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July 29, 2010

RivalsHigh 100: Teams 70-66

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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.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on Monday 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 Monday, Aug. 9 - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 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.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about teams 70-66

Top 100 countdown
No. 70 West Jones, Mississippi

COACH: Scott Pierson
LAST SEASON: 11-1
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 19 in Mississippi

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the team grows up. After looking like a team on the fast track last season, the Mustangs were upended in the playoffs. But, in spite of the heartbreaking loss to end the year, many of that team's key players return in 2010. Can they overcome the disappointment and rebound to another playoff appearance, or even a state title? The Mustangs open the season Aug. 27 at home against county rival Northeast Jones and begin answering that question.

STRENGTH: The Mustangs will be leaning on its skill players on both sides of the ball. On offense, running back Devontay Barnett carried the ball 225 times last season for 1,124 yards and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground. Also, newcomer Ervin Gavin will play a big role in the Mustang offense this season. Defensively, West Jones will be looking toward Artis Thigpen, who led the way last season with 91 tackles as a sophomore. The Mustangs will also get some defensive help from Darrius Moffett and Matthew Farrar.

STAR OF THE SHOW: West Jones' offense is led by quarterback Ben Stevens. Last season, Stevens completed 112 of 206 passes for 1,576 yards, 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He averaged 131.3 yards passing per game and his longest completion of the season was 70 yards. Stevens is currently getting attention from Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

UNDER RATED? When people think about "good ol' Southern football," often times Mississippi is not one of the first states thought of. With higher profile neighbors like Florida and Georgia taking most of the attention, the teams and talented players in Mississippi are in the hunt to lead that next tier in the pecking order with South Carolina and Louisiana.

QUOTABLE: "We're gonna have all the talent in the world at our skilled positions," coach Scott Pierson said. "Our key issue is going to be concerned with the offensive and defensive lines. We are looking for players to fill those holes."

Top 100 countdown
No. 69 Moeller, Ohio

COACH: John Rodenberg
LAST SEASON: 9-2
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 9 in Ohio

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the offense comes together. Moeller has been very offensively dominated the past few years with Andrew Hendrix at the helm. Now, without much coming back offensively, the team will need to figure out how to score. That's especially true coming on the heels of two consecutive losses to end the season last year, in which the team only scored 10 points in each game and dropped it from No. 2 nationally to completely out of the rankings.

WHO'S UNDER CENTER? Without known commodities at the quarterback position, coach John Rodenberg has said that there are four potential players who could line up under center. The battle is currently between two sophomores and two seniors. Whoever wins, though, won't have to win the game.

STRENGTH: The defensive unit will be much improved and the Crusaders will rely on that as their strength. Jesse Hayes and Kendall Walker are the two stars on the team but they are hardly the only players who will get Division I interest.

QUOTABLE: "We generally have a good team," Rodenberg said. "We keep getting invited to play in big games which is fine because otherwise we would have a tough time filling our schedule. We won't be as fast as we have been in previous years, but we are never a team that really relies on speed."

Top 100 countdown
No. 68 Muskegon, Michigan

COACH: Shane Fairfield
LAST SEASON: 7-4
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 16 in Michigan

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Big Reds' opening week opponent. Muskegon will play Macomb (Mich.) Dakota on the road in a hostile environment in front of more than 8,000 fans. Dakota will be a Top 10 team in the preseason Michigan Preps Top 25. Both teams have won two state championships over the last five seasons. This will be a four hour bus trip for the Big Reds, matching up against an eastern powerhouse, and could very well be one of the best games of the season.

STRENGTH: The Big Reds' defense, without question, is the strength of this team and arguably the best in Michigan. It all starts up front with two defensive linemen in Damon Knox and Najee Brown-Duran. These two will put some serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks and cause havoc in their backfield. They have two excellent linebackers in Landon Sandford and junior Juwon Lewis as well as two strong corners in Ka'Vonte Keyes and Justin Means. Keyes and Means both run in the low 4.4s and are physical for their size.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Although Knox is a Top 10 overall player in Michigan, the player everyone will try to contain is senior QB Keyes. The Big Reds run the veer offense and no one is better in open space than Keyes. Keyes is one of the most exciting offensive players in Michigan and defenses will have their hands full.

QUOTABLE: "Every season there is debate on whether the East side or West side of Michigan is better. If Muskegon knocks off Dakota in Week 1 they could very well run the table," said MichiganPreps analyst George Yarberry. "Muskegon is a hotbed for talent here in Michigan. They have three athletes in our Top 40 players overall and Juwon Lewis is a potential 4- or 5-star player from the Class of 2012."

Top 100 countdown
No. 67 Britt, North Carolina

COACH: Richard Bailey
LAST SEASON:15-1
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 2 in North Carolina

KEEP AN EYE ON: How the Buccaneers replace a lot of talent will be interesting. The team only returns two starters on defense and four on the offensive side of the ball. The good news is that all of those players look to be college prospects. The team is very fast and overall team speed is a major plus. Coach Richard Bailey thinks that the team has the chance to be as good as ever - if the Bucs can come together as a team.

STRENGTH: The defense has the potential to be exceptionally good. Eric McLain is an all-state tight end and is committed to Clemson but also lines up at defensive end and is very disruptive. Devonte Brown is a college prospect who tallied 48 tackles - 11 for losses - last season. Jake Moreno and Taharqa Morria return at the linebacker position and combined for nearly 200 tackles in 2009. With a very talented junior class that includes Marquis McMillan, Lance Harris, Dennis Gholston and M.J. Salahuddin, Britt could be right back in the state finals.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN? According to Bailey, the team has the talent to get the job done, but molding the new starters into the fold is a potential problem. While the team did get the backups a lot of playing time last year, the difference between mop-up duty and playing a starting role is very different. Britt has been the top program in the eastern part of North Carolina recently, heading to consecutive 4AA/A state title games. The 4AA race is wide open this year and it could be Britt's turn.

MOVING POSITIONS: A couple of players will be moving to new positions in 2010 and the key move will be at the quarterback position where one of the leading receivers from the team will slide to be the leader of the offense. Anthony Riggin, at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, hauled in 31 passes for just over 600 yards and five touchdowns. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and can be a threat on the ground as well as with his arm.

Top 100 countdown
No. 66 DeSoto, Texas

COACH: Claude Mathis
LAST SEASON: 9-3
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 34 in Texas

KEEP AN EYE ON: Whether or not DeSoto can defend its home field. The Eagles have not traveled well recently but, fortunately for them this season, will not make for many tough road trips. DeSoto will welcome, however, some very talented opponents. Coming into town is Arlington (Texas) Bowie, Miramar (Fla.) High, Round Rock (Texas) Stony Point, Tyler (Texas) Lee, and returning to Class 5A, Longview (Texas) High.

STRENGTH: The Eagles will make like their namesake this season with a high-flying offense. DeSoto returns three receivers that have already committed to Division I colleges - Cameron White and David Porter III, both to TCU, while Austin Vincent will take his talents to Iowa. And what makes the group even more dangerous is the pair of 6-footers who haven't committed -Demarcus Thompson and Samuel Ajala.

STAR OF THE SHOW: The team's quarterback, Ryan Polite, has been the team's leader since he took over the position in his freshman year. Now as the four-year starter, Polite has an experienced and talented group around him. The pressure of getting DeSoto past Dallas Skyline - which has eliminated DeSoto from the playoffs in consecutive seasons - is going to mount and be on his shoulders.

DEFENSE, ANYONE? DeSoto allowed more than 300 points last season and that cost them as the year went on. Five times in 2009, the Eagles allowed more than 40-points in a game and that is just far too much to ask of the offense, no matter how potent. Cord Seay and Antoine Jimmerson will need to put pressure on the opponent's quarterback and force a few stops and turnovers.

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