For 32 FAB 50-ranked Texas boys and girls teams, the moment of truth has arrived.
Actually there are 34 Texas teams in the winter boys and girls FAB 50 rankings, but two are TAPPS programs, which started play in November. The other 32 are members of the UIL, the dominant governing body in Texas, and UIL regular season play starts Thursday.
Unlike most states, Texas' early season play is pretty much restricted to Thursday-Friday-Saturday tournaments the first three weeks of the season. This week's two major kickoff events will be the National Elite Prep Showcase for girls and the North Texas Elite Showcase for boys.
NEPS has long been a fixture on the national scene and is co-hosted by Southlake Carroll (Texas) and Nolan Catholic (Texas). This year's 29-team event has entries from California and Florida, in addition to the Texas programs. Nolan Catholic is coming off a SoCal High School Classic tournament title in San Diego, so its showing in this year's NEPS will have greater national consequence. The most significant out-of-state entry is Carondelet (Calif.), currently No. 44 in the FAB 50. NEPS quickly will sort out the Dallas-North powers as FAB 50 No. 5 Marcus, No. 6 Keller, No. 10 Ursuline Academy, No. 11 Southlake Carroll, No. 15 Coppell will be competing, in addition to regionally ranked Plano West and Bishop Lynch.
About 25 miles away from NEPS, and running the same days, will be the North Texas Elite Showcase, co-hosted by Marcus (Texas) and Coppell. The event previously was hosted by Coppell and featured only Texas programs. But with coach Chad Rakestraw's move from Coppell to Marcus, Marcus is now involved and this event is attracting out-of-state teams for its elite bracket. In fact, current FAB 50 No. 1 Sam Houston (Texas) will be put to the test in the first round against FAB 50-ranked San Clemente (Calif.). The winner of that meeting could earn a shot at No. 3 Brophy Prep (Phoenix, Ariz.). Overall, the eight-team top bracket features seven FAB 50-ranked teams and the other team is regionally ranked.
CHANGE AT NO. 1: Although last week's FAB 50 No. 1s Brophy Prep boys and JSerra (Calif.) girls won marquee tournaments, they fell from the top spot due to tied matches -- although JSerra actually won both in penalty kicks.
Sam Houston boys and Highland Park (Texas) girls move to No. 1 this week, but both are more the beneficiary of others' bad luck. Sam Houston and Highland Park have yet to play and must remain perfect to keep their current positions.
LOOKING AHEAD: Although play has yet to start in Texas, it's looking likely that the final FAB 50 No. 1s very well could be among the current top four boys and girls teams:
* BOYS -- No. 1 Sam Houston and No. 3 Brophy Prep compete in the same tournament this week, meaning in the winner of the North Texas Elite Showcase could make a strong case for No. 1. Torrey Pines (Calif.) checks in at No. 2. For Torrey Pines to end up at No. 1 it will need to run the table coupled with a Sam Houston loss or tie. If Torrey Pines goes perfect the rest of the way, likely it will require a win over the California team that tied Brophy Prep. If the current top three falter, Montverde Academy (Fla.) will be there to inherit the top spot.
* GIRLS -- No. 1 Highland Park is the defending FAB 50 champs and will need another perfect season to repeat in that position. A second straight perfect season would push this team's win streak into the mid-to-high 50s. Anything short of perfection will give JSerra a second crack at No. 1. Although the team's record reflects two ties -- the result of a CIF Southern Section stat guideline -- JSerra actually has won all of its matches, those two in penalty kicks. If Highland Park and JSerra falter, St. Johns Country Day (Fla.) will be in position to finish No. 1. This Florida private school power really only has two intriguing matches remaining on the schedule. Once the playoffs arrive, it will be easy sailing in Class 1A where SJCD hasn't allowed a postseason goal since 2015 -- let alone be seriously challenged.
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BIG MOVERS: BOYS: Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.). Torrey Pines' win over previous No. 3 Servite (Anaheim, Calif.) allowed this San Diego power to jump from No. 7 to No. 2 this week. The five-spot jump was the biggest move of the week as well as the most significant as Torrey Pines is now in the running for the FAB 50 No. 1 position. ... GIRLS: Santiago/Corona (Corona, Calif.). The Sharks moved up five spots after winning a title at the North Orange County Classic.
NEWCOMERS: BOYS: No. 26 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), No. 39 Sunny Hills (Fullerton, Calif.). ... GIRLS: No. 26 Los Osos (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), No. 34 La Mirada (Calif.), No. 47 Oaks Christian (Westlake Village ca-w] (Calif.), No. 48 Westlake (Westlake Village ca-w] (Calif.) and No. 49 San Clemente (Calif.).
CLICK BELOW FOR THE COMPLETE WINTER HIGH SCHOOL RANKINGS