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  • Writer's pictureSheldon Shealer

Churchill joins the Top 25 in a week full of ranking reshuffling

Dramatic finishes, a few surprises, and six former Top 25 teams take losses in one week -- and yet the net result is only one new squad to this week's Top 25.

Winston Churchill (6-1) upended former No. 15 and undefeated Northwest 15-7 last week to sneak into the poll at No. 24. The final poll of the 2011 season was the last time Churchill was ranked, and it received the No. 25 spot. This week's No. 24 ranking is the program's highest since 2009 -- which is the year most of the freshmen in the current program were born.

Former No. 10 Rock Creek Christian fell completely out of the Top 25 following a loss to unranked Mount Zion Prep, which earlier had lost to current No. 17 McDonogh School. Rock Creek's departure opened the door for Churchill.

In addition to Northwest and Rock Creek Christian, the other four Top 25 teams that took losses last week resulted in little movement, and it started near the top of the rankings.

In a rare battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2, Good Counsel rallied in the closing minute of regulation and ultimately won 35-28 in overtime against WCAC rival DeMatha. The only ranking shift following that showdown was Good Counsel now the undisputed No. 1 team, collecting all 10 first-place votes. DeMatha, which entered No. 2, remains No. 2. If both teams win out, they would have a rematch for the WCAC title, and likely, the state's final No. 1 ranking. But that's a big "if." The three Maryland WCAC schools are all ranked in the state's Top 12 and all five teams in that division are in The Washington Post Top 20 -- so there's no breathers on those schedules.

In what is becoming quite the Prince George's County rivalry, Wise rallied for a 17-14 overtime win over previously undefeated Flowers in a clash of Top 10 teams. When the dust settled, Wise (6-1) moved from No. 8 to No. 6 while Flowers (6-1), settled in at No. 7.

The other two Top 25 teams that took losses last week were Bishop McNamara, falling to St. John's (D.C.), and McDonogh, losing to Mount St. Joseph. McNamara's loss spoiled its perfect start and the Mustangs will need to steal a victory in one of its remaining three games to earn a playoff spot. McDonogh, meanwhile, dropped out of second place in the MIAA A conference, but the goal here is just to make the top four to earn a playoff bid. McDonogh, Mount St. Joseph, and Loyola Blakefield all are 1-1 against each other, so it's shaping up as another tight race in the state's deepest conference.

In keeping with the week's dramatic finishes theme, Fort Hill rallied in the closing minutes with a final-minute TD, a gutsy two-point conversion, and a game-sealing interception -- all in the final 51 seconds courtesy of standout Jabril Daniels -- to snag a 36-35 victory over Wadsworth (Ohio). Wadsworth entered the game 7-1 and this was a program that reached the Ohio Division I state quarterfinals last year -- and Division I is the equivalent to Maryland's 4A (although in Ohio it includes the state's private schools, as well). Fort Hill's victory helped the Sentinels leapfrog the cluster of MIAA A programs to settle into No. 14 this week.

While there's only one Top 25 clash on the schedule for this week -- No. 25 Northwest vs. No. 4 Quince Orchard -- there's no shortage of intriguing matchups.

No. 3 Archbishop Spalding takes on nationally ranked St. Joseph's Prep (Pa.). Most media outlets have St. Joseph's ranked in the national Top 10 with only a three-point loss to IMG Academy (Fla.). A Spalding win would be significant for the Cavaliers, which seem to get shunned on the national scene. Staying in the Baltimore area, undefeated Perry Hall, which is just outside the Top 25, faces No. 10 Milford Mill Academy. A Perry Hall victory would no doubt earn the Gators a place among the state's Top 25 next week. The next rotation of WCAC clashes sees No. 2 DeMatha taking on St. John's (D.C.) and Bishop McNamara facing Gonzaga (D.C.). Both games will be stiff challenges for the Maryland-ranked squads. Finally, in Western Maryland, Fort Hill is at it again, facing an undefeated New Oxford (Pa.) team. Fort Hill's last three games have been against a then-undefeated Mountain Ridge squad (now 6-1), Wadsworth (now 7-2), and next New Oxford (8-0).

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