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November 25, 2012

RH100: North Gwinnett flips Georgia rankings

MORE: Class of 2014 Rivals250 to Watch

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Loganville (Ga.) Grayson was one of two high school football teams to hold the No. 1 position in the RivalsHigh 100 before River Ridge (La.) John Curtis rose to the top.

Following a 28-10 loss to then-No. 88 Suwannee (Ga.) North Gwinnett in the second round of the Georgia Class AAAAAA playoffs, the Rams' season is over before December.

North Gwinnett head coach Bob Sphire told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the hype for the game was not too big for his team.

"We've played in tough settings before," Sphire told the paper. "I don't think it is a shock to our system to play great teams in great environments."

North Gwinnett forced nine fumbles, recovering three. It gained another takeaway with an interception and scored on defense with a safety.

The Bulldogs scored on their first five possessions of the game. They built an insurmountable lead with four field goals, then two touchdowns and a safety. The first and third scores resulted from forced turnovers.

For Grayson, the loss was reminiscent of the early-season defeat by Lilburn (Ga.) Parkview in which the offense never got into a rhythm and turnovers ultimately doomed the team.

Dante Sawyer led the defense for North Gwinnett with a fumble recovery and an interception. Preston Green and Bobby Young also recovered fumbles for North Gwinnett.

Kicker Michael D'Angola was perhaps the most valuable Bulldog. He converted stalled drives into points on the first four possessions for North Gwinnett with kicks of 36, 31, 37 and 29 yards.

Nate Brown scored on a 15-yard reception with just under eight minutes to play in the third quarter to extend the North Gwinnett lead to 19-3, and an errant snap over the head of the Grayson punter for a safety pushed the tally to 21-3.

North Gwinnett extended its lead to 28-3 with a 7-yard touchdown reception by Michael Haynes with just under four minutes to play.

Sphire said his team took advantage of the opportunities afforded it.

"You've got to make plays when you have a chance," he said, "especially in a game like this at this point in the season."

The win will move North Gwinnett from No. 7 in the state to No. 4 and drop Grayson from No. 1 in Georgia to No. 5.

North Gwinnett will take on nationally ranked Lovejoy (Ga.) High in the third round of the playoffs, while Grayson's season comes to a close.

MAKING A MOVE: DeSoto (Texas) High will make its first move toward a national title by jumping Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee for the No. 2 spot in the national rankings with its 42-14 victory over then-No. 28 Coppell (Texas) High in the second round of the Texas 5A-Division I playoffs.

DeSoto and Manatee have a decided edge in strength of schedule over the No. 1 team, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis, but neither has been able to make the move into the top spot in the poll over the last month of the season.

DeSoto has victories over nationally relevant programs Arlington (Texas) Martin, Jenks (Okla.) High, Euless (Texas) Trinity, and Coppell. Its potential playoff path could add Arlington (Texas) Bowie, Southlake (Texas) Carroll or Trinity in the next round, and potentially Allen (Texas) High or Dallas (Texas) Skyline in the state semifinals before a state title game.

Manatee has a resume with wins over Miramar (Fla.) High, Miami (Fla.) Central, Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay, and Venice (Fla.) High. It can gain wins over Fort Pierce (Fla.) Central and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas before a state finals appearance.

The overall register of wins for John Curtis took a hit this weekend because its best victory of the season, a 33-3 defeat of Tampa (Fla.) Plant, became less relevant with Plant falling to Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips, 24-7.

Curtis could add a quality victory over Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian or Baton Rouge (La.) University Lab in the state finals.

While Curtis remains in the top spot for this week, its lead narrows with each round of the playoffs, and its overall resume could prove to be its undoing against undefeated champions from Texas, Florida or California.

THE SUNS CONTINUE TO RISE: Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University moves up from No. 7 to No. 5 this week with a 34-17 victory over then-No. 34 Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage in the second round of the Florida Class 3A playoffs.

Led by three rushing touchdowns from sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett, the small-class power continues its climb up the national rankings.

American Heritage took the lead early on an 85-yard touchdown pass before Scarlett tied the game at 7.

University took the lead at the end of the first quarter with a field goal from Andrew DiRocco before American Heritage took the advantage at 14-10.

Following a safety for University School and a field goal for American Heritage, the teams went into halftime with American Heritage in the lead, 17-12.

After the break, Scarlett got to work.

His second touchdown of the game came by way of a 50-yard score, and a two-point conversion gave the Suns a 20-17 lead.

Scarlett punched in another score with a 10-yard run to extend the lead to 27-17 before the third quarter expired.

Three-star outside linebacker Skai Moore capped the game with an interception return for a touchdown.

University will jump Hoover (Ala.) High in the RivalsHigh 100, and with the loss of previous No. 5 Loganville (Ga.) Grayson, it will move to the No. 5 spot.

CLAIRTON GOES INTO RECORD BOOKS: Behind star player Tyler Boyd, Clairton (Pa.) High extended its winning streak to 60 games with a 58-21 victory over McKees Rocks (Pa.) Sto-Rox.

Boyd rushed for 153 yards in the second half as the team exploded for 28 points to pull away.

The victory set a record for Pennsylvania teams, eclipsing the 59-game streak set by Doylestown (Pa.) Central Bucks West from 1997 to 2000.

Clairton, a school in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, is surrounded by larger football programs, but has traditionally produced college prospects at the skill positions and has had a run of success under coach Tom Nola.

The program has averaged 13 wins per season during the decade that Nola has been at the helm, and the coach told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he appreciated the significance of the victory.

"It is a historic day for us," he told the paper. "Nobody has ever done this before."

The win streak is the longest in the nation.

KEEP AN EYE ON...: the California playoffs.

For the first time in the five-year history of the RivalsHigh 100, there will be more teams from California ranked than Florida teams, and each is nearing the conclusion of its respective state playoffs.

This week, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle will take on an upstart Union City (Calif.) Logan team that has outscored opponents 353-39 in its last seven contests, including a 40-7 victory over a San Ramon (Calif.) California team that De La Salle defeated 27-14 just three weeks ago.

The winner of that contest is likely to face the victor of the game between Folsom (Calif.) High and Elk Grove (Calif.) High, with a chance to go to the Open Division Bowl representing the NorCal Region.

In Southern California, there will be multiple games of relevancy as teams play for section titles and make final cases for Regional Bowl Game appearances.

Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta is set to play Corona (Calif.) Centennial for the Inland Division title, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne will play Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw for the city title, and Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei will square off with re-emerging power Long Beach (Calif.) Poly in the PAC5 finals.

EARNING A SPOT ... AGAIN: Five teams that began the season nationally ranked before falling out of the RivalsHigh 100 will return this week after battling back on the field.

Batesville (Miss.) South Panola, Birmingham (Mich.) Brother Rice, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech and Gaffney (S.C.) High will reappear in the RivalsHigh100 this week.

South Panola advanced to the state finals by defeating Madison (Miss.) Central by the score of 38-6. The 2010 RivalsHigh 100 National Champions fell this season to Hoover (Ala.) and Bentonville (Ark.), both of which are inside the Top 25 of the national rankings, but South Panola has been undefeated in Mississippi.

Cass Tech and Brother Rice each had a run of rankings before falling out in Week 7 and Week 8, respectively. This weekend, each won a state title. Cass Tech defeated Detroit Catholic Central (Mich.) in the Division I game, and Brother Rice edged Muskegon (Mich.) High in the Division II finals. Cass Tech beat Brother Rice to open the season.

Hamilton opened its season with two losses, but rebounded to win 12 straight games. Hamilton also avenged a loss to Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe in the Arizona Division I state finals.

Gaffney, like Hamilton, did not make it to Week 2 of the national rankings. However, Gaffney has played its way back in after switching Class of 2014 Rivals250 member Shaq Davidson from receiver to quarterback. Gaffney advanced to the state finals against Irmo (S.C.) Dutch Fork by defeating Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes for the second time this season.

COACHED UP: From 2000 to 2007, Tommy Knotts helped guide the Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High Patriots to 109 consecutive wins and multiple appearances in the national rankings.

Irmo (S.C.) Dutch Fork High opened in 1992, and its football team had yet to win 110 games when Knotts was hired in 2010.

Now, just three seasons later, Knotts has Dutch Fork playing for a state title in South Carolina.

In the three years prior to Knotts' arrival, the Dutch Fork program won nine total games. In Knotts' three years on the job, the program has already totaled 31 victories.

If Dutch Fork beats Gaffney in the finals this coming weekend, it will find itself nationally ranked and Knotts will again prove coaching is paramount in high school football.



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