Skyline-Carroll, Westlake-Oaks Christian among state title picks
The Texas 5A Division I semifinal pits two top teams: Skyline and Carroll
Buford and Calhoun clash in the Georgia 2A final for the second straight year
Westlake seeks revenge, Armwood looks ripe for an upset and much more
Many of the nation's top teams -- including No. 1 Trinity and No. 2 Don Bosco Prep -- clinched state titles last week, putting a fitting end to their 2011 campaigns. But high school football is far from finished. Several other states, notably Georgia and California, host their championships this weekend, while Florida and Texas don't wrap up until Dec. 17.
With a number of titles on the line, there's no shortage of storylines. Here are 10 games to watch.
No. 3 Miramar (12-0) vs. Columbus (10-2)
Clinging to an outside shot at a national title, Miramar needs to make a statement against Columbus. Its defense should be up to the task. The Explorers run the ball (379 carries) three times as often as they pass it (118 attempts), and the Patriots have allowed just 592 rushing yards all year. All-everything cornerback Tracy Howard makes at least one game-changing play.
The pick: Miramar 28, Columbus 17
No. 7 Dallas Skyline (14-0) vs. Southlake Carroll (14-0)
Widely regarded as the top two teams in Texas, Carroll and Skyline seemingly couldn't be more different. Skyline averages 45 points per game, while Carroll reached that total just three times in 2011. Skyline is loaded with BCS talent, while Carroll has just four players with D-I offers. They do share one similarity: Both are led by standout dual-threat quarterbacks. The Raiders' Devante Kincade and Dragons' Kenny Hill exchange blows, but the grittier Carroll emerges. In four playoff games, it has outscored opponents 59-8 in the second half.
The pick: Southlake Carroll 27, Dallas Skyline 24
No. 8 Buford (14-0) vs. Calhoun (14-0)
Buford has been arguably the nation's most dominant team, taking every game by 15 points and winning by an average of 38.6. Calhoun has been nearly as good, capturing every game by 10 and winning by an average of 34.6. In both teams' first true test of the year, the Wolves justify their Top 10 standing. Running back Andre Johnson replicates last week's performance -- 18 carries, 133 yards -- and Buford tops Calhoun for the second consecutive year.
The pick: Buford 30, Calhoun 20
No. 9 Lake Travis (14-0) vs. Dawson (13-2)
Despite throwing for 3,095 and 39 touchdowns in his first 13 games, Lake Travis' Baker Mayfield went just 13-of-27 for 132 yards in last week's squeaker over Cedar Park. He'll return to form on Friday. Dawson has allowed an average of four touchdowns over its last six games. The Cavaliers have allowed four touchdowns just once -- to Johnathan Gray and Aledo -- since Nov. 2010.
The pick: Lake Travis 42, Dawson 21
No. 10 Grayson (14-0) vs. Walton (14-0)
After eliminating perennial powers Lowndes, West Forsyth and Colquitt County, Grayson sits one win shy of its first state title in program history. It won't come easy. Walton also remains unbeaten, and boasts Kentucky-bound defensive backs -- and twins -- Zack and Daron Blaylock. After escaping on a game-winning touchdown pass in the final 30 seconds last week, however, there's a just sense that it's the Rams year. Robert Nkemdiche and the defense -- allowing a meager 8.9 points per game -- shut down explosive Raiders' tailback Tyren Jones (2,298 rushing yards, 38 touchdowns).
The pick: Grayson 33, Walton 24
No. 11 Westlake (13-0) vs. Oaks Christian (11-2)
In last year's CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship, Oaks Christian edged Westlake 29-28 after Alex Ross' 41-yard field goal attempt bounced off the upright as time expired. One year later, the Warriors exact revenge. Westlake averages 425 yards of total offense and 2.5 turnovers per game. Then there's this: During their matchup on Oct. 6, the Warriors won 43-21 -- and quarterback Justin Moore ran for 235 yards on 14 carries.
The pick: Westlake 35, Oaks Christian 20
No. 12 Armwood (13-0) vs. Bartram Trail (12-1)
Is this the week that Armwood finally goes down? After escaping close encounters in two of their last three games, the Hawks -- and their vaunted D -- appear more vulnerable than ever. That could spell trouble against upstart Bartram Trail, especially given running back Gabe Johnson's playoff tear. In three games: 647 all-purpose yards (424 rushing, 176 receiving, 47 return) and six total touchdowns.
The pick: Bartram Trail 17, Armwood 14
No. 16 Miami Norland (13-0) vs. Palmetto (12-1)
After routing top-ranked Glades Central in the Florida Class 5A quarterfinals, Miami Norland has been dubbed as the team to beat. And why not? Miami commit Duke Johnson has rushed for 1,352 yards and 18 touchdowns, and the Vikings have racked up 55 points in three of their past four games. Trenton Miller -- Palmetto's breakout quarterback who threw for five touchdowns against Immokalee (Fla.) -- keeps it close, but Norland's blitz-happy defense (77 sacks in '11) makes the difference down the stretch.
The pick: Miami Norland 28, Palmetto 14
No. 18 De La Salle (11-1) vs. San Ramon Valley (10-3)
Since falling off the radar after its Sept. 23 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas, De La Salle has been dominant. It has outscored opponents 409-44, and won its first two playoff games 70-7 and 48-0, respectively. The Spartans ride that momentum -- and a favorable matchup -- to a comfortable victory over San Ramon Valley. The Wolves defense is porous, and De La Salle's ground attack averages 252 yards per game.
The pick: De La Salle 45, San Ramon Valley 17
No. 20 Miami Central (12-0) vs. Mainland (12-1)
Central's formula is simple: Hand the ball to Joseph Yearby, and let the 5-9, 195-pounder do the rest. Only a sophomore, he has collected 1,899 yards and 20 touchdowns, averaging a lofty 8.3 yards per carry. Mainland four-star defensive end Leonard Williams will slow him, but it won't be enough. The Rockets advance to the Florida Class 5A championship -- and await the winner of Armwood-Bartram Trail.
The pick: Miami Central 21, Mainland13
Last week: 7-3
Playoff record: 29-12
Though it was far from happening, Trinity and Don Bosco Prep attempted to set up a de facto national championship game at Yankee Stadium. The Louisville-Courier Journal reported that the proposal was denied by both the Kentucky and New Jersey state associations.
Aledo's Johnathan Gray's assault on the Texas record books continues. The prolific Longhorns-bound back is 797 yards behind the all-time national high school rushing record, the 11,232-yard mark set by Sugar Land's (Texas) Ken Hall. His quest was set back, however, following his controversial ejection from last week's Class 5A Division 2 quarterfinal for high-stepping to a touchdown.
Team on the rise: Sheldon (Ore.). The Fighting Irish (13-0) ripped through the Oregon Class 6A playoffs, staging a finals showdown with unbeaten Lake Oswego (14-0). Though the Lakers will get their points -- they're averaging 44.2 per game -- expect quarterback Dillon Miller to cap his career on a high note. Sheldon's signal-caller has thrown for 3,360 yards and 36 touchdowns this season.
Lost amid Millbrook's (N.C.) Keith Marshall's commitment to Georgia: Stephenson (Ga.) four-star running back Mike Davis decommitted from SEC counterpart Florida. "Things happened; there was a misunderstanding with the Florida coaches," he explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.