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October 5, 2011
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.
No. 5 Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco and No. 17 Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward are eager to go up against each other this weekend in a game that figures to have major implications in the RivalsHigh 100 national championship picture.
In a way, however, the teams won't have to wait until Saturday night at Fordham University in the Bronx to do so - they seemingly get a taste each day at practice.
The teams are virtual mirror images of each other.
Rick Fenotti is only in his second full season with St. Edward, but last year his team won an Ohio Division I title and finished No. 3 nationally.
"I am a simple-minded guy," Finotti told RivalsHigh. "No one is ever going to accuse me of inventing anything. You get the ball; you try to get it to second-and-medium. You gain a little on second down and try to move the chains on third."
Which side makes fewer mistakes would seemingly have the inside track in the RivalsHigh Game of the Week.
Big games are nothing new to these two schools. This week, however, Don Bosco may have an edge in experience as it already has played Mission Viejo (Calif.) High, Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee and Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic.
"We're always eager to test ourselves against the best," defensive back and running back Jabrill Peppers said.
And they never back down from a fight.
The team, which spent two weeks atop the national poll, has actually trailed in the fourth quarter twice this season, rallying to win against both Manatee and Bergen Catholic.
After opening the year with four games of consequence in its first five, the rest of the season will be a much smoother ride against its New Jersey opponents. An expected second matchup with Bergen Catholic could be the only potential stumbling block to a Top 5 finish with a blemish-free season.
St. Edward has had its share of close shaves. It almost lost its first game of the season against Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville, but a failed two-point conversion and a missed field goal at the end of regulation preserved the perfect season for the Eagles.
"We just took advantage of our opportunities," Finotti said at the time. "A lot of the teams we have to play this season will not give us those opportunities."
He was speaking specifically to this game.
"If we think we can come out like that, specifically against St. X or Bosco, we will be in for it."
Unlike Bosco, St. Edward is just getting to the thick of its season.
After wins over name-brand teams that appear to be on the downside of their national runs - Glenville, Pittsburgh (Pa.) Penn Hills, Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney, Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder and Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson - St. Edward begins a stretch of game against Don Bosco, and fellow Top 50 teams, Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier and Cincinnati (Ohio) Moeller. The Ohio Division I playoff will likely feature at least three more nationally ranked teams making the St. Edward schedule one of the most difficult to navigate of any in the country.
But that's to come. This week, it's Bosco. And in this game, the team plays fundamental football figures to have the edge.
"It isn't innovation, it is execution," Finotti said. "That's the name of the game."
This week, it's a game that nearly didn't happen.
The matchup is part of a three-game event. The other games will feature Oradel (N.J.) Bergen Catholic against Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate followed by Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep taking on Youngstown (Ohio) Ursuline.
The games originally were scheduled to take place at West Point, but the logistics of playing at a federal facility forced a switch.
"We had a lot of bumps in the road," event organizer Ken Halloy said. "There was a lot of back and forth surrounding the venue. For the first time as a promoter, I let the tail wag the dog because the game was so big."
Big enough to be the national Game of the Week.