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July 31, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 35-31

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Dallas Jackson is the High School Football analyst for Rivals.com. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Rivals.com began its 2012 countdown last Monday, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Wednesday, Aug. 8 - just 10 days from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Aug. 27 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

View the complete rankings timeline if you missed anything | Final 2011 Expanded Rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 35 Longview, Texas
Coach: John King
Last Season: 11-2, lost in Texas quarterfinals. Ranked No. 59 Nationally.
Fast Fact: Longview head coach John King took over the program in 2004 and it has won its district every season since. The Lobos made the state finals in 2008 and 2009 under King.
Key Player: Quarterback Bivins Caraway. Caraway is listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds, and while both may be a little generous, he is a solid player who can help push the Lobos to another district title and make a run at a state championship. Longview could struggle to put it together in the trenches and so the athletic ability of Caraway could come to save the day in a few games this year. Always a team that is expected to advance several rounds into the playoffs, Longview is a regular in the RivalsHigh 100. This year, the offense will certainly lean on Caraway.
The Good: The back seven on defense. Good luck passing on the Lobos this season with four very talented players in the defensive backfield. The most talented may be Class of 2014 safety Stephon Maxey, but he is far from the only strong high school football player in this secondary. He is joined by Cort Bartley, Nakia Brown and Davatric Cooks. Combining with a linebacker group led by Demarkus Lathan and Jalen Porter, there may not be a better group in 5A Division II. If the defensive line can come together around Cornelius Williams it could make for a solid season.
The Bad: The trenches. Caraway and running back Tory White can be counted on for the offense. The back seven are all expected to perform for the defense. That leaves one question mark on either side of the ball and it is the line on both sides. Obviously those are major points of concern for any team, but with a talented group of junior varsity players moving up and a steady program under King, the worry level is low.
The bottom line is Longview has been one of the best teams in Texas over the last five years. If it were not for Austin (Texas) Lake Travis, it wouldn't be suprising to see multiple Class 4A state title banners hanging in Longview. The move to Class 5A has not slowed the success this team has had with back-to-back 10-plus win seasons. Longview is a team to keep an eye on as the season goes forward and with the redistricting, another title is a real possibility this year.

Top 100 countdown
No. 34 Bergen Catholic, New Jersey

Coach: Nunzio Campanile
Last Season: 8-3, Non-public Group IV runner-up. Ranked No. 84 Nationally.
Fast Fact: The 2011 Bergen Catholic team became the first team in the five-year history of the Rivals rankings to finish nationally ranked without a state title, without double-digit wins, and with multiple losses. It lost two games to the nationally No. 2-ranked Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco and to No. 16-ranked Tampa (Fla.) Plant.
Key Player: Two-way player Garrett Dickerson. Dickerson may be the most talented player to have walked the halls at Bergen Catholic since Brian Cushing in the Class of 2005. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 240-pounds, Dickerson has the ability to be dominant as a defensive end or a nightmare to defend as a tight end. He played well at both spots last season as a sophomore, but more is expected of him entering this year.
The Good: The offense. The Crusaders return quarterback Jon Germano and his near 2,500 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. The offense will also feature running back James Dawson, as well as Kyle Quiero and Dickerson in the passing game. The offensive line also brings back three starters in Carmine Goldsack, Chris McBride and Rich Queen. The loss of go-to receiver John Tsimis will undoubtedly be felt, but it can be overcome.
The Bad: Rival program Don Bosco. Bergen Catholic plays the Iron Men as tough as any team in the country, but it has been unable to secure a victory since Brian Cushing left the school. It is a streak that is now at 10 games that Don Bosco has won over Bergen Catholic and that history keeps Bergen Catholic from being the preseason top team in the state - although it was one of the hottest offseason debates in the rankings process. The team could be the more talented of the two this year and a flip in the rankings could quickly happen.
The bottom line is Bergen Catholic needs to get a win over Don Bosco and it needs to be this year. The two teams have played some epic contests recently, but Don Bosco has always made the one or two plays that turns the game its way whenever it looked like the contest was in the balance. The last time Bergen Catholic downed Don Bosco was in 2004, and if that steak doesn't come to an end this year, when will it happen? The Crusaders open the year with three straight road games against three nationally ranked teams. If the team comes through that stretch undefeated, it could push into the Top 10. That would set up a major showdown with-- you guessed it-- Don Bosco.

Top 100 countdown
No. 33 South Panola, Mississippi

Coach: Lance Pogue
Last Season: 9-4, lost in second round of playoffs. Unranked in Mississippi Top 10.
Fast Fact: South Panola is a school often purged by turnover of assistant coaches, and this year is no different as three assistants left the program to become head coaches at other schools: Eric Rice, Eddie Maxon and Jaime Easley all departed in March for new schools. Easley since returned as did Trey Dickerson who returned to the school as the offensive coordinator after spending a year as the head coach at Hattiesburg (Ms.) High.
Key Player: Quarterback Rip Kirk. Let's start this by saying that South Panola is not going to be losing its identity and start throwing the ball around the field because it isn't. Kirk is important because the team had absolutely no threat to complete a deep pass (or really any forward pass) last season. Because of that, the team faced press coverage and nine men in the box most of the season. If the team wants to get back to competing for state and national titles, it will need Kirk to be at least as good as Lee Self of two years ago. His performance this summer suggests that he will be more than an adequate upgrade for this offense.
The Good: Antonio Connor is still on the team. Connor was asked to do literally everything last season and he did his best to will the team to victory. The all-everything safety could be among the best to ever come through the program and that includes multiple NFL players. His lightened load this year could make him a better all around player later in the season. From time to time, Connor will be asked to return punts, play offense and play cornerback instead of safety. There is no doubt he will shine at it, but there will be help around him as well.
The Bad: The offensive line. With the exception of Deon Mix, will the big guys up front be able to open holes for the running game or pass protect long enough to make significant improvements over last season? The offensive line at South Panola is generally not prototypical size. With more and more teams feeling comfortable to stack the box and bring pressure, the guys in the trenches will have to answer the bell this season.
The bottom line is South Panola took a steep step down from winning a National Title in 2010 to losing four games in 2011. Before that, the program hadn't lost four total games in the previous seven years combined. The Tigers will be tested by Hoover (Ala.) High at home and on the road against Bentonville (Ark.) High in the first four weeks of the season. It could be an underdog against Hoover and that will be a unique position for this team to respond to.

Top 100 countdown
No. 32 Don Bosco, New Jersey

Coach: Greg Toal
Last Season: 11-0, Non-Public Group IV Champs. Ranked No. 2 Nationally.
Fast Fact: Don Bosco has finished inside the Top 25 of the national rankings in each of the last four years and inside the Top 10 each of the last three, making it the only program in the country to claim both of those accomplishments. The Iron Men won a National Title in 2009 and was the runner-up in 2011.
Key Player: Quarterback Frank Nutile. There are so many losses all over the field for the Iron Men that it will need a steady hand to lead the offense if the team is going to stay the course as a nationally elite program. Nutile has battled for playing time each of the last two seasons, but he has been a backup. This is his time to shine as the leader of the team. He is more of a pocket passer, akin to Gary Nova than Mike Yankovich. Nutile is losing much of his running back committee and his top receiver as well. He will have to manage some games and may be asked to win some as well.
The Good: This is still a Greg Toal coached team. If Toal had left for the Fordham job he was linked to, combined with the loss from graduations and transfers this team suffered, it may not have made it into the RivalsHigh 100 preseason rankings. The way Toal prepares his team makes this group among the elite in the state and the favorite in many of the games it plays. One of the most underrated aspects in high school football is coaching and Toal is one of the best in the country.
The Bad: There will be almost a total roster turnover. The team returns just six total starters, three on each side of the ball. It graduated four U.S. Army All-Americans. It lost three FBS-level transfers, including one of the best in his class, Jabrill Peppers. The secondary will be completely new from last year and the team's top receiver is gone as well. While there will still be talented players stepping into this powerhouse program, nearly all will have to prove they belong.
The bottom line is Don Bosco is getting a lot of respect with this placement for being an elite program - maybe more than it deserves when looking at all the losses it is going through. The team still has a tough schedule to navigate and it will be challenged right out of the gate with No. 53-ranked Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas in the second week. Coach Toal is no fool and he would not have accepted the game if he didn't believe his team could win the contest.

Top 100 countdown
No. 31 Cibolo Steele, Texas

Coach: Mike Jinks
Last Season: 15-1, Texas 5A-DII runner-up. Ranked No. 29 Nationally.
Fast Fact: Steele opened its doors in 2005 and fielded its first team in 2006. In the last four years the team has either won a state title or lost to the eventual state finals winner. In 2008 and 2009 it lost to Austin (Texas) Lake Travis when the school was in Class 4A. Cibolo Steele won the title in 2010, its first year as a Class 5A program, and fell last season in the state title game.
Key Player: Running back Justin Stockton. Steele has been a run oriented team during its brief history, using a featured back or a dual-threat quarterback, and this year will be no different. Stockton piled up 1,519 yards as a sophomore last season and will be the featured player on offense this year. Despite being on the smaller side, standing at just 5-foot-9 and 160-pounds, Stockton has elite speed but he can also pound inside if needed.
The Good: The secondary. Steele will look to Texas commit Erik Huhn and Oklahoma State-bound Jordan Sterns to patrol the secondary as the pair of safeties can ball hawk as well as support the run. While it will not be freelance, the two will have the option to roam and make plays. Both measure 6 foot and 200 pounds and each would like to push for a state title.
The Bad: The quarterback position. Steele will have to replace Tommy Armstrong who is now at Nebraska. While he did not receive the national attention that Malcolm Brown did while he was at Steele, the dual-threat quarterback was just as important to the success. Armstrong ran for over 1,200 yards, threw for nearly 2,000 and tallied 45 total touchdowns last season. Those numbers will be tough to replace.
The bottom line is Steele has been a power since it came onto the scene, posting nearly 12 wins a season over the last five years. With the addition of Lake Travis to Class 5A-DII and the emergence of many other teams in that class, Steele won't have an easy road to a state title. A potential semifinal game with Katy (Texas) High, La Porte (Texas) High, or Manvel (Texas) High would be a showdown before either had to play a power from Region 1 or Region 2.

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