Baltimore area teams earned 21 of the 48 quarterfinal berths in the MPSSAA football playoffs, and as many as a dozen have a legitimate shot of advancing to the state semifinal round. Dundalk and Dunbar are both overall 1 seeds in their respective classifications, the 4/3A and the 2/1A, one year hybrids in the pandemic induced six classification format. Milford Mill will be one the favorites or top contender in 2A.
Old Mill is the only area team still alive in the 4A quarterfinals, and though the Patriots feature one of MPSSAA’s best scoring machines, the Patriots travel to Gaithersburg to take on the top ranked public school in Maryland – Quince Orchard. Dundalk and Mervo are two of the three top favorites in 4/3A, along with Sherwood. Both should move on, but the Mustangs look to have a harder test with North Point than Dundalk will have with Urbana. Arundel also has a chance to move on in the 4-3A bracket, but will have to beat Seneca Valley at home.
In 3A, Franklin, like always, is a contender, but as a 4 seed, will all but assuredly have to win on the road next week, should they win this week. The area will be guaranteed one spot in the 3A semifinals, with Atholton and Chesapeake battling for a berth. Westminster will be an underdog in Calvert County as they take on Northern, and City College will be a prohibitive underdog at Linganore.
In 2A, the area will automatically have two teams in the state semifinal round, as Milford Mill and Glenelg will battle for one spot, and Oakland Mills and Owings Mills will battle for another. In 2/1A l, Dunbar, South Carroll, and Harford Tech, will all be favorites to move on in that classification. In 1A, Perryville and Edmondson could very well move on this week, but after that hopes look dim, with Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge likely awaiting.
1 Quince Orchard Cougars (11-0) v 8 Old Mill Patriots (8-2)
Coaches – QO John Kelley 8th season 82-10, 16-5 p/o; OM Mike Pfisterer 1st season 8-2, 2-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – QO 43.0-6.3/ +36.8; OM 45.2-10.5/ +34.7
MPSSAA playoff history – QO 19th appearance 36-15, 8-9 in Reg F/QF round; OM 22nd appearance 22-19, 5-10
The top ranked Cougars will not only be favored in this quarterfinal, but they’ll be favored to advance to their fourth 4A state championship game in five seasons. The Patriots passing game should be a nice test for the Cougars defense, as it ranks third in the MPSSAA among 182 teams. Both quarterfinalists played a pair of top 10 (ish) teams during the regular season. The Cougars topped a pair of two top five county foes – Paint Branch by a score, 20-14, and Northwest, handily, 31-0. The Pats haven’t fared quite as well against the best of the best, falling to Fort Hill, 27-13, in week two, and losing to Broadneck, 41-25, in the regular season finale, with a county championship on the line.
The Cougars are led by John Kelley, who boasts an 82-10 record since he began at the Gaithersburg school in 2014, second only to Wise’s DaLawn Parrish (84-5) in both wins and win percentage in the MPSSAA over that time. Kelley’s .891 winning percentage would rank as third best in MPSSAA history, had it met the (our) 120 game minimum. Kelley’s 16-5 post-season record produces the 8th best post-season win percentage (.762) in MPSSAA history. Kelley guided the Cougars to the 4A state championship in 2018, and 4A state runner-up finishes in ‘16 and ‘17.
Patriots Coach Mike Pfisterer was a star quarterback at North County under Chuck Markiewicz in 2000, then coached under his mentor at Arundel, serving as the JV head coach, then moving on to Old Mill for five years, then Broadneck for five years, before getting hired as the Pats head coach in late May. Pfisterer replaced Chad McCormick, who went 85-21 in ten seasons, winning a 4A state championship in his first year in 2011. Pfisterer was an assistant for the Patriots in that state championship team.
The Cougars have had just one opponent come within 30 points of them – Paint Branch. The Cougars have scored 31 or more points in 10 of 11 games, while limiting 8 of their 11 opponents to 7 points or less, yielding four shutouts. The Cougs resume reveals two high quality wins – Paint Branch (20-13) and Northwest (31-0), two quality wins – Seneca Valley (35-0) and Damascus (36-0), and two more mentionable victories – Richard Montgomery (41-3) and Walter Johnson (63-28, 51-7), twice. That’s seven solid wins.
Still, despite the respectable slate, the Cougars post the highest point differential in the MPSSAA this season, at +36.8. The Cougars average scoring 43 points per game, with a 70/30 run/pass ratio. Junior quarterback Savan Briggs has been efficient and effective, hitting on 71% of his passes, and throwing for 982 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 76 attempts, with no interceptions. Donovan Brown is Briggs top target, averaging better than 20 yards per reception, with eight receiving touchdowns. A freshman and a sophomore are the Cougars top rushers, with freshman Iverson Howard and sophomore Isaiah Blackman-Boyd combining for 1,241 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, on 139 attempts. Cougars kicker Sam Smith has hit on 60 of 61 extra point attempts this season.
The Cougars allow only 6.2 points per game, third lowest in the MPSSAA. The Cougars defense is headlined by a quarter of seniors, including linebackers Martavian Davis and Sekou Samara, and defensive backs Steven Sanninieniola and Jalen Husky. Davis is second on the teams in both tackles and solo tackles, and Kamara ranks fourth in tackles, and has forced three fumbles. Sannieniola lads the Cougars with three interceptions, scoring on one, while Huskey has recorded two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and scored two touchdowns on interception and fumble returns. Junior linebacker Matthieu Ionga leads the Cougars in tackles and solo tackles, while sophomore defensive end Jaylen Harvey has registered 8 tackles for loss, and six sacks. The Cougars defense has scored seven touchdowns, and its two kick return units have combined for seven touchdowns.
The Patriots aerial assault spearheads their offense, an offense that gets better than 230 yards per game through the air. Senior Myles Fulton ranks fourth in the MPSSAA in passing yards, with 2,230 yards, and second in passing touchdowns, with 29. Senior receiver Donte Craggette-Drake has 44 receptions for 905 yards and 12 touchdown receptions, while his classmate Will Ennis has recorded 42 receptions for 669 yards and nine touchdowns.
4 Northwest Jaguars (10-1) v 5 Paint Branch Panthers (9-1)
Coaches – NW Travis Hawkins 11-2, 2-0 p/o; PB Mike Nesmith 113-44, 9-7
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – NW 37.0-7.2/ +29.8; PB 42.7-7.2/ +35.5
MPSSAA playoff history – NW 16th appearance 26-12, 7-5 in Reg F/QF round; PB 14th appearance 12-12, 1-9
This is a MoCo powerhouse showdown. This is not a drill. The #5 Jaguars and #3 Panthers are widely considered two of the best five teams in the entire MPSSAA, facing each other in a 4A quarterfinal clash. The only loss for for both teams this season came at the hands of #1 Quince Orchard, with the Panthers pushing the Cougars to the final minute, and the Jags suffering a shutout loss to their arch rivals. Despite the disparity in those scores, this game should be of the highest quality in the quarterfinal round.
Former Quince Orchard star Travis Hawkins leads the Jaguars in his first full season, following an abbreviated Spring season. The Panthers are led by Mike Nesmith, who sports a 113-44 record at the Burtonsville school over 15 seasons.
The Jaguars have advanced to the state semifinal seven times in the last 18 post-seasons, including claiming the 4A state title three times, in ‘04, ‘13, and ‘14. The Jaguars and Panthers met in a 2013 4A state semifinal, with the Jags winning in a shootout, 55-38. The two met again in 2019, in the newly minted, re-seeded quarterfinal round, with the Jags taking that one too, 20-12. Northwest is 9-0 all-time versus Paint Branch.
Northwest has won every one of its ten victories by 20 points or more, including wins over fellow quarterfinalists Sherwood and Seneca Valley, and others such as Churchill, Damascus, Richard Montgomery, and Walter Johnson.
Paint Branch averages 42.7 points per game, ninth best in the MPSSAA, while allowing only 7.2 points per game, tied for seventh best in the MPSSAA. The Panthers +35.5 point differential ranks fourth in the MPSSAA, behind only Quince Orchard, Wise, and Dunbar. Senior quarterback Octavian Smith Jr is having a ‘POY’ type year, and the Panthers will go as he goes. The Panthers are on a eight game win streak, after falling just short of the top ranked Cougars, including shutout victories over state quarterfinalists Sherwood and Blake, and a 38-13 rout of Blair, another 4A quarterfinalist.
2 Wise Pumas (10-0) v 7 Blair Blazers (9-2)
Coaches – Wise DaLawn Parrish 166-49, 33-7 p/o; Blair Sam Nossoff 15-7, 2-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Wise 43.3-6.9/ +37.4; Blair 29.7-17.7/ +12.0
MPSSAA playoff history – Wise 33-7, 9-0 in Reg F/QF round; Blair 2-4, 0-0
The Pumas of Wise have won four of the last five 4A state titles, and won 76 of 78 games dating back to the 2015 season opener. Versus MPSSAA opponents, the #2 Pumas are 74-1 over the last six seasons, with no season for Prince Georges County teams in 2020 or the Spring of 2021. Blair is having its best season in the program’s history, earning its first ever post-season victory in a 56-35 win over then #17 Laurel last weekend.
Coach DaLawn Parrish has led the Pumas since their program’s inception, and boasts a 162-33 (.831) record in his 15 seasons at Wise. Parrish notched his 33rd post-season victory in the Pumas 39-15 win over Eleanor Roosevelt last weekend, which puts him third all-time in MPSSAA history in coaching playoff wins. Parrish has led the Pumas to a 21-1 post-season record since 2015, with the only loss coming in the 2018 4A state title game versus Quince Orchard. The loss to the Cougars is the Pumas only loss versus a MPSSAA opponent over the last six seasons, including the regular and post-seasons. Blazers coach Sam Nossoff is 15-7 over the last three seasons, including the pandemic-shortened Spring season.
The Pumas average 43.3 points per game, which ranks fifth in the MPSSAA, with a +36.4 point differential, which ranks second in the MPSSAA. Of their eight wins on the field (they have two forfeit wins), four have been against quality competition, including Flowers, Eleanor Roosevelt – twice, and Laurel. The Pumas have scored 38 points or more in six of their eight contests, and have held five of their eight opponents to seven points or less.
Pumas Jayden Saurey is 24-0 as their starting quarterback, including their two forfeit wins. This season, Saurey has connected on 79 of his 104 passes (76.0%) for 1501 yards and 23 touchdowns, with just two interceptions. Saurey has also rushed for 361 yards, on 10.9 yards per carry, and scored six touchdowns. Senior running back Dadrian Carter-Williams is averaging 126.6 rushing yards per game, on 9.5 yards per carry, and has scored 11 touchdowns. Senior Nik McMillan has 30 receptions at better than 20 yards per catch, with 10 touchdown receptions. McMillan has also added two rushing touchdowns and returned a kickoff for a score. Defensively, end Amar Thomas has registered 11 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in eight games.
The #17 Blazers have won six of seven games since their loss to Paint Branch, with wins over Blake, Rockville, Bethesda Chevy Chase, and Laurel. Coach Sam Nossoff’s team is a young bunch, with its offense headlined by junior quarterback Kendell Anderson, junior receiver Jamall Worell, and sophomore receiver Mikhail Seiken. Anderson has thrown for 2,172 yards (5th best in the MPSSAA) and 17 touchdowns, and has added 315 yards and four scores on the ground. Worrell has recorded 42 receptions for 780 yards and nine touchdowns, while Seiken has added 26 receptions for 669 yards and eight touchdown receptions, adding three interceptions and two forced fumbles on defense, and returned a punt for a score on special teams. Senior safety Ricardo Villars leads the Blazers in interceptions and pass break-ups, with five and ten, respectively.
4 Flowers Jaguars (10-1) v 5 Broadneck Bruins (8-1)
Coaches – Flowers Dameon Powell 36-8, 2-3 p/o; Broadneck Rob Harris 82-28, 5-7
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Flowers 38.4-6.5/ +31.9; Broadneck 39.3-13.7/ +25.6
MPSSAA playoff history – Flowers 13th appearance 12-12, 1-8 in the Reg F/QF round; Broadneck 18th appearance 17-17, 7-6
Flowers seems to be the forgotten recent power in Prince Georges County, having gone 39-6 since 2017, and posting three 10-win seasons over the last four seasons. The Jaguars have been eliminated in the post-season by Wise the last two post-seasons, and are 39-3 since ‘17 versus opponents not named Wise. Broadneck has won eight straight games since a loss to Spalding of the MIAA in the season opener.
Flowers staple has been its defense, and this year is no different. The Jags allow just 6.5 points per game, which ranks fourth in the MPSSAA. The #4 Jags are coming off of a 38-6 thrashing of Bowie, a team that was averaging 37.3 points per game. Flowers has held nine of their eleven opponents to seven points or less, and held the Wise to less than half of their per game average, in their one point loss to the Pumas. The Jags offer wins over Laurel, Bowie (twice), and Eleanor Roosevelt. Over their last five games, the Jaguars has averaged 47.6 points per game, with a point differential of +41.2.
Broadneck’s staple, on the other hand, is its offense, headlined by senior quarterback Joshua Erlich, whose numbers rank him among the MPSSAA’s best 10 passers of all-time. Since the Spalding loss, the Bruins have averaged 42.6 points per game over eight games. Last Friday, in their first game in three weeks, the #10 Bruins shutout 2019 4A quarterfinalist Parkville, 45-0. Before that shutout, the Bruins blanked Annapolis, 42-0, knocked off then 5-1 Severna Park, 48-14, before taking out #14 Old Mill, 41-25, to clinch the Anne Arundel County championship.
This season, Erlich has 121 completions in 182 attempts (66.5%), for 1,702 yards and 24 touchdowns. Over his Bruins career, Erlich has thrown for 6,572 yards and 91 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,489 yards and 19 scores, accounting for 8,061 yards and 110 touchdowns.
1 Dundalk Owls (10-0) v 8 Urbana Hawks (5-6)
Coaches – Dundalk Matt Banta 6th season 43-16, 3-4 p/o; Urbana Brad Wilson 16th season (fourth with Urbana) 88-77, 7-5
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Dundalk 37.6-4.6/ +33.0; Urbana 28.8-23.5/ +5.3
MPSSAA playoff history – Dundalk 12th appearance 7-11, 1-4 in Reg F/QF round; Urbana 17th appearance 25-11, 7-3
The #6 Owls are having a season for the ages, recording their first undefeated regular season in their program’s history. A win over Franklin placed Dundalk as the top ranked team in Baltimore County, and the Owls are currently ranked #6 in all of the MPSSAA. Urbana struggled this year with a 3-6 record in the ultra-competitive Frederick County league, but has since posted a pair of convincing victories over marginal teams.
The only other season comparable to this season for the Owls is the 2015 season, when the Owls knocked off Franklin in the regional final and finished as the 3A state final runner-up, with a 12-2 record. The Owls rely on ball control and defense, a defense that leads the MPSSAA in points allowed, at a paltry 4.6 points per game. The Owls have held eight of their ten opponents to seven points or less, and have posted five shutouts in ten games. The Owls defense has caused 30 turnovers in ten games. The Owls are well balanced, averaging 37.6 points per game, spearheaded by the running of Jordan Fiorenza, who has rushed for 1,092 yards, on 9.5 yards per carry, and 15 touchdowns.
Five of Urbana’s six losses were to respectable foes – Sherwood, St Mary’s Ryken, Middletown, Oakdale, and Linganore, and three of those were decided by two scores or less. The Hawks are coming off one of their best all-around victories in the ‘Round of 16’, going on the road and handling 5-5 Mt Hebron, 38-14. The Hawks 28-21 loss to #7 Linganore still ranks as their best all-around game of the season, despite the defeat, considering the competition.
4 Seneca Valley Screamin’ Eagles (8-3) v 5 Arundel Wildcats (7-3)
Coaches – SV Justin Sickeri 4th season 18-16, 2-1 p/o; Arundel Jack Walsh 4th season 26-11, 4-2
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – SV 28.2-10.2/ +17.9; Arundel 24.4-24.9/ -0.5
MPSSAA playoff history – SV 30th appearance 45-18, 14-5 in Reg F/QF round; Arundel 24th appearance 17-22, 2-9
The Screamin’ Eagles of Seneca Valley are soaring, earning their fifth victory in six games in a 45-9 rout of Howard in the ‘Round of 16’. The Lions were the fourth straight opponent that the Screamin’ Eagles have held to single digits, including their 10-7 signature win over Damascus, who had won nine straight games over the Eagles. Arundel too is on a roll, having won six of their last seven games, including their heart-pumping 17-16 second round win over South River.
The Screamin’ Eagles allow just 11.2 points per game, and have held seven of their eleven opponents to seven points or less, and nine of eleven opponents to 13 points or less. The only two teams to score more than 13 points on the Eagles this season are a pair of top 5 teams – Quince Orchard and Northwest. Damascus (7-4) and Walter Johnson (6-5) are the Eagles only two victories over opponents with winning records.
The Wildcats playoff win over the Seahawks last weekend was the Cats third one possession victory of the season. The win over the Seahawks was one of the Cats two best wins of the season, to go along with a win over fellow quarterfinalist Elkton.
2 Sherwood Warriors (8-2) v 7 Blake Bengals (5-5)
Coaches – Sherwood Andrew Fields 9th season (first at Sherwood) 58-36, 1-4 p/o; Blake Deshaun Anderson 7th season 32-33, 1-4
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Sherwood 27.2-17.3/ +9.9; Blake 17.7-13.5/ +4.2
MPSSAA playoff history – Sherwood 24th appearance 33-20, 10-7 in Reg F/QF round; Blake 6th appearance 1-5, 0-0
The Warriors of Sherwood have beaten those they were expected to beat, and have proven to be a notch or two below MoCo’s ‘Big 3’ – Quince Orchard, Paint Branch, and Northwest. Luckily for the #16 Warriors, in 2021’s one-time six classification format, the Warriors bracket and classification is a notch below the 4A in the 4/3A bracket, and the Warriors look ahead without a Cougar, Panther, or Jaguar in sight. While Sherwood’s storied program makes its 24th post-season appearance, Blake won its first playoff victory in the history of their program last weekend.
The #16 Warriors and Bengals met in week three, with the Warriors claiming a 21-6 victory. The Warriors also hold an impressive two point win over #17 Blair, 28-26, and a convincing 41-14 win over Einstein. The Warriors were shutout by Paint Branch, 33-0, and suffered a 37-14 loss to Northwest. Warriors senior quarterback Anthony Comeau has thrown for 1,264 yards and 14 touchdowns, against five interceptions. Senior outside linebacker Liam Haley is the Warriors leading tackler.
The Warriors survived the ‘Round of 16’, pulling out an unimpressive 22-16 win over Springbrook. Still, the name of the game is to survive and advance, and that the Warriors did.
Blake earned its first ever post-season victory in a 16-0 shutout of Magruder in the ‘Round of 16’, after receiving a first round bye. The shutout of the Colonels was the second of its kind in as many games for the Bengals, after blanking Springbrook, 7-0, in the regular season finale. The Bengals five victories came versus teams that combined for a 7-42 record. The Bengals did come within a score of Blair (13-6) in week four.
3 Mervo Mustangs (8-1) v 6 North Point Eagles (7-3)
Coaches – Mervo Patrick Nixon 9th season 73-23, 7-5 p/o; North Point Tom Petre 6th season 69-13, 9-6
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Mervo 40.6-8.1/ +32.5; North Point 26.5-16.0/ +10.5
MPSSAA playoff history – Mervo 10th appearance 7-9, 2-2 in Reg F/QF round; North Point 11th appearance 10-10, 3-1
Quietly, these two programs have been two of the most successful programs over a good majority of the last decade that haven’t won a state championship. Mervo’s Patrick Nixon sports a 73-23 record in his ninth season (no ‘20 season) with the Mustangs, while North Point’s Tom Petre has gone 69-13 in his seven seasons with the Eagles. North Point advanced to the state semifinals in ‘16 and ‘17, while the #13 Mustangs were state semifinalists in each of the last two seasons.
The Mustangs and Eagles met in the 2018 4A state semifinaks, with North Point standing tall at home, 23-13. The Eagles fell just short in the 4A state final, losing to Quince Orchard, 40-33. The year before, the Eagles flew past Broadneck in the regional final, before suffering a 40-21 loss to the Cougars in a state semifinal. In 2019, the Mustangs fell just short at Linganore in a state semifinal, 27-25.
The Mustangs have played just seven games on the field this season, four less than most, and three less than virtually everyone. The Mustangs only test this year was in week three, losing a 48-46 overtime thriller to Dunbar, after blowing a 16 point lead with just over three minutes to go in regulation. The Mustangs only other semi-quality win was a 25-0 shutout of Poly in the season opener.
1 Linganore Lancers (10-0) v 8 City College Knights (7-3)
Coaches – Linganore Rick Conner 207-59, 30-14 p/o; City Rodney Joyner 7-3, 2-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Linganore 39.4-16.0/ +23.4; City 31.7-10.2/ +21.5
MPSSAA playoff history – Linganore 24th appearance 42-17, 13-2 in Reg F/QF round; City 12th appearance 8-11, 3-4
The Lancers have played in each of the last three 3A state title games – edging Milford Mill, 28-27, in ‘17, losing to Franklin, 17-14, in ‘18, and getting shut out by Damascus, 28-0, in 2019.
The #7 Lancers, the overall 1 seed in the 3A classification, survived a tough ‘Round of 16’ draw, having to overcome Oakdale a second time, after winning a nail-biting 54-53 overtime thriller in their regular season meeting. Friday, things looked like they were shaping up for another ‘instant classic’, before Bears quarterback Joe Pippin was knocked out of the game, just before halftime, with the game tied at 20. The Bears offense stalled in the second half without their starting quarterback, and the Lancers sophomore sensation, Ethan Arneson, ran all over the Bears for a second time. In the first meeting, Arneson ran 48 times for 353 yards. Last Friday night, Arneson rushed for 274 yards and three touchdowns on 46 carries.
With the win, Lancers Head Coach Rick Conner matched Lake Clifton’s James ‘Money’ Monroe’s mark of 207 career wins, sharing the title for MPSSAA’s most career wins among active coaches. Conner also became just the 7th coach in MPSSAA history to register 30 post-season wins, joining Dunbar’s Lawrence Smith, former Fort Hill head man, Todd Appel, Montgomery County legends Al Thomas and Bob Milloy, and two of Conner’s contemporaries, Wise’s DaLawn Parrish and River Hill’s Brian Van Deusen.
City College pulled out their second victory in three weeks over their arch rival Poly last weekend. The Knights edged the Engineers, 20-18, in the regular season finale, with the clash coming down to a missed field goal as time expired. Last Saturday, the Knights had to hold off another late rally by the Engineers, before a sack and subsequent insurance score for a 24-12 victory in the 133rd matchup between the two (City holds the edge in the series 65-62-6). The Knights last played in a state quarterfinal in 2010, losing to Eastern Tech, 10-7. The Knights last victory in a state quarterfinal game was in 2005, when the Knights topped Catonsville, 12-7, before losing to Westminster in a state semifinal, 35-6. Among the Knights three losses this season, two were forfeit losses, and the other was to Dunbar, losing 38-8.
The Lancers average 43.8 points per game, fourth in the MPSSAA among its 182 teams. The Lancers boast wins over Kenwood, Westminster, Walkersville, Oakdale (twice), Middletown, Frederick, and Urbana. Each of the eight competed in the ‘Round of 16’ last weekend. On the season, Arneson has rushed for 1,773 yards and 17 touchdowns on 249 carries.
4 Franklin Indians (9-2) v 5 Frederick Cadets (9-2)
Coaches – Franklin Anthony Burgos 155-55, 27-10 p/o; Frederick Kevin Pirri 22-43, 2-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Franklin 36.3-13.5/ +22.8; Frederick 44.1-16.8/ +27.3
MPSSAA playoff history – Franklin 21st appearance 28-17, 6-9 in Reg F/QF round; Frederick 6th appearance 5-5, 0-0
Franklin, Frederick, could get funky. Two high-powered offenses featuring a plethora of weapons has the makings of a November shootout. Franklin has become a post-season perennial, advancing to the quarterfinal round for the tenth time in twelve years. Frederick, on the other hand, won its first post-season victory in 17 years in a 55-7 rout of North Hagerstown in the opening round. Despite the vast gap of history between the two in the post-season, this week’s matchup should be the second most intriguing game of the quarterfinal round, second only to Paint Branch – Northwest, a 4A showdown featuring two MoCo juggernauts.
As usual, the Indians are battle tested, having played a team that nobody will play, nationally ranked St Frances, and a pair of top 10 county foes, Milford Mill and Dundalk. The #8 Indians slid by the Millers in the season opener, 19-14, then took a 27-13 defeat at the hands of Dundalk. Every year, whether it’s St Frances, DeMatha, Wise, McDonogh, or whoever, you can bet your bottom dollar that Franklin Head Coach Anthony Burgos will sacrifice playoff points for a game against the area’s (and now nation’s) best.
Since 2018, the Indians are 33-3 versus MPSSAA competition. Coach Burgos’ Indians are 85-9 overall since 2013. The Indians have played in five of the last nine 3A state title games, winning it all in ‘13, ‘14, and ‘18.
The Indians are averaging 39.3 points per game versus MPSSAA competition this season, with a point differential of +29.2. Aside from the win over the Millers, the only other victories they have that could be considered ‘semi-quality’ are over Perry Hall and Parkville. Last weekend, the Indians opened up a 14-7 lead with a 24-6 second half to cruise to a 38-13 win over Manchester Valley. Franklin senior quarterback Quentin Demery has thrown for 1939 yards and 28 touchdowns, against seven interceptions. Senior receiver Gavin Nelson has 44 receptions for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Frederick averages scoring 44.1 points per game, third best in the MPSSAA. Cadets junior Travon Neal has made plays all over the field for the #18 Cadets, with 54 receptions for 1,050 yards and 13 touchdowns, 1,647 all-purpose yards, and six interceptions, a forced fumble and fumble recovery, and two touchdowns on defense. To add, the junior has thrown for a score. Cadets junior quarterback Brian Mbuthia has connected on 66% of his passes, for 1,721 yards and 19 touchdowns, versus just four interceptions. Sophomore running back Tae Anderson has rushed for 1,032 yards and 17 touchdowns. Junior Josh Howard, who plays nose guard and fullback, has eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, two defensive touchdowns, and six touchdowns at fullback.
2 Northern Patriots (9-1) v 7 Westminster Owls (8-3)
Coaches – Northern Rich Holzer 8th season, 1st at Northern 54-32, 5-2 p/o, also 41-15 in five seasons at Mt St Joe; Westminster Chad Bassler 3rd season 22-6, 4-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Northern 35.7-9.2/ +26.5; Westminster 22.4-15.0/ +7.4
MPSSAA playoff history – Northern 8th appearance 6-7, 3-2 in Reg F/QF; Westminster 9th appearance 10-8, 2-3
Northern, the overall 2 seed in 3A, hasn’t advanced to the state semifinals since making it three straight years from ‘88 through ‘90. These Patriots may go even further, with Linganore, Franklin, and Frederick, on the other side of the 3A bracket. After a rough start, Westminster has been rolling, sporting a seven game win streak.
The Patriots have found the right formula in Rich Holzer’s first year in Owings. Holzer came down from Mt St Joe in Baltimore to lead the #20 Patriots, fresh off a MIAA championship. Holzer was an assistant under Dom Zaccarelli at Westlake in the 00s, then went to Parkdale, then on to Meade for four years from ‘11 to ‘14, before taking over the Gaels program, and going 41-15 over five seasons on Frederick Road. Holzer replaced Steve Crounse at Northern, who took the Offensive Coordinator gig at DeMatha. As Crounse checked in with the Stags, his son Zach checked out, coming back to Northern for his senior year, after a year at DeMatha.
The Patriots average 35.7 points per game, while the Pats allow only 9.2 points per game. Other than a 10-7 overtime loss to Huntingtown, the Patriots have shined, with a 50-14 win over North Pount, a 35-0 shutout of Lackey, a pair of wins over St Charles, a 32-0 shutout of Great Mills, and a 20-2 win over Leonardtown. Crounse has thrown for 2,490 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. Senior Tyler Baskett has 49 receptions for 911 yards and 11 touchdowns, and added two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on defense. Cody Howard is a talented two-way player headed to the Naval Academy, and Holzer calls Gavin Whittington, his leading rusher and middle linebacker, his best all-around player.
Westminster began the season with four straight losses, though South River later had to forfeit their win over the Owls. The Owls took on a daunting early slate, opening the season with the defending Anne Arundel champion Seahawks, then defending 3A runner-up Linganore, before moving on to South Carroll, then closing out September with Dundalk. Linganore, South Carroll, and Dundalk, make up three of the six undefeated teams left in the MPSSAA. Tough slate. Since, the Owls have won seven straight games, including three one possession victories.
3 Atholton Raiders (10-1) v 6 Chesapeake Cougars (9-2)
Coaches – Atholton Eric Woodson 1st season 10-1, 2-0 p/o; Chesapeake Rob Elliott 10th season 4-4
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Atholton 25.3-12.6/ +12.7; Chesapeake 39.5-13.6/ +25.9
MPSSAA playoff history – Atholton 10th appearance 7-9, 0-6 in Reg F/QF round; Chesapeake 5th appearance 4-4, 1-0
Atholton won a share of the Howard County title for the first time since 2011, and recorded its first 10-win season since 2012, when the Raiders notched 10 wins for the third time in four seasons under Kyle Schmitt. Chesapeake has reached nine wins for just the second time in their program’s history, joining its 2018 team, and will finish with the best win percentage in a season in their program’s history.
The #24 Raiders are on a six game win streak, since suffering their only defeat of the season at Oakland Mills. The Raiders are the only team to beat Glenelg, and they shutout Long Reach in week eight to put them in position for a share of the county championship. The Raiders are 4-1 in one possession games, and 5-1 in games decided by single-digits. The Raiders have allowed only 9.3 points per game over their six game win streak. Senior defensive lineman Korede Sogbesan has registered 49 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Senior Kevin Smitson has 37 receptions for 566 yards and five touchdown receptions, to go with four rushing touchdowns, and a punt return for a score.
Chesapeake is riding its best season in the program’s history, two full seasons after posting a 9-4 record in 2018. advancing to the state semifinal with a 36-21 win over JM Bennett in the regional final, before bowing out to Linganore in the state semifinal, 45-6. Victor Listorti, the Cougars star back, ranks among the top 10 rushers in the MPSSAA, stockpiling 1,745 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. The Cougars most impressive win came in a week eight 38-17 victory over fellow quarterfinalist Arundel. The Cougars dispatched Long Reach, 39-12, in the ‘Round of 16’, for their seventh win a row.
Either Atholton will win 11 games for the first time in their program’s history, or Chesapeake will win 10 games for the first time in their program’s history.
1 Huntingtown Hurricanes (9-1) v 8 Decatur Seahawks (8-3)
Coaches – Huntingtown Paul Friel 6th season 38-21, 3-2 p/o; Decatur Zach Coleman 2nd season 13-5, 2-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game / point differential – Huntingtown 27.2-8.6/ +18.6; Decatur 41.0-22.1/ +18.9
MPSSAA playoff history – Huntingtown 11th appearance 18-10, 7-0 in Reg F/QF round; Decatur 11th appearance 7-10, 2-4
This quarterfinal will be a battle between the Hurricanes stubborn defense and the Seahawks high octane offense.
The Hurricanes of Huntingtown advanced to the 3A state semifinals in both ‘18 and ‘19, and are 34-5 since the 2018 season opener. The Hurricanes lost to eventual state champion Franklin in a 2018 3A semifinal, 21-10, and lost to eventual state champion Damascus in 2019, 21-14. The #21 Canes have advanced to the 3A state semifinals in seven of the last eleven seasons, and finished as the 3A state runner-up in 2009 and 2012. Decatur last won a state quarterfinal game in 2004, defeating Aberdeen, 31-13, in the regional final.
The Canes allow just 8.6 points per game, which ranks 11th best in the MPSSAA, and have held eight of their eleven opponents to seven points or less. Huntingtown’s only blemish came from fellow quarterfinalist North Point, and the Canes hold wins over Northern, St Charles, Great Mills, and Leonardtown. The Canes 6’4 275 defensive lineman Riley Curtin has registered 27 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
Decatur features the top passing attack in the MPSSAA, averaging 264.4 yards per game through the air, with 36 touchdown passes. The Seahawks average 41 points per game, ninth best in the MPSSAA. Senior Ashten Snelsire has completed 198 of 307 passes (64.5%), both tops in the MPSSAA, and a MPSSAA 2804 passing yards and a MPSSAA leading 35 passing touchdowns. Senior Zimeir Handy and 6’5 sophomore Brycen Coleman are Snelsire’s top two targets, with Handy recording 49 receptions for 717 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Coleman boasting 47 receptions for 695 yards and eight touchdowns.
4 Milford Mill Millers (10-1) v 5 Glenelg Gladiators (10-1)
Coaches – MMA Reggie White 21st season 153-73, 14-9 p/o; Glenelg Tim Cullen 3rd season 20-5, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – MMA 39.1-7.3/ +30.8; Glenelg 34.8-11.2/ +23.6
MPSSAA playoff history – MMA 21st appearance 21-19, 7-9 in Reg F/QF round; Glenelg 20th appearance 16-19, 5-7
This 2A state quarterfinal features a pair of the Baltimore area’s more respectable programs, both who have made state title runs over the last few years, and both who have been solidly consistent over the last decade-plus. To add, this quarterfinal features two of the most impactful players in the MPSSAA this season – Milford Mill’s Tahseen Howard and Glenelg’s Bisi Owens.
Millers Head Coach Reggie White is in his 21st season at the helm of his alma mater, winning 153 games since 2001. The Millers advanced to the 2A state title game in 2017, getting edged by Linganore, 28-27. In 2019, the Millers advanced to the quarterfinal round, before losing to Potomac, 33-26, in a contest that went to the wire.
The #9 Millers have won ten straight games since losing their season opener to rival Franklin, 19-14. The Millers are just one of seven MPSSAA teams that rank among the top 15 in scoring (39.1) and points allowed (7.3). The Millers have scored 40 points or more in each of the last five games. ‘The Mill’ has kept seven opponents to seven points or less, and hasn’t allowed an opponent 20 points in any of their 11 games. Howard has thrown for 1,536 yards and 17 touchdowns, and rushed for 949 yards and 13 touchdowns. Together with his kick return duties and big play defense, Howard has accounted for 3,017 yards and 36 touchdowns. The Millers smashed Hereford, 49-13, in the ‘Round of 16’, building a 42-6 lead after three quarters. The Millers posted a 29-6 win over fellow quarterfinalist Owings Mills, to go with a pair of wins over the aforementioned Bulls, and wins versus Kenwood, New Town, and Parkville.
Bisi Owens leads the #19 Gladiators, and the Glads go as Owens goes. Three years ago, the Gladiators went as another Owens went, when Wande, Bisi’s older brother, led the MPSSAA in rushing, with 2,640 rushing yards and 40 rushing touchdowns, and led the Glads to the 2A state title game. This season, it’s the younger Owens who leads the MPSSAA in rushing, with 1,790 rushing yards and 30 rushing touchdowns. Owens, the Gladiators dual threat quarterback, has thrown for 816 yards and 12 touchdowns. All told, with seven interceptions on defense, and several kick returns on special teams, Owens has accounted for 2,682 yards and 43 touchdowns. The Gladiators have won nine straight games since a 26-24 week two loss to Atholton, and are coming off of their most impressive win of the season, stopping Middletown in the ‘Round of 16’, 21-3.
2 Kent Island Buccaneers (10-0) v 7 Douglass Eagles (10-1)
Coaches – KI Damian Ferragamo 13th season 105-33, 6-8 p/o; Douglass Monty Sutton 1st season 10-1, 2-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – KI 38.8-10.1/ +28.7; Douglass 32.2-6.1/ +26.1
MPSSAA playoff history – KI 12th appearance 12-11, 3-4 in Reg F/QF round; Douglass 24th appearance 31-22, 11-7
The best of the Bayside Conference versus the best of the PG 3/2/1A league. Like Huntingtown and Decatur, a case of a high scoring offensive machine versus a stellar and stingy defense.
Kent Island is looking to become the first Eastern Shore team to win the 2A state title in 39 years, dating back to 1982 when JM Bennett topped Oakland Mills in overtime in the Class B championship game. The Buccaneers finished with an unbeaten regular season record for just the second time in their program’s history, matching 2011, before the Bucs were dispatched by Elkton in the regional final.
The Buccaneers average 38.8 points per game, 16th best in the MPSSAA. The Bucs have held eight of their nine opponents (one forfeit win) to 14 points or less. The Bucs have a pair of convincing victories over fellow quarterfinalists that will be playing this weekend, with a 42-13 win over Decatur, and a 40-8 win over Colonel Richardson, to go with a 24-8 win over Wicomico. The Buccaneers, who advanced to the 2A state semifinals in ‘11, ‘13, and ‘14, topped Bayside rival North Caroline in the ‘Round of 16’, 28-12. Bucs Head Coach Damian Ferragamo led Old Mill to the 4A state championship in 2009.
Douglass is unbeaten versus MPSSAA competition this season, with its only loss coming to Pallotti. The #15 Eagles have allowed only 6.1 points per game this season, ranking second in all of the MPSSAA. The Eagles advanced to the 2018 1A state championship game, before the 5 loss Eagles fell to Fort Hill, 20-8, in the title game. First year coach Eagles Monty Sutton took over the program after Julius Pinkney stepped down after 18 years with the program. The Eagles are coming off of their sixth shutout of the season, blanking league rival Potomac, 38-0, in the ‘Round of 16’. Senior linebacker Camron Stroud has registered a team co-leading 56 solo tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and five sacks. Junior defensive end Darius Grimes matches Stroud in solo tackles, with 56, and has added eight sacks and six tackles for loss.
3 Oakland Mills Scorpions (9-1) v Owings Mills Golden Eagles (10-1)
Coaches – Oakland Mills Thomas Browne 11th season 54-53, 1-4 p/o; Owings Mills Mike Gunthrop 8th season 40-35, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Oakland Mills 24.4-13.4/ +11.0; Owings Mills 37.2-12.7/ +24.5
MPSSAA playoff history – Oakland Mills 18th appearance 8-16, 3-5 in Reg F/QF round; Owings Mills 7th appearance 4-6, 1-4
OM squared. ‘The Mill’ takes on ‘The Mill’ in the ‘Battle of the Mills’. One of these teams will come out on top (this Scorpion hopes it’s the Scorpions) and provide a fresh face in the state semifinals. Oakland Mills is having its best season in 20 years, while Owings Mills is having the best season in its program’s history.
The Scorpions are amidst a seasons of ‘first since’. Last Friday night, the Scorpions pulled out a wild 42-41 overtime victory over Walkersville for their first post-season victory since 2001, when the Scorpions routed Boonsboro, 48-14, in a state semifinal. The ‘01 Scorpions, who finished with a 6-4 regular season record, missed several opportunities in the state title game to win their second state championship, and fell just short of Allegany, 27-26. Two weeks ago, these Scorpions became the first team in the program’s last 21 years to win or share the county title. This week, the Scorpions can become the first team on Kilimanjaro to win 10 games since the 1998 state championship team went 12-1.
Scorpions Head Coach Thomas Browne was an All-Met receiver for the Scorpions on that state title team, nabbing 52 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns. The Scorps lone loss was to co-county champion Glenelg, 20-8, in a game where the Scorpions fumbled on a potential game-winning drive midway through the fourth quarter. The #23 Scorpions posted a win over fellow quarterfinalist Atholton, and closed out the regular season with a 22-0 shutout of Long Reach, clinching a share of a title that was a long time coming. Scorpions quarterback Kanye Holland rushed for three touchdowns in the ‘Round of 16’ win, including the game-winner in overtime, and now has 614 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns on the season. John Tatum leads the Scorpions in rushing with 651 yards and six touchdowns, and teams with Shane King and Trevin McHarge to combine for 1,448 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns for the trio of backs. King scored two touchdowns in the win over the Lions.
Owings Mills has won 10 games for the first time in their program’s history, and the Golden Eagles are averaging scoring 37.2 points per game. The Golden Eagles only loss came to #9 Milford Mill, 29-6, in week four. The Eagles have notched victories over Kenwood (28-24), Hereford (34-16), and a pair over New Town, including their 28-25 win over the Titans in the ‘Round of 16’. The Golden Eagles last played in a state quarterfinal game in 1994, and won its last playoff game prior to this season in 1990.
1 Dunbar Poets (10-0) v 8 Gwynn Park Yellowjackets (6-5)
Coaches – Dunbar Lawrence Smith 14th season 153-24, 41-7 p/o; GP Danny Hayes 23rd season 191-70, 19-15
Points per game-points allowed per game/ point differential – Dunbar 45.2-9.2/+36.0; GP 27.3-17.9/+9.4
MPSSAA playoff history – Dunbar 25th appearance 62-14, 21-3 in Reg F/QF round; GP 19th appearance 21-17, 5-9
The Dunbar Poets continue to add to their MPSSAA legacy, one that began in 1993 with their first playoff victory, the year they joined the MPSSAA. Since, the Poets have won more post-season games – 62, and more state championships – 10, than any other school in the MPSSAA. The #12 Poets are making their 25th post-season appearance, in their 28th season in the MPSSAA. The Poets also hold the best post-season winning percentage of all-time, at .816. Poets Head Coach Lawrence Smith boasts a MPSSAA best 41-7 playoff record. Gwynn Park and their coach Danny Hayes are no strangers to the post-season, as the Yellowjackets are making their 19th post-season appearance, and 16th with Hayes.
While the Poets have had continued success since joining the MPSSAA, the Baltimore City powerhouse has advanced to just three state title games over the last seven post-seasons, low by their mighty standards, and won just one, in 2017. The Poets lost in the 2019 1A state title game to Catoctin, 31-8. This season, the Poets notched another unbeaten regular season, highlighted by a thrilling 48-46 overtime victory over Mervo in week three, a game in which the Poets trailed by 16 points with less than five minutes to play in regulation.
The Poets advanced to the quarterfinals with a 40-7 trouncing of Fairmont Heights in the ‘Round of 16’, earning their 25th berth in the state quarterfinal round. Poets junior quarterback Devin Roche has rushed for more than 1,500 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, while junior running back Tristan Keenan has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Poets average 45.2 points per game, tied with Old Mill for best mark in the MPSSAA. The Poets rank 13th in points allowed, at 9.2 per game, and rank third in point differential, at +36.0. The Poets have scored 38 points in each of their nine games played on the field.
Overall, Smith has won 153 games in his 14 seasons with the Poets, and his .864 career win percentage ranks third best in Maryland public school history. Hayes has won 191 games, fourth best among active MPSSAA coaches, and 19 playoff games, sixth best among active MPSSAA coaches.
The Yellowjackets have advanced as far as the state semifinal round just once since 2003 – in 2017, when they snubbed Harford Tech in the semifinal round, before suffering a 31-7 loss to Damascus in the 2A state title game. The Yellowjackets suffered two forfeit losses this season, were shutout by both Wise and Oakdale, and took a 28-14 loss to Douglass in the regular season finale. The Yellowjackets haven’t allowed a point this post-season, blanking Crossland, 21-0, in the first round, then Calvert, 28-0, last weekend. Yellowjackets quarterback Anthony Cancellare has thrown for better than 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns.
4 Lackey Chargers (9-2) v 5 Elkton Golden Elks (7-3)
Coaches – Jamari Jones 2nd season 17-4, 2-1 p/o; Elkton Matt Feeney 9th season 64-21, 8-5
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Lackey 24.8-10.5/ +14.3; Elkton 35.5-19.4/ +16.1
MPSSAA playoff history – Lackey 17th appearance 18-15, 5-6 in Reg F/QF round; Elkton 22nd appearance 25-20, 10-6
The Chargers have won nine of ten games since losing the season opener to Chopticon, and will be looking for just their second quarterfinal win since 2008 when they host the Golden Elks. The Golden Elks have advanced to the state semifinals in three of the last four post-seasons, and come in having won four of their last five games.
The Chargers advanced to the 2017 1A state semifinals, before suffering a 34-33 heartbreaking loss to Fort Hill, denying them a title game berth. The Chargers, who finished first in the small school SMAC division, posted wins over Calvert and Leonardtown, before losing to Northern, 35-0, in the regular season finale. The Chargers feature one of the MPSSAA’s top ten rushers in Andre Smith. The Chargers shut out Patuxent, 21-0, in the ‘Round of 16’.
The high scoring Golden Elks have had a pair of questionable losses, versus Aberdeen and Bel Air, but are coming off their biggest win of the season, running away with a 49-21 victory over then 9-1 Fallston. The Golden Elks held the Cougars to below half of their per game average, and scored 34 points before intermission. The Elks are led by dual threat quarterback Jayden Triplett. Coach Matt Feeney led the Golden Elks to the 2016 2A state title game, losing to Walkersville,35-6. The Golden Elks were bounced in the state semifinals in 2018 and 2019 to two more Frederick County teams – Oakdale and Middletown, respectively.
2 South Carroll Cavaliers (10-0) v 7 Williamsport Wildcats (7-4)
Coaches – SC Mike Kraus 4th season 19-14, 1-0 p/o; Williamsport Tim Small 7th season 33-31, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – SC 30.2-7.6/ +22.6; Williamsport 31.3-15.1; +16.2
MPSSAA playoff history – SC 14th appearance 14-10, 4-5 in Reg F/QF round; Williamsport 3rd appearance 3-2, 0-0
The Carroll County champion Cavaliers are having one of their two best seasons in the history of their program, after finishing with an undefeated regular season record for the first time in their program’s history. Williamsport have notched all three of the program’s post-season victories over the last two post-seasons.
The Cavaliers are led by their defense, who allows only 7.6 points per game, which ninth in the MPSSAA. The Cavaliers shut out Boonsboro, 35-0, in the ‘Round of 16’, their third straight opponent they’ve held to seven points or less. On the season, the Cavaliers have held eight of ten opponents to seven points or less. The Cavs regular season signature win was a 16-7 victory over fellow quarterfinalist Westminster. The Cavs offense is directed by senior quarterback Ryan Barnard, who has thrown for 12 touchdowns and rushed for 10 scores, and bolstered by junior running back AJ Rodrigues, who has nearly 1,000 rushing yards, and scored 12 touchdowns.
Wildcats Head Coach Tim Small became the program’s winningest coach with his 33rd victory in the ‘Cats 50-20 victory over Francis Scott Key in the ‘Round of 16’. The Eagles were one of three common opponents between the Cats and Cavs. The Cavs won a hard fought 13-7 victory over the Eagles. Both teams shut out Boonsboro, with the Cats blanking the Warriors, 35-0. South Carroll shut out Manchester Valley, 43-0, while the Cats claimed a 21-6 victory over the Mavericks.
3 Harford Tech Cobras (9-1) v 6 Largo Lions (8-3)
Coaches – H Tech Todd Palmer 5th season 38-6, 4-3 p/o; Largo Derron Thomas 8th season 33-47, 2-1
Points per game – Points allowed / Point differential – H Tech 36.9-11.4/ +25.5; Largo 27.0-13.2/ +13.8
MPSSAA playoff history – H Tech 4th appearance 4-3, 1-0 in Reg F/QF round; Largo 8th appearance 7-6, 2-2
The Cobras, who are playing in their third quarterfinal in four post-seasons, are unbeaten on the field, with their only defeat being a forfeit loss. Largo, on the other hand,will be playing in their first state quarterfinal game since 1995.
The Cobras under Todd Palmer are 38-6 since 2017, advancing to the 2A state semifinals in 2017, before losing to Gwynn Park,16-9. In 2019, the Cobras lost to Northern of Calvert County, 42-21, in the ‘Round of 16’.
This season, the Cobras have been limited to eight games on the field, and have just two victories over teams with winning records – Sparrows Point and Parkville. The Cobras advanced from the ‘Round of 16’ with a 27-17 win over Cambridge – South Dorchester. The Cobras, who average 36.9 points per game, feature senior running back Kelvin Mendez, who leads the MPSSAA with an average of 231.1 rushing yards per game, and has scored 23 touchdowns in seven games.
It’s been awhile since the Lions advanced to four state quarterfinal rounds in five years from ‘91 through ‘95, and finished as the 4A state runner-up in ‘94. It wasn’t until 2018 until the Lions played in another playoff game since 1995. The Lions three losses this season came to a pair of top 25 teams – Douglass and Potomac, and Green Street Academy. The Lions biggest win this season was a week four 14-7 victory over Fairmont Heights.
1 Fort Hill Sentinels (10-0) v 8 Joppatowne Mariners (5-4)
Coaches – Fort Hill Zach Alkire 2nd season 11-1, 1-0 p/o; Joppa James Murray 3rd season 11-19, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Fort Hill 39.8-11.9/ +27.9; Joppa 22.9-23.0/ -0.1
MPSSAA playoff history – Fort Hill 35th appearance 59-27, 21-6 in Reg F/QF round; Joppa 19th appearance 27-16, 9-4
Fort Hill hasn’t missed a beat since Todd Appel stepped down following the 2019 season, as the Sentinels finished with an unbeaten regular season record for a state record 20th time. Todd Alkire has taken over for the Sentinels, who have advanced to the state semifinals in each of the last seven post-seasons. The Sentinels won state titles in ‘13, ‘14, ‘15, ‘16, and ‘18, were runner-up in ‘17, and a semifinalist in ‘19, when they were eliminated by eventual state champion Catoctin.
The Sentinels join Cambridge South Dorchester in making their state best 35th post-season appearance, and the Sentinels 59 playoff victories rank second in MPSSAA history, second only to Dunbar’s 62 playoff wins.
This year’s Sentinels are averaging scoring 39.8 points per game, which ranks 11th in the MPSSAA, and boast a +27.9 point differential, 13th best in the MPSSAA. The Sentinels hosted a pair of notable out-of-region teams in Old Mill and Oakdale, and responded splendidly, topping the Patriots, 28-13, and crushing the Bears, 42-7. The Sentinels beat the three best in their region, including 1A contender Mountain Ridge, arch rival Allegany, and Northern of Garrett County, twice. The Sentinels have scored 35 or more points in seven of their nine games.
Joppatowne is 9-4 in the regional final/ quarterfinal round, but the Mariners haven’t advanced to the state quarterfinals since 2009, when they finished as the 1A state runner-up. The Mariners advanced to seven state semifinals in nine years from ‘01 through ‘09. The Mariners four losses came to fellow quarterfinalist Perryville, Havre de Grace, Fallston, and Rising Sun. The Mariners played their best game of the season last Friday, when they held Havre de Grace to a season-low three points in their 22-3 win.
4 Edmondson Red Wave (7-4) v 5 Colonel Richardson Colonels (8-3)
Coaches – Edmondson Corey Johnson 8th season 63-31, 10-6 p/o; Col. Richardson James Jackson 2nd season 12-6, 2-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game/ Point differential – Edmondson 24.4-15.3/ +9.1; Col. Richardson 37.1-18.0/ +19.1
MPSSAA playoff history – Edmondson 17th appearance 23-15, 7-6 in Reg F/QF round; Col. Richardson 5th appearance 2-4, 0-0
Edmondson has advanced to the quarterfinal round for the fifth time in ten post-seasons, and the Red Wave look to advance to the state semifinal round for the fourth time in that span with a win over the Colonels. The Red Wave pummeled Ben Franklin, 60-0, in the opening round, then dispatched New Era, 52-20, in the ‘Round of 16’.
The Colonels lost their first two games of the season, to two of the Bayside’s best, Kent Island and Wicomico, and have since won eight of their last nine games. The Colonels, who average 37.1 points per game, have scored 42 or more points in seven of their last nine games, including an opening round 70-0 rout of winless Washington, and a 57-28 win over Surrattsville.
2 Mountain Ridge Miners (10-1) v 7 Forest Park Foresters (7-4)
Coaches – Mountain Ridge Ryan Patterson 6th season 29-21, 2-0 p/o; Forest Park Sean Markley 5th season 23-29, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Mountain Ridge 43.1-9.9/ +33.2; Forest Park 14.9-12.8/ +2.1
MPSSAA playoff history – Mountain Ridge 3rd appearance 3-2, 0-1 in Reg F/QF round; Forest Park 14th appearance 6-13, 0-8
The Miners and the Foresters, an ecological clash. Give me a break, it’s the 1A quarterfinals. The Miners look to be the top contender to Fort Hill in 1A, even while losing to the Sentinels, 37-7, in week six.
The Miners average scoring 43.1 points per game, sixth best in the MPSSAA, and register a +33.2 point differential, also sixth best in the MPSSAA. The Miners beat longtime region power, and one-time state power, Allegany, for a second time, 35-6, in the ‘Round of 16’, after blanking the Campers, 31-0, in week three.
In three of the Foresters five victories, they’ve scored 14 points or less. The Foresters average scoring 14.9 points per game. The Foresters best win was over 3-6 Lewis, 14-8.
3 Perryville Panthers (6-4) v 6 Brunswick Railroders (7-4)
Coaches – Perryville Chris Johnson 10th season 72-42, 12-6 p/o; Brunswick Jeremiah Smith Brunswick 5th season 27-19, 2-4
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Perryville 21.4-19.0/ +2.4; Brunswick 25.5-16.5/ +9.0
MPSSAA playoff history – Perryville 10th appearance, 10-8, 2-4 in Reg F/QF round; Brunswick 12th appearance 10-11, 4-5
Ten years after shocking Fort Hill in overtime in a state semifinal game, the Panthers are seeking their second semifinal berth since then. The Panthers magical 2011 season came to end in the state final, losing to Dunbar, 38-0, and finishing 13-1. A year later, the Panthers advanced to the semifinals again, losing to New Town, 28-27.
This season, the Panthers have losses to North Harford, Fallston, and Patterson Mill, in addition to a forfeit loss. The Panthers best win was an overtime win over Havre de Grace in overtime in week eight. Last Friday, Perryville knocked off Bohemia Manor for the second time in three weeks, punching a ticket to the quarterfinal round.
Brunswick had a rough home stretch in the regular season, losing their last three games, to Middletown, Walkersville, and a then winless Catoctin team. A week later, the Railroaders flipped the script on Catoctin, bouncing the Cougars in the first round, 13-0. Last Friday, the Railroaders shut out Pikesville, 35-0.
HS Sports Analyst
Willie, a native of Chicago, and now a resident of Columbia for 40 years, is an educator at Homewood Center in Howard County, after spending 12 years as a real estate agent, following 10 years of running a small men’s retail company. Willie has contributed to Max Preps, Digital Sports, and Varsity Sports Network. Willie has produced MPSSAA top 25 rankings for both football and basketball for 15 years, across various platforms. From a large ‘sports family’, Willie’s brother Mike led Reservoir High to the 3A basketball state title game in 2018, while his nephew Anthony serves as the Indianapolis Colts College Scouting Coordinator.