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September 11, 2011
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.
It's just the third week of the season - the opening week for some teams. The usual sorting of contenders and pretenders already is upon us.
And while there may be no single truly dominant team in the country, three seem to already have separated themselves from the pack.
Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep, No. 1 in the RivalsHigh 100, finally took the field for the first time Saturday night. And while it showed a few flaws, it still showed enough to dismantle No. 40 Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, 35-7 in Ramsey, N.J.
The victory equaled the efforts of No. 2 Allen (Texas) High and No. 3 Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas - two schools that also manhandled ranked opponents in what were supposed to be early season tests.
Is it too early to say these are the best three? Especially with a Louisville (Ky.) Trinity team dominating what was supposed to be a daunting schedule. And don't forget Seffner (Fla.) Armwood, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, and Gaffney (S.C.) High.
Nonetheless, Bosco, Allen and Aquinas sure look like the best of the bunch early.
Just ask Mission Viejo quarterback Alex Bridgford, who threw four interceptions and was sacked six times in the loss.
Bridgford knew of Bosco's reputation - and saw the team on film. But he said Bosco was better in person. Much better.
"We knew they were good, but we saw them on film and thought they may be a little small or maybe overhyped," he said. "But they were great.
"Their front wasn't the biggest, but they were well disciplined and ran their stunts well. We couldn't contain them."
Mission Viejo had its chances early. In fact, it had the better of the play in the first quarter - and should have had the game's first score but Bridgford badly underthrew a receiver who had badly beaten the Bosco defense.
The game turned when Bosco picked off Bridgford for the first time, late in the first quarter.
Bosco switched to a no-huddle offense and Viejo couldn't keep up. In fact, it had to call timeout after just three plays. But it couldn't slow Bosco, which took a 7-0 lead on a rushing touchdown from Johnny Wilkens with less than a minute to go in the first quarter.
Sophomore Jabrill Peppers added a score in the second quarter before each scored again in the third quarter to make it a 28-0 game.
Peppers, who also stars in the secondary, said Bosco was stronger and in better shape.
"Nobody wants it more than us," Peppers said. "For some teams, this is just high school football. This is our life. We've been going hard core since January.
"We knew we have to show why we're No. 1."
If there's a weakness for Don Bosco, it's at quarterback, where Mike Yankovich is a good athlete and a good leader, but not your classic pocket passer.
Bosco will rely on a defense that is so good it may be able to simply overwhelm opponents.
Allen and Aquinas appear just as loaded.
Allen's Alec Morris was superb in his team's 42-23 victory over No. 27 Longview.
Morris threw for two first-quarter score and ran for a third in the second to give Allen a 21-3 halftime lead. He opened the second half with another TD toss to make it 28-3.
Longview tried to fight back, putting up back-to-back scores, but Morris answered with two more TD passes of his own to keep Longview at bay.
For the game, Morris was 25 of 35 for 368 yards and five TDs.
St. Thomas Aquinas was supposed to be breaking in a new offense. It appears to already be in mid-season form.
It followed up its impressive opening-game victory over then No. 1 Prattville (Ala.) High with a 34-0 victory over No. 71 Cypress Bay.
So are these the big three? We'll soon find out.
Bosco has a game next week at Manatee (Fla.) High and has games with rivals Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Cathoic and Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward before the season is half over.
Aquinas? It has a test against Concord (Calif.) De La Salle in two weeks.
Only Allen (already 3-0) has an easier road ahead - but if the Texas regular season can be easy, the Texas postseason is not.
This much is true: If all three of these teams make it through the regular season unscathed, it will be hard to see anyone else breaking through.
But in year where many ranked teams are struggling to survive, let alone win, these three may just be one level above.