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September 2, 2010

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. 16 Olney (Md.) Good Counsel takes on No. 58 Baltimore (Md.) Gilman.

In the Kansas-Missouri region, No. 89 Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst takes on No. 92 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.

Be sure to predict the winning score on the Game of the Week for a chance to win a free Rivals.com subscription to the site of your choice.

Weekend Watch
No. 16 Good Counsel v No. 58 Gilman
ATH Stefon Diggs (6-0/160, Jr.)
DB Blake Countess (5-10/171, Sr.)
DT Vincent Croce (6-4/260, Sr.)
QB Zach Dancel (6-0/192, Sr.)
RB Dorian O'Daniel (6-1/184, Soph.)
RB Darius Jennings (6-0/180, Sr.)
OL Hunter Goodwin (6-5/280, Sr.)
ATH Cyrus Jones (5-11/183, Jr.)
WHEN: Saturday 9/4, 8:00pm
LAST MEETING: 9/17/09, Good Counsel won 49-37
STANDINGS: Good Counsel (1-0), No. 2 in Maryland
Gilam (1-0), No. 3 in Mayrland

WHY IT'S BIG: With the Good Counsel win over St. Xavier continuing the justification of Maryland football, this is an incredibly difficult follow-up game for the Falcons with a talented Gilman squad that will test them in most every aspect in the game. Gilman will take on Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco next week and Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha the week after. This first game of a three-game stretch of ranked teams will be a good measuring stick for expectations.

BEST MATCHUP: Last week against St. X, Good Counsel Class of 2012 athlete Stefon Diggs showed his explosiveness and playmaking ability against a defense that had no answer for him. This week, he will square off against Darius Jennings, a four-star athlete in his own right. If Jennings can lock down Diggs, it could force the hand of the Good Counsel offense which appeared very limited in its game last week.

GOOD COUNSEL WINS IF: It can discover a running game. St. X was stifling up front last week, but the consistent play call of running up the middle was not creative and never took the Bombers by surprise. If Gilman only needs to worry about the front of the line being tested, it will be able to key in like St. X did and slow the offense down. Zach Dancel will need to have a full game that looks more like his fourth quarter did than the first three to get the job done.

GILMAN WINS IF: Darius Jennings carries them to the victory. It is tough to put the game on the back of one player, especially a 17- or 18-year old, but Jennings is the key to the total success of Gilman this year and it begins now. The offensive line will have a lot to do with this game as well but Jennings can overcome poor line play and create - he is that good on both sides of the ball.

PREDICTION: Gilman is a darn good football team this year and it has the benefit of entering the game on an emotional high while Good Counsel will be tired from a short week and it will be hard to get energized to the same level that it did last week. That said, Good Counsel knows this has potential to be a special season. If it can go undefeated, a very high national ranking is inevitable and this game is a must-win to making that happen. The Falcons get it done - and find their offense in the process. - Good Counsel 31, Gilman 20.

-- For more on both teams visit MDHigh.com

Weekend Watch
No. 3 Central v No. 19 Camden Co.
RB Devonta Freeman (5-9/180, Sr.)
QB Rakeem Cato (6-1/170, Sr.)
DB Thomas Finnie (5-10/170, Sr.)
OL John Miller (6-2/295, Sr.)
OL Marquis Lucas (6-4/310, Sr.)
TE Bryce Sweeney (6-5/242, Sr.)
K Matt Ehasz (5-11/155, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/3, 7:30
LAST MEETING: First ever meeting
STANDINGS: Miami Central (0-0), No. 1 in Florida
Camden County (1-0), No. 1 in Georgia

WHY IT'S BIG: It's the best in Florida against the best in Georgia. It is as cut-and-dry as that. Miami Central is on a mission this season and it could claim a national title by going undefeated. A major step would be beating the two-time Georgia state champs - and then hope the Wildcats go on to three-peat. The Rockets have stated that they want to go to Georgia and win convincingly. Both teams have the talent to beat one another and contrasting styles to battle it out.

BEST MATCHUP: The total contrast of the teams will be interesting to watch. Camden County is a more typical South Georgia team that likes to play physical and get into fights in the trenches, muscling teams into submission. Central also likes to get into fights, but it is more fist fights and sometimes it is on their own sideline. Discipline and focus have been a bugaboo for Central in the past and a new coaching staff looks to fuse in some structure to go with the scores of talent.

CAMDEN COUNTY WINS IF: It can get the lead and get into the heads of Miami Central. And both of those things need to happen. If Camden gets a lead but allows Central to keep playing its game, it will not be enough as the Rockets have too many prospects on the field. Staying disciplined and playing at home are the biggest advantages that Camden has and it will need to play to that.

MIAMI CENTRAL WINS IF: It gets off the bus in its business suits and not its fatigues. This isn't "The U" and the players need to learn that quickly in big time high school football. Central has all the talent in the world; not to beat a dead horse, but the million-dollar talent can not have a ten-cent brain. Shutting out a hostile crowd and keeping their heads up will be the best things the Rockets can do.

PREDICTION: Central looked simply amazing in its kickoff classic last weekend. Camden County, usually a slow starter, put up 65 in its opening game win. So points should come in bunches and that plays in the favor of Central. The trip from Miami to Georgia is a long one but not overwhelming. The talent disparity between the two is a concern as well, as the early season indications are that the entire state of Georgia is a little down in 2010. - Central 40, Camden County 26.

-- For more on Miami Central visit FlaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 89 Rockhurst v No. 92 Hutchinson
QB Frank Arbanas (6-5/188, Sr.)
TE Dan Tapko (6-4/220, Sr.)
RB Noah Pearl (6-0/186, Sr.)
LB Michael Rose (6-0/210, Jr.)
LB Ben Heeney (6-1/195, Sr.)
RB DeShawn Dinwiddie (6-2/195, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/3, 7:00 pm
LAST MEETING: 9/04/09, Hutchinson won 55-27
STANDINGS: Rockhurst (1-0), No. 1 in Missouri
Hutchinson (0-0), No. 1 in Kansas

WHY IT'S BIG: Hutchinson is the best team in Kansas. There are some years when it can be argued its junior varsity team is the second best team in the state. Rockhurst is usually a top five team in Missouri, and this year sits in a tenuous spot at the top. Rockhurst narrowly escaped with a win over the state's No. 3-ranked team, Blue Springs High, to maintain its spot in the rankings. With no other teams of note on the Hutchinson schedule this season, this is really the only measuring-stick game we will have of the team. It's a must-win if the Salt Hawks want to stay in the rankings.

BEST MATCHUP: The Rockhurst playmakers against the Hutchinson skill players on defense. Last season was one of the best Hutchinson teams in recent memory and one Rockhurst certainly remembers well. This year, Rockhurst is the more talented team and has the playmakers to take the rubber match in the three-game series. Look for Noah Pearl and Dan Tapko to be involved early and often.

HUTCHINSON WINS IF: It forces turnovers and frustrates Rockhurst. If Hutchinson's defense can step up and make some early stops to allow its offense to settle in, it will be beneficial. This is the first game of the season for Hutchinson, so it could be slow sledding early. The team will need to rely on its physical front seven to control the line and set the pace of the game. A big turnover to flip field position or set up a score could take the pressure off early.

ROCKHURST WINS IF: Its quarterback Frank Arbanas can stay on his feet. Last season, the Hutchinson defense abused pretty much every member of Rockhurst. For the team to be successful this year, keeping its quarterback upright will be a huge factor. The team has already won a tough 7-6 contest last week so it is no stranger to tough-and-late situations.

PREDICTION: This game, each of the last two years, has been won by the home team. It is also no coincidence that the home team each of the last two years has been the more talented team entering the contest. That trend looks to repeat itself this year as Rockhurst is the home team and the on-paper favorite. Even as a marginal favorite, it looks like Rockhurst is prepared to erase the memory of last year's embarrassing loss. - Rockhurst 18, Hutchinson 14.

-- For more on Rockhurst, visit MoSports.com and Hutchinson visit HovPenSports.com

Weekend Watch
No. 74 Mission Viejo v Bothell
LB Tre Madden (6-1/215, Sr.)
RB Jahleel Pinner (6-1/215, Jr.)
QB Brandon Foley (6-1/185, Sr.)
DE Elree Carter (6-3/240, Sr.)
RB Luke Proulx (5-9/186, Sr.)
WHEN: Saturday 9/4, 8:00 pm
LAST MEETING: First ever meeting
STANDINGS: Mission Viejo (0-0), No. 10 in California
Bothell (0-0), No. 3 in Washington

WHY IT'S BIG: It is the season opener for both teams and it will be played at Qwest Field in Seattle - a real dream come true for West Coast kids. Both teams are battling for the lower 25 spots in the RivalsHigh 100, with Mission Viejo checking in at No. 74 and Bothell being on the outside looking in. It is not only an individual measuring-stick game for both teams, it is also a good way to size up Washington state football, which is perceived to be a little bit down this year.

BEST MATCHUP: The teams versus the scorekeeper. Both of the teams enter the game with usually high-scoring offenses, and this year should be no different. Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson is a quarterback guru and his signal callers, including Mark Sanchez, have been very good throughout the years. Bothell has been a team that is not afraid to switch its scheme based on personnel, but this appears to be a season that favors them throwing the ball around the yard, a la the John Hekker days.

MISSION VIEJO WINS IF: Jahleel Pinner goes off. Pinner showed very well this summer and has seemed to earn playing time for the Diablos. Between Pinner and Dallas Kessman, the pair needs to make the offense a force on the ground early so that the pass can be opened up. The travel will certainly be a factor; even though they will not change time zones, playing out-of-state and in a pro stadium will leave some players awestruck. Settling in with the running game will be important.

BOTHELL WINS IF: The breaks go its way. That's not to say that Bothell will need to get lucky to win, because that is not the case at all. Entering the game, Mission Viejo is the favorite - despite the travel - and has the higher-end talent. Facing adversity is nothing new to Bothell. Neither is not having the talent advantage. The Cougars are usual sparring partners with nearby Skyline High so they have gone in as underdogs and won, but the ball will need to bounce its way a few times in this game.

PREDICTION: This game can go a long way to building back up the perception of football in Washington. Mission Viejo is entering the season with plenty of hype and expectations, so sending the Diablos home with a loss would be a statement for Bothell. Unfortunately, Mission Viejo has high hopes and Coach Johnson will likely play the underdog card, factoring in the travel and support the Northern Seattle suburb will have in this game. - Mission Viejo 28, Bothell 20.

-- For more on Mission Viejo visit SectionSports.com and Bothell visit WashingtonPreps.com

Weekend Watch
No. 17 Crenshaw v No. 22 N. Gwinnett
RB De'Anthony Thomas (5-9/160, Sr.)
OL Marcus Martin (6-3/357, Sr.)
DB Joseph Pullard (6-2/185, Sr.)
OL Antonio Loggins (6-3/320, Soph.)
OL Garrett Clark (6-4/278, Sr.)
ATH C.J. Uzomah (6-5/225, Sr.)
LB Brandon McGowan (6-3/210, Sr.)
WHEN: Friday 9/3, 8:00 PM
LAST MEETING: First ever meeting
STANDINGS: Crenshaw (0-0), No. 3 in California
North Gwinnett (2-0), No. 2 in Georgia.

WHY IT'S BIG: This is a cross-country game between two of the highest-ranked teams both from power states. It is also on national television and features some of high school football's best players. Really, there are very few things that could make this a better game. It can help legitimize two programs that have gone through some tough times but are recently on the upswing. Also, it can help stem the tide of the perception of Georgia football being a little down this year.

BEST MATCHUP: While they will rarely be on the field at the same time, being able to see which of the team's star players use the national exposure as a launching pad will be fun. Crenshaw's De'Anthony Thomas is the No. 5 overall player in the nation and is committed to USC. C.J. Uzomah is an Auburn commit and the star of the show for North Gwinnett. Both will be on display in this one.

CRENSHAW WINS IF: The jet lag and the humidity do not get them. Crenshaw is the more talented team from top to bottom, but many of its players have not been on a plane and hardly any of them have experienced the type of heat and humidity it will see on a steamy Georgia night. Relying on the legs of Thomas will be crucial in the early going and keeping him hydrated will be of utmost importance as the game wears on.

NORTH GWINNETT WINS IF: It can get into a rhythm. The Bulldogs looked like they found a little bit of a groove against Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones - a groove that it didn't have in the opener against Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter. Uzomah mainly lines up at quarterback for North Gwinnett, although he has looked more comfortable at the wide receiver position when he is slid outside. A nice mix will keep Crenshaw off balance and spread Uzomah's talent around.

PREDICTION: This is the third game of the season for North Gwinnett and just the first for Crenshaw which would lead most to believe the growing pains that Crenshaw will have early are already out of North Gwinnett's system. Both teams are very good and among the best in their respective states, so the second half of the game may be more indicative of the competitive levels of the teams. But, if Crenshaw doesn't start out strong North Gwinnett could have built an insurmountable lead.
- North Gwinnett 34, Crenshaw 24.

-- For more on Crenshaw visit CaliforniaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2010: 8-3)
Game of the Week: No. 4 Glenville (Ohio) def No. 11 Dwyer (Fla.), 36-30
No. 1 South Panola (Miss.) def Memphis University School (Tenn.), 45-16 *Email request*
No. 5 Trinity (Texas) def No. 30 Shiloh Christian (Ark.), 41-30
No. 23 Colerain (Ohio) def Elder (Ohio), 24-10 *Email Request*
No. 45 North Penn def. No. 76 La Salle, 10-6 *Email request*
No. 72 Woodland Hills def No. 29 Manatee, 21-17 *Email request*
Have your game picked next week: Email Dallas Jackson
2009 Record for games picked: 67-40

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