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July 30, 2010

RivalsHigh 100: Teams 60-56

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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.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on Monday 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 Monday, Aug. 9 - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 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.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about teams 60-56

Top 100 countdown
No. 60 Gilman, Maryland

COACH: Biff Poggi
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 7 in Maryland

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Greyhounds' first month of the season. Gilman is a team, like No. 79 Cocoa, that went and scheduled one of the more difficult out-of-conference schedules in the country. On paper, this is to be one of the best Gilman teams ever, and the administration and coaching staff wanted to put that to the test.

STRENGTH: The Greyhounds return a ton of experienced starters this season. Like many teams in the area, Gilman was young last year and should be better in 2010, as it returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Four-star athlete and the team's quarterback Darius Jennings will be the focal point of opposing teams' defensive game plans this season. Jennings will most likely be a running back in college but is running the Wildcat-style offense at Gilman. He rushed for 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, but also threw for 10 more scores. The No. 173-ranked player in the country has offers from coast-to-coast but has yet to make his decision.

WHO ELSE? Another player to keep an eye on, and possibly the heir apparent to Jennings' position, is junior Cyrus Jones. Jones runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard and is a versatile athlete in his own right. He rushed for more than 700 yards last season and had over 500 yards receiving.

QUOTABLE: "It is all keeping up with the Joneses right now," coach Biff Poggi said. "Basketball in the area had to keep up with those [Baltimore (Md.)] Dunbar teams in the 80s, and now football has taken off because of [Hyattsville (Md.)] DeMatha. People got sick of seeing them win and now the rest of the area is trying to knock them off."

Top 100 countdown
No. 59 Servite, California

COACH: Troy Thomas
LAST SEASON: 15-1, California Division II Champions
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 6 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Friars replace quarterback Cody Fajardo. Fajardo was not one of the hotter names in recruiting circles last year, but all he did was win. That is something that's so important at any level and the simply innate ability to lead is hard to replace.

IT'S WITHIN RANGE: Servite has one of the better kickers in the country in Connor Loftus. Often overlooked is a reliable kicker. A missed extra-point, a botched field goal or the lack of confidence to even attempt a field goal can often lead to tough coaching decisions. When you are able to trot out a kid with confidence inside of 40 yards, a good high school offense like Servite is a threat to put points on the board each time it crosses midfield.

STAR OF THE SHOW: One of the top prospects in the nation, let alone California, is Servite tight end Troy Niklas. The 6-foot-7 target has Notre Dame and Stanford atop his list of schools vying for his college commitment and is a solid pass catcher as well as run blocker. He is athletic enough to stay at tight end past high school or physically gifted enough that if he had to slide to tackle, his foot work and strength would make him an asset there as well. His junior season was cut short with an injury, but he is back to full strength as a senior.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY: Fans of one of the best schools in California missed out on a great trip as well as a measuring stick game when Servite and River Ridge (La.) John Curtis were unable to get a deal done for an early season game. It would have matched up a pair of nationally-ranked teams as well as allowed the kids at Servite a unique opportunity to work on a community service project in still-recovering New Orleans.

Top 100 countdown
No. 58 Lowndes, Georgia

COACH: Randy McPherson
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 35 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: Lowndes being hungry after last year's disappointment. After completely dominating every team it faced in the regular season (save for one loss to Northside-Warner Robins) in what was one of the country's toughest regions, Lowndes cannot be too happy about winning only two playoff games. The Vikings are accustomed to state championships in the state's highest classification. Anything less is a disappointment.

STRENGTH: Lowndes' strength is always its run game, and this year will be no different. Losing an athletic outside rushing threat like three-star prospect Khary Franklin and a bulldozing OL like Ed Christian will hurt, but the Lowndes Wing-T offense will get its share of rushing yards.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Lowndes has the potential for a stifling defensive backfield with three three-star defensive backs in Tyler Hunter, Kenneth Durden and Geraldo Orta. All three of those guys will likely go to a major D-I school. Hunter, though, is the big-time playmaker. He has a nose for the football and if he turns that tide the other way, watch out. He is a threat for the end zone anytime he gets a pick. And he has one of the best supporting casts in the country in Durden and Orta. Hunter will get his opportunities, for sure.

QUOTABLE: "Lowndes lost a ton of talent to college football and graduation, but a down year at Lowndes is two losses," said GAVarsity's Brendan Cosgrove. "They will have to be careful how they manage themselves in the fourth quarter of blowouts. Lopsided victories are good, but when you are talking about a closer game down the line, it would be good for the Vikings to have some experience.

Top 100 countdown
No. 57 Madison Central, Miss.

COACH: Bobby Hall
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 41 in RivalsHigh Top 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: If this Madison Central team can get over the hump that is South Panola. That is always the question for any No. 2 team in Mississippi. Jaguar coach Bobby Hall thought last year was the year and it didn't happen. This year, both South Panola and Madison Central bring back a lot of their talented players and it could be the season to start shifting the mentality of Mississippi fans.

STRENGTH: The defensive line will definitely be the strength of this team in 2010. The defense was pretty good in 2009, allowing slightly fewer than 14 points per game, but it looked either tired or exposed as the season went on. In the team's final three games, it allowed 27, 23, and 36 points, respectively. With the losses of Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett clogging the front and pressuring the quarterback, the top end talent may be down, but the guys in the trenches can still get after it.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Last year was a monster season for offensive and defensive linemen in Mississippi. But this year, it is the year of the athlete, and one of the best in the state is Tobias Singleton. At 6-foot-2 with 4.42 speed, Singleton can stretch the field or catch a quick slant and run it to the barn. He is the No. 2 player in the state of Mississippi and is the clear-cut star player for Madison Central.

QUOTABLE: "If they couldn't do it last year, it will be darn tough this year," MagnoliaPreps analyst Lanny Mixon said. "Getting past South Panola in the North state finals is going to be very difficult this season for any team, but Madison may have a fighting chance. The offense can score and the defense is a little underrated but still solid. Panola, however, is probably just too good this year for anyone in the state."

Top 100 countdown
No. 56 Allen, Texas

COACH: Tom Westerberg
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 14 in Texas

KEEP AN EYE ON: Who the Eagles decide to put at quarterback. Allen has had a wealth of quarterback talent the past few seasons with Matt Brown and Tucker Carter both moving on to play football at the next level. This season, the team is very deep and has a ton of talent at receiver, so whoever wins that battle will be in a prime position to succeed.

STRENGTH: The backfield for Allen is loaded. While none of the three players have separated themselves from the pack, that's probably a good problem for the Eagles to have as they can rotate in fresh legs all the time. A pair of seniors, Paul Walker and Tre Jackson, will share time with Jonathan Williams. Walker is the leading returner, topping more than 600 yards last year, but the Eagles spent most of the time throwing. At least in the early portion of this season, the ground game will be emphasized.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Allen is a high-profile program that consistently sends players to the next level. One of the highest-rated players this year is Jonathan Lee. Lee, the No. 25-rated wide receiver nationally, is committed to Baylor and frequently draws comparisons to 2010 USC signee Markeith Ambles. He is a very good route runner and does not round off when he should cut.

GETTING OFFENSIVE: The offensive line group is deep and strong for Allen this year. The best player in that group is 6-foot-3 Brad McNulty. McNulty has a couple of Division I offers and anchors the line.

SHUT DOWN: Allen stayed in the headlines this offseason with the announcement of the mammoth new stadium set to open in 2012. Although it is still a few years out, the next two years at Eagle Stadium will be quite special for the senior classes, who have one of the best home-field advantages in the state.

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