When: Friday Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: September 23, 2011 - Penn-Trafford won, 16-14
Rankings: Gateway (8-2), No. 17 in Pennsylvania
Penn Trafford (10-0), No. 6 in Pennsylvania
Why it's big: The winner will advance to the WPIAL semifinals and likely take on nationally ranked North Allegheny. Gateway has been the more nationally known commodity as it has been in the RivalsHigh 100 multiple times over the last four seasons. So even as the underdog, it will have the target on its back in terms of outside perception. Penn-Trafford won a close game between them early in the year. Beating Gateway once is tough enough, trying to do it again could be interesting.
Best matchup: Penn-Trafford offense against the Gateway defense. With two losses on the season, the Gators have flown under the radar. But the team - without as many Division I prospects as it normally has - is playing like a more cohesive unit. The team has only given up more than 14 points in one game this season and that was in the 16-14 loss to Penn Trafford.
Gateway wins if: It can keep Penn-Trafford to single-digits. The Gateway offense has started clicking a little more of late, but it could be attributed to the competition it is playing. The team struggled to move the ball against Penn Hills, Central Catholic and Penn-Trafford in the first meeting. That will likely be the case on Friday. If the team needs to score more than 24 points it may not happen; 17 is about the max it can safely hope for.
Penn-Trafford wins if: It doesn't give Gateway short fields. That means turnovers and special teams. This figures to be a low-scoring game. Not to be outdone, Penn-Trafford has allowed fewer than 10 points per game as well. That does not figure to change on Friday night. If the Warriors can make this a game of fundamentals and execution, they may have the upper hand.
Prediction: The WPIAL playoffs are always fantastic and it is nice to see that the games are back in national relevance after a couple of down years in the area. This game will continue to build up to the final in two weeks, when it could be a pair of nationally ranked teams going at it in Heinz Field. While neither enters the game with a distinct advantage in any one area of the game, revenge is a powerful motivator and that has to favor Gateway. The loss early in the season can provide plenty of coaching points. Gateway has a history of not getting it done in the playoffs, but this week it steals a close one. - Gateway 13, Penn-Trafford 9.
-- For more on Pennsylvania football, visit PaPreps.com
When: Friday Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Last Meeting: November 26, 2004 - Prattville won, 28-0.
Rankings: Prattville (8-2), No. 1 in Alabama
Daphne (10-1), No. 4 in Alabam
Why it's big: The winner will likely be our favorite to represent the South in the Alabama Class 6A title game. The pair represent the most talent-rich teams in the state and two of the most talented teams in the country. Each has had their wake-up call on the season so there will be no excuses when the two go after each other on Friday night.
Best matchup: Prattville run defense against the Daphne rush attack. Daphne has had a hard time passing the ball this season and the Prattville secondary is tough. This game will come down to the Trojans ability to move the ball on the ground. The battle in the trenches should favor Prattville, but T.J. Yeldon is a special talent that could carry this category on his own. If the Lions expect to win this game, shutting down Yeldon will be the No. 1 priority.
Daphne wins if: Its defense can frustrate the Prattville offense and force mistakes. For all the talent on the Prattville sideline, a uniform team feel has yet to really come blasting through. A divisive sideline that is trailing, is one to quickly pack it in and get ready for college careers. If Daphne is able to keep Prattville out of the end zone and get under the skin of the opposition, it will pull away late.
Prattville wins if: It doesn't make mistakes. The knock on Prattville for years has been its mental game - and that is still the concern for the game on Friday. How will this team handle adversity? The immediate test will be if this team fumbles/throws an interception/gives up a big play. If Prattveille jumps out early and gets to be a frontrunner, it will be in a better place. But that's not likely to happen for the entirety of the playoffs - meaning that worry will not go away.
Prediction: This is a fantastic game on every level. Most all matchups are quality and without much advantage. A penalty extending a drive or a momentum-swinging play could put either team on tilt and propel it to a win. Which side gets that big play is a toss-up. If Prattville wants this game - and wants to win a state title - it can. If the players want to start offseason workouts and are not ready for 48 minutes (or more) of football, Daphne will take this game easily. - Prattville 30, Daphne 26.
When: Saturday Nov. 12, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: September 9, 2011 - St. Xavier won, 17-14.
Rankings: Colerain (10-1), No. 3 in Ohio
St. Xavier (8-3), No. 7 in Ohio
Why it's big: The winner likely will be the favorite to make it to the final four in the Ohio Division I playoffs. Some of the shine has been lost from Cincinnati high school football this season, but a strong performance by the winner here (and the next round) could be a boon to that perception. The loser likely will end its season unranked nationally and with disappointment for how a promising season ended in the second round.
Best matchup: St. Xavier offense against Colerain defense. Since Conor Hundley went out against St. Ed, the St. X offense has not been the same. For a unit that already struggled to score points, losing its best option was a big blow. St. Xavier always will be a defense-first program for as long as Steve Specht is the coach, but it will likely need more than the 12 points it has been averaging the last four weeks to win.
Colerain wins if: Its quarterback play has truly improved. The Cardinals started the year slowly, especially at the quarterback position, but since the game against Mason in the middle of September, the play has improved. It will need to hit on a few passes early to loosen up the St. X defense that has had its way with the Colerain offense.
St. Xavier wins if: It wins the coaching battle. It is not uncommon that a coach or team gets the number of another team and that seems to be what is happening with the Specht versus Tom Bolden dynamic. Four of the last five times the teams met, St. Xavier has come away with the win. Twice, in fact, St. Xavier has ended the Colerain season. The lone time Colerain bettered St. X in the last five games was in 2008 - when St. Xavier went 4-6. In at least two of those four games, St. X was the underdog but pulled out the win. That can come down to coaching.
Prediction: The one thing that is for certain is that there will be much more running attempts than passes. In those type of games, it figures to be close and it plays into an ailing St. X advantage. The offense for St. Xavier right now, though, it in a really bad spot and it could really struggle against a solid Colerain defense. The first game of the season was a 17-14 struggle that Colerain had a chance to tie with a long field goal. Since then, Colerain has gotten better and St. X has gotten beaten up. - Colerain 24, St. X 10.
When: Thursday Nov. 10, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: September 23, 2005 - Southlake Carroll won, 31-0.
Rankings: Southlake Carroll (10-0), No. 9 in Texas
Plano East (6-4), No. 39 in Texas
Why it's big: In a rarity of the Texas 5A playoffs, it is a fantastic first-round game and one that could go either way. Outsiders filling out their brackets may just see one team as undefeated and one as a four-loss squad, but there is much more to both of those records and this could be a huge game for both teams. Southlake Carroll wasn't expected to be placed into the Division I bracket. Now that it has, it is one of the best 32-team brackets in the country (Region 3 and 4 are strong in DII).
Best matchup: Plano East offense against the Southlake Carroll defense. Plano East is averaging 37 points per game; Southlake Carroll is allowing nearly 20 so the defense is not going to be its strong suit. If Plano is able to keep with its scoring average and push this game into a track meet with big plays and a lot of open field, the upset could very well happen.
Southlake Carroll wins if: It has truly learned how to win. The traditional power was pushed in a handful of games as four of its 10 wins were by one score. Tight battles with Copperas Cove, Fossil Ridge, Keller, and Keller Central should have built up a comfort for pressure situations. If it needs a stop or a late drive, the Dragons should feel comfortable making the plays to win.
Plano East wins if: It truly has learned how to win. As the clichés go: it all comes out in the wash and you are what your record says you are. Three of the team's four losses were by one score, but two of its last four wins have been by one score. So if they enter at 6-4 that is probably because they are a 6-4 team. The difference between how those games went into the books is early in the season versus late. The team seemingly has learned how to make plays when it counts and that is key.
Prediction: Southlake Carroll is not the national title winning team of recent memory, so expecting a romp is likely not going to come to fruition. Plano East is one of the faster teams in the state, which has given matchup problems to a lot of teams. It will need to get out to a hot start to take this game and advance to the next round. None of the things Plano East needs to do are impossible, as it has steadily improved as a football team. Southlake Carroll is still the favorite and it has been winning all season, but this has all the feelings of an upset in the making. - Plano East 30, Southlake Carroll 26.
When: Thursday Nov. 10, 7:00 p.m.
Last Meeting: December 3, 2010 - Westlake won 37-27.
Rankings: Westlake (9-0), No. 2 in California
St. Bonaventure (8-1), No. 6 in California
Why it's big: Westlake is pushing for the No. 1 spot in California. This game could go a long way toward boosting the team's desire for an Open Division Bowl big. St. Bonaventure, meanwhile, would love to create another three-way tie to the Maramonte League standings as the playoffs approach. There is a lot to play for on both sides of the ball. That's great since each team already has qualified for the playoffs.
Best matchup: Westlake offense against the St. Bonaventure offense. Both are clicking right now and scoring points in bunches. This could be a high-scoring game with whichever team holding the ball last winning. St. Bonaventure has been over 50 points each of the last three weeks; Westlake is averaging 47 points per game on the season.
Westlake wins if: It can score 30 points. The Westlake defense should be sound enough to keep a powerful St. Bonaventure offense to 24 points so getting to 30 would likely push it to a victory. The problem? The team has not been held below 30 points all year. A well-rounded offensive effort can help push Westlake to the top spot in California before the playoffs begin.
St. Bonaventure wins if: It has a very good game on both sides of the ball. It does not need to play perfect because the teams are not that mismatched, but it does need to bring close to its best game. The level of competition will be much higher than it is used to. It must be prepared for a faster and stronger opponent. If it expects to score 50 points it will be sorely mistaken.
Prediction: Westlake has only lost two games since the start of the 2009 season - and those have been by a combined two points. This is a quality football program. St. Bonaventure has been a long-time power in the region - and it was one of those two teams that has beaten Westlake (32-31 in 2010). If Westlake wants to be a challenger for the Open Bowl bid, this is an important win to have under its belt. The team knows it and will play like it. ,b> - Westlake 36, St. Bonaventure 24.
Other Predictions (2011: 83-25)
Game of the Week: Butler def. Independence, 37-24.