison (Fla.) Madison County.


Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.



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