Big stadium, big upset headline Labor Day Power Rankings
Allen (Texas) opened its $60 million stadium by beating the state champions
Robert Nkemdiche is a ferocious defender and powerful short-yardage runner
Bellevue (Wash.) won another major out-of-state game in an overtime thriller
Some teams played their third game of the season this weekend, while others finally played their first. Now that it's September, the inconsistent high school football schedule will begin to normalize. The Friday before Labor Day featured three high-profile matchups: a glitzy Texas tilt, a talent-rich Southern showdown and an overtime thriller in the Pacific Northwest.
But even with those nationally ranked teams on display, two of the three games ended the way so many September nonconference matchups do: in blowouts.
Allen (Texas) upset defending state champion Carroll (Southlake, Texas) in the unveiling of Allen's $60 million stadium, and Grayson (Ga.) obliterated Central (Miami, Fla.) in a showcase of at least 10, maybe even 20, prospective Division-I players. But fans were treated to one exciting matchup, as Bellevue (Wash.) knocked off Trinity (Euless, Texas) on Thursday night.
Fly, Eagles, fly (Allen 24, Carroll 0):
The terminology of Friday Night Lights -- whether from Buzz Bissinger's iconic 1990 novel or the ensuing movie and TV show -- permanently transformed the national perception of Texas high school football as more religion than sport.
The Aug. 31 unveiling of Allen's palatial new stadium only furthered the idea that Texas football is an entity the rest of the country will probably never understand.
Allen made national headlines this year when it agreed to build a $59.6 million stadium predominantly using taxpayer funds. One of the top programs in the state, Allen is the only high school in the affluent Dallas suburb of more than 84,000. The Eagles' last stadium fit 15,000, but fans complained of claustrophobic seating and hundreds were turned away weekly. As a result, Allen residents funded a new stadium through a local ballot measure, and now the Eagles have better facilities than several colleges across the country.
And if the Eagles' performance was any reflection on their new facility, the football-crazed voters probably consider it a worthy investment.
Allen dominated the defending state champions, 24-0, in front of a raucous crowd of reportedly more than 20,000, including Dallas Cowboys' legend Emmitt Smith. Quarterback Oliver Pierce and running back Jeff Harris anchored a powerful rushing attack that struck first in the opening quarter and let the defense do the rest.
It was the first time Carroll had been shut out since 1997, an inauspicious start for a team expected to again contend for a state title.
Try and stop me (Grayson 35, Central 3):
While stadiums like Allen's and nationally televised games often dilute the "high school" feeling of prep football, players like Robert Nkemdiche remind viewers that raw physical talent can overwhelm any teenage competition.
The top-rated prep player in the country will play defensive end at the collegiate level, but Nkemdiche bloated the box score on both sides of the ball this week, rushing for two touchdowns and recovering a fumble in Grayson's 35-3 rout of Central.
Nkemdiche, a Clemson commit, has now scored three touchdowns this season, and all have come inside the five yard-line. The schedule gets no easier for Central, which takes on fellow Florida powerhouses Booker T. Washingon and Manatee in the next two weeks.
Bellevue bonanza (Bellevue 31, Trinity 24):
Bellevue is more or less accustomed to major out-of-state victories in the early season, and the Wolverines tacked on yet another one in an exciting 31-24 overtime win against Trinity Thursday night in Seattle.
While Trinity is not as highly regarded in 2012 as it has been over the last five years, it still has won three Texas 5A state championships since 2005 and is considered a top team in the state. To date, Bellevue has willingly scheduled such difficult out-of-state tilts. Most famous for a 2004 victory over De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) that ended the Spartans' 151-game winning streak, Bellevue has played out-of-state games against powerhouses Katy (Texas), Grant (Sacramento) and Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) over the past three seasons.
The Wolverines rode the powerful running back tandem of Myles Jack (committed to UCLA) and acclaimed junior Bishard "Budda" Baker against a bigger Trinity side and resisted a Trinity comeback in overtime with a game-ending interception. The opening loss was uncharacteristic for the Trojans, and their schedule does not ease up: They must take on Union (Tulsa, Okla.), the top program in the Sooner State, next weekend.
And now for the rest of the rankings:
Previous rank: 1
Last game: Won 41-6 over Miramar (Fla.)
Next game: @ Riverview (Sarasota, Fla.)
Much like in its preseason blowout of Osceola, Manatee utilized a big quarter to blow out Miramar in a nationally televised affair in Bradenton. Quarterback Cord Sandberg anchored a 21-point third quarter that turned a close game at the half into an easy victory for the Hurricanes.
Previous rank: 3
Last game: Won 35-3 over Central (Miami, Fla.)
Next game: @ Parkview (Lilburn, Ga.)
A thoroughly dominant performance over last week's No. 5 Central gives the Rams a bump in this week's rankings. It remains to be seen whether anybody can block or solo tackle Nkemdiche.
Previous rank: 2
Last game: Won 35-6 over Jordan (Long Beach, Calif.)
Next game: vs. Trabuco Hills (Mission Viejo, Calif.)
After a gritty win over Brophy Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.) to open the season, the Eagles coast to an easy in-state win anchored by two touchdown passes from quarterback Johnny Stanton and five sacks from the defense.
Previous rank: 4
Last game: Won 42-28 over The Woodlands (Houston, Texas)
Next game: vs. Martin (Arlington, Texas)
Arguably the top quarterback-receiver tandem in the nation, Devante Kincaid and Ra'Shaad Samples teamed up for four touchdowns in Skyline's electric 42-28 romp over The Woodlands in the Tom Landry Classic at SMU's Ford Stadium.
Previous rank: NR
Last game: Won 31-24 over Trinity (Euless, Tex.)
Next game: @ Bothell (Wash.)
The Wolverines have a history of high-profile intrastate wins (as mentioned, they ended De La Salle's 151-game winning streak in 2004) and they merely added to their legacy with a 31-24 victory over Trinity Thursday night at Seattle's Memorial Stadium.
Previous rank: 6
Last game: Won 42-13 over Carol City (Miami, Fla.)
Next game: vs. Central (Miami, Fla.)
The aptly named Tornadoes sprinted past Carrol City on Friday night with 432 yards of total offense and three turnovers on defense. Washington plays weary Central next week in a game that pits the two highest-ranked teams from South Florida.
Previous rank: 7
Last game: Won 26-7 over St. Paul (Covington, La.)
Next game: vs. Plant (Tampa, Fla.)
No team wants to be caught looking ahead to next week, and Curtis can finally look at its major showdown with Plant at the Sugar Bowl next week after easily dispatching in-state foe St. Paul at home. Running back Raekwon James helped protect the Patriots' neck with two second-half touchdowns to distance John Curtis from the gritty Wolves.
Previous rank: 8
Last game: Won 52-40 over Saint Louis (Hawaii)
Next game: vs. Bergen Catholic (Oradell, NJ)
Gorman added another high-scoring win to its batty nonconference schedule with a 52-40 shootout victory over Saint Louis. Gorman has now scored 79 points in its first two games of the season, and now it welcomes the top team in New Jersey next week.
Previous rank: 9
Last game: Won 40-28 over Woodruff (S.C.)
Next game: vs. Northwestern (Rock Hill, S.C.)
Byrnes' high-flying offense managed 32 first-half points just one week after blowing out Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.). Quarterback Shuler Bentley threw for 335 yards in the opening half and finished with 440 yards and three touchdowns.
Previous rank: NR
Last game: Won 41-7 over Bellarmine (San Jose, Calif.)
Next game: vs. Mullen (Denver, Colo.)
New quarterback Chris Williams (taking over for Wisconsin's Bart Houston) anchored the multi-pronged Spartan attack to an easy victory over a Bellarmine squad that took De La Salle down to the wire last season. The Spartans get a major out-of-state test when Mullen arrives next week.
Next five: Vista Murrieta (Murrieta, Calif.), Trinity (Louisville), Lake Travis (Austin), Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.), Plant (Tampa)
Dropped out: No. 5 Miami Central (Miami), No. 10 Carroll (Southlake, Texas)