Champ will be crowned in final week


Editor's note: ESPN will release the ESPN RISE FAB 50 national football rankings to start each week of the regular season. The rankings combine three previously independent polls and are compiled by a panel of voters, including Doug Huff (Wheeling, W.Va.), Jon Mahoney (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Sheldon Shealer (Myersville, Md.), Brian Stumpf (Torrance, Calif.) and Mark Tennis (Stockton, Calif.). Kynon Codrington, Christopher Lawlor, Mike Loveday, Bob Masajo and Paul Muyskens also contributed to the poll.

All eyes will be on the Florida Class 5A state final this weekend at the Citrus Bowl when ESPN RISE FAB 50 national No. 1 St. Thomas Aquinas puts it all on the line in a showdown of unbeatens against Lakeland.

Ironically, two years ago, it was Lakeland that began a two-year streak of mythical national champions from Florida. Prior to the Dreadnaughts finishing at No. 1 in the FAB 50, the state hadn't had a No. 1 national squad since Coral Gables in 1965.

Last year, Miami Northwestern finished in the top spot, and this year St. Thomas Aquinas could end up with that crown. The Raiders, though, still have to get past Lakeland to do it. They defeated Largo, 35-14, in the semifinals.

To get the upset, Lakeland, which has been No. 10 in the FAB 50 the last two weeks, will have to play better than it did in last week's 22-21 semifinal win over Pine Forest.

If Lakeland wins, the next team in line to perhaps move up to become No. 1 in the final ESPN RISE FAB 50 is Poly of Long Beach, Calif. The No. 2 Jackrabbits are playing No. 37 Grant of Sacramento (13-0) on Friday in the first-ever California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state title game.

The CIF Division I state championship game Friday will be just as big -- maybe even bigger -- as it pits No. 8 Centennial of Corona against No. 19 De La Salle of Concord.

If both St. Thomas Aquinas and Long Beach Poly lose, watch out for the winner of the Texas Class 5A Division I final between Allen (14-1) and Hightower of Fort Bend (15-0) to get a crack at moving up. Hightower is ranked No. 15 (Allen's No. 3) in this week's national rankings, but if it were to win, it would have a final argument that could be tough to ignore.

Results as of Dec. 13.

Also Receiving Votes: Northwestern (Miami, Fla.) 13-2, North Penn (Lansdale, Pa.) 14-1*, River Hill (Clarksville, Md.) 14-0*, South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) 14-1*, Timpview (Provo, Utah) 14-0*, Valley (West Des Moines, Iowa) 14-0*, Tucker (Tucker, Ga.) 14-1*.

Dropped Out: Previous No. 44 Peachtree Ridge (Suwanee, Ga.); No. 45 Grayson (Loganville, Ga.); No. 49 West Monroe (Monroe, La.); No. 50 South Panola (Batesville, Miss.).

*Ties in points are broken according to which team was ranked higher by a majority of panelists.