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July 30, 2012

Preseason RivalsHigh 100: Teams 50-46

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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 2011 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. 50 Mentor, Ohio

Coach: Steve Trivisonno
Last Season: 11-2, Division I quarterfinalist. Ranked No. 9 in Ohio.
Fast Fact: The 11-2 record from last season was the best since the team went 13-2 in 2006. In the 15 seasons that coach Trivisonno has served as the head coach, Mentor has averaged just eight wins per season.
Key Player: Quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Already committed to North Carolina, Trubisky is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback with a strong arm in a system that features his ability. The senior threw for 3,845 yards last season with 41 touchdowns. He also accounted for 611 yards on the ground with 12 additional touchdowns. Trubisky will need to have another solid season if Mentor is going to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.
The Good: The passing game. Trubisky will have plenty of trusted targets returning this season as Connor Krizancic, Brandon Fritts, Jeff Foreman and Cory Plavcin all return at the receiver position. Fritts led the team with 60 receptions while Krizancic was just behind with 58 catches. Krizancic was the favorite target for touchdowns as he hauled in 19 last season. The team also returns two offensive linemen, Brandon Short and Mitch Morrison.
The Bad: The defense. Mentor allowed seven opponents to score 20-or-more points last season, including two teams that broke 35. In the state of Ohio, defense is a must and if those numbers do not improve, neither will the results. There are too many solid teams in Ohio that it will not take long to see what this team has coming out of the gates. A Sept. 8 showdown with No. 86 St. Ignatius will be a measuring stick game for both teams and a revenge game for Mentor as St. Ignatius ended Mentor's season with a 23-17 decision in the playoffs.
The bottom line is this could be the best Mentor offense in a long time, maybe ever, but the defense will need to show up on occasion. The Cardinals need to learn how to play fundamentally sound if the team is going to make the deep run that it is capable of doing. Ohio is a very winnable state this year and Mentor has the talent returning to do it.

Top 100 countdown
No. 49 Jordan, Utah

Coach: Erik Kjar
Last Season: 11-3, Class 5A runner-up. Ranked No. 3 in Utah.
Fast Fact: Before its 11-win season in 2011, Jordan had not had a 10-win season this decade.
Key Player: Quarterback Austin Kafentzis. As a freshman last season, Kafentzis led Jordan to the state finals and put up incredible numbers in the process. The 6 -foot-1, 170-pound dual-threat quarterback tallied over 3,000 yards passing and completing 212 of 366 passes while piling up 23 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 210 times for 1,377 yards and 22 additional touchdowns. With nearly the entire offense being facilitated through Kafentzis, the pressure for an encore is certainly high.
The Good: Kafentzis is back. When nearly 4,500 yards of offense and 45 touchdowns are tied to one player, having him back is a very good thing. In Utah, where there are only 99 teams playing 11-man football and few FBS-level recruits, it is a major advantage to have such a strong player at the head of the team..
The Bad: Replacing the playmakers. While Kafentzis is certainly the player that makes this team go, there were other solid players on the team last year. The team loses Austin Grant and his near 700 rushing yards. Jordan also has to replace all of the main targets from last season. Taylor Loomis had 65 receptions for 868 yards, Tayler Dean has 57 receptions for 743 yards and Mason Gajkowski has 40 receptions for 839 yards. Blake Miller added 24 catches for 474 yards, while Grant hauled in 22 passes for 255 yards. It leaves just rising-junior Baron Gajkowski as the leading receiver with 12 catches. No one else on the team recorded more than three catches last year.
The bottom line is Utah is a state that is on the rise, but it is in limited numbers. With teams like Jordan, Cottonwood, Alta and Bingham likely leading the way this year, there is at least a solid battle at the top. If the Jordan defense can make a few more stops and there are enough playmakers ready to step up, then this could be a state title season.

Top 100 countdown
No. 48 Phoebus, Virginia
Coach: Stan Sexton
Last Season: 13-2, Won Division V State Title. Ranked No. 2 in Virginia.
Fast Fact: The Phantoms have won seven state championships since the turn of the century, including five in the last six seasons. Head coach Stan Sexton played at Phoebus and was an assistant at the school for 14 years before taking over in 2009. He has led the last three state title runs.
Key Player: Running back Tony Pittman. The 5-foot-11 power back will be the main cog in the run-heavy offense that Phoebus likes to run. Pittman rushed for over 1,500 yards and 17 scores while helping lead this team to a state title last season. With the spread offense taking hold around the country, Phoebus stays true to smash mouth football where it will out-tough its opponents. It is a formula that has dominated the state for nearly a decade and Pittman will continue that.
The Good: The defense. The Phantoms' defense is simply outstanding. The unit has allowed just 394 points in the last four seasons combined. Over the course of four state titles and 60 total games, the Phantoms have allowed fewer than seven points per game. In three of those four seasons, Phoebus did not allow more than 95 points on the season. Last season marked the first time in four years that any team has scored 20 points in one game against this Phoebus defense.
The Bad: The competition level. The run of dominance that Phoebus has had begins to call into question whether the program is supremely dominant or whether it is just beating up the same bad teams all of the time. This season will not answer that question again as the team is not leaving the Newport News/Hampton Roads area. There have been overtures from the staff about wanting to play more regional power and nationally relevant opponents, but that has yet to materialize. The lack of Division I talent and signature wins will likely keeps a glass ceiling on the program.
The bottom line is Phoebus is a great program that wins with football fundamentals. There are flashier teams in the state, but few that can match the success of the Phantoms. If the team and the program are going to take the next step nationally, it will soon have to schedule a prominent program. Each year, more games and more money are available for out-of-state competition and the Phantoms are going to start getting those calls.

Top 100 countdown
No. 47 Edna Karr, Louisiana

Coach: Jabbar Juluke
Last Season: 11-4, Class 4A runner-up. Ranked No. 8 in Louisiana.
Fast Fact: Can this be the year for Karr? The program has been to each of the last two state finals, and four in the last 10 years, but Karr has lost each of those contests. The team dropped three of its first four games last year before making a run to the finals.
Key Player: Quarterback Speedy Noil. The junior quarterback stepped in to lead the offense after the team suffered two embarrassing losses to Covington (La.) St. Paul and Arlington (Texas) Bowie. Noil is an FBS-level recruit as a receiver with offers from Alabama, Florida, LSU and Texas, but he will be the key to this offense as he threw for over 1,500 yards and rushed for another 800. His ankle injury in the state finals turned the game and he will be out for redemption.
The Good: The defense. Each level of the defense will have an FBS-level player leading the way. With an improved offense, it will allow the defense to attack more and play with the lead. Class of 2014 defensive lineman Gerald Willis III is one of the most talented at his position in the country and played extremely well at the Rivals100 Underclassmen Challenge. Also among the underclassmen will be linebacker Donnie Alexander, who stands 6-foot-1 and checks in at just over 200 pounds on the inside. The secondary will be home to Ellis Island with Noel Ellis locking down the best receiver on every opposing team.
The Bad: The pressure. This is the first year these players program have entered the season as the favorite to win the state championship and that comes with a certain level of pressure to succeed. The opening game against Covington (La.) St. Paul is a revenge game and the first of many for Noil to grow as a leader. How the team responds as a group early on can be a solid indicator of how it will fare towards the end.
The bottom line is the way Karr was playing before Noil's injury last year is what is expected for this year. The team looked incredibly different in November than it did in August and even more so than when he went out in the state finals. A healthy season for this team should result in a state title.

Top 100 countdown
No. 46 Hamilton, Arizona

Coach: Steve Belles
Last Season: 13-1, Arizona 5A-DI runner-up. Ranked No. 65 nationally.
Fast Fact: Hamilton will play Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame in Ireland this season. The next game will be against Scottsdale (Ariz.) Notre Dame. Head coach Steve Belles was a quarterback at the University of Notre Dame.
Key Player: Quarterback Allen Thigpen. Thigpen enters the season outside of the Top 5 quarterbacks in the state of Arizona. For a team that has state title expectations every season, he will need to finish the year closer to that ranking than he currently sits. At 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds, Thigpen has the build to succeed. He also has the line in front of him, running back behind him and receivers to throw to. Hamilton is always one of the best teams in the state and plenty rests on Thigpen's arm.
The Good: The offensive line. Hamilton has been churning out offensive lineman during the Rivals.com era and this team has three more that will likely see time at the FBS-level. Patrick Joseph has given his verbal commitment to Army and Devon Finai will likely end up with offers. Class of 2014 center Bryce Holland could work his way into college football offers. The star of the group is junior tackle Casey Tucker, who has already committed to USC and shown he can play with anyone by participating in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge this summer in Atlanta. As one of only 20 players from the Class of 2014, Tucker showed why he had the USC offer.
The Bad: The offense. There is a downward trend in production from the offensive side of the ball that needs to be corrected. The program scored 650 points in 2009, 590 in 2010 and just 503 in 2011. There is too much talent on the field for the team not to be scoring points in bunches and if it wants to maintain the top spot in the state, it will need to get back to piling up points.
The bottom line is while Brophy is the popular pick in Arizona, it is hard to overlook the program that has been doing it more consistently over the last five seasons. Hamilton has few holes and one of the best offensive lines in the state. If this team can use the state title thumping it took last year to fuel the fire this year, then the Huskies could be a scary team to see get off the bus.

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