It’s the first major week of high school football across the country, and even though it’s a light week in the USA TODAY Super 25 rankings with fewer than half of the teams playing, there’s no shortage of interesting games. Here are five worth following:
No. 11 McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.) vs. Spanish Fort (Ala.), Friday: McGill-Toolen won the 7A title and Spanish Fort took home the 6A crown last season and they both come in as the top-ranked team in their division in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll. Spanish Fort’s defense is led by linebacker Thomas Johnston and defensive lineman Justin Thomas, who committed to LSU earlier this week.
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Both teams will enter the season with new quarterbacks. Bubba Thompson is the replacement at McGill-Toolen for Paris Chambers, now at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa. Former Toros quarterback Tyler Johnston, who was 29-0 as the Spanish Fort’s starter, is now at Alabama-Birmingham.
The last time these teams met, in a 2013 jamboree game, Spanish Fort came out a 20-12 winner over the Yellow Jackets.
No. 13 Mallard Creek (Charlotte) at Dillon (S.C.), Friday: While Mallard Creek is a bigger school, this could be a tricky game for the Mavericks. Dillon won its fourth consecutive South Carolina AA state title last season while allowing only seven points a game. The Wildcats also have a 37-game winning streak.
“We feel like we have a lot on the line,” Dillon coach Jackie Hayes said. “Somebody probably questions why, with our win streak, we would schedule a team like Mallard Creek. It’s a good opportunity to see where we’re at. Their depth concerns us and they have D-1 prospects everywhere. Everything we do off is about playing in space and working windows. If we can go out there and execute, we’ll have a chance.”
Mallard Creek won its third consecutive 4A state title last season but one of its two losses last season came against its lone South Carolina opponent — Byrnes (Duncan). The last time Mallard Creek played Dillon, it came away a 27-21 winner in 2013. Both teams will be playing with new quarterbacks. Dillon’s Avery McCall is now at Coastal Carolina and former Mavericks quarterback James Smith Jr. is at Eastern Kentucky.
No. 21 Warren Central (Indianapolis) vs. Center Grove (Greenwood, Ind.): Center Grove, the defending state 6A champion, provides an early hurdle for Warren Central. Look for Center Grove to look to control the ball with its run game, with elite offensive lineman Clay Hadley helping pave the way for Titus McCoy (1,912 yards and 28 touchdowns last season), who has committed to Indiana State. Warren Central counters with dual-threat quarterback Zach Summeier (2,087 yards and 13 TDs passing and 330 yards and six TDs rushing) and a defense led by defensive back Dijon Anderson. Center Grove defeated Warren Central 42-38 in the season opener and 24-13 in last season’s playoffs.
No. 22 Petal, Miss. vs. Hattiesburg (Miss.), Saturday: Last year’s game was a doozy, an 18-13 win by Hattiesburg that broke the Tigers’ eight-game losing streak to Petal. Hattiesburg running back Fabian Franklin ran for 123 yards and the winning touchdown, so the Panthers’ defensive line, led by Kane Roberts and Chris Monroe, will keep an eye on the junior running back, who already has big-time SEC offers.
No. 6 American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) vs. No. 8 Booker T. Washington (Miami), Friday: This is a preseason kickoff classic game, so it won’t count toward the teams’ records. Does that means they’ll be taking it easy? Not so fast. This one will be played like most kickoff classic games, as a full-length battle. Too much pride and reputation at stake for this to be played like a low-key scrimmage. BTW’s Tornadoes are a four-time state 4A champion while American Heritage was the only team to beat IMG Academy (Bradenton) last season, though that too was a preseason kickoff classic.