Huntingtown Hurricanes (10-1) v Milford Mill Millers (11-1)
Coaches – Huntingtown Paul Friel 6th season 39-21, 4-2 p/o; Milford Mill Reggie White 20th season 147-70, 15-10
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Huntingtown 27.3-9.1/ +18.2; Milford Mill 38.8-6.9/ +31.9
MPSSAA playoff history – Huntingtown 19-10, 2-5 in SF; Milford Mill 22-19, 3-5
This semifinal features two of three best defenses in the 2A classification, with Milford Mill ranked fifth overall in the MPSSAA in points allowed, at 6.9 per game, and Huntingtown ranked twelfth overall, at 9.1 per contest. The Hurricanes and Millers met in a 2012 3A state semifinal, with the ‘Canes running away with a 34-6 victory. The ‘Canes took a 6-0 lead into halftime, on two field goals, before Carl Riffe ripped off 221 rushing yards and three scores after intermission to give the visitors a commanding lead.
The 2012 win over the Millers was the last state semifinal win for the Hurricanes, since losing in ‘13, ‘18, and ‘19, in the ‘Final Four’ round. Franklin topped Huntingtown in both the ‘13 and ‘18 state semifinals, before going on to win the state championship the following week. In 2019, the ‘Canes lost a hard fought 21-14 battle in the state semifinal to Damascus, before the Swarmin’ Hornets went on to win their 11th state championship.
Millers coach Reggie White in his 20th season at his alma mater, posting a 147-70 record. White has led the Millers to three state semifinal appearances before, including the 2012 loss to Huntingtown. The Millers lost to South Carroll, 27-18, in a 2005 3A state semifinal, and routed Long Reach, 33-6, in a 2017 3A state semifinal.
The #20 Hurricanes advanced to the state semifinal round for a third straight post-season with a 28-14 win over Decatur, the ninth time in their last ten games they’ve held their opponents to 14 points or less. The ‘Canes and Seahawks battled through a scoreless first half, before Coy Greenwell connected with David Bolingbrook on a 82 yard touchdown pass gave the Hurricanes a 21-7 lead. The Hurricanes held the Seahawks to 27 points below their per game average of 41 points per game, and picked off four passes. The Hurricanes will be playing in their eighth state semifinal in twelve post-seasons.
Senior defensive tackle Riley Curtin has registered 27 tackles for loss and ten sacks. Fellow senior linebackers Chad Connelly and Austin Welch form one of the best linebacking units in the MPSSAA.
The #8 Millers shut down Glenelg and their talented quarterback Bisi Owens in the quarterfinals, walking away with a 35-3 win, their 11th straight victory. The Millers have scored 35 or more points in six straight games, and kept eight of their last eleven opponents to seven points or less. Over the last eleven games, no one has come within 20 points in the Millers.
Senior Tahseen Howard has done everything for the Millers, rushing for 991 yards and 14 touchdowns, throwing for 1,582 yards and 17 touchdowns, picked off seven interceptions on defense, and has scored six times on defense and special teams, including returning five punts for touchdowns. Senior Chrisean Butler has returned after missing four games in October with a MCL injury, and rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries in the win over the Gladiators. On the season, Butler has rushed for 888 yards and 17 touchdowns, and returned two kickoffs for touchdowns. Byron McCoy, the Millers 6’3 270 defensive tackle, has recorded 22 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and a safety. 6’2 220 senior linebacker Andrew Rhuebottom has 67 solo tackles, two forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks, and blocked two punts.
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Oakland Mills Scorpions (10-1) v Douglass PG Eagles (11-1)
Coaches – Oakland Mills Thomas Browne 11th season 55-53, 2-4 p/o; Douglass Monty Sutton 11-1, 3-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Oakland Mills 24.2-13.5/ +10.7; Douglass 31.2-6.8/ +24.4
MPSSAA playoff history – Oakland Mills 9-16, 3-4 in SF; Douglass 32-22, 5-7
Oakland Mills is having a ‘first since’ season for the ages. The Scorpions won a share of the county title for the first time since 2000 this season. Then, the Scorpions registered their first post-season victory since 2001. Last week, the Scorpions notched their first 10-win season since 1998, and secured their first state semifinal berth since 2001.
Douglass, on the other hand, treats the post-season like old hat, having won 32 playoff games, and are entering their 53rd post-season contest. During the span the Scorpions went without a playoff victory (‘02-19), the Eagles tallied 24 playoff wins. The #15 Eagles have played in four state championship games over the last nine post-seasons, winning the 2014 2A state championship in dominant fashion, outscoring their opponents 611-55 that season, including their four playoff opponents, 183-19.
Scorpions coach Thomas Browne is having his best of his eleven seasons at his alma mater, considering the Scorpions weren’t picked as any one of the four best teams in the county by the county’s coaches in the pre-season poll. Browne, an All-Met receiver on the Scorpions ‘98 state championship team, led the ‘14 team to a 9-1 record in 2014, before a first round exit. Douglass’ Coach Monty Sutton stepped in this season after longtime coach JC Pinkney stepped down after 18 seasons with the Eagles. Sutton was a longtime assistant for Pinkney.
The #22 Scorpions have pulled out two wild wins in their two playoff games this post-season – edging Walkersville, 42-41, in overtime in the ‘Round of 16’, then coming back from a 14-8 second half deficit to defeat Owings Mills, 22-14, in the quarterfinals. Scorpions quarterback Kanye Holland broke off a 52 yard touchdown run to tie the game, but the Scorpions failed in two attempts (defensive penalty) to convert the potential go-ahead extra point. The Scorpions captured the subsequent onside kick, and several plays later, Shane King took it in from 21 yards for what would be the game-winning score.
The Eagles, whose only loss came to Pallotti, went over the bridge in the quarterfinals and took a 20-14 victory over previously undefeated Kent Island, 20-14. The Eagles amassed 506 rushing yards, but lost four fumbles, three inside the Buccaneers 30 yard line. Vincent Oliver ran for a season-high 280 yards and three scores on 19 carries, while Mikkel Pittman ran nine times for 124 yards, and quarterback Trey Manley ran eight times for 92 yards. Vincent scored on 19, 81, and 83 yard runs. The Eagles forced the Bucs to punt on seven of their first eight possessions. The Eagles allow only 6.8 points per game, tied for third best in the MPSSAA, and have kept all of their eleven MPSSAA opponents to 14 points or less.
The Scorpions, like Douglass, lack a 800 yard rusher, but offer a trio of backs that have all rushed for more than 500 yards. The Scorpions have five players with more than 50 rushing attempts. Holland, the quarterback, leads the Scorpions with 12 rushing touchdowns.
On the season, Oliver has rushed for 701 yards and six touchdowns for the Eagles, and Pittman has added 659 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Manley has thrown for 627 yards and ten touchdowns, and rushed for 454 yards and four touchdowns. Senior linebacker Camron Stroud leads the Eagles vaunted defense, recording 66 solo tackles, 13 tackles for loss, five sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one interception. Sophomore linebacker Davin Brown boasts 68 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Dunbar Poets (11-0) v Lackey Chargers (10-2)
Coaches – Dunbar Lawrence Smith 14th season 154-24, 42-7 p/o; Lackey Jamari Jones 2nd season 18-4, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Dunbar 46.9-8.9/ +38.0; Lackey 27.6-11.9/ +15.7
MPSSAA playoff history – Dunbar 64-14, 13-8 in SF; Lackey 19-15, 3-2
It’s the state semifinal round, so that means Dunbar is here. For the 22nd time in its 28 seasons in the MPSSAA, the Poets have advanced to the state semifinal round. Poets coach Lawrence Smith continues to build on the Poets incredible legacy, boasting a 154-24 record of his own in 14 seasons at Dunbar. Smith has led the Poets to the state semifinals in 13 of his 14 seasons, coming in with an 8-4 record in the ‘Final Four’ round.
The #11 Poets advanced to the semifinals with a resounding 64-6 win over Gwynn Park in the quarterfinal, as Smith pushed his MPSSAA-best post-season victory total to 42 (42-7). It was the ninth time in ten games played on the field the Poets had limited their opponents to eight points or less. It was also the tenth time in ten games the Poets scored 38 points or more.
Lackey comes in having won ten of eleven games, including the Chargers 58-38 victory over Elkton in the quarterfinal round. The Chargers scored 51 points before intermission, leading the Golden Elks, 51-22, at halftime. The Chargers rushed for 466 yards and seven touchdowns on 31 carries versus the Elks, with junior Jamari Somerville gaining 196 yards and scoring three touchdowns on 14 carries, senior Andre Smith rushing for 166 yards and a score on nine carries, and junior quarterback D’Andre Freeland running for 98 yards and three scores on eight carries.
The Chargers have averaged 416 rushing yards per game in their three post-season games, with 447 versus Fairmont Heights, 341 versus Patuxent, and 460 versus the Golden Elks. The Chargers have rushed for 17 touchdowns in their three playoff games.
The Poets lead the MPSSAA in scoring, at 48.4 points per game, and hold the largest point differential among all 182 teams in the MPSSAA, at +41.0 (not including forfeit win over Patterson). The Poets only test was a thrilling 48-46 overtime victory over Mervo in week three. The Poets allow only 7.4 points per game, and only the Mustangs have scored more than eight points in a game against the Poets. The Poets have scored 38 or more points in every game this season.
The Poets thrive through their running game, led by junior quarterback Devin Roche and junior running back Tristan Keenan, who together have rushed for 2,866 yards and 35 touchdowns. Roche has rushed for 1,643 yards and 19 touchdowns on just 81 carries, while Keenan has rushed for 1,223 yards and 16 touchdowns on only 65 carries. Roche has scored on every 4.26 carries this season, while Keenan has scored a touchdown every 4.06 carries. Roche has also thrown for 869 yards and 11 touchdowns, with just one interception. To add, Roche has retuned two punts for scores, and returned a kickoff ‘to the house’. 6’3 230 senior defensive end Gerliaer Ervin ranks second on the Poets with 42 solo tackles, and adds 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. Junior defensive lineman Desmond Grant leads the Poets with 55 solo tackles, with 10 tackles for loss.
Second year coach Jamari Jones’ Chargers have run the ball 433 times this year, and have thrown it on 24 occasions. While the Poets Roche and Keenan have together rushed for 2,866 yards and 35 touchdowns in ten games, Smith and Somerville have combined for 3,222 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns through twelve games. Smith ranks fourth in the MPSSAA in rushing yards, with 1,842, and has scored 21 touchdowns. Somerville has rushed for 1,370 yards, at 11.1 yards per carry, and rushed for 14 touchdowns. Freeland, the Chargers quarterback, has rushed for 514 yards and five touchdowns. Senior linebacker Bisanga Ngoie has registered 76 solo tackles and 21 sacks.
Rare is it that you have four players in it that have each averaged more than 110 rushing yards per game, much less four players that have all rushed for 14 touchdowns or more, but we do here. Between the quartet, the three juniors and a senior, they’ve totaled 6,088 rushing yards and 70 rushing touchdowns.
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South Carroll Cavaliers (11-0) v Harford Tech (10-1*)
Coaches – South Carroll Mike Kraus 4th season 20-14, 2-0 p/o; Harford Tech Todd Palmer 5th season 39-6, 5-3
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – South Carroll 29.9-7.5/ +22.4; Harford Tech 37.4-10.6/ +26.8
MPSSAA playoff history; South Carroll 15-10, 1-5 in SF; Harford Tech 5-3, 0-1
Both the Cavaliers and Cobras come into this semifinal having not lost on the field this season, with the Cavs coming in at 11-0, and the Cobras, 10-1, with their only defeat being a forfeit loss to Edgewood. Either the Cavs will be heading to their second championship game in their program’s history, or the Cobras will be headed to their very first.
South Carroll is having a storybook season, much like their 2005 edition, the only edition to make it to the state title game. That team finished 10-4, losing 38-3 to Potomac in the final. But, Coach Mike Kraus’ Cavs are undefeated, and one step away from the state championship game. South Carroll has been 11-0 once before, in 2010, before losing to Middletown in a 2A regional final, 30-6. The Cavaliers last played in a 2A state semifinal in 2014, before getting blanked by Douglass, 43-0.
The Cavaliers strength is their stout defense, which allows only 7.5 points per game, and ranks sixth in the MPSSAA. The Cavaliers stopped Williamsport, 27-7, in the quarterfinals, the tenth time in eleven games they’ve allowed their opponent just seven points or less. The Cavs and Wildcats were tied at 7, when Cavaliers senior quarterback Ryan Barnard found senior Logan Miller on a 79 yard scoring strike, then found Miller again on a ten yard toss with 5:59 left to all but sew it up for the Cavs. The Cats had scored 50 points in their quarterfinal win over Francis Scott Key.
The high scoring Cobras have averaged 37.4 points per game in nine games on the field this season, not including a forfeit win and a forfeit loss. The Cobras ran through Largo, 42-6, in the quarterfinals, with senior running back Kelvin Mendez rushing for 243 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. The Cobras boast a point differential of +26.8, 12th best in the MPSSAA.
The Cavs Barnard has thrown 108 completions in 174 attempts for 1,612 yards and 15 touchdowns, versus four interceptions. Barnard has rushed for 486 yards and ten scores. Junior running back AJ Rodrigues has rushed for 1021 yards and 13 touchdowns, and caught 14 passes for 143 yards and three scores. Miller has 23 receptions for 485 yards and four touchdowns. Senior linebacker Brandon Athey has recorded 87 solo tackles, 23 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks. The Cavaliers have registered 45 sacks in eleven games.
The Cobras Mendez leads the MPSSAA in rushing yards per game, at 232.6 yards per clip. In eight games, Mendez has rushed for 1,861 yards and 25 touchdowns on 203 attempts. Senior quarterback Milton Parker has thrown 70 completions in 111 attempts for 984 yards, with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. Senior lineman Joey Kanner has produced 25 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles on defense, nine ‘pancake’ blocks on offense, and blocked both a punt and field goal on special teams. Cobras coach Todd Palmer is 39-6 in his fifth season at Tech.
Fort Hill Sentinels (11-0) v Edmondson Red Storm (8-4)
Coaches – Zach Alkire 1st season 12-1, 2-0; Edmondson Corey Johnson 64-31, 10-6
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Fort Hill 41.2-10.7/ +30.5; Edmondson 26.2-16.8/ +9.4
MPSSAA playoff history – Fort Hill 60-27, 14-12 in SF; Edmondson 24-15, 2-5
Fort Hill will be playing in its MPSSAA record 27th state semifinal game, after becoming the second MPSSAA team to capture 60 post-season wins in the Sentinels 54-0 rout of Joppatowne in the quarterfinal round last weekend. The Sentinels joined Dunbar (64) as the only two MPSSAA to win 60 playoff games. The meeting with the Red Storm of Edmondson will be their MPSSAA record 88th post-season game.
While the Sentinels hold a 21-3 record in the quarterfinal round, they hold a 14-12 mark in the state semifinal round, and are 7-7 in state championship games.
Edmondson, for its part, will be playing in its 40th post-season game, coming in with a post-season record of 24-15. The Red Storm last made a state semifinal (1A) in 2016, losing to Havre de Grace, 31-14. Edmondson’s last state semifinal victory was in 2006, when the Red Storm stopped Southern of Harwood, 28-13, then went on to crush McDounough, 37-9, in the 2A state championship game, to capture the program’s only state title. The Red Storm played in just one other state semifinal – in ‘99, when they scored 37 second half points to top Howard, 37-15. The then Redskibs would run into Urbana in the final, and lose, 51-18.
The Sentinels scored four touchdowns in their first seven plays in the rout of Joppatowne, and the Sentinels went into intermission with a 42-0 halftime lead. Senior Blake Smith took three carries for 151 yards and two scores. A week earlier, the Sentinels rushed for 374 yards and six touchdowns on 26 carries in their 40-14 win over Northern of Garrett in the ‘Round of 16’. The Sentibels are averaging scoring 41.2 points per game, with a +30.5 point differential.
Smith leads the Sentinels with 1,187 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, and leads ‘Big Red’ in tackles, with 81, including 13 tackles for loss. Senior defensive lineman TJ Lee leads the Sentinels with 10 sacks. The Setinels have scored on their first two possessions in seven of their ten games. The Sentinels have won 22 straight post-season home games., and have advanced to the state semifinal round for the eighth straight post-season.
The Red Storm are playing in their fourth state semifinal game in the last ten post-seasons. In addition to the 2016 state semifinal loss to Havre de Grace, the Red Storm lost to Middletown in a 2011 2A state semifinal, 48-8, then fell to Douglass PG the following year in a state semifinal, 34-20, finishing 11-2.
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Mountain Ridge Miners (11-1) v Perryville Panthers (8-4)
Coaches – Mountain Ridge Ryan Patterson 6th season 30-21, 3-0 p/o; Perryville Sean Sandora 7th season (2nd at Perryville) 53-27, 8-4
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Mountain Ridge 44.2-10.8/ +33.4; Perryville 20.7-17.2/ +3.5
MPSSAA playoff history – Mountain Ridge 4-2, 0-0 in SF; Perryville 11-8, 1-1
The Miners are having the best season in their program’s history, winning 11 games for the first time, and advancing to the state semifinal round for the very first time. Following a 3-6 season in ‘19, the Miners began the 2021 calendar year in the spring with their first win in 15 tries over seven time state champion Fort Hill, and added two victories over eight time state champion Allegany, and have since carried that momentum through the fall.
Outside of their rematch with the Sentinels in the fall, the Miners have dominated the competition in the region. In the week six matchup with Fort Hill, the Miners trailed the Sentinels, 17-7, at halftime, before ‘Big Red’ ran away from the visitors from Frostburg in the second half.
The Miners have outscored their ten opponents (not including one forfeit win) not named Fort Hill 479-82 (47.9-8.2) this season. The Miners tripled-downed on Allegany in week three, turning back the Campers for a third straight time this year, 31-0, then captured their fourth of the year in a 35-6 rout in the ‘Round of 16’.
The Miners advanced to the state semifinals after scoring 41 unanswered points in a 55-20 win over Forest Park in the quarterfinals. The Foresters had trimmed the Miners lead to 14-12, before the onslaught. The Foresters two scores had come on a kickoff return and a ‘pick 6’, but their offense didn’t score until the final minute of the game, with the Miners second-string unit playing. Jaden Lee rushed for 179 yards and three scores for the Miners, while quarterback Bryce Snyder threw for 154 yards and accounted for two scores.
Perryville will be traveling 188 miles and four hours by bus to Frostburg for this state semifinal, and will be playing in their third state semifinal game in their program’s history. The Panthers are riding a four game winning streak, beginning with a 21-14 win over their arch rival Havre de Grace in the ‘Susky (Susquehanna) Bowl’ in week eight.
Panthers junior quarterback Zach Clarke threw two touchdowns in their 14-3 win over Brunswick in the quarterfinals, and was their ‘Player of the Game’ in the ‘Susky Bowl’ overtime win over the Warriors, throwing for a score, running for a score, and grabbing the game-clinching interception.
Ten years ago to this day (11/26), the Panthers upset undefeated Fort Hill in overtime, 20-14, to win their only state semifinal game in their program’s history. The Panthers (13-1) fell to Dunbar, 38-0, the following week in the state title game. The Panthers were edged by New Town the following year in a 1A state semifinal, 28-27. Panthers coach Sean Sandora led Dundalk to the 3A state championship game in 2015.
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.