St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) High School boasts one of the nation's top all-time athletic programs, but the Raiders have never been No. 1 in the nation in football before.
Coach George Smith and company can change that over the next two weeks. St. Thomas Aquinas is the new No. 1 in this week's ESPN RISE FAB 50 following its 56-14 romp past South Fork Friday in the Class 4A state playoffs, combined with previous No. 1 Trinity (Euless, Texas), being upset by Allen 34-21 in the Texas Class 5A Division I playoffs.
Last weekend's tumultuous series of upsets and avenging wins -- which actually are not that uncommon for the first weekend of December -- caused the type of shuffling in this week's FAB 50 that would dizzy the brain of any Las Vegas card shark.
In addition to St. Thomas Aquinas moving up to No. 1, the voters on the FAB 50 panel moved up Poly (Long Beach, Calif.) from No. 4 to No. 2 and jumped up Allen of Texas from No. 19 all the way to No. 3.
It was an extremely close vote between the No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 teams, with just three points separating Lake Travis of Texas, Camden County of Georgia and Oscar Smith of Virginia. Camden County was previously No. 9 and received its boost after knocking off previously unbeaten Newnan, 27-7, in the Class AAAAA state semifinals in Georgia.
This week's rankings also are highlighted by the appearance of nine newly-ranked squads. Several of those teams -- such as Tesoro of Las Flores, Calif., and Pine Forest of Pensacola, Fla. -- are unbeaten teams that will be facing higher-ranked FAB 50 teams in key playoff games this weekend.
ESPN RISE FAB 50
The ESPN RISE FAB 50 rankings were compiled by a panel of ESPN RISE and ESPN.com high school editors, which includes Mark Tennis, Doug Huff, Chris Lawlor, Jon Mahoney, Sheldon Shealer, Ronnie Flores and Paul Muyskens.
Results as of Dec. 7.
1. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Points: 250 pts
Previous rank: 2
It was a big weekend for the Raiders, who throttled South Fork, 56-14, in the Class 5A region finals at Brian Piccolo Stadium. The game ball went to WR-KR Ronnie Kennedy, who scored on a 3-yard touchdown scamper in the first half, a 30-yard interception return and a 92-yard punt return for good measure in the third quarter. The Aquinas win coupled with Euless Trinity's loss puts the Raiders in the driver's seat for the No. 1 national ranking this year. This week, the defending state champions will tackle Largo (12-1) in the 5A semifinals.
2. Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)
Points: 244 pts
Previous record: 4
Slow starts offensively are plaguing the Jackrabbits so far in the CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division playoffs, but when you've got defensive standouts making plays all over the field it hasn't prevented them from moving on. In last Friday's 20-10 win over Lakewood in the semifinals, interceptions by Darius Fox-Williams and Stanjarivus McKay helped turn the game in Poly's direction down the stretch. After the first interception, the Jackrabbits took a 13-10 lead on a 21-yard field goal by Alan Roniss. After the second, Melvin Richardson scored on a 36-yard run. This week, head coach Raul Lara's team will go for its second straight Pac-Five title at Angels Stadium against unbeaten and FAB 50-ranked Tesoro of Las Flores.
3. Allen (Allen, Texas)
Points: 239 pts
Previous record: 19
The Eagles did what was previously thought to be impossible, dominating the line of scrimmage and outrushing powerful Euless Trinity en route to a 34-21 triumph over the previous FAB 50 No. 1 ranked Trojans last Saturday at Texas Stadium. Jeremiah Williams rushed 26 times for 180 yards to lead the Allen attack, while junior Tucker Carter was nearly perfect in his second start for injured Matt Brown, completing 16 of his 18 passes for 142 yards and two TDs. Meanwhile, the Allen defense limited Trinity to just 125 yards on the ground and forced three turnovers. So what's next for Allen after knocking off No. 1? The Eagles will try to solidify their standing near the top of the FAB 50 by continuing on to the 5A DI crown, starting with this weekend's semifinal matchup with 13-1 Round Rock Stony Point.
4. Lake Travis (Austin, Texas)
Points: 230 pts
Previous record: 5
The Cavaliers continued to run roughshod through the 4A Division I bracket, trouncing district-foe Killeen, 71-9, last Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas. In the first high school football game at Royal-Memorial since 2000, when Midland Lee's Cedric Benson helped defeat Westlake for a 5A state championship, future Longhorn Garrett Gilbert threw for four scores and ran for another in an easy victory. Gilbert's 360 passing yards also moved him to 12,000 on his career, just 532 yards shy of current Texas Tech star Graham Harrell's state career passing yardage record.
With two potential games left on the schedule, Gilbert, a strong favorite for national player of the year honors, has a great shot at adding yet another record to his resume. Lake Travis will face 11-1 Friendswood, powered by its own talented QB in Jacob Karam, Saturday at Texas A&M's Kyle Field.
5. Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.)
Points: 228 pts
Previous record: 9
The Wildcats jumped out to a 20-0 lead en route to a 27-7 road win over previously unbeaten and FAB 50-ranked Newnan in the 6A semifinals. Coach Jeff Heron's team made the cross-state trek a memorable one by scoring early and forcing Newnan to play catch up, something it hasn't done all season. RB Daryl Williams scored on a 3-yard run for the game's first points and WR DeAngelo Smith recovered Mike Green's fumble for a touchdown and the ball seemed to bounce the Wildcats' way for much of the night. Camden County will now make the trip north to the Georgia Dome for the state championship against Peachtree Ridge on Saturday night. The Cats are looking for their first state title since 2003 and their overall season performance has been impressive enough that this week they moved up four spots in this week's rankings. If enough teams above them lose, they have an outside shot to finish No. 1.
6. Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Va.)
Points: 227 pts
Previous record: 6
Phillip Sims put on a show to the likes never before seen in a Virginia High School League state final. The junior quarterback sensation threw for 334 yards and six touchdowns as Oscar Smith capped a perfect season with a 54-24 rout of Osbourn in the Division 6 state final. Sims had 267 yards and five touchdowns by halftime as the Tigers built a 34-0 lead. Senior standout Tim Smith caught six passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns. Oscar Smith's perfect season included wins over Ocean Lakes and Oakton, those team's only defeats of the season.
7. St. Ignatius (Cleveland)
Points: 222 pts
Previous record: 7
The Wildcats captured their 10th state Division 1 title since 1988 by winning 14 straight games. They lost their opener on a late field goal to Glenville of Cleveland, then beat the Tarblooders in a playoff rematch.
8. Phoebus (Hampton, Va.)
Points: 214 pts
Previous record: 11
Shawne Alston rushed for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his finalhigh school game as Phoebus won its second state title in three years with a 37-13 victory over Dinwiddie. Tajh Boyd added three touchdown passes. The Phantoms scored a staggering 720 points this season while allowing 53. Phoebus' most eyecatching victories were 42-6 over Hampton, 14-0 over Lake Taylor and 38-8 over former FAB 50-ranked Stone Bridge.
9. Centennial (Corona, Calif.)
Points: 211 pts
Previous record: 12
It was another edition of the Arthur Burns and Taylor Martinez show as the Huskies scored three times in the third quarter to break open a relatively close game and went on to beat Murrieta Valley of Murrieta, 38-17, in the CIF Southern Section Inland Division semifinals. Burns scored four times and had 25 carries for 143 yards. Martinez passed for 264 yards and another score. This week, Centennial takes on Chaparral of Temecula (12-1) in the title game. Chaparral has won 12 in a row since losing in its first game, 26-16, to the Huskies.
10. Lakeland (Lakeland, Fla.)
Points: 205 pts
Previous record: 13
The fans at Bryant Stadium saw an impressive performance from the Dreadnaughts last week as the home team crushed Tampa Chamberlain, 40-20, in the Class 5A Region 2 final. Lakeland dominated the line of scrimmage and racked up over 400 yards of offense doing most of the damage on the ground. Senior RB Aaron Trudell ran for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns and RB Rodney Watson added
88 yards and two scores. The 'Naughts will host unbeaten Pensacola Pine Forest this week for a trip to the state championship game in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl. Coach Bill Castle has led the Polk County powerhouse to nine semifinals and all six of the school's state championships.
11. Trinity (Euless, Texas)
Points: 194 pts
Previous record: 1
It was not what the Trojans didn't do Saturday in a 34-21 loss to Allen, but more what the Eagles were able to do, being the more physical team in knocking off previously No. 1 ranked Trinity. After falling behind 24-7, the Trojans tried to rally with the arm of Denarius McGhee, who threw for 196 yards and two scores while rushing for another, but two second half interceptions were too much to overcome. The Trojans will now root for Allen to finish up the year by winning the 5A Division I state title and they could still be a top 10 ranked team when all is said and done.
12. Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.)
Points: 189 pts
Previous record: 17
Junior Marcus Lattimore, who had rushed for 2,020 yards this season, added another 305 yards and four touchdowns as Byrnes defeated Sumter, 31-21, to win the Class 4A Division championship. Lattimore has been stellar in Byrnes' last two games -- rushing for 573 yards and six touchdowns -- and helping the Rebels to a 14-1 season. With Lattimore and junior QB Chaz Dodd both back next year, the question is just how high will Byrnes be to start out in 2009?
13. Plant (Tampa, Fla.)
Points: 188 pts
Previous record: 21
For the first time in the last three tries, the Panthers knocked off cross-town rival Armwood, 17-14, in the region finals. Plant led 17-6 in the fourth quarter and survived a late Hawks rally when kicker Garrett Schmitz missed a game-tying field goal with less than 10 seconds left. Sophomore QB Phillip Ely only completed 9 of 28 passes for 143 yards, but two completions went for touchdowns to TE Orson Charles. Tyler Rhodes added a field goal that held up in a defensive struggle. Plant will next host Palm Beach Dwyer in the state semifinals with a trip to the Class 4A title game on the line.
14. Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.)
Points: 187 pts
Previous record: 15
The Ironmen took home their third consecutive Non-Public, Group IV title with a 34-13 win over Bergen Catholic at Giants Stadium. It was their second victory over Bergen Catholic this year and 11th straight overall since falling to St. Xavier (Cincinnati, Ohio) on the road in the season opener. Since then, Don Bosco has earned a number of quality wins, including an impressive road victory over FAB 50 No. 18 De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) in a game that was televised on ESPNU. In their second victory over Bergen Catholic, the Ironmen once again used the power running of senior running back Dillon Romain, who ran for 75 yards and three scores. Meanwhile, senior quarterback Brett Knief threw for 158 yards and two touchdowns and added 77 yards on the ground.
15. Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.)
Points: 185 pts
Previous record: 14
Last year's 3A champs became the first team in Washington history to win back-to back football titles in different classifications with a hard-fought 20-15 victory over Issaquah to claim the Class 4A title. Trailing 15-14 with just 8:29 to play, the Spartans marched 68 yards in nine plays to regain the lead. Junior QB Jake Heaps connected with WR Jake Knecht on a 5-yard scoring strike with just 4:29 to play and the Spartan defense tightened up down the stretch to hold off the Eagles. Skyline finished undefeated for the second consecutive season to extended its win streak to 28 games.
16. Bethel Park (Pittsburgh)
Points: 178 pts
Previous record: 20
The Black Hawks earned their third consecutive victory over a nationally ranked opponent, this time edging No. 49 West Lawn Wilson, 38-35, in triple overtime of the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinals. In the third extra frame, Wilson got the ball first but couldn't put any points on the board as it decided to go for a fake field goal pass, which was intercepted by Bethel Park junior Matthew Bliss. It looked like the Black Hawks couldn't capitalize either as senior kicker Patrick Lydon missed on a 23-yard field goal attempt. However, Wilson was called for running into the kicker on the play and Lydon was given a second chance. This time he connected from 25 yards out to send Bethel Park to its first-ever state final, where it will meet a fourth straight nationally ranked opponent. Bethel Park will play No. 32 Liberty on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. In the win over Wilson, Bethel Park senior quarterback Erik Olson threw for 288 yards and five touchdowns, while senior wide receiver John Schademan hauled in 10 passes for 127 yards and three scores.
17. Elder (Cincinnati)
Points: 158 pts
Previous record: 22
Season complete. The state Division 1 runner-up bowed only to two top seven ranked teams in No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas and No. 7 St. Ignatius.
18. De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
Points: 157 pts
Previous record: 23
Seniors Blake Wayne and Michael Dosen hooked up for three touchdown passes in the second quarter as the Spartans led 35-0 at halftime in a 42-7 win over Foothill of Pleasanton in the CIF North Coast Section Division I semifinals. De La Salle, which hasn't lost a section playoff game since 1991, goes for another title on Friday night against 11-1 Pittsburg. If the Spartans win, they could set themselves up for a possible date against No. 2 Long Beach Poly in the CIF Open Division state bowl game.
19. Prattville (Prattville, Ala.)
Points: 151 pts
Previous record: 24
The number three was big for Prattville after Brian Egan drilled his third three-point field goal with just under three minutes to play to give the Lions their third straight 6A title with a 16-13 victory over Hoover. It was a 33-yarder. Egan, who scored 10 of the Lions' 16 points, booted a 41-yarder to give Prattville a 10-0 lead in the second quarter and his short three-pointer as time expired in the first half maintained that 10-point advantage, 13-3. Nick Perry's 72-yard interception return for a TD in the second quarter produced the other half-dozen points but this was clearly Egan's night at Legion Field. Egan, who had a 52-yarder earlier this season, drilled 20 field goals and was an almost-perfect 54 of 55 on extra points this season. Still, he and his teammates had to watch as Hoover missed a field goal as time expired that would have sent the game into overtime. Zach Brownell led the defense with 10 tackles and a key interception with 1:46 to go. Prattville is only the third school to win three or more consecutive Alabama state titles.
20. John T. Curtis (River Ridge, La.)
Points: 149* pts
Previous record: 25
How unexpectedly lopsided was the Patriots' 48-0 romp over Calvary Baptist in which they scored on seven of their first eight possessions? The officials called for running time for the fourth quarter. If only the Patriots could carry over some of those points to Friday evening's showdown with Evangel Christian in the Superdome where Curtis will be seeking its fifth straight state title. Kenny Cain only carried the ball 12 times but he gained 99 yards, scoring on runs of 49, 4 and 6 yards. QB Evan Ingram ran for one TD and passed for another. Now the Patriots' attention will turn to Evangel, a team they have never met in a title game and one that beat Calvary Baptist 38-0 in the regular season. The Patriots defense must step up against Evangel QB Dez Duron, who tossed for 284 yards in its 31-7 semifinal win. The two schools have combined for a gaudy 33 state titles.
21. Maine South (Park Ridge, Ill.)
Points: 149* pts
Previous record: 26
Season complete. Behind Vanderbilt recruit Charlie Goro at quarterback, the Hawks captured their third state championship with a Class 8A title.
22. Hightower (Fort Bend, Texas)
Points: 145 pts
Previous record: 36
Darius Johnson caught eight passes for 164 and two touchdowns as Hightower exploded for 473 yards of offense in a 38-21 win over previously-ranked Pearland. Johnson's two scores came in the second quarter, catching TD passes of 16 and 55 yards from Miami-bound senior A.J. Highsmith (15 of 21, 264 yards), as the Hurricanes raced out to a 24-10 halftime lead. London Hamilton did the rest from there, rushing for 191 yards, including a fourth quarter score that put the game away. Kasey Carrier ran for 171 yards and three scores in a losing cause for the Oilers. Hightower will match up with San Antonio Clark Saturday at Royal-Memorial Stadium with a berth in the 5A Division I state title game on the line. Hightower could play No. 3 Allen after that.
23. South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.)
Points: 143 pts
Previous record: 29
South Pointe senior Stephon Gilmore ran for 119 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another score as he helped lead South Pointe to its first state championship in school history with a 35-14 victory over Northwestern, also of Rock Hill.
24. Armwood (Seffner, Fla.)
Points: 135 pts
Previous record: 3
The Hillsborough County showdown was a classic that saw Armwood stumble against Plant, 17-14. Coach Sean Callahan's team lost senior QB Mywan Jackson to a shoulder injury and the offense committed two turnovers. Trailing 17-6 in the fourth quarter, the Hawks mounted a comeback on a 1-yard plunge by RB Matt Jones and a successful two-point conversion that trimmed the lead to 17-14. Armwood forced a defensive stop on the ensuing Plant drive and marched down field to the Panthers 15-yard line setting up a game-tying field goal attempt, but the kick was off the mark. The Hawks ended the season 12-1 and District 11 champions. Even with the loss, the Hawks have done enough to remain in the polls by defeating Plant, 9-2, in the regular season in an ESPNU televised game.
25. Glenville (Cleveland)
Points: 121* pts
Previous record: 30
Season complete. The Tarblooders split games with FAB 50 No. 7 St. Ignatius with a season-ending 8-7 playoff loss to the Wildcats.
26. St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.)
Points: 121* pts
Previous record: 32
Devon Blackledge blazed for 156 yards on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns as the Seraphs smacked around Saugus, 35-6, in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division semifinals. QB Logan Meyer added 141 yards passing and another score. St. Bonnie, which has lost only to Long Beach Poly, now meets Moorpark (12-1) in Friday's championship game.
27. Union (Tulsa, Okla.)
Points: 118 pts
Previous record: 34
Union earned a season sweep of its archrival No. 40 Jenks with a 34-20 victory over the Trojans in the Class 6A state final. The Redskins had also edged Jenks, 24-17, in overtime earlier this season. It was the fourth state title for Union since 2002 and either the Redskins or Trojans have won the state title every season since 1996. This victory was extra special for Union since it lost to Jenks, 42-24, in last year's state final. Senior running back Jeremy Smith ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns, junior quarterback Chase Boyce threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns and junior wide receiver Thomas Roberson caught three passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Jenks rallied to tie the game at 20 on a punt return by senior wide receiver Tramaine Thompson in the third. But Union responded when Boyce found Roberson for the game-winning, 40-yard touchdown pass late in the third.
28. Trinity (Louisville, Ky.)
Points: 114 pts
Previous record: 47
For the third time in four years, the Shamrocks have avenged a regular season loss to city rival St. Xavier by besting the Tigers in the playoffs. Trinity, which lost a 30-6 regular season game, upended the Tigers by 28-21 in the Class 6A semifinals. Tim Phillips rushed for 182 yards and three touchdowns before 10,000 fans at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Defending champion Trinity, which has won the last three titles and six in the last seven years, will face Simon Kenton (10-4) Saturday in the finals.
29. Centennial (Peoria, Ariz.)
Points: 110 pts
Previous record: 33
When teams Centennial beat appear in state title games in other divisions, it only boosts the Coyotes' image, which really needs no help as the 41-14 rout of Ironwood Ridge in the 5A Division II semifinals at Chandler High showed. John Hughes (5-foot-6, 170 pounds) again proved as elusive as a gnat, as he rushed for three scores (5, 1 and 6 yards) and returned a kickoff 90 yards in the contest. The team had barely left the field before it started looking forward to another rematch -- every playoff game has been against a team Centennial has beaten before -- with Avondale Westview Friday late afternoon in the University of Phoenix Stadium. Centennial blanked Westview 14-0, in October and it's a rematch of last year's title game.
30. Muskegon (Muskegon, Mich.)
Points: 102 pts
Previous record: 37
Season complete. The Big Reds won their third state Division 2 title in five years after handing Division 1 champion Rockford its only season defeat.
31. Center Grove (Center Grove, Ind.)
Points: 86 pts
Previous record: 38
Season complete. The Trojans captured their first state Class 5A title by avenging their lone season loss to defending champion Carmel in the finals.
32. Liberty (Bethlehem, Pa.)
Points: 85 pts
Previous record: NR
Liberty's 14th consecutive win couldn't have come at a better time as the Hurricanes delivered a shocking 21-14 upset win over No. 18 North Penn in the PIAA Class AAAA state semifinals. The Hurricanes opened the year with a 23-15 loss to North Penn, but this time they turned the tables en route to a state finals berth. Liberty plays No. 16 Bethel Park for the title on Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. Anthony Gonzalez completed all four of his passes for Liberty for 53 yards and a touchdown and added 82 rushing yards and a score on 20 carries. Senior backs Daryl Klotz (71 yards) and Brandon Brader (58 yards and a touchdown) also contributed to the ground game.
33. Bellevue (Bellevue, Wash.)
Points: 81 pts
Previous record: 43
Bellevue used their powerful wing-T attack to perfection to capture another 3A title. The Wolverines, who have never lost in a title game, claimed their record seventh state title with a 35-6 victory over Union. Bellevue racked up 448-yards rushing, just 17-yards short of the title game record, giving the team a whopping 1,931 rushing yards this post season. Peter Nguyen led the charge with 152-yards on 16 carries and a score, brother David added 167-yards on just 8 carries and a score.
34. Tesoro (Las Flores, Calif.)
Points: 79 pts
Previous record: NR
Coach Brian Barnes' team gets a major boost all the way into the top 35 after defeating Lutheran of Orange, 42-14, in the CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division semifinals. QB Robbie Picazo completed 15 of 21 passes for 206 yards and three TDs. The Titans, who have shown great balance on both sides of the ball, will now attempt to derail defending champion Long Beach Poly in Saturday's title game at Angels Stadium.
35. St. Xavier (Louisville, Ky.)
Points: 70 pts
Previous record: 8
The Tigers were ousted from the state Class 6A playoffs by city rival Trinity, 28-21, in the semifinals. St. Xavier had won the regular season meeting by 30-6 and dominated opponents before taking the loss. Quarterback Matt Brutscher passed for two scores and rushed for a touchdown.
36. Dorman (Roebuck, S.C.)
Points: 68 pts
Previous record: 39
With Byrnes winning the state title over Sumter, the Cavaliers can come up in the final rankings since they posted a regular season win over the Rebels. In a rematch two weeks ago, Byrnes posted a 24-13 win. If Dorman hadn't won that earlier game and Byrnes was 14-0 instead of 13-1, there's a good chance that it might be sitting at No. 2 or No. 3 in the nation right now.
37. Pine Forest (Pensacola, Fla.)
Points: 64 pts
Previous record: NR
Pine Forest makes a major jump into this week's FAB 50 just in time for a Class state semifinal showdown with undefeated and FAB 50-ranked Lakeland. Pine Forest, usually an offensive juggernaut, turned to its defense for a 33-7 closer-than-it-appears win over Orange Park. The score was 14-7 in the fourth quarter before Pine Forest rolled off three straight touchdowns (19 points) for the final margin.
38. Wayzata (Plymouth, Minn.)
Points: 59 pts
Previous record: 42
Season complete. The Trojans captured the state Class 5A Prep Bowl championship.
39. Permian (Odessa, Texas)
Points: 58 pts
Previous record: 49
The Panthers were idle last week but saw a substantial jump in the rankings thanks to Allen's 34-21 win over previous No. 1 Euless Trinity. As long as Allen keeps winning, Permian's 28-22 loss to the Eagles back on Thanksgiving weekend only looks better and better.
40. Gateway (Monroeville, Pa.)
Points: 51 pts
Previous record: 44
It was back on Nov. 22 when the Gators were upset by then unranked Bethel Park, 10-6, in the WPIAL Class AAAA finals. Now that loss is looking a lot stronger since Bethel Park, now ranked No. 16 in the FAB 50, will be competing for the PIAA Class AAAA state crown this weekend. If Bethel Park is able to come away with the state title, Gateway could see itself ranked even higher in next week's FAB 50.
41. Meridian (Meridian, Miss.)
Points: 44 pts
Previous record: NR
The Cats jumped on top of favored South Panola (Batesville) early on Quarderal Martin's 2-yard run in the second quarter and never trailed in a 26-20 overtime win before more than 13,000 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. Not only did it snap the nation's longest current winning streak at 89, it delivered the Class 5A title to Meridian, its first since 1990. QB Tyler Russell was sensational in completing 21 of 36 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and just as important, no interceptions. And still it wasn't enough to completely shake South Panola, forcing the two teams into overtime where James Barnett's second three-yard touchdown of the game gave the 'Cats the lead. That's when Meridian's Jacoby Eason stepped up, delivering sacks on each of the game's last two plays to produce the victory.
42. East St. Louis (East St. Louis, Ill.)
Points: 43 pts
Previous record: 48
Season complete. The Flyers, led by University of Illinois-bound standouts Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton, captured their seventh state crown with the Class 7A title and won their last 13 games.
43. Homestead (Mequon, Wis.)
Points: 41 pts
Previous record: 45
Season complete. The Highlanders won their second state Division 1 title in their third straight finale vs. Arrowhead. Homestead lost to Arrowhead in last year's final and beat a team that was in the FAB 50 for most of the season.
44. Peachtree Ridge (Suwanee, Ga.)
Points: 38 pts
Previous record: NR
One of the Lions' losses was to Lowndes early in the season, but since then they've been locked in on defense. The 13-10 win over Grayson last week was the sixth in a row in which the opposition hasn't been able to score more than one touchdown. Peachtree Ridge will now take a crack at No. 5 Camden County in this week's Class AAAAA state final at the Georgia Dome.
45. Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
Points: 34 pts
Previous record: 27
A week after upsetting top ranked 6A power Lowndes, the newly ranked Rams were stunned 13-10 in double overtime by Peachtree Ridge (12-2). Grayson RB Ean Pemberton rushed for 131 yards on 36 carries, but failed to reach the end-zone in a defensive battle. Rams RB Harrell Gunn scored the team's only touchdown on an 8-yard run. Grayson connected on a field goal in the second overtime to take a 10-7 lead after missing the potential game winner in the first overtime frame. The Rams defense couldn't hold Peachtree Ridge on the final drive and senior RB Ronnie Smith scored from one yard out. The up-and-coming program finished the year 13-1 under head coach Mickey Conn.
46. Noxubee County (Macon, Miss.)
Points: 32 pts
Previous record: NR
After coming within one win of the state 4A title a year ago, the Tigers rode Termarcus Conner's two touchdown passes to an emotional 12-10 victory over D'Iberville to complete a magical season. Noxubee County had to watch as a D'Iberville field goal with 2:21 to play failed before even thinking about celebrating its first state title. After falling behind 3-0, Conner found Vincent Sanders on a 52-yard pass for a 6-3 lead. One quarter later it was Earnest Harmon on the receiving end of a 10-yard scoring pass as D'Iberville managed to keep highly-touted Pat Patterson out of the end zone. Still, Patterson grabbed 10 passes for 101 yards and led the Tigers with 49 rushing yards. The defense allowed just 224 yards -- 68 on the ground -- as Noxubee County delivered for coach M.C. Miller, who took over the foundering program in 1995. Noxubee County has a win over Wayne County, which is the team that handed Meridian its only loss.
47. Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.)
Points: 29* pts
Previous record: NR
A 53-28 thrashing of Red Mountain (Mesa) in the semifinals at Gilbert High catapults the Huskies into the 5A Division I title game against Brophy Prep Friday night at the University of Phoenix. There was no stopping Dante Hamilton, Zakary Hambsch and Andrew Terrell. Hamilton rushed for 121 yards on just 18 carries and scored three touchdowns before intermission. Hambsch was 15 of 22 passing for 232 yards with a 9-yard TD to Terrell, who finished with 7 receptions worth 121 yards. Hamilton beat Brophy, a longtime parochial school power from Phoenix, earlier in the year, 10-0, and the Huskies' only loss this season came to undefeated 5A Division II finalist Peoria Centennial, the state's No. 1-ranked team.
48. Bolles (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Points: 29* pts
Previous record: NR
In a state semifinal meeting between the past two 2A state title-winning teams in Florida, Bolles emerged with a 21-7 victory over former FAB 50-ranked and injury-riddled Madison County. Junior running back Jawan Jamison was Bolles' standout, rushing for 190 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Madison County played without Florida State commit Chris Thompson and starting running back Corey Akins, both out with injuries. Bolles faces Gulliver Prep in this week's state final.
49. West Monroe (West Monroe, La.)
Points: 27 pts
Previous record: NR
The Rebels advanced to their first state Class 5A finals since 2005 with a 47-12 semifinal victory over previously-unbeaten Barbe of Lake Charles. The Rebels led by only 13-6 at halftime before exploding for 20 third quarter points to take a 33-12 lead into the fourth period. LaDarius Abrams scored two touchdowns, including one in the third quarter blitz. West Monroe will face defending champion Destrehan (13-0) in the title game at the Superdome in New Orleans on Saturday.
50. South Panola (Batesville, Miss.)
Points: 19 pts
Previous record: 10
It wasn't just South Panola High's first loss of the season, it was the Tigers' first loss in more than a half-decade when South Panola dropped a 26-20 overtime contest to Meridian in the 5A title game before more than 13,000 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. The nation's current longest winning streak was over after 89 games even though junior RB Nicholas Parker gained 128 yards on 34 carries playing on a sprained ankle. South Panola, which played from behind the entire game, had a chance to pull it out in OT when Meridian missed its extra point but sacks on the final two plays of the extra session ended the game -- and the streak. "We've had a great run, I'm proud of my guys," South Panola coach Lance Pogue told The Clarion-Ledger.
Also receiving votes: Destrehan (Destrehan La.) 13-0, Grant (Sacramento, Calif.) 12-0, Longview (Longview, Texas) 12-2**, Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.) 12-1*; Oakton (Vienna, Va.) 13-1*, River Hill (Clarksville, Md.) 14-0*, Rockford (Rockford, Mich.) 13-1*, Timpview (Provo, Utah) 14-0*, Valley (West Des Moines, Iowa) 14-0*, Wilson (West Lawn, Pa.) 14-1.*
Dropped out: Previous No. 16 Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.); No. 18 North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.); No. 28 Madison County (Madison, Fla.); No. 31 Newnan (Newnan, Ga.); No. 35 Independence (Charlotte, N.C.); No. 40 Jenks (Jenks, Okla.); No.
41 Lowndes (Valdosta, Ga.); No. 46 Pearland (Pearland, Texas); No. 50 Wilson (West Lawn, Pa.).
* Ties in points are broken according to which team was ranked higher by a majority of panelists.
* Asterisk listed by win-loss record indicates season is complete.
** Two asterisks indicates loss by forfeit.