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Spotlight: Southlake Carroll Dragons

Hometown: Southlake, Texas

Group: TX District 6-5A

 

By Omar Muhammad

SportsPower Correspondent

 

Southlake Carroll football is widely considered one of the nation’s premier high school programs and it’s easy to see why.

 

The Dragons have risen into a national powerhouse thanks to a winning pedigree imported by past coaches, coast-to-coast exposure, great community support and notable alumni members now making waves in college or the pro ranks.

 

With some stellar talent at his disposal, Bob Ledbetter was the first coach to set the bar high for the Dragons program as he led the team to Texas 3A state titles in 1988, 1992 and 1993.  Ledbetter also posted a state record of 72-straight regular season wins from ‘86 to ‘93. Tom Rapp took the reigns in ’96 and put together a 29-17-1 mark from ‘96 to ‘99. Rapp is the only Southlake coach not to make a state finals appearance. 

 

In ‘00, Carroll replaced Rapp with Todd Dodge, a former Texas quarterback and Fossil Ridge head coach. Dodge then steered the Dragons back on the winning track by recording a superb 98-11 regular season record and four state championships since moving up to the 5A Class.  Dodge left Carroll in ‘07 to take the reins as the head coach at North Texas. 

 

Hal Wasson, who coached at Fossil Ridge in Keller, became the next head coach of the Dragon’s program. With Wasson in charge, the Dragons won their third consecutive 5A state title in ’06, becoming just the second school to three-peat in the Texas class 5A state playoffs.

 

With steady coaching always present and statewide and national accolades being claimed nearly every season, Southlake Carroll is now receiving considerable coverage from national sources.

 

During the ’07 campaign, the Dragons played in their first nationally televised game against Florida powerhouse Miami Northwestern on ESPNU. It was also the first time that the top two nationally ranked teams met on the gridiron in the same season. The Dragons were more than just a name to fans across the country now, people were starting to put a face with the program.

 

Fan support has also played a key role into the team’s success, especially when it comes to home field advantage.

 

Today, the Dragons sell out of tickets within hours of them being on sale for purchase. To Dragon fans, the games are more than just football, they are about friends and families coming together year after year and the traditions that are carried through.

 

Meanwhile, Carroll has also produced elite talent that has been sent on to the college and professional level, giving the program some added exposure and credibility.

 

Perhaps the most well-known Dragon right now is Missouri QB Chase Daniels. Daniels has risen to become one of the nation's top players, and likely will be a Heisman candidate and All-American favorite after producing a record-setting ‘07 season. Additionally, NFL veteran Kris Brown is in his tenth professional season and owes it all to the Dragons program where he initiated his football career.

 

 

So far in '08, the Dragons are right on track for another title run. To date,  Carroll has posted a 6-2 overall record and will be looking to sure up a playoff spot with a victory over Lewisville on Thursday.

 

 

All in all, the Southlake Carroll football program has quickly risen into one of the nation’s most prolific. Whether it’s been the top-notch coaches, national press, fans support or elite alumnus, the Dragons are a national power here to stay.

 

 

 

Next up: November 6 vs. Lewisville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Got ideas for a future high school spotlight? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

 

 

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Spotlight on: South Panola Tigers

Hometown: Batesville, Mississippi

Group: Mississippi 5A

 

By Ryan Rohde

SportsPower Correspondent

 

It has been a long time since the South Panola Tigers last tasted defeat.

 

It was December 4, 2002 to be exact, when the Tigers fell to Wayne County in the state championship game.

 

Since that loss nearly six years ago, the Tigers have reeled off 84 straight wins. The streak includes five consecutive state championships and is good for the third longest high school football win streak of all time.

 

South Panola is commonly referred to as “University of” throughout the state. This is a fitting nickname seeing how the Tigers have an uncanny ability to reload talent year after year.

 

Take running back Nicholas Parker for example. Parker has taken Mississippi high school football by storm this season. The dynamic running back nearly single-handedly defeated Florida powerhouse Apopka by rushing for four touchdowns in a 28-18 win on Sept. 20. The 6-2, 210 lbs. junior is a prized recruit with Auburn, Ole Miss, and Texas topping his college list.

 

Although Parker may be an impressive player, the athlete that he replaced might even be more spectacular.

 

Darius “Tig” Barksdale was named Mississippi’s Mr. Football for ‘07 and was named a Parade All-American. Barksdale broke the class 5A state rushing record with 2,900 yards and 38 touchdowns, which included a 333-yard, four-touchdown performance in the state championship. Barksdale might be the greatest ever in a long list of spectacular players that have attended South Panola.

 

Of course, it’s near impossible to replace a Tig Barksdale, but at this rate, Parker is leaving his own mark on South Panola football history.

 

Meanwhile, great players also go hand-in-hand with great coaches, and South Panola has been blessed with some elite ones.

 

Ricky Woods was at the helm when the Tigers began the streak. He led the South Panola to four state titles in five seasons before taking a different job in Georgia.

 

 

Current coach Lance Pogue has continued the winning tradition. In just his first season at the helm, Pogue led the Tigers to their fifth consecutive state title.

 

"What's going on here won't be done again," said Pogue of the streak in an ESPN.com article on Oct. 3, 2007.

 

Indeed, Pogue might be right that a streak like this might not happen again, but the run is not over yet.

 

South Panola nearly saw its streak come to a close this season against a tough Tupelo foe on Oct. 17. The Tigers held on for a 14-13 win after Tupelo failed on a two-point conversion late in the game in an attempt to bring the remarkable run to a close.

 

It clear to all of the coaches and players, however, that continuing the streak is not the main goal for the Tigers, rather, it’s a state title.

 

But if one would ask Pogue where win No. 91 would leave them, he would say another state championship.

 

 

 

Up Next: Nov. 7 vs. Desoto Central

 

 

 

 

 

This list excludes South Panola’s current winning streak of 84, good for third all-time.

 

According to the record book, the top five high school football win streaks are:

1. De La Salle of Concord, Calif., 151 games (1992-2003)

2. Independence of Charlotte, N.C., 109, (2000-2007)

3. Hudson, Mich., 72, (1968-1975)

4. Jefferson City, Mo., 71, (1958-1966)

5. Animas, N.M., 69, (1984-1990)

 

 

Got any ideas for our next team spotlight? Contact editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: West Albany Bulldogs

Hometown: Albany, Oregon

Group: Oregon 5A

 

By Brett Manney

SportsPower Correspondent

 

On September 26, the West Albany Bulldogs (9-0, State PR: 96.50, Rank 1) defeated Mid-Williamette Conference foe Silverton (5-4, State PR: 59.44, Rank 17), 44-0.

 

After the game Silverton head coach Scott Gregg told Rob Holderness of the Oregon Statesman, “West Albany is a terribly talented football team. I’ve told my group the last couple of weeks that they are the program I aspire to be.”

 

Who could disagree with Gregg?

 

The Bulldogs are a rising powerhouse in Oregon football.  They have not lost since the ’06 5A state championship game, when they witnessed a 14-point fourth quarter lead evaporate into a 17-14 triple overtime loss. Moreover, the Bulldogs have been to the last two state championships and look to be on the same path this year.

 

“We don’t sneak up on anybody,” said Randy Nyquist, head coach of the Bulldogs. “We have to rise to the challenge. It makes us more consistent in our performance and our kids take a lot of pride in that.”

 

Nyquist has been enjoying the recent success of West Albany football considering he was once a Bulldog himself. Nyquist was a tailback for team back in the 80s and has always had a passion for West Albany athletics.

 

“It’s a lot of fun to coach,” Nyquist said. “A lot of coaches who coached me come back and show their support. We (West Albany) have a lot of pride. It means a lot.”

 

Simply put, the Bulldogs have been dominant in ‘08. They have trailed only one time all season and up until a few weeks ago, hadn’t been scored on since September 12. Their lowest point total was 14 back in week one, which also was the team’s closest game, a 14-7 win against Sherwood (8-1, State PR: 86.36, Rank 3).

 

The Bulldog defense produced five straight shutouts from Sept. 9 through Oct. 24 and came into last week’s game giving up just 7.1 points per game. But perhaps what makes this even more astounding is that the Bulldogs’ stellar defense lost nine starters from last year’s championship team.

 

Coach Nyquist credits his coaches and the past success of defenses, all of which have helped mold this season’s squad. Meanwhile, the offense has been punishing opposing defenses by averaging 46 points per game. In conference play, the Bulldogs have punted only once and opposing teams usually start at their own 20-yard line because kicker Tyler George routinely boots touchbacks.

 

And the talent at West Albany is coming out of the woodwork. Furthermore, the Bulldogs have five 5A all-state selections from last year. Oregon State recruit John Braun is 6-6, 245 lbs. and is an all-state OT/DT. He opens up holes for dynamic, all-state RB Anthony Lacoste. George and DL Matt McHenry are the other first team all-state selections. QB Reese Miller was selected to the second team.

 

The Bulldogs rely heavily on their run game, averaging over 300 yards per contest. Lacoste, set the school record in long jump was part of state champion 4x100 relay team as a sophomore. The big and physical offense line has allowed Lacoste to gain 1,725 yards rushing this season -- an average of over 172 yards a game. Though in most of those contests, his night is done by halftime. If opponents are looking to stop the Bulldogs, they surely must focus on the junior running back and his 23 touchdowns.

 

With a 56-7 victory over Crescent Valley last weekend, the Bulldogs ended the regular season at 10-0 and look to keep their momentum flowing into the postseason.

 

So far, the ‘08 Bulldogs are on the same path as the ‘07 state champions. The statistics are eerie similar. The undefeated ‘07 squad averaged 42.9 points per game and only allowed 5.4. This year’s team averages 47.3 points per game and allows only 7.1.

 

“The loss in ‘06 motivated us to not let that happen again,” Nyquist said.

 

24 games later there is still motivation on this Bulldog squad. And if all things go as planned, the Bulldogs could be wearing more gold medals than losses in the past two years.

 

 

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Spotlight on: St. Paul Flyers

Hometown: Norwalk, Ohio

Group: Ohio Division VI

 

By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent

 

Perfection is defined as the highest degree of proficiency, skill or excellence, as in some art. 

 

And that's exactly what the St. Paul Flyers football program is striving for in 2008.

 

Currently, the Flyers (State PR: 92.00, Division Rank: 1) stand at 11-0 in the campaign.  And it’s not one of those unblemished records compiled by squeaking by a few teams here and there.  Rather, this team has demonstrated just how close to perfect they really are. 

 

So far in ’08, the Flyers have posted a total of 566 points and just 81 against for an average score of 51-7 each game.  It also includes a three-game span of zero points allowed, and in the next contest, just six points were scored against them.  The Flyers have been so dominant this season that their closest game was in week three -- a 21-14 victory over Huron.

 

Leading the way for the Flyers has been a group of players capable of striking at any time. Eric Schwieterman has thrown pinpoint passes all season long en route to 1,542 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air and 12 on the ground.

 

All the while, Matt Wilde has 21 touchdowns on the ground and over 1,100 yards rushing.  His counterparts -- Brian Griffin, Rob Kunisch and Adam Pugh -- have all seen significant carries and between them, have amassed another 900 yards and 13 touchdowns.  Put simply, it appears that there are just too many weapons for an opposing team to stop.

 

With Schwieterman often targeting wideouts Dan Tracht and Justin Wilde, who have combined for 888 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, what’s an opposing defense to do? 

 

Meanwhile, the sack-happy Flyers can take care of things on the other side of the ball as well.  They have an astounding 42 sacks on the season, with Geoff Hanline and Joel Boose out in front with eight apiece.  Thanks to constant pressure from St. Paul’s defensive line, it seems that very few opposing teams can move the move through the air, making them one-dimensional.

 

But when passes do find their way into the game, it’s typical to find the Flyers’ defensive backfield there ready to make the play, as proven by the team’s nine interceptions and only four touchdowns allowed through the air.

 

After a 56-7 victory over East Canton (7-4) on Friday (Oct. 31) to open up postseason play, the Flyers will still be striving to reach the ultimate athletic goal of perfection.  To claim the feat is something that many teams have never had the opportunity to do, but judging by the evidence presented so far this season, St. Paul appears to be set for the challenge.

 

Next: Friday, November 7 vs. McDonald (10-0, PR: 81.95, Rank: 5).

 

 

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Spotlight on: Mentor Cardinals

Location: Mentor, Ohio

Group: Ohio Division I

 

By Andre Coles

SportsPower Correspondent

 

When one thinks of Ohio Division I football powers in recent history, the Mentor Cardinals are usually at the top of everyone’s list.

 

The Cardinals are only the fourth team in history to have made back-to-back championship appearances, although they dropped both of those contests.

 

In both of those trips to Canton, the Cardinals faced very tough opponents.  In 2006, the Cardinals defeated Canton McKinley, 18-13, for the right to face undefeated Hilliard Davidson in the title contest.

 

Head coach Steve Trivisonno led the 13-1 Cardinals into the game with hopes of taking down Davidson, a powerhouse squad at the time. Although the Cardinals put forth their best effort, they fell short in double overtime, 36-35.

 

The Cardinals used the valuable knowledge and experience gained from the ‘06 season to climb their way back to the Div. I title game the following year.

 

This time, the Cardinals clawed their way through a brutal stretch in the Division playoffs for the right to face another undefeated state power, this time Saint Xavier.  But the Cardinals were no match for a stellar Bombers squad, and fell, 27-0.

 

Even though the Cardinals dropped both of these pinnacle contests, the Mentor program appears to be knocking on the door every year under the guidance of Trivisonno, and will likely so do for many more years to come.

 

Trivisonno is currently in his 11th season as head coach and has established a winning tradition at Mentor. Overall, he has compiled a record of 86-37, which includes the two playoff runs and title game appearances.

 

But to put in perspective just how special these 86 wins are, consider this.  At the end of the ‘08 season, the Cardinals will not have played one team with a losing record.  This is a tribute to how difficult it is to win in Div. I and also to just how formidable the Cardinal program is becoming.

 

Trivisonno, who is a former Cardinal himself, also competed at Bowling Green University and has been greatly recognized for his prowess as a head coach with numerous awards.

 

Trivisonno was named Lake County and Plain Dealer Coach of the Year in ‘98, ‘02 and ‘03. He was also named the Cleveland Browns’ Coach of the Year in ‘02 and ‘06, and the Northeast Ohio Div. I Coach of the Year in ‘02 and ‘03.

 

In addition to a talented group of student-athletes, it’s easy to see why the Cardinals are always at the doorstep of a championship. Trivisonno keeps his team focused and motivated, as evidenced by his three annual goals: Win the Lake Erie Division title outright (which he has done five times), win more than ten games (which has been done four times) and win a state championship (the last item to check off on the list).

 

And in ’08, the Cardinals are once again in supreme position to compete for the Div. I championship with a strong showing so far this season.  Although Mentor dropped early season contests to St. Ignatius and Strongsville, two state powers, expect these Cardinals, with Trivisonno at the helm, to be playing deep into the season once again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to see your team spotlighted? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner with your picks at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.  

 

 

 

Check out these FootballPower.tv interviews from the 2007 season with Mentor head coach Steve Trivisonno and Mr. Ohio 2007, quarterback Bart Tanski.

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: Gilbert Tigers

Hometown: Gilbert Arizona

Group: 5A

 

By Brett Manney

SportsPower Correspondent

 

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the first moon landing, Woodstock and the Vietnam War were all prevalent when Jesse Parker won his first high school football game as a head coach.

 

The year was 1969 – an era far different from today, as the Internet, cell phones and DVDs are now the norm.

 

Meanwhile, the Gilbert head coach now has 309 wins to his resume.

 

Times certainly have changed.

 

Parker was 29 when he first coached Phoenix Campbell high school and now, at 68, he is officially the all-time winningest coach in Arizona history, surpassing Karl Kiefer, who last coached at Mountain Point High

 

For such a big accomplishment, one would figure that Parker is ecstatic about his milestone, but that’s not the case. According to Jason Skoda of the Arizona Republic, Parker said, “It’s hard to think of personal records when you are trying to prepare each week. I’m proud I have been in it this long and still have a connection with the kids.”

 

Extremely modest from a coach who has won so many games that his milestone is almost an afterthought compared to his game preparation and relationships formed throughout the years.

 

Indeed, Parker does have a connection that stems from coaching teenagers for 39 years and shows no signs of stopping. Moreover, he has five 5A state championships on his record, in addition to nine state championship game appearances.

 

Parker emphasizes that his players get the most out of their ability. While he might be critical at times, he still finds a way to win football games. With six wins this year and only two losses to powerhouses Hamilton (6-1, State PR: 77.78, Rank 6) and  Salpointe Catholic (7-1, State PR: 71.45, Rank 8), Parker has produced another winning season with two games remaining, plus the potential for postseason play.

 

Yet, believe it or not, but there is company at the top for Parker. Tucson Amphitheater’s (4-4, State PR: 55.71, Rank 27) Vern Friedli, 72, has 307 career wins and his remaining three opponents are a combined 7-9. 

 

It’s possible that there could be two active coaches who pass the career wins mark by the end of the regular season. Friedli, who has been coaching for 46 years, said to Casey Crowe of the Arizona Daily Star of his record, “It would be nice. But that’s not what we predicate everything on. And it never has been.”

 

This is just another perfect example of a class act putting a monumental milestone behind a simple league game.

 

The milestone win for Parker finally came to fruition last Friday when the Tigers defeated Fiesta League foe Highland (4-3, State PR: 52.60, Rank 25), 21-0.   

 

And so while the world around him has changed drastically, Parker’s winning ways have not. When he won his 309th game, Parker handled his business like he won his first game almost 40 years ago.

 

Of course, minus the congratulatory text messages and digital camera photos capturing a moment well deserved.

 

Next up: October 31 at Chandler (State PR: 63.62, Rank: 13).

 

 

Got any teams you want featured in the next spotlight? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

 

 

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Spotlight: Harrison Hawks

Hometown: Farmington Hills, Michigan

Group: MI Class A Oakland-White League

 

By Omar Muhammad

SportsPower Correspondent

 

The Harrison Hawks have been one of the top high school football programs in the state of Michigan since 1970, and it’s easy to see why.

 

The squad has been led by excellent coaching and leadership ever since the early 70s and continues to receive a steady influx of talent due to its suburban Detroit location. And that same leadership that helped the program along decades ago is still part of the team today.

 

Since ’70, the Hawks have been led by legendary head coach John Herrington. In his 38 years at the helm, Herrington has composed a brilliant record of 354-82-1, which includes a dozen Michigan High School Football State Championships.

 

Due largely to his success with Harrison, Herrington was inducted into the Michigan Coaching Hall of Fame in ‘86 for both football and baseball. Herrington not only coached at Harrison, but at North Farmington High as well.

 

Meawhile, the elite coaching ability and leadership skills exemplified by Herrington is a big reason why the team has had such great success. Herrington coaches to the strengths of his players and has found a unique way to reach his athletes.

 

Those attributes are clear, as evidenced by the team’s 12 state titles in ‘81, ‘82, ’88-‘89, ‘91, ’93-’94 and ’97-‘01. Harrison’s last championship witnessed one of the greatest offensive displays in team history, as the Hawks put up a team record of 438 points and 3,952 yards of total offense.

 

In addition to a top-notch coaching staff, Farmington’s location as an upscale suburb just outside of Detroit could also play a factor towards the success of the football team. With a city population of 82,111, and a school enrollment of more than 1,200 students, Harrison has had the ability to develop stellar student-athletes in football and all other sports.

 

This season, the Hawks have struggled, however, posting a record of 4-5. Three out of the team’s four loses have come against key conference opponents, including Southfield, Rochester Adams and a 20-19 defeat to rival Farmington. The Hawks haven’t had a down season like this since ’04, when they went 4-5 and missed the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

And while the team hasn’t been back to the pinnacle contest in some time, with Herrington at the helm and a wealth of talent streaming in, the Hawks will likely be competing for another title in the years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

Got any teams you want to be spotlighted? E-mail editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com. 

 

 

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Public vs. Private School Debate

Posted by adam_sp Oct 27, 2008

By Ryan Rohde

SportsPower Correspondent

 

Saint Joseph’s Prep -- a longtime Philadelphia-area high school football powerhouse -- typically sees its season end with a Philadelphia Catholic league championship or a stout record of 10-0 or 9-1.

 

This season, however, there is even more to strive for than just a league title. The Philadelphia Catholic league has chosen to participate in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association in 2008 with an opportunity for all of its teams to win a state championship.

 

This was a dream never even possible before the season.

 

So now that St. Joseph's can compete in the same postseason as the rest of its PIAA counterparts, especially with a roster that boasts a number of kids from southern New Jersey and from the surrounding Philadelphia area -- a priviledge that public school teams do not have --  it raises the question: Do private school football teams have an advantage over the public school teams that they compete against?

 

The question over whether public school and private schools should play in the same leagues or playoff classes intensifies with each passing year. The topic has been controversial and often times sparks emotion in parents, fans and administrators.

 

Each state association has different rules and regulations on the matter. For instance in some states, like California and Florida, it's considered normal to have private schools playing along side public schools during the regular season and postseason.

 

But there are also states like Mississippi and Alabama where most private schools play in a separate league not associated with the state.

 

But perhaps the bulk of the controversy stems from the ability of private schools to “recruit." Private schools, unlike public schools, are not regulated by school districts to designate where its students and athletes come from. Many coaches, players, and fans claim this gives the private schools an unfair advantage.

 

“Most public schools have a down year or two within a twenty year period," said Steven Hoard, head coach of the Bradford Tornadoes (Fla.) in an October 13th NorthFloridaNewsDaily.com blog. "The advantages of a controlled enrollment, the ability to recruit players from other school zones through out the state, out of state recruitment, international recruitment and unlimited resources give many private schools a uneven advantage that is within the current rules of the FHSAA.”

 

Coach Hoard echoes many sentiments heard throughout many high school athletics communities. He agrees that the talent pool from which these private schools have to select from is much greater than that of a public school. This, in turn, leaves an uneven playing field and gives private schools a better chance of restocking talent for the following years. Over time, the players from this pool tend to gravitate towards the better football programs.

 

And recruiting problems are not just limited to football or private schools, there is also a recruiting issue in public schools as well.

 

The case of Martin Babovic, a foreign exchange student from Serbia, caused a major stir in the California Interscholastic Federation- Southern Section league very recently.

 

 

Babovic was a standout player on the Corona del Mar water polo team. CIF-SS officials deemed Babovic ineligible because of pre-enrollment contact. The contact took place between the host family and Babovic before he was enrolled in the foreign-exchange program through e-mails and phone calls. Officials saw this action as an “undue influence,” which broke CIR-SS regulations and ruled Babovic ineligible.

 

Some states have even taken measures to separate public and private schools. In Mississippi, for instance, private and public schools play under different state associations, and until the '07 season, were not allowed to even schedule or play one another. The only controversy at the end of the season was over who was the better team, the public champ or the private champ.

 

In order to find the facts, a study was done by the Ohio High School Athletic Association on public and private high school football teams. In Ohio, most of the private and public school teams play for the same state title.

 

 

 

 

The study showed that in '07, out of the 640 public school teams, 162 (25.3%) made the playoffs, 133-145 was the playoff record (47.8%) with only 17 (10.5%) schools that made it past round three of the playoffs. Meanwhile with private schools, out of 76 total schools, 30 (39.5%) reached the playoffs, 35-23 (60.3%) was the overall playoff record, and seven (23.5%) programs made it beyond round three.

 

The numbers indicate that there is a discernable difference in the success of the public and private school programs, but some state associations haven taken steps to reduce the potential for league or state dominance by a single school.

 

In one case, Concord De LaSalle, out of California, was kicked out of its league and forced to play a freelance schedule because the football team was too dominant. The CIF-SS had implemented rules for determining a team to be “too good." For example, the team had to make the CIF-SS five years consecutively, post a dominant win-loss record against league schools and have a vast majority of its wins be by an excessive margin during that five-year span.

 

But even with rules like these implemented, the debate over whether a team must leave a league will still be controversial.

 

The question of private vs. public will likely be talked about through the history of high school athletics. The fact remains that there is no right or wrong way to answer these questions. It seems like the only solution for coaches and players is to keep playing.

 

 

 

 

After all, high school football is more than just state titles and wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any ideas for an upcoming spotlight story, e-mail editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: Valhalla Norsemen

Hometown: El Cajon, Ca.

Group: San Diego Section

 

By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent

 

Norsemen were true warriors of the 9th and 10th centuries, capable of conquering regions of the globe through their vast naval armory. 

 

Meanwhile, the Valhalla Norsemen (State PR: 81.25, Rank: 7), though not trying to conquer via warfare, are certainly looking to take over the San Diego section of California high school football.

 

Coming into this weekend, Valhalla sits comfortably at 6-1 overall after starting the season a perfect 5-0 before falling to a tough Helix team, 28-14. On the heels of that defeat, the Norsemen crushed Monte Vista, 31-7. By the looks of it, this is a team determined to find its winning ways again, and by the looks of it, may very well do so through the end of the campaign. 

 

The Norsemen are loaded with talent and football prowess and are equipped with the ability to dominate the field the rest of the way. The combined record for the squad’s remaining opponents currently stands at 10-12.

 

Leading the way through a stretch run that could very well see Valhalla at 9-1 when all said and done is junior quarterback Peter Thomas.  Thomas has thrown for nearly 1,600 yards this season while hitting receivers for a whopping 19 touchdowns.  And perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he has only two interceptions in 168 attempts so far this season. 

 

While dominant through the air, the Norsemen also find success on the ground. Junior running back Traivonne Brown has amassed 437 yards and four touchdowns to date, averaging a stellar seven yards per attempt. Brown’s success, merged with a dynamic passing attack, has made the play calling a rather easy task for coach Steve Sutton. It’s apparent that this diverse, speedy and athletic offense has caused opposing defenses to simply guess at what’s coming next.

 

Defensively, the Norsemen have been conquering opponents in a variety of ways. Valhalla’s unit is assembled of playmakers, as evidenced by the team’s 12 total sacks and eight interceptions. Defensive lineman Shane Pennix has been a standout for his squad, leading the way with five sacks and 27 tackles altogether.

 

Sutton knows that while “a great offense puts people in the seats, a great defense wins championships.” 

 

Just as the Norsemen of centuries ago, the Valhalla Norsemen are rolling through the San Diego section with a mission of dominating all foes that stand in their way.  And so far, Sutton’s team appears to have the tools and the players to be the team standing on top by season’s end.

 

 

 

Next up: 10/31 vs. Steele Canyon (State PR: 68.01, Rank: 20). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any suggestions for upcoming spotlight teams, send an e-mail to editor Adam Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: Texas High vs. Arkansas High Rivalry

Hometown: Texarkana, Texas

Group: TX Class 4A & AR 6A

 

By Omar Muhammad

SportsPower Correspondent

 

The Texas High vs. Arkansas High rivalry is not your average high school football clash.

 

Basic rivalries often feature longtime rivals that have bitter dislike for one another, usually because they are in the same conference, a close proximity, or have played each other quite frequently.

 

And while these two schools certainly have a feud, Texas vs. Arkansas is not your typical rivalry – it’s a little more complex than that.

 

Not only are the two schools just six miles away from each other in different states, but also they share the same city – Texarkana – which sits on the border of Texas and Arkansas.

 

Talk about unique.

 

Ever since 1912, these two border teams have been clashing helmets to find out who is really the No. 1 team in Texarkana. And to make it even more interesting, the victor each year goes home with the coveted Battleaxe rivalry trophy.

 

Arkansas has been fighting hard to take back the trophy but hasn’t been successful for much of the past decade. Texas has won the rivalry game each year since ’01.

 

Meanwhile, there are countless traditions and fan contributions that make this one of America’s top rivalries.

 

Every year, fanatics from both Texas and Arkansas come together to pump up this big game. For example, Texas boasts a peculiar pregame ritual where fans conduct a bacon fry with the team. You heard it right, Texas supporters will fry bacon to symbolize how they plan to “fry the hogs” in the game later in the day.  

 

Arkansas also has a similar pregame breakfast, but the Hogs serve “Tiger Tails” (also known as an orange donuts twist) and Orange Crush soda.

 

Both schools also share a common thread for elite football talent. Currently, Texas High features junior quarterback Nathan Sorenson (who threw for 1,638 yards and 13 scores as a sophomore). In the backfield, the squad boasts a 1,000-yard rusher in Leroy Jones and major Div. I wide receiver recruit Cibi Hamilton.

 

While Arkansas has been struggling this year because of a lineup filled with young players, the squad is a two-time defending Class 6A Arkansas state champion and featured six All-State players last year.

 

In this season’s battle for the Battleaxe, Texas, now averaging over 40 points per game, defeated the Hogs with ease, 49-24, on the “road.”

 

While Texas has dominated the matchup in recent years, both communities know very well that this matchup is more than just a final box score. It’s about the pride and traditions of a city and two high schools that will likely be honored for years to come.

 

 

 

 

Look for Omar’s High School Spotlight’s each week right here at FootballPower.tv. If you have any schools that would make a great spotlight feature, send your school and a brief description to editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

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Spotlight on: Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears

Location: Juneau, Alaska

Group: Rainbelt

 

By Brett Manney

SportsPower Correspondent

 

Typically when fall is in full swing, it signifies that hotly contested conference games are the norm in high school football.

 

But for Alaska high school football, the fall equates to temperatures in the 30s, snow on the ground and state playoffs.

 

This is a vast difference from the 48 continental states now, where a slight temperature change and abundant leaves on the ground are apparent and conference rivalry games are in full swing.

 

Meanwhile, Alaska starts their season the first week in August and ends this week because of the weather extremities.  

 

On Oct. 18, the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears (6-4 overall, FP.tv State PR: 71.81, Rank: 4) sought their second-straight 4A large school state championship against the Service Cougars (7-3 overall, FP.tv State PR: 80.97, Rank; 3).

 

As the early season favorites to repeat as class 4A state champions, the Crimson Bears have endured many hardships to get back to the state championship game.

 

Said head coach Bill Chalmers; “There was a moment in time when we questioned if we would make it this far.”

 

The Bears started their season with limited activity from their best player Alex Fagerstrom. The team’s tough luck continued with starting running back Silver Ma’ala, who moved away in the middle of the season and forced Fagerstrom to move to the running back position. Soon after, the season continued sliding downhill for Juneau-Douglas as the squad lost four-straight games from August 23 to September 9.

 

“The four-game losing streak shocked people, said Kevin Klott, preps writer for the Anchorage Daily News. “I can’t remember the last time they had one -- if they ever did.”

 

In that time span, the Bears lost to Blackfoot from Idaho (6-1 overall, FP.tv State PR: 72.92, Rank: 4), conference foes Palmer (5-4 overall, FP.tv State PR: 64.01, Rank: 7) and North Pole, (9-1 overall, FP.tv State PR: 90.44, Rank: 1) in addition to Oregon power Lake Oswego (6-0 overall, FP.tv State PR: 95.08, Rank: 1).

 

But the Bears never lost their competitive spirit thanks in part to assistant coaches Rich Sjoroos and Ed Briggs. Chalmers believes that both were very competitive and upbeat during the tough stretch and made a significant impact on the team. In addition, Chalmers praised the team’s captains, which includes junior LB Jack Perkins.

 

Said Chalmers, “They are exceptional young men.”

 

After losing to North Pole 25-0, the Bears then went on a four-game winning streak, which included a thriller in the state semifinal.

 

Led by Fagerstrom, AKA “Mr. Everything,” the Bears scratched back to defeat Juneau South 28-27. Fagerstrom, the two-time Railbelt Conference Player of the Year, had nine receptions for 180 yards after being unsuccessful from the tailback position early in the game. Two weeks ago in a quarterfinal game, Fagerstrom had five touchdowns, most definitely living up to his player of the year billing.

 

And certainly last weekend’s game against Service proved to be a frozen tundra battle. Led by highly touted QB Kevin Reilly of Service and a dominant performance by the team’s wide receivers, the Cougars captured the Large School Football State Championship, 22-14, and signaled the end of a hard-fought campaign by Juneau-Douglas.

 

But despite the tough ending for the Bears, the squad finished further than they ever expected in a season of the unexpected. And while the rest of the country prepares for their final playoff pushes this fall, they can all look up to the Bears and remember that no matter what happened in the past, the future is yours for the taking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check for Brett’s High School Spotlights each week right here at FootballPower.tv. If you know of a great school to feature for our next High School Spotlight, tell us why and send an e-mail to editor Adam C. Warner at adam.warner@activenetwork.com.

 

 

 

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Spotlight on: Staples Wreckers

Location: Westport, Connecticut

Group: LL

 

By Andre Coles

SportsPower Correspondent

 

The 2008 football season will represent a transformation for the Staples Wreckers in more ways than one.

 

In addition to moving up to a tougher division this year, Staples debuted new and improved uniforms earlier this season.

 

Said head coach Marce Petroccio; “I felt it was time for a fresh start, not a change to the Staples look, but a modification to the class we’ve always represented.”

 

The Wreckers’ new uniforms were designed by One World USA, which has also designed uniforms for many NFL teams.

 

Meanwhile, along with the team’s wardrobe change, the Wreckers have also moved up to a new division in order to play tougher and more competitive opponents. Previously, Staples competed in Class L, whereas today, the squad will represent Class LL.

 

But have no fear Staples fans, the Wreckers are looking forward to the competition and a new schedule that the move brings.

 

“We’ve had a lot of success in Class L by beating many Class LL teams,” Petroccio said. “For us moving up to Class LL offers a great opportunity and challenge.  The No. 1 team in the state is usually in Class LL. But to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

 

And with Petroccio at the helm, the Wreckers have arguably been one of the best teams in Connecticut.

 

Entering his 16th season as the head coach of Staples, Coach “P” -- as he is known to most in the community -- has compiled an overall record of 131-44 to date. The long-tenured coach has also led Staples to five championship appearances in the last six years, while bringing three of those titles back to his home team.

 

The Wreckers were crowned state champions in ‘02, ‘04 and ‘05 under the tutelage of Petroccio.

 

The efforts and success of Petroccio have not gone unrecognized by his peers. The Connecticut High School Coaches Association has named him coach of the year numerous times, most recently in ‘07. The New York Giants also honored Petroccio in ‘04 as the Lou Rettino High School Football Coach of the Year for his service and dedication.

 

Petroccio, who has not had a single losing season since his first as head coach, plays a key role in mentoring and helping his players in life.

 

Since ‘97, the Staples football program has sent over 50 players to compete at the collegiate level.

 

And keeping up the tradition of Wrecker past, this year’s squad is off to a 4-1 start with its only loss coming at the hands of Ridgefield on Oct. 3rd.  But the Wreckers bounced back the following week with a 21-14 win over Danbury.

 

The ‘08 season is still fairly young for the Wreckers, and have six games left to show off their new uniforms, all while following Petroccio’s lead towards making their mark in Class LL.

 

Next Up: 10/25/2008 vs. New Canaan (6-1, State PR: 91.00, Class Rank: 1).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check for Andre's High School Spotlights each week here at FootballPower.tv.

 

 

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Spotlight on: Jackson Prep Patriots

Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi

Group: MPSA AAA

 

By Ryan Rohde

SportsPower Correspondent

 

On September 7, 2007, Ricky Black and his entire Jackson Prep football team knew that their 24-0 victory over Newton County wasn’t just another win.

 

It was historic.

 

Up until last season, the Mississippi Private School Association and the Mississippi High School Athletic Association did not permit teams to play against each other due to long-standing rules.

 

But, after years of tradition, the MHSAA finally approved the scheduling of MPSA teams.

 

Then on that Friday night last September, Newton County and Jackson Prep opened a new chapter in the Mississippi high school football history books.

 

It didn’t matter which team won the game, although Jackson Prep’s shutout certainly opened some eyes to the quality of play in the MPSA. Rather, it just mattered that they played.

 

And as many schools in the rival athletic association have noticed quite quickly, Jackson Prep happens to be an elite football team.

 

Located just off I-55, Jackson is the largest private school in the state, housing more than 500 students in the high school.

 

Athletic championships have been a staple of the Patriots athletic program, and not just for football.

 

The swim team has won 34-straight state championships, girls’ soccer has 10 state titles of their own, and just last year alone, softball, golf, boys’ and girls’ tennis, and the baseball team all captured state titles.

 

The football team has carried their weight, too. Since 1970, the football team has won 11 MPSA state titles, including the past two seasons. But there was still something missing from the record books of the Patriots and all other MPSA schools -- a win over an MHSAA team.

 

Jackson Prep rode the momentum of that historic win all the way to an undefeated season and the team’s second-straight MPSA title over archrival Jackson Academy. The rivalry has grown with each passing season and will likely only become stronger after the 17-10 overtime thriller in the championship game.

 

“I cannot imagine a football season without Jackson Prep on our schedule; I absolutely cannot,” said Peter Jernberg, president of Jackson Academy, in a recent YallvsUs.com feature article. “There would be a void in life and a void in our school year.”

 

It is evident that this rivalry will never fade, and perhaps it shouldn’t, as the chance for Jackson and similar schools to play against the MHSAA schools offers an opportunity for newer rivalries to evolve.

 

This season, Newton County exacted revenge on the Patriots with a 31-26 win.

 

Meanwhile, Jackson Prep is already off to a great start in ‘08. The Patriots are 8-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the MPSA polls.

 

But while the MPSA and MHSAA games are still few are far between, one can only hope that the recent changes will stay alive and give life to new rivalries in the generations to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check for Ryan's High School Spotlight each week at FootballPower.tv.

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Spotlight on: Farragut Admirals

Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee

Group: Class 5A

 

By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent

 

A first glance at Reese Browning and the Farragut Admirals and one might mistake the squad for the Dallas Cowboys.

 

The comparisons start with the blue star on the silver helmet and similar color patterns, but due to the team’s elite skill level this season, the Admirals have made fans double take nearly every Friday night, and often fueling questions over whether Farragut truly is “America’s Team” in disguise. 

 

Meanwhile, Browning has done his best Tony Romo impersonation this season in leading the way for the Admirals.  The junior quarterback has lifted his squad to a 7-0 overall record so far this season thanks to his strong, accurate passing ability and elite game management skills. In seven starts, he has thrown for a total of 1,627 yards while tossing 17 touchdowns; quite impressive for a junior signal-caller.

 

But while the ball flies long and high for the Admirals, it just might be the stable of game-changing running backs that ignites this squad. Junior D’Andre Purdy is the leader of the group and has already rushed for 749 yards this season with nine touchdowns.  Likewise, Chris Bass, Trevoris Bogan and Monte Hudson, among others, have seen frequent action and have made major contributions.  

 

And with four different running backs that can go the distance on any given down, as well as a capable tight end in Derek Harper, it’s no secret that Farragut’s offense is humming. Through seven games so far, the Admirals have averaged 39 points per contest, while holding opponents to just 11.4 total – good for a difference of nearly four touchdowns every game. 

 

Defensively, the Admirals are putting up impressive numbers to date. With a lofty 12 interceptions and six fumble recoveries, it’s apparent that this squad is made up of ball hawks. Seniors Jonathan Moskal and Bogan lead the way with three picks apiece. 

 

While the Admirals have been outstanding in all phases of the game thus far, the team’s next two games pose as major hurdles. Rival schools Ooltewah and Soddy Daisy still loom, and both have lost just once to date.

 

But with Farragut’s chameleon-like style of offense and nose for the ball on defense, the squad should look to enter as favorites in both of those games. 

 

It’s apparent so far -- just like the big boys down in “Big D,” -- that Farragut’s star is shining bright and will likely do so for the rest of the season.

 

Next: October 17, 2008 at Ooltewah (5-1 overall, State PR: 82.37, Rank: 9).

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Spotlight on: Smith Center

Hometown: Smith Center, KS

Group: 2-1A

 

 

By Jimmy Oliver

SportsPower Correspondent

 

It’s hard to believe that a school so small could produce such a constant, dominant force.

 

Set in a tiny town with just one stoplight, Smith Center is an institution with an enrollment of roughly 150 students (and just 116 between the 10th and 12th grades). There are 57 boys on the football roster this season -- which makes Smith Center’s (State PR: 82.44, Rank: 1) story all the more impressive. 

 

Not only is there a limited pool to form a team from, but head coach Roger Barta is doing more with less, and it’s paying giant dividends.

 

So far in 2008, the Redmen have outscored opponents 203 to 57 in just five games, including a shutout of Ellis this past weekend by a 40-0 margin.

 

Pretty astounding, indeed, but this is nothing different than what Smith Center has been posting – and raising eyebrows with -- for decades.

 

Just last season, the Redmen tallied 72 points in the first quarter against Plainville en route to a national record for the most points in a single period. Even more astonishing, Smith Center allowed just 20 points all season in 13 games while producing 844 on the scoreboard en route to a state title.

 

Meanwhile, the program owns seven state championships, starting in ’82 and then following up in ’86, ’99, ’04, ’05, ’06, and ’07.

 

And the team is not just about winning games and championships, either. Barta sees the program as a tool to help his players further down the road in life. 

 

“I don’t know if winning or losing is what our program is about,” said Barta in a recent interview during his squad's impressive '07 title run. “Maybe something we did will help them (the players) five, 10, 20 years from now and help them be successful in life.”

 

And this is where the philosophy of the program comes into play, as well. The high school athletes are taught that Smith Center is “Where tradition starts” and “Where tradition never graduates.” Indeed, it's important to strive for as many victories as you can, but it's the intangibles learned along the way that make the biggest difference in one's life.

 

Last week, the Redmen played a then 4-1 Colby team that came in very capable of putting up points. The Eagles had been averaging 23 points per game while holding opponents to just over 10 per outing. At the time, it appeared that this midseason matchup could have shaped up to be one of the biggest challenges of the regular season for Smith Center, but the Redmen made quick work of their counterparts en route to a 40-0 romp.

 

Up Next: October 17 at Washington (State PR: 38.38, Rank: 33).

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