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August 19, 2010

Instant Analysis: Best games in the East

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

High school football is upon us. The games have started in Alaska and are set to kickoff all around the country.

The RivalsHigh100 football rankings have been released and the top players have been named.

The only thing left to do is take a trip around the country to check out some of the best games.

In the seventh of our eight-part tour, we look at the "best of the rest" games East of the Mississippi River.

We have already profiled the best in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Ohio, California, Texas, and Florida.

We will take a look at the "best of the rest" from West of the Mississippi River on Friday before the games really fire up later that day.

East of the Mississippi River: Top 10 games for the 2010 football season
10. Maryville (Tenn.) High vs. Alcoa (Tenn.) High
Aug. 26 at Maryville
While the balance of power in Tennessee may be shifting to the Central and Western parts of the state, the rivalry and atmosphere at the Maryville/Alcoa game can not be matched. Tempers should be especially high this season as Alcoa enters the game as the higher-ranked team and coming off of a dominating 41-24 victory last year. Maryville is a traditional 6A power and has owned the last decade of play. Alcoa is the nipping-at-the-heels team from 3A who knocked off big brother last season with new head coach Gary Rankin - who came to Alcoa after making Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Riverdale a traditional small-school power. Look for the Tornadoes to take their physical play - and new found confidence - into enemy territory and play well again.

9. Grand Rapids (Mich.) East Grand Rapids vs. Lowell (Mich.) High
Oct. 8 at TBD
The power in Michigan high school football is on the western half of the state and, with more and more people escaping Detroit, that figures to only solidify football in the western half. For these two schools that are separated by less than 20 miles, it could be a battle for the No. 1 ranking in the state. Both teams enter the year in the Top 10 in the state, with East Grand Rapids owning the No. 1 spot and a No. 83 national ranking. The Pioneers are led defensively by Trent Voss, who will likely end up as a traditional inside linebacker in college.

8. Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove vs. Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central
Oct. 15 at Center Grove
These two Indiana teams enter the season No. 1 and No. 2 in the state with Warren Central leading the way with a No. 47 national ranking compared to No. 95 for Center Grove. The Warriors do not have the look of a traditional Indiana team and can make quite a name for themselves with an early season game against Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville. With other difficult games against Merrillville (Ind.) High, Indianapolis (Ind.) Indianapolis Cathedral, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North, and Carmel (Ind.) High, among others, this is the most difficult schedule in the state, only to be capped off with Center Grove at season's end. Look for the teams to have trouble moving the ball on each other, but especially Warren Central which boasts big defensive lineman Kris Harley, a Virginia Tech commit.

7. Hutchinson (Kan.) High vs. Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst
Sept. 3 at Hutchinson
This game should go back to being a much more competitive one after last year's 55-27 thumping by Hutchinson. That Salt Hawks team was one of the best in recent memory for Hutchinson and maybe ever at the school, which will be tough to repeat with all of its losses on the defensive side of the ball. Rockhurst comes into the season looking for redemption from its three-loss season of a year ago. This is a good measuring-stick game for two teams who rarely see this level of competition inside their state. While he is not the most highly-ranked player on the field, Noah Pearl from Rockhurst could play a major factor in the outcome of the game. Both teams are ranked nationally in the preseason at No. 92 for Hutchinson and No. 88 for Rockhurst. With so many good teams this season, they both will need to play well to maintain those rankings.

6. Matthews (N.C.) Butler vs. Rockingham (N.C.) Richmond County
Sept. 10 at Butler
Now that its quarterback situation has been partially resolved with Christian LeMay opting to sit out his senior season and enroll early at Georgia, by the time this game rolls around, Butler will have had plenty of time to adjust to life without him. The team is loaded with playmakers and its No. 23 national ranking was not overly contingent on whether LeMay would play or not. Richmond County is another team ranked nationally at No. 85 and is part of a very solid group of nationally-relevant schools to come out of North Carolina this season. Running back Walter Ellerbe can expect to see plenty of action in this game as the Raiders will need to control the clock to keep the explosive Bulldogs on the sidelines.

5. Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern vs. Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe
Aug. 27 at Northwestern
This matchup is still relatively new to the importance meter nationally, but will gain steam with each passing season as the teams are loaded and share city walls. This year, it will be on the most high-profile games in the state with the No. 1 player in the country, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, on the South Pointe sideline and one of the most explosive, high-flying offenses in the country on the other, led by Justin Worley. A pair of three-star defensive lineman, Gerald Dixon and Roderick Byers, on the rush for Northwestern could also shut down the point of attack for the Stallions. South Carolina is a state that is poised for a good season and this early-season game could kick the year off right.

4. Prattville (Ala.) High vs. Miami (Fla.) Central
Oct. 29 at TBD
By the time this game rolls around in late October, it could have either lost its luster or really picked up some steam. Prattville is a team that is loaded with a very strong junior class and is expected to compete for both a state title and high national rankings next year. Whether that team can navigate a less-than-imposing schedule to be undefeated entering this game is a main question for them. Central, on the other hand, is one of the most senior-heavy and talented teams in the country. The Rockets are just outside of the national Top 10 to start the year and, if undefeated come kickoff of this game, will likely be ranked inside the Top 5. Entering the season, the No. 3 team in Alabama versus the No. 3 team in Florida is not really an apples-to-apples comparison, and Central is certainly expected to pull the victory. An upstart and fundamentally-sound Prattville team could steal an upset right before the state playoffs begin.

3. Wheaton (Ill.) Wheaton-Warrenville South vs. Park Ridge (Ill.) Maine South
Sept. 5 at Wheaton-Warrenville South
This is the game in Illinois this season as the Class 8A and Class 7A state champions from 2009 square off in an early season clash. It could also tip the cards in-state to which will be the best team when all is said and done. Both enter the year in the Top 3 in the state as well as with national rankings, with Maine South at No. 94 and Wheaton-Warrenville South at No. 52. Wheaton South quarterback Reilly O'Toole, an Illinois commit, will lead the Tigers into this clash of Chicagoland titans. For people who think that Big Ten country is only three-yards straight ahead, this will be a great game to watch. Two high-octane offenses who like to spread it out will be on display.

2. Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel vs. Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha
Oct. 8 at Good Counsel
This figures to be round one of an annual two-game battle between the two Maryland private school powers. Both teams enter the season inside the Top 20 of the RivalsHigh 100, with DeMatha checking in at No. 12 and slightly ahead of Good Counsel at No. 17. Each team is loaded and brings back one of its strongest classes ever. Each team finished the year inside the Top 50 last year, and DeMatha brings back one of the best offensive lines in the country. Good Counsel returns 10 starters on the offensive side of the ball. Defense isn't entirely optional as the two played two squeakers last year - a 24-21 win by DeMatha and a 14-7 Good Counsel victory to end the year. While picking out a single player to highlight would be tough, many will be on hand to see the lone five-star player, Cyrus Kouandjio from DeMatha.

1. Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes vs. Hoover (Ala.) High
Aug. 28 at Rock Hill District 3 Stadium
While it is not actually on the Byrnes campus, this is clearly a home game for the Rebels. Interestingly enough, they will enter the game not only as an underdog but not the No. 1 team in South Carolina. The Rebels will have to deal with a large player turnover entering the season and will have their fair share of growing pains. For Hoover, a 315-mile bus ride and a hostile crowd awaits it. To defend their Top 10 national ranking, the Buccaneers will need to get off the bus with a purpose. The two teams locked horns at the Palmetto State Showdown 7-on-7 tournament earlier this summer, so the talking has already started. This will be a national stage for Hoover wideout Jaylon Denson to showcase his abilities.

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