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August 2, 2011

RivalsHigh 100 Countdown: Nos. 40-36

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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.

Last Monday, RivalsHigh.com began its 2011 countdown, 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. 10 - just 10 days from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 5 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.

Preseason 2011 RivalsHigh 100 Rankings | Post your thoughts about the teams

Top 100 countdown
No. 40 Centennial, California

COACH: Matt Logan
LAST SEASON: 14-1
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 30 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the team addresses its quarterback and linebacker positions. Corona Centennial has become a usual suspect for success in Southern California as well as an established location for some top-notch college football recruits. This season, the team may have some work to do in at least one of those categories as a lot of the offensive skill position players are gone, including dynamic quarterback Michael Eubank.

STRENGTH: An unusual bonus for coach Matt Logan is that the team returns nearly every player that played on the lines on both sides of the ball. Finding skill position players at the school is usually not a difficult proposition, but getting the line to come together has taken some time. With four of the five on the offensive line coming back, that should be something that is taken care of walking in the door for practice.

STAR OF THE SHOW: With a track record of Taylor Martinez and Eubank at the quarterback position, it could make for a new star to be born as Hayden Gavett takes his turn running the high-octane offense. With so many good players in the trenches - and Romello Goodman beside him in the backfield - look for Gavett's name to be mentioned often.

QUOTABLE: "It is something not altogether new for me but it is a rare luxury," Logan said. "Having that many kids back on the offensive line is fantastic. We need to get some pieces in place around them but getting skill kids here shouldn't be an issue."

Top 100 countdown
No. 39 Maine South, Illinois

COACH: Dave Inserra
LAST SEASON: 12-2, won Class 8A state championship
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 97 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the defense responds to its youth and loss of defensive coordinator Rick Magsamen. The team will be replacing six starters but bringing in a talented group of sophomores that will be able to season this year. The loss of Magsamen to Elk Grove could be harder to account for, but the program is 116-14 under coach Dave Inserra and should overcome and reload - as it usually does.

STRENGTH: Talented newcomers bring excitement to the team. The strength could be a group of incoming secondary players. Dan Allgretti, Adam Aponte, Noah Meyers and Clay Burdelik all have solid size and good skill. If they can come together quickly, it could be a solid group. The first test will be against Wheaton-Warrenville South in Week Two, but it won't be the same WWS team as the last few seasons.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Junior quarterback Matt Alviti was an all-state player as a sophomore and should be a huge contributor for the Hawks. Alviti won the job after splitting time early in the season and then proved to be the right candidate for the job. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he has a couple of Division I offers already.

ILLINOIS STAGNANT: With the attention being paid to high school football, one state that has not really improved or devalued its perception nationally has been Illinois. The state has been a team that sits in the middle of the upper pack - just outside of the Top 10 states but safely inside the 11-20 range. A few out-of-state wins by some of the Chicagoland teams could go a long way for the state.

Top 100 countdown
No. 38 Lake Travis, Texas
COACH: Hank Carter
LAST SEASON: 13-2, won Class 4A Division I state championship
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 50 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether the Cavaliers have any growing pains on offense. The team will be losing a lot of very highly talented players and the group behind it is young and could be less explosive. Colin Lagasse got a lot of experience at quarterback when Michael Brewer went down last year - and then was asked to step up his game at receiver when Connor Floyd was injured as well. The offensive line is also going to have some turnover that it will have to overcome.

STRENGTH: The defensive side of the ball will be bringing back eight starters and should be the strength of the team. The team could flow through linebacker Tyler Paulsen, as his play during the 7-on-7 season was strong. He could emerge as the leader on that side of the ball.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Lagasse is a very good high school football player that has already committed to SMU for his college ball. Coach Hank Carter said that while he would not have wanted Lagasse to gain experience quarterbacking at the expense of having Brewer injured last year, the time playing quality opponents was great for his development.

QUOTABLE: "Our kids have come out and exceeded our expectations each year," Carter said. "So to think we wouldn't do that again this year may not be giving them enough credit for the work they put in. We will be young but I expect us to be very good."

Top 100 countdown
No. 37 Union, Oklahoma

COACH: Kirk Fridrich
LAST SEASON: 13-1, won Class 6A state championship
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 69 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: How Union replaces its senior leaders. As is the case most seasons, the turnover at Union is pretty good and replacing players will be a concern - although with a three-year run of state titles, it has been tempered as the team has done this before. What may be hard to replace is the lead-by-example group of seniors that left the group.

STRENGTH: Running the ball could again be a major point of emphasis for the team. Kendall Holmes has waited his turn and is now ready to step into a role vacated by Jalen Hearron. He has great speed and vision and could run the team to another state title.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Tulsa Union is generally not a team of stars. Despite having nearly 30 players go on to Division I schools in the last decade, only four have been four-star players, while 12 have been three-stars and 25 have been two-stars. The team is made up of a core of solid players. This year, the starring group will be the secondary which will make it hard for any team to pass against it.

OWNING THE YARD: There have been plenty of very good regular season games between Jenks and Union but no matter the results in that game, the two are still favorites to collide for a state title. It has been in the playoffs where Union has flexed its muscle, winning the last three championships. Jenks will always have firepower and the rivalry will not die down - but right now the shift has moved to Union.

Top 100 countdown
No. 36 Manatee, Florida

COACH: Joe Kinnan
LAST SEASON: 13-1
FINAL 2010 RANKING: No. 32 in RivalsHigh 100

KEEP AN EYE ON: The growth of quarterback Cord Sandberg. Sandberg burst onto the scene last season when he stepped up when Mike Blakely, now at Auburn, went down behind him. Sandberg was able to pass and run his team into the fourth round of the playoffs before losing to St. Thomas Aquinas. This year Sandberg, just a junior, will have a major focus on him and his talent will not sneak up on anyone.

STRENGTH: Experience. With injuries to Blakely, and most of the defensive line last year, Manatee had to rotate in a lot of players and a lot of juniors stepped up in a bigger role earlier than many thought would be needed. With a demanding schedule this season - going against a ranked Olney (Md.) Good Counsel team, ranked Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep and Weston (Fla.) Cypress Bay, a team that just missed the RivalsHigh 100 - that experience should prove to be invaluable. The playoffs will also be a test in a very deep region and class.

STAR OF THE SHOW: This year should be a coming out party for Sandberg, who will evolve from pleasant surprise to national recruit with a strong season in Florida. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Sandberg can do a little of everything and he will be asked to do just that.

TOE THE LINE: Much time has been spent discussing how Manatee will handle the loss of two Division I defensive linemen as well as a Division I running back. For fans of the program, the concern level is not as high as the team played without those stars for much of last season. Sandberg, Derrick Calloway and Leon Allen return to lead a group of talented players that also boasts three-stars Clinton Heaven and Darius White. The talent is there and coach Joe Kinnan has done just about everything a coach can do in a career.

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