The high school football season is upon us and the first full weekend of games is kicking off around the country. Many top teams are in action and the power states for high school football are the focus of the first Weekend Watch of 2009.
In Ohio, the Herbstreit Football Series will kick off on Friday with the No. 1-ranked team in the country, St. Thomas Aquinas, taking on Upper Arlington at Ohio Stadium. The Raiders of St. Thomas won the national championship in 2008 and seek to defend their title by going north for this kickoff classic.
The Series continues in Texas with a four game slate of games scheduled for the new Cowboys Stadium. Highlighted by two inter-state match-ups between one of the top teams in Utah, Bingham, against local Dallas power Euless Trinity. And then closing the night will be Sherman Oaks Notre Dame from California taking on one of the best from Houston, Klein Oak.
WHEN: Saturday 8/29, 8:15 pm LAST SEASON: Elder lost in the state finals to St. Ignatius. East St. Louis won Illinois 7A title.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Last year East St. Louis traveled to Ohio and lost to a Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne 20-12. This season the Flyers will welcome back 12 starters this fall including 8 starters on offense. Watch out for three star ranked QB Detchuaz Wray along with senior RB Courtney Molton, junior WR Keante Minor plus four returning starters back in the Flyers offensive line. The offensive line will be the key for East St. Louis, and that is good as the line will average 6-foot-2 and nearly 300 pounds per man this fall.
STAR POWER: The stars on the field may shine brightest for the Panthers. Elder features four-star tight end, Alex Welch. At 6-foot-5 225 pounds, being from Elder, and commited to Norte Dame he draws immediate comparisons to Kyle Rudolph. Welsh is a good pass catcher, and blocker. He may not be as explosive or the playmaker Rudolph was, but he is certainly a star of the team.
PREDICTION: Traveling to the Pit and playing Elder is tough for any team. East St. Louis is the highest ranked team in Illinois and can really give the state a boost in national perception with a win. They certainly have the talent on the field to do it. A major cause for concern will be how smart they play as last season they were one of the most penalized teams in the state. Elder has a chance to flex the muscles of Ohio football and can match the speed and strength of the Flyers. Look for a closer, and more physical, game than either team would like to open the season with Elder coming out on top, Panthers 20, Flyers 16.
WHEN: Saturday 8/29, 7:00 pm LAST MEETING: 8/28/08, North Shore won 10-6
KEEP AN EYE ON: Katy is the classic program that figures out how to win state titles. North Shore is the classic program with high-profile players that has managed to win only one state title. Katy is a pre-season No. 2 in the state looking for a third-consecutive title. The Tigers lost to North Shore last season but put everything together for a championship ride. Katy will start very fast this year with an offense loaded with returning starters and explosive junior transfer Donovonn Young. Like Katy coach Gary Joseph, North Shore coach David Aymond is headed into the THSCA Hall of Honor. The Mustangs return a powerful offensive line and lots of skill position speed to surround a new starting quarterback. The defense will be fast and aggressive. This year's version will be youthful up front but has super talented junior linebacker Derrick Matthews and senior secondary stars Alton Demby and Larry Stephens.
PLAYER'S TO WATCH: Katy RB William Jeffrey was named MVP of the state title game. TE Zach Swanson (Stanford commit), OL Shep Klinke (Texas A&M commit), WR Ryan Jones, QB Michael Stojkovic and junior RB Donovonn Young are all major college prospects. North Shore OL Trey Hopkins has committed to Texas and WR DeAndrew White is one of state's top uncommitted players. Junior offensive lineman Sedrick Flowers and junior linebacker Derrick Matthews will be nationally sought recruits in 2011.
BEST MATCHUP: The Tigers' suddenly explosive offense against the traditionally strong Mustangs' defense. Katy was shut down, 10-6, in its loss to North Shore last year and shut out in its second-game loss. The Tigers' traditional two-back offense then jelled with 38 or more points in nine of its last 11 games. North Shore only returns Jarrod Foster from a dominating defensive front but junior Derrick Matthews is a 5-star caliber talent surrounded by major college prospects in the secondary.
PREDICTION: Katy got off to a slow start last season as they lost a lot of talent and limped to an 0-2 start before rolling back to win states. This year the roles are reversed and the Tigers come in with well stocked shelves. North Shore will still be a tough physical game for the Tigers and defenses will rule the day. Look for a statement in a week one game, Katy 24, North Shore 10.
WHEN: Saturday 8/29, 7:00 pm
LAST MEETING: 2008 Division I, Region 1 Semifinal; St. Ignatius won 8-7
KEEP AN EYE ON: The new faces. Both St. Ignatius and Glenville each graduated a bevy of talent from last season and head coaches Chuck Kyle and Ted Ginn, Sr. will both call upon new players to step up. Glenville lost All-American offensive lineman Marcus Hall (Ohio State) and dynamic WR/DB Mike Edwards (Tennessee), among others. St. Ignatius graduated two Division I wide receivers, an All-Ohio quarterback and secondary mainstays Dan Fox (Notre Dame) and Pat Hinkel (Miami-OH) from its D-I championship team. New players, some underclassmen, will be called upon to fill the gaping holes. Both teams still return plenty of star power, but the squad who gets the most production out the new starters should hold a decisive advantage.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: As always, Glenville features a plethora of big-time talent. Among their stars are four-star defensive backs Christian Bryant and Latwan Anderson and three-star defensive end Jayrone Elliott. All three players hold major college offers. St. Ignatius' marquee name is linebacker Scott McVey. The Ohio State commit will look to begin where he left off last season (4.5 sacks, 1 INT in state title game).
BEST MATCHUP: The St. Ignatius passing game vs. the Glenville secondary. St. Ignatius senior quarterback Mark Myers is technically a new starter, but the 6-4, 220-pound lefty actually started two huge games in 2007 (one against Glenville) as a sophomore. He has a reliable target in 6-4, 215-pound tight end Brandon Carozzoni, a Pitt commit. Those two will need to be on the same page early and often as Bryant, Anderson and Co. will be on the prowl.
PREDICTION This rivalry has become one of Ohio's best. Glenville won four straight matchups before Ignatius eeked the dramatic win in the playoffs last season. Since the series commenced in 2003, no team has won by more than eight points. Expect a similar close contest, but Glenville appears to have the more dynamic playmakers this season. Glenville 19, St. Ignatius 13.