Spicy chili and high school football. It doesn't get any fuzzier.
The 15th annual Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown kicks off Aug. 17-26 in Southwest Ohio. This event continues to be recognized as the nation's biggest and longest-running high school football spectacle.
"It's hard to believe that we are celebrating 15 years of the Showdown," Tom Gamble, organizer of the event, said. "The only objective of the event is to showcase the best high school football in the country on a center stage."
This year's Showdown will showcase 42 schools playing 21 games over a 10-day stretch. Schools are comprised from Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Northern Kentucky, Maryland and Florida.
And, once again, the event's final day will be featured as part of the nationally televised ESPN High School Kickoff Classic weekend.
Notable Showdown alumni include Alex Albright (Dallas Cowboys), Rico Murray (Cincinnati Bengals), Luke Kuechly (Carolina Panthers), DeVier Posey (Houston Texans), Matt Tennant (New Orleans Saints), Jerel Worthy (Green Bay Packers) and Greg Jones (New York Giants).
Plenty of talent headlines the 2012 event, with more than 70 Division I college football recruits. Here is a look at four must-see games:
Middletown High School (Middletown, Ohio) vs. St. Xavier High School (Cincinnati)
One of the better games will feature St. Xavier against Middletown at 8:30 p.m. ET Friday, August 24 in the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium.
This contest features two D-I Region 4 powers battling for early season computer points. Middletown went 10-2 last year, while St. Xavier wound up 10-4, losing to Pickerington Central in the state semifinals.
The Middies are led by one of the country's top 20 prospects in Jalin Marshall, an Ohio State commit. He is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback who rushed for more than 1,800 yards and 20 TDs while also passing for 782 yards and six TDs last season. He already owns the Middies career rushing record with 3,285 yards.
Marshall played multiple positions at the Nike Football Training Camps (NFTC) in Columbus, Ohio, on May 5, but is projected to play WR at Ohio State.
Second-year Middletown coach Troy Everhart also welcomes back junior LB Brad Carr, who led the team with 97 tackles and senior OL Kenny Patrick, an All-GMC performer.
Head coach Steve Specht has led St. Xavier to an impressive 82-21 mark in his eight seasons. However, this squad lost nine All-GCL performers, including six first-teamers.
Key returners are seniors WR Trey Kilgore, LB Mark Jacob, DB Robbie Ries and WR Kevin Milligan. Kilgore is a Michigan State commit who caught 42 passes for 378 yards and three TDs. He ran for 210 yards and two TDs.
Prediction: Look for Marshall to go ballistic with impromptu runs against an inexperienced Bomber defense. Tackling Marshall is like eating spaghetti with a spoon—he's that elusive.
Colerain High School (Cincinnati) vs. Pickerington Central High School (Pickerington, Ohio)
On Saturday, Aug. 25, Colerain battles D-I state runner-up Pickerington Central at Nippert Stadium at 5:30 p.m. ET.Colerain captured its 12th straight GMC title en route to a 10-2 mark. The Cardinals lost in the regional semifinals to St. Xavier.
Head coach Tom Bolden is 50-8 in five seasons and returns several key players, including Cincinnati commit Dylan Wiesman. This 6'4", 280-pounder is a freak in the weight room. He benches 365, squats 535 and power cleans 330 pounds.
A pair of talented senior RBs—Jackson Sorn and Chris Davis—will log plenty of carries. Sorn rushed for 914 yards and 11 TDs. He admirably filled in for the injured Davis, who suffered a knee injury in Week 2.
Also back is senior QB Alfred Ramsby, who received an offer from Eastern Illinois.
Pickerington Central lost its first two games of the 2011 season, but then rattled off 11 straight wins before losing to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the title game. The Tigers finished 11-3, and head coach Jay Sharrett is 94-18 in eight years.
Senior DE Taco Charlton is a Michigan commit who will graduate in December. The 6'6", 249-pounder maxes 315 pounds on the bench. He was a starter on the basketball team, which won its first state championship in March.
Also back is senior LB Greg Basalyga, who registered 115 tackles last year.
Prediction: Colerain has speed at every position. Alfred Ramsby runs the read-option offense to perfection. This game could be a blowout by halftime.
Trotwood-Madison High School (Trotwood, Ohio) vs. University School (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
A marquee Aug. 26 doubleheader to be televised on ESPN starts with Trotwood-Madison facing University School at 3 p.m. ET. The game will be played at Kings High School in Deerfield, Ohio.
Trotwood was a perfect 15-0 last season and defeated Avon in the D-II State Championship Game. The Rams are loaded and could make a case for the state's most talented roster, with 13 D-I college recruits and counting.
One of those players is CB Cam Burrows. This 5-star recruit recorded 46 tackles, 12 pass break-ups and four picks. The 6'1", 200-pounder runs a 4.46 40 and has committed to Ohio State.
Additionally, Burrows was named to Nike's The Opening 7ON All-Tournament Team July 6-8.
Trotwood head coach Maurice Douglass has five other JJHuddle Top 100 prospects at his disposal in LB Mike McCray II (Michigan commit), DE Tre Williams-Brown (uncommitted), DE Jarrod Clements (Illinois commit), OL Cody Collins (Marshall commit) and DB Reon Dawson (Illinois commit).
There also are five more players who will be playing on Saturdays in RBs Israel Green (uncommitted) and Ashton Jackson (uncommitted); LB Verondtae Wilkinson (uncommitted); OL Ryan Reese (uncommitted); and WR Kendric Mallory (uncommitted).
University is 24-2 the past two seasons and was a Florida Class 3A state runner-up in 2010 as well as a regional finalist in 2011. Head coach Roger Harriott is 51-11 in five seasons and has plenty of horses in his stable.
The big-time recruits on this roster include senior WR Jordan Cunningham, a top-25 receiver in the country. He has received 44 offers and is expected to commit to the Canes of Miami.
"Rock Me Amadeus" Maquedius Bain is a monster at his DE position. The 6'4", 308-pounder recorded 51 tackles, five sacks and four blocked field goals last season. He has received 15 offers and is committed to Florida State, but he is thinking of flipping to the Miami Hurricanes.
Skai Moore is a 3-star recruit at LB with 26 offers, including Rutgers and Vanderbilt. Fellow LB Nick Internicola is headed to Rutgers. He totaled 33 tackles and four sacks last season.
On offense, sophomore RB Jordan Scarlett rushed for 568 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per carry as a freshman last year. Senior Jordan Budwig (6'5", 320 pounds) will anchor the offensive line.
Prediction: Fasten your seat belts, and don't leave for popcorn. This game promises to be a high-scoring affair.
Give the slight edge to Trotwood; it has more speed at the skill positions.
Archbishop Moeller High Shool (Cincinnati) vs. Gilman School (Baltimore)
The second game televised on ESPN features at 7 p.m. ET seven-time Ohio state champion Moeller High School against Gilman.
Moeller is celebrating "50 Years of Moeller Football" and would like to cap it with a state title in Canton.
It won't be easy with its national schedule of six out-of-state teams, though.
Head coach John Rodenberg has had some good teams in his four seasons (31-16 record), but this is arguably his best.
LB Shane Jones is one of the state's top prospects and is committed to Michigan State. RB Keith Watkins, who rushed for 625 yards and nine TDs last year, holds offers from Cincinnati, Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa and others.
Senior OL Alex Gall (6'4", 295 pounds) committed to the Miami Hurricanes in June, choosing the U over Florida State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky and Cincinnati, to name a few.
The leader of the offense is a three-year starter in senior QB Spencer Iacovone, who passed for 1,635 yards and 19 TDs last season. He is very cerebral and takes what the defense gives him.
One of the upstart programs in the country, Gilman enters this season riding an eight-game winning streak after finishing 10-1 and winning the first-ever Maryland MIAA A conference championship. The Greyhounds' lone loss was to national power Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (Olney, Md.).
Head coach Biff Poggi has compiled a 50-19 mark in eight seasons, and the 2012 edition of Gilman is loaded with talent.
After a stellar performance at the Elite 11 quarterback camp, QB Shane Cockerille is ready for the big stage. The senior gunslinger passed and rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. He defines "dual-threat quaterback," as he has a lively left arm, and at 6'2" and 205 pounds, he runs like a bull in a china shop.
Cockerille committed to Maryland over the likes of Kansas State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Iowa, West Virginia and Virginia.
Seniors Henry Poggi and Micah Kiser are the staples on defense.
Poggi is a 4-star recruit who's headed to Michigan. The 6'4", 265-pound DT recorded 49 tackles and 10 sacks last season. Kiser totaled 94 tackles with six sacks and four interceptions at his LB position. He has committed to Virginia.
Prediction: This game will be a defensive tussle. That being said, Cockerille will drive his team down the field in the closing minutes to escape with the victory.