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July 15, 2010
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.
The countdown to the No. 1 team in the RivalsHigh 100 is set to begin on July 26. But, with more than 600 teams having been considered for the ranking, there are many good teams who didn't quite make the cut. So, until then, we take a look at the top teams in states and regions that will not be represented in the initial rankings list.
Fans of Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline have been treated to three consecutive state titles. They have seen a parade of Division I athletes and one of the best passing games in the country over the past five years.
Truth be told, Spartan fans were downright spoiled being able to watch the nation's No. 1 ranked quarterback, Jake Heaps, light up the Seattle sky since his sophomore year.
This year, now that Heaps has moved on to college (BYU), Spartan fans will have to get used to a new signal-caller and a new offensive philosophy.
"We are going to throw the ball more this year," head coach Mat Taylor said.
This year's Skyline team will be led by Max Brown, another sophomore quarterback with a chance to become a three-year starter.
"He has been a ball boy for us since he was 8 years old," Taylor said. "Last year, he was up with the varsity team and followed me and Jake around like a little puppy."
But now the puppy has to be ready to run with the big dogs.
The Spartan schedule is none too favorable to breaking in a new quarterback, especially one who will be standing behind a young offensive line.
Skyline will have to grow up fast.
The team opens its season with a road game at Bellevue (Wash.) High.
Bellevue was made famous a number of years ago for ending the Concord (Calif.) De La Salle winning streak, but is much more respected in the Pacific Northwest for being a consistent powerhouse. The Wolverines run a shell-game triple-option power offense that has led them to multiple state titles and national rankings, including a Class 3A title and a No. 95 ranking in the RivalsHigh 100 last year.
"Bellevue is a tough one to open with," Taylor said. "It's not like we are very different schools. We are maybe 100 kids above the 4A line and they are something like 50 kids below it. So it is very similar sized schools and two very proud schools."
It doesn't get any easier for Skyline from there.
Its second game is against Renton (Wash.) Liberty, the team that lost to Bellevue in the 2009 state championship game.
Following games with two of Washington's Class 3A powers, Skyline will travel to Lake Oswego (Ore.) High to play one of the traditionally good teams in Oregon.
"The way we get scheduled," Taylor explained, "is that our conference asks if we want a bye week to schedule a game or to rest. So we were talking to the Lake Oswego guys about a game. That got done, and then they told us we were matched up with King Co. 3A. It's not exactly how I wanted that to go."
And to make things even more interesting, the stretch ends with one of the biggest rivalry games in the state as Skyline will play host to Issaquah (Wash.) High, which not only is a rival but also the team Skyline had to beat for a state title two seasons ago.
Not exactly the perfect recipe for success.
"I have to tell the kids that those games will not make or break our season," Taylor said. "Except for Issaquah, they aren't league games and we can still get into the playoffs and be successful."
And once again, it circles back to being on the arm of a sophomore quarterback.
"We aren't going to stick a square peg in a round hole," Taylor said. "We are going to be faster than we have ever been. So we have to take advantage of that."
Taylor is hoping to offset the loss of his top seven offensive linemen by having Brown stay in the shotgun and spreading the field to a very talented group of wide receivers.
The three-prong attack is lead by Kasen Williams, a member of the Rivals 250 who is ranked No. 22 nationally at his position and the No. 5 overall prospect in the state of Washington.
"Kasen is one of the guys we will lean on," Taylor said. "He has been so good for us since his sophomore year and this is a year for him to take his game to the next level."
Also alleviating the pressure from Brown will be Michael Ford and Jordan Simone.
Both, according to Taylor, have Division I potential.
Ford, most likely at cornerback.
Simone, like his brother Geno, could play offense or defense.
Players like these guys are the reason Taylor insists this isn't going to be a down year despite losing 32 seniors.
"We are not rebuilding," he said. "This is not a rebuild, we are ready to win."
The team will need to be ready to win, quickly.