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October 27, 2011

There is a reason for rankings.

It's not just to give fans something to cheer - and more often, complain - about.

It's a way to separate the haves and the have-nots.

They are all big games this time of year. So how do you pick a winner? Seeing more games than any other organization helps.

It would be easy if we were taking the higher-ranked team in each of our five games Weekend Watch games this weekend. But, we don't always go with the chalk we go with the better team.

This week we are picking just two upsets but going against the rankings has been part of the program when match-ups dictate.

With that, an in-depth look around the nation at some of the top games of the weekend:

Weekend Watch
No. 55 Centreville v Westfield

LB Ken Ekanem (6-3/225, Sr.)
RB Manny Smith (5-9/196, Sr.)
WR Chase Walter (6-2/190, Sr.)
RB Kendall Anderson (5-9/185, Sr.)
When: Friday Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 29, 2010 - Westfield won, 35-14.
Rankings: Centreville (8-0), No. 1 in Virginia
Westfield (8-0), No. 2 in Virginia

Why it's big: It is the top two teams in the state of Virginia going at it in a game that likely will decide the Concorde District title as well as which team will have the top seed heading into the Northern Region Division Six playoffs. The teams are certainly familiar foes and know each other well.

Best matchup: Centreville's third-down offense against Westfield defense. Both teams are pretty straight forward with their offense and preferring to be safe rather than sorry is a prevailing philosophy. Centreville will look to grind the game out on the ground. Even when it is in medium distance on third down it will try to gain a few yards to set up a potential attempt on fourth down. Its success rate on the ground to keep the chains moving will be key.

Centreville wins if: Manny Smith has a big game. The Wildcats senior running back has tallied over 900 yards and 13 touchdowns so far this season. His ability to keep the chains moving and keep the Westfield offense off the field will be a determining factor in this game. Westfield has not allowed a single opponent to score more than 14 points so Centreville figures to need to find the end zone at least three times.

Westfield wins if: It stays balanced and keeps putting up points. Between Kendall Anderson running the ball and Matt Pisarcik throwing it, no team in Virginia has been able to slow the attack. Westfield has scored 31 or more in four straight games and has not been lower than 28 all year. Its ability to mix its pass and run will be key. Anderson has 1,207 yards rushing and Pisarcik has 1,008 through the air. That balance is lethal.

Prediction: While these are the current top-two teams in the state, the parity in Virginia could see even the winner slide down eventually. These two are familiar foes and the results have become a broken record with Westfield winning the last nine contests. This is the first game in the rivalry as a head coach for Westfield's Kyle Simmons, but his expectations are not lower than any other season. This game is as much of a toss up as there could be and either team winning would not be a surprise. History repeats itself though.
- Westfield 27, Centreville 21.

-- For more on Virginia sports, visit VirginiaPreps.com

Weekend Watch
West Monroe v Cocoa

RB Tarean Folston (5-10/190, Jr.)
RB Antwan Lee (5-10/171, Jr.)
LB Grady Redding (5-11/175, Sr.)
DE James McFarland (6-3/243, Sr.)
DE Terrell Lathan (6-4/233, Sr.)
LB Jacob Tyson (6-0/220, Sr.)
When: Friday Oct. 29, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: First-ever meeting.
Rankings: Cocoa (4-3), No. 19 in Florida
West Monroe (6-2), No. 13 in Louisiana

Why it's big: This game figured to be a national game of the week contender when it was announced, but after a slow start to the season by both teams, it has slid off the top line. Neither has faced this level of competition since the middle of September. Which team has improved more since its disappointing start may win. The game should be an interesting measuring stick to the depth of both states.

Best matchup: West Monroe offense against the Cocoa defense. Or vice versa. Both teams have struggled getting their offense in sync, even at this stage of the season, and both teams are predicated on defense. So whichever is able to get its offense going will have the upper hand. West Monroe figures to have a size advantage and the speed to keep up with the quick Cocoa team so it will come down to if it can move the ball. Cocoa's 3-3-5 defense has been known to give teams fits and it could trip up West Monroe.

West Monroe wins if: It can take advantage of being at home. It will be dressing more than double the team Cocoa travels with and the fans in the stands should be incredibly overwhelming in numbers to that of Cocoa. If the team can feed off of that energy and get rolling downhill it will be an impressive win. If it starts slow and falls behind, it will only give more confidence to a Cocoa team that already likes to play the underdog card.

Cocoa wins if: It keeps West Monroe under 20 points. The Tigers have not allowed a team to score more than twice in over a month and that will be the formula for success in this game. West Monroe is not an explosive offense this year. If it has to grind out long drives to score points that will play into the hands of Cocoa.

Prediction: A game with two teams that prefer to play defense often produces opportunities in other areas of the game as punt returns should be increased in chances. It would not be a surprise if this game turns on a special teams or defensive play. Neither of those particularly favor one team. In a game that could be a toss up the smart play is the home team.
- West Monroe 16, Cocoa 7.

Weekend Watch
No. 2 Trinity v No. 46 Moeller

WR Monty Madaris (6-2/186, Sr.)
WR Michael Means (6-1/185, Sr.)
TE John Tanner (6-4/233, Sr.)
OL Joey Warburg (6-5/255, Sr.)
WR James Quick (6-1/190, Jr.)
DE Jason Hatcher (6-2/238, Jr.)
QB Travis Wright (6-0/182, Jr.)
When: Friday Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: First meeting this decade.
Rankings: Trinity (8-0), No. 1 in Kentucky
Moeller (7-2), No. 4 in Ohio

Why it's big: Or why it's not bigger. Two weeks ago this looked like it was to be a make-or-break came for a national title for both teams at 7-0. Since then, Moeller has lost two straight and has made this a much less significant game. For Moeller, this could be a last chance in the rankings as three-straight losses could knock it out altogether. For Trinity, it is still a must win, and a must win impressively, if it wants to use this game a springboard to the top spot.

Best matchup: Trinity passing game against the Moeller secondary. It took seven games for the breakdowns in the Moeller secondary to cost the team, but they did against St. Ed last week. Trinity has a balanced attack and a supremely accurate quarterback who can pick apart a defense that isn't in position.

Moeller wins if: It plays more like it did against St. Xavier than it did against St. Edward. Moeller is not a sleek and stylish team; it will need to be more physical and fundamental in this game for it to win. Trinity has gotten healthy with a week off so Moeller will have to come out hot, early. If this game spends too much time on the Moeller side off the field, it could turn into a laugher.

Trinity wins if: It doesn't take undue risk. The Shamrocks are more talented and have a more fluid offense and fundamental defense. There is no reason to go out of the box in this game. It could be an easy win if Trinity stays patient on offense and forces Moeller to drive the ball down the field. Trinity's defense has been playing very well all season. If that level of plays holds up, this game should be no more than a speed bump on the way to a state title run.

Prediction: Even if Moeller had come into this week undefeated the pick would still have been Trinity. The Shamrocks are an elite team this year and have been working toward a top spot nationally. This game figures to be the final proving ground for Trinity as the playoffs will not provide much of a challenge. The question, now that the Moeller secondary has been exposed, is not if it will win, but by how much.
- Trinity 38, Moeller 13.

Weekend Watch
No. 93 Jenks v No. 94 Broken Arrow

WR Jordan Smallwood (6-2/175, Jr.)
OL Nick Daniels (6-3/285, Jr.)
RB Alex Ross (6-1/206, Sr.)
TE Zac Veatch (6-4/245, Sr.)
DB Levi Copelin (6-2/170, Sr.)
When: Friday Oct. 28, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 29, 2010 - Jenks won, 23-7.
Rankings: Jenks (7-1), No. 2 in Oklahoma
Broken Arrow (7-1), No. 3 in Oklahoma

Why it's big: For one of these teams, it is likely the end of the time in the RivalsHigh 100. The group of Union, Jenks, Broken Arrow and Midwest City (which is just outside the rankings) is incredibly close and this is a separation game for that. It is a compliment to Oklahoma football that this debate is happening, as usually it has just been a countdown to a Jenks-Union showdown in the playoffs. The reputation of Broken Arrow is that until it beats one of these two, it can't.

Best matchup: Broken Arrow offense against Jenks defense. Broken Arrow has scored points in bunches against teams with porous defenses but have been stymied against quality opposition. If the team is looking to get over the hump, it will need more than the 14 points it scored against Union or the 16 it put up against Norman last week.

Jenks wins if: It is healthy. The Trojans have had to deal with injuries to several of its playmakers, including star running back Alex Ross. If it wants to win this game, it will need solid games from its key contributors and not have to go to the bench as the depth of Broken Arrow can keep up the fight.

Broken Arrow wins if: Its secondary can make Jenks one dimensional. With a solid group in the defensive backfield, it could force Jenks to become a run-only team instead of a run-first team. If it is able to take away the pass and make this a fast moving clock, that will be a major victory and help it pull a mild perception upset.

Prediction: There are doubters in Oklahoma that Broken Arrow belongs in this discussion and that has to stoke the fire of the players in the locker room. Jenks undoubtedly believes that this is its game to lose and that confidence is a key to the game. Broken Arrow like to use its power running game and Jenks front four will likely be able to shut that down and force Broken Arrow to pass. This game should likely be close late and that could favor the home team in this case. The win would further open the bracket to win a state title in Oklahoma.
- Broken Arrow 20, Jenks 17.

-- For more on Oklahoma football, visit OkVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
No. 54 Chaparral v Saguaro

QB Connor Brewer (6-2/195, Sr.)
WR Davonte Neal (5-10/180, Sr.)
DE Jarvis Lewis (6-4/244, Sr.)
ATH D.J. Foster (5-11/187, Sr.)
LB Ryan Merrill (6-2/216, Sr.)
OL Robert Dusz (6-0/280, Sr.)
When: Friday Oct. 28, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: Oct. 17, 2008 - Saguaro won, 21-0.
Rankings: Chaparral (9-1), No. 2 in Arizona
Saguaro (8-1), No. 7 in Arizona

Why it's big: Two of the Top 10 teams in Arizona with talent on overload will play on regional television. The two teams are favorites to win their respective state titles and that makes for a fantastic game. While many still do not quickly associate Arizona with quality football, it is a state on the fast track nationally with better players and teams coming out of the state. This is a good game to highlight both.

Best matchup: Chaparral offense versus Saguaro offense. This game is likely going to be a scoreboard breaker as Saguaro has averaged nearly 60 points per game while Chaparral has put up a modest 47 per contest. If one gets on a roll, it could put the game out of reach - although with this kind of firepower, the trailing team could be within striking distance no matter the spread or time remaining.

Saguaro wins if: It can contain the Chaparral offense. While looking at the point totals, it appears that slowing either offense down may be a pipe dream. Chaparral has been held under 28 points three times this year. If Saguaro is able to keep the Firebirds at that number, it has a very good chance to win.

Chaparral wins if: Connor Brewer is on. The Texas commit has mixed some spotty games with some stellar ones on the season. If he is firing and Devonte Neal is making plays, this game quickly could become a no-doubter. Chaparral has one of the most talented teams in the Western Region and this game is a good way to showcase that it has grown as the season has progressed. For many, the last image of this team was a second-half collapse against Bishop Gorman. That may cloud perception of how good this team really is.

Prediction: After entering the season as a potential competitor for the top spot in the state and then falling to Bishop Gorman - and nearly dropping an unusual game to Salpointe Catholic - Chaparral has moved back up toward the top spot in the state. Saguaro has been the best team not in the largest class in Arizona; this is a proving ground game to show it can play with anyone. The two share Scottsdale and this is a home game for Chaparral, but it will be both home and hostile for both teams.
- Chaparral 33, Saguaro 24.

-- For more on Arizona athletics, visit ArizonaVarsity.com

Weekend Watch
Other Predictions (2011: 70-20)
Game of the Week: Armwood def. Plant, 26-7
No. 17 Allen def. Hebron, 30-26
No. 21 Servite def. St. John Bosco, 26-12
No. 45 St. Edward def No. 86 St. Ignatius, 20-3
No. 71 Bergen Catholic def. St. Peter's Prep, 31-16
Have your game picked next week: E-mail Dallas Jackson
Submit your picks: Play the Pick'Em contest
Game of the Week record: 7-3
2011 Record for all games picked: 77-23

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