The high school football season has begun to wind down as Thanksgiving Day approaches. This is state finals weekend in eight states across the land, including Iowa, where a No. 1-versus-No. 2 battle will decide the Class 4A championship.
No. 1 Dowling and No. 2 Iowa City were expected to meet in last year's title game, but Dowling was upset in the semifinals. This year, both teams remain undefeated and the much-anticipated matchup is a go for Friday night at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.
Elsewhere, the nation's No. 1-ranked team will be tested in a Texas 5A/I second-round playoff game as Trinity (Euless, Texas) takes on state-ranked Allen (Texas) at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In Ohio, the Division I playoffs have reached round three, and both the Region 1 (Solon vs. St. Edward) and Region 3 (Pickerington Central vs. Hilliard Davidson) championship games feature clashes between undefeated teams.
Season-long predictions leader Stephen Spiewak (96-34) was correct on at least eight selections for the fourth time in a row last week. But a 9-1 performance from the MaxPreps Projections cut Spiewak's lead for the season down to just three games. Jamie DeMoney went only 6-4 and dug a deeper third-place hole, 12 games behind the pace. You can track the season-long standings and all the weekly results by clicking here
Here's a look at this week's Top 10 games of the week along with predictions from MaxPreps staff writers and contributors Mitch Stephens, Steve Montoya, Stephen Spiewak, Kevin Askeland, Jamie DeMoney and projections for the games by the MaxPreps computer rankings:Central Catholic (Pittsburgh, Pa.) vs. North Allegheny (Wexford), Friday
The actual WPIAL Quad A championship game won't take place until next Friday at Heinz Field, but this one has an all-the-marbles feel to it and many believe the survivor will be a strong favorite next week against the winner of Woodland Hills (Pittsburgh, Pa.) vs. North Hills (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
Both teams run the ball effectively and play great defense. Central Catholic (11-0) is led by junior running back Damian Jones-Moore
, who has more than 1,000 rushing yards this season despite playing limited minutes due to injury. North Allegheny (10-1) has a 1,900-yard rusher in senior Alex Papson
. Where Central Catholic might have a slight edge is in the passing game. The Vikings have a Division I prospect at quarterback in 6-foot-3 triggerman Perry Hills
and a great playmaker at receiver in fellow junior Anthony Nixon
. An interesting side note is the last time these teams met in the WPIAL semifinals was 2001, when Central Catholic's coach was Art Walker – now the head coach at North Allegheny. Click here to view MaxPreps' Pennsylvania football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Central Catholic 21, North Allegheny 20Steve Montoya:
Central Catholic 7, North Allegheny 0Stephen Spiewak:
Central Catholic 21, North Allegheny 10Kevin Askeland:
Central Catholic 35, North Allegheny 28Jamie DeMoney:
Central Catholic 27, North Allegheny 21MaxPreps Projection:
North Allegheny 21, Central Catholic 19Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) at Dutch Fork (Irmo, S.C.), Friday
Byrnes and Independence (Charlotte, N.C.) were two of the nation's top programs last decade, combining to win 13 state championships and well over 90 percent of their games. But the schools, separated by less than 100 miles, never met in the regular season.
That leads us to Friday's Class 4A/I second-round playoff matchup at Dutch Fork. The home team is led by coach Tom Knotts, the former coach at Independence. In one season, he has turned around a Dutch Fork program that won only two games last season to a 10-2 team this year. The Silver Foxes have won nine straight, including last week's come-from-behind 30-25 victory over Clover (S.C.). Meanwhile, Byrnes (9-3) is in the rare position of playing a road playoff game this early, but still has plenty of reason to be confident. The Rebels have lost only to nationally ranked Dorman since mid-September and barely broke a sweat in eliminating Mauldin (S.C.), 44-14, last week. It was their 69th consecutive home win. Click here to view MaxPreps' South Carolina football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Byrnes 35, Dutch Fork 21Steve Montoya:
Byrnes 31, Dutch Fork 24Stephen Spiewak:
Byrnes 28, Dutch Fork 14Kevin Askeland:
Byrnes 40, Dutch Fork 35Jamie DeMoney:
Byrnes 28, Dutch Fork 24 MaxPreps Projection:
Byrnes 34, Dutch Fork 21Valdosta (Ga.) at McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.), Friday
High school football's winningest program, Valdosta, has reached the 10-win mark for just the third time in 12 seasons. Under first-year coach Rance Gilespie, the Wildcats are employing a wide-open spread attack and average 35 points per game. Senior quarterback Ryan Whilden
has thrown a school-record 28 touchdown passes, including three in last week's 34-13 defeat of Windsor Forest (Savannah, Ga.) in round one of the Class 5A playoffs. Jay Rome
, MaxPreps' No. 1-rated tight end, is one of his top receiving targets.
McEachern has sailed to 10 consecutive wins since its season-opening loss to Peachtree Ridge (Suwanee, Ga.). Quarterback Dondre Purnell
, a 5-10 senior, had 237 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in the Indians' 31-19 win over East Coweta (Sharpsburg, Ga.) last week. Click here to view MaxPreps' Georgia football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
McEachern 21, Valdosta 20Steve Montoya:
Valdosta 21, McEachern 14Stephen Spiewak:
Valdosta 28, McEachern 21Kevin Askeland:
Valdosta 30, McEachern 28Jamie DeMoney:
Valdosta 34, McEachern 17MaxPreps Projection:
Valdosta 38, McEachern 31Tivy (Kerrville, Texas) at Lake Travis (Austin, Texas), Friday
Two of the state's most heralded quarterbacks will square off in this Class 4A/I second-round matchup. Tivy's Johnny Manziel
is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound Texas A&M pledge who has thrown for more than 3,200 yards and ran for more than 1,500 this season. Lake Travis features Michael Brewer
(Texas Tech), who has more than 1,800 passing yards despite missing nearly a month's worth of games.
Tivy's only loss was to Lake Travis (37-33) in the fourth week of the season. The Antlers have won every game since by at least 28 points. Brewer did not play in Lake Travis' win over Tivy but was under center when the Cavaliers lost their season finale, 35-21, to undefeated Cedar Park. It was their second loss of the season after entering the year with a 46-game winning streak. Click here to view MaxPreps' Texas football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Tivy 28, Lake Travis 27Steve Montoya:
Lake Travis 41, Tivy 32Stephen Spiewak:
Tivy 45, Lake Travis 30Kevin Askeland:
Lake Travis 35, Tivy 32Jamie DeMoney:
Lake Travis 42, Tivy 27MaxPreps Projection:
Lake Travis 38, Tivy 31Iowa City (Iowa) vs. Dowling (West Des Moines, Iowa), Friday
This is the 4A championship everyone in the Hawkeye State expected to see last season and will finally get to watch this weekend. City High (13-0) is the defending champion and ranked No. 2 in Iowa by both the human and computer polls, while Dowling (13-0) – which was upset in last year's semifinals by Marshalltown – is No. 1 in every ranking in the state.
If you break down the matchup along historic and geographic lines, the edge belongs to City High. Since the state instituted playoffs in 1972, only eight Central Iowa Metro League teams have won 4A championships. However, CIML teams have won six titles since 2000 including two for Dowling in 2000-01. The Little Hawks, a four-time champion since 1993, no longer have A.J. Derby (now at Iowa) running the offense but senior Andrew McNulty
has picked up the slack going over 1,000 yards both passing and rushing this season. Meanwhile, the Maroons also have a senior quarterback with nearly 3,000 total yards in Connor Bravard
. His top receiving target is standout junior Amara Darboh
, a possible national recruit next season. Click here to view MaxPreps' Iowa football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
City High 28, Dowling 24Steve Montoya:
Dowling 24, City High 21Stephen Spiewak:
Dowling 24, City High 21Kevin Askeland:
Dowling 35, City High 35Jamie DeMoney:
City High 35, Dowling 24MaxPreps Projection:
Dowling 31, City High 24Mountain Crest (Hyrum, Utah) vs. Highland (Salt Lake City), Friday
The Utah Class 4A championship game Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium will feature the state's all-time leading passer, Alex Kuresa
, engineering Mountain Crest (10-2) against Highland, the team it lost to, 28-14, in the season opener.
Kuresa (a BYU commit) threw for a semifinals-record 444 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-35 defeat of Bountiful last week. He holds the state record in those two categories – plus four others – for his career. On the other side, Highland (9-4) will counter with a prolific option rushing attack that generated 486 yards in last week's 46-21 upset of Springville. The Rams' big and powerful offensive line paved the way for junior fullback Sione Houma's
216 yards and three touchdowns. Click here to view MaxPreps' Utah football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Mountain Crest 35, Highland 24Steve Montoya:
Mountain Crest 35, Highland 28Stephen Spiewak:
Mountain Crest 28, Highland 14Kevin Askeland:
Highland 30, Mountain Crest 21Jamie DeMoney:
Highland 35, Mountain Crest 27MaxPreps Projection:
Mountain Crest 35, Highland 28Trinity (Euless, Texas) vs. Allen (Texas), Saturday
The No. 1-ranked team all season in MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 presented by the Army National Guard could have its hands full in what is likely to be Trinity's toughest contest so far this season. This Class 5A/I second-round playoff tilt is one of four games Saturday at Cowboys Stadium and is expected to draw anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 spectators.
Trinity has averaged 50 points compared to its opponents' 10 through 11 games. But the Trojans are coming off their closest contest of the year, a rag-tag 36-16 win over South Grand Prairie in the playoff opener. They average 479 yards of total offense per game, led by Oklahoma recruit Brandon Carter
shuffling between quarterback and receiver. For Allen, the star of the show is tailback Jonathan Williams. The junior already has over 2,000 yards on the ground and leads a balanced offensive attack for the Eagles (10-1). Click here to view MaxPreps' Texas football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Trinity 35, Allen 28Steve Montoya:
Trinity 38, Allen 28Stephen Spiewak:
Trinity 42, Allen 14Kevin Askeland:
Trinity 40, Allen 14Jamie DeMoney:
Trinity 45, Allen 20MaxPreps Projection:
Trinity 35, Allen 27Pickerington Central (Ohio) vs. Hilliard Davidson (Ohio), Saturday
The Region 3 championship game could identify the team to beat in the race for Ohio's Division I title. For the first two decades of the state's playoff system, teams from this region were largely non-factors in the championship race. But since 2000, Columbus-area teams have collected three large-school championships, including Davidson's second title in four years last season.
Central (11-0) debuted at No. 25 in this week's MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings after shutting out Westerville South, 30-0, in a second-round game. The Tigers have a potent offense that averages 39 points per game, but when these teams met in the playoffs the last two seasons they have scored only 10 points total against Davidson. The Wildcats (12-0) continue to get it done without glitz or flash. Their 9-0 win last week against Springfield was shutout No. 4 of the season and the 10th time an opponent has failed to score in double digits. Click here to view MaxPreps' Ohio football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Pickerington Central 21, Davidson 20Steve Montoya:
Davidson 14, Pickerington Central 10Stephen Spiewak:
Pickerington Central 28, Davidson 14Kevin Askeland:
Davidson 28, Pickerington Central 22Jamie DeMoney:
Pickerington Central 21, Davidson 6MaxPreps Projection:
Pickerington Central 27, Davidson 14Solon (Ohio) vs. St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio), Saturday
The Region 1 championship features the two most consistently impressive teams in northeast Ohio this season. It's the second straight trip to this round of the playoffs for Solon (12-0), while nationally ranked St. Edward (12-0) has emerged from sleeping giant status after going 4-6 a year ago.
Solon was dominant in its 41-0 shutout of Austintown-Fitch (Youngstown) last week. The Comets scored on six of their first seven possessions, forced three turnovers, and blocked a punt before the halftime gun sounded. Ohio University recruit Kyle Hammonds
was the offensive star, running for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, No. 7 St. Edward was equally impressive in its 42-22 win over then-undefeated and nationally ranked Glenville (Cleveland). The Eagles picked off four Glenville passes in the game and outscored the Tarblooders 28-8 in the second half. Mitch Stephens:
St. Edward 42, Solon 31Steve Montoya:
St. Edward 17, Solon 7Stephen Spiewak:
St. Edward 35, Solon 28Kevin Askeland:
St. Edward 27, Solon 7Jamie DeMoney:
Solon 29, St. Edward 27MaxPreps Projection:
St. Edward 31, Solon 20Millard North (Omaha, Neb.) vs. Millard South (Omaha, Neb.), Monday
It's the third consecutive year the Class A championship will match a pair of schools from Millard and the 13th time since 1995 that at least one team from the district has been involved. That's pretty impressive, considering there are only three high schools – North, South and West – in the Millard district. This one will take place Monday under the lights at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Millard North was the only team this season to defeat Millard South, which is the defending state champion. The Mustangs (10-2) are physical and play great defense, limiting opponents just more than eight points per game. Millard South, on the other hand, has one of the state's top scoring outfits. The Patriots (11-1) average 39 points per game and are led by prolific multi-purpose threat Quentin Urban
at quarterback. Click here to view MaxPreps' Nebraska football playoff brackets.Mitch Stephens:
Millard North 21, Millard South 17Steve Montoya:
Millard North 21, Millard South 16Stephen Spiewak:
Millard South 14, Millard North 7Kevin Askeland:
Millard North 28, Millard South 14Jamie DeMoney:
Millard North 23, Millard South 17MaxPreps Projection:
Millard South 27, Millard North 19MaxPreps contributor Jamie DeMoney has covered high school sports and recruiting for more than 15 years. He is editor and founder of PrepNation.com. You can reach him at PrepNation@aol.com.