Here, we look at the MPSSAA’s 4A, 4/3A, and 3A state semifinal football games taking place this weekend. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the 2A, 2/1A, and 1A state semifinal matchups.
In 4/3A, the Baltimore area features three of the four semifinalists, including 1 seed Dundalk, Mervo, and Arundel. The Owls host the Wildcats, while the Mustangs travel to Sherwood. The area is guaranteed one team in the 4/3A title game, and could garner both slots. In 3A, Chesapeake of Pasadena is the lone rep’ from the Baltimore area. The 6 seed Cougars travel to Calvert County to take on the Northern Patriots.
Quince Orchard Cougars (12-0) v Northwest Jaguars (11-1)
Coaches – Quince Orchard John Kelley 8th season 83-10, 17-5 p/o; Northwest Travis Hawkins 1st season 11-1, 3-0
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point Differential – Quince Orchard 42.8-6.8/ +36.1; Northwest 36.7-8.8/ +27.9
MPSSAA playoff history – Quince Orchard 37-15, 7-1 in SF; Northwest 27-12, 4-3
This will be the ninth post-season in ten that either Quince Orchard or Northwest will play in the 4A state championship game. The Cougars finished as 4A runner-up in ‘11, ‘12, ‘17, and ‘17, and won it all in ‘18. The Jaguars won back-to-back 4A state championships in ‘13 and ‘14, and were runner-up in the last 4A state title game played, losing to Wise, 35-14.
These Montgomery County juggernauts have arguably been two of the three best 4A programs in the 21st century, along with Wise. The Cougars fell to the Pumas in the 2012, ‘16, and ‘17 4A finals, and topped the Pumas in the 2018 4A state title game. The Cougars hold a 19-12 edge in the series, including winning 17 of the last 22 overall, but the Jags hold a 5-3 post-season record versus their arch rivals, including a 22-13 victory over the Cougars in their first state semifinal meeting in 2019.
Coach John Kelley is in his eighth season leading the Cougars, and boasts a 83-10 record, including a 17-5 post-season mark. As a player, Jaguars Coach Travis Hawkins took part in this series for three years as a Cougar, but now travels back to his alma mater as a visitor, with a 11-1 record in his first year as the head coach in Germantown.
The Cougars and Jaguars met in a much anticipated matchup in week eight, with both teams coming into the game undefeated for just the third time. After a scoreless defensive struggle in the first quarter, the Cougars took a 10-0 lead into halftime. That score held until the Cougars Johnny Castro scampered in for 19 yards out to put the Cougs up, 17-0. Things got worse minutes later for the Jags, when a snap went over their punter’s head and Cougars linebacker Sekou Kamara fell on it in the end zone, to give the visitors from Gaithersburg a commanding 24-0 lead in what would turn into a 31-0 rout.
Not many, if any, are expecting that kind of margin this time, though double-digit margins far outweigh single-digit margins in the history of this rivalry. The two powerhouses will be meeting for a second time in a season for the ninth time in the rivalry series, with the Cougars sweeping the two-game series three times (‘12, ‘17, ‘18), the Jaguars seeping twice (‘06, ‘13), and three series splits, in ‘14, ‘15, and the last post-season, 2019.
The Cougars have scored more than 40 points in each of their three playoff routs, and have scored 31 or more points in 11 of their 12 wins this season. The Cougars are averaging scoring 42.8 points per game, sixth best in the MPSSAA, and allow only 6.8 points per contest, which ranks third in the MPSSAA. Only one opponent, Paint Branch, has come within 30 points of the Cougars this season. The Cougars are coming off a very impressive 41-6 win over Old Mill in the quarterfinal, limiting the Patriots talented quarterback Myles Fulton to 10 completions on 30 attempts for 91 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Cougars rushed for 233 yards, nabbed a ‘pick 6’, and hit two field goals.
After two easy wins in the first two rounds of the post-season, the Jaguars topped Paint Branch, 33-26, in what many believed to be the quarterfinals ‘Game of the Week’, coming in. After the Panthers Octavian Smith Jr took it 77 yards to the house to begin the game, the Jaguars defense buckled down, and limited the Panthers to just one more score until late in the game. The Jags used all of their multiple weapons, and when ‘do everything’ Darius Lorfils scored his second touchdown, the 2019 4A state finalists held a 33-13 lead. Anthony Perry rushed for 108 yards for the Jaguars.
The ‘Cougar Done’ will be littered with talent. The Cougars feature Donovan Brown (Syracuse commit), who has eight touchdown receptions and has returned five punts for scores, senior defensive backs Steven Sannienola (Vanderbilt commit), Bryce Barnes (Michigan offer), and Jalen Husky (offers from Duke, Army, and Navy, among others), and 6’2 210 sophomore edge Jayden Harvey (offers from Vanderbilt, Maryland, and Boston College).
While the Jags offer Lorfils (Bowling Green commit), receivers Peter Kikwata (offers from Penn State, Cincinnati, South Carolina, and Auburn, among others) and Darryl Harper (five offers), and Devon Anderson (UMass and Morgan State offers), who very well may be considered the Montgomery County Defensive Player of the Year.
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Wise Pumas (11-0) v CH Flowers Jaguars (11-1)
Coaches – Wise DaLawn Parrish 17th season (15th at Wise) 167-49, 34-7 p/o; Flowers Dameon Powell 4th season 36-10 , 6-3
Pints per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Wise 45.3-6.3/ +39.0; Flowers 42.4-10.0/ +32.4
MPSSAA Playoff history – Wise 34-7, 7-2 in SF; Flowers 13-12, 0-1
If this meeting between these two Prince Georges County is anything like the first, the fans will be in for a treat. The first matchup came down to the final minute, with Flowers going for a potential game-winning two point conversion, but coming up short. Coming up short to the Pumas isn’t anything novel, as the defending 4A state champion Pumas have won 75 of 76 games versus MPSSAA opponents since the 2015 opener, and have posted 66 straight victories over Prince Georges County opponents.
The Pumas have won four of the last five 4A state titles, going undefeated in each of those championship seasons. The Pumas are 11-0 this season, and quarterback Jayden Sauray boasts a 25-0 record as their starting quarterback. The Pumas have won 12 straight games over the Jaguars, and hold a 14-3 series edge. The Jaguars last victory over the Pumas was November 7th, 2009, in a 14-12 win. The Pumas came back two weeks later and blanked the Jags, 26-0, beginning the twelve game streak.
The Pumas and Jags have played five times in the post-season, with the Pumas taking all five – ‘08 Reg F 28-0, ‘09 Reg F 26-0, ‘10 1st Rnd 40-12, ‘18 Reg F 22-12, and ‘19 QF 35-6.
Flowers pulled out a 43-36 overtime victory over Broadneck in the quarterfinals, overcoming a 28-12 halftime deficit. The Jags scored three straight touchdowns to take their first lead of the game, 33-28, when Habib Kamara took it in from two. yards out with less than nine minutes remaining. While Broadneck quarterback Joshua Erlich shredded the Jags in the first half, the Bruins were kept off the scoreboard in the second half until Erlich found Nathan Levicki from seven yards out for a score with 3:25 to play. The Jaguars drove 71 yards and Conscience Abba’s 22 yard field goal as time expired sent the game into overtime. In the extra session, Jaguar quarterback Sean Johnson tossed a six yard touchdown pass to Alpha Sesay, and the Jaguars stopped the Bruins one last time.
The Pumas had no such struggle in the quarterfinals, dominating a Blair team that scored 56 points in the quarterfinals, 62-2. The Blair’s vaunted passing attack fell victim to 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, three interceptions and a fumble. While the defense stymied the Blazers, Pumas quarterback Jayden Sauray threw 7 of 11 for 247 yards and five touchdowns, adding a rushing touchdown for good measure. Senior Nik McMillan caught four passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Dadrian Carter-Williams rushed for 102 yards and a score on 14 carries.
Pumas coach DaLawn Parrish has a 163-33 record in his fifteen seasons at Wise, and has led the Pumas to seven of the last eleven 4A state title games. With his next playoff win, Parrish will match former Fort Hill coach Todd Appel for the second most post-season victories in MPSSAA history, with 35. Jaguars Coach Dameon Powell has led his team to 19 wins in their last 21 games, with both losses coming to Wise. Since 2017, the Jaguars are 0-3 versus the Pumas, and 40-3 versus everyone else.
Sauray is putting together one of the most efficient passing seasons in MPSSAA history, completing 74.8% of his passes for 1748 yards and 28 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. Incredibly, Sauray is averaging 15.2 yards per attempt. McMillian has grabbed 34 passes for 806 yards and 13 touchdowns, not including two rushing touchdowns and a kickoff return for a score. Carter-Williams has rushed for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns, at 9.2 yards per carry.
The Jaguars staple has always been defense, quarterfinal be damned, but this year they are putting up points with the best of them (42.4ppg), and maybe for the first time in program history, have proven they can win a shootout with a quality opponent ,as shown in the victory over the Bruins. The Jags have no player with more than 600 rushing yards, but do have three seniors with more than 500 rushing yards. Aden Hodge, Kamara, and Rashad Brathwaite have combined for 232 carries for 2,708 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. Junior quarterback Sean Johnson has completed 78 of 139 passes for 1,230 yards and 19 touchdowns, versus two interceptions. Senior receiver Sesay is Johnson’s top target, and has returned both a punt and a kickoff back for scores. Sophomore Kendric Council is the Jaguars leading tackler, with 36 solo tackles, adding two tackles for loss, and two interceptions. Sophomore cornerback Braydon Lee is another up-and-coming star.
Dundalk Owls (11-0) v Arundel Wildcats (8-3)
Coaches – Dundalk Matt Banta 5th season 36-12, 4-2 p/o; Arundel Jack Walsh 4th season 27-11, 5-2
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Dundalk 36.0-5.5/ *30.5; Arundel 24.8-24.5/ +.3
MPSSAA playoff history – Dundalk 8-11, 1-0 in SF; Arundel 18-22, 3-4
It had been a while since the undefeated Dundalk Owls had to survive a dogfight, but that’s just what they did last Friday night, in their 20-15 comeback win over Urabana in the quarterfinal round. The Owls trailed 15-0 before scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to survive and advance. In weeks three and four, the Owls pulled out a 14-7 win over Perry Hall, then survived a 14-13 thriller with Westminster the following week, but not before the Owls had to stop a potential game-winning two point conversion. Aside from a surprisingly comfortable 27-13 win over county power Franklin, the Owls had beaten their other five opponents since those two one possession games by margins from 25 to 68 points.
Arundel began their season with a pair of Delaware teams, edging Dover, 28-27, and getting crushed by ‘First State’ power Smyrna, 56-6. It didn’t get better the following week, as the Cats were kept out of the end zone in by Old Mill in a 48-3 rout. Since, the Wildcats have won seven of eight games, with their only loss coming to fellow state semifinalist Chesapeake. The Wildcats have notable wins over Elkton, South River, and Seneca Valley, who they trumped in the quarterfinals, 29-21. After a 21-21 first half, neither the Cats or the Screamin’ Eagles offenses could score in the second half, and a blocked punt returned for a score proved to be the margin. The Cats Andrew Webb recorded 4.5 tackles for loss.
Dundalk leads all of the MPSSAA’s 182 teams in points allowed, at 5.5 points per game. The Owls have kept all 11 of their opponents to 15 points or less, and have registered five shutouts. Last Friday, quarterback Calvin Stokes and running back Jordan Fiorienza led the comeback, with Stokes hitting on 13 of 17 passes for 168 yards and a score, while Fiorenza added 102 yards and a touchdown on the ground, on 22 carries. Stokes also rushed for a touchdown.
Fiorenza has rushed for 1.212 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, on 138 attempts. Stokes has completed 79 of 137 (57.7%) passes for 1.163 yards, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Senior linebackers Abdullah Sargent and Kamara Watson lead the Owls defensive unit, with Sargent supplying 37 solo tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and four interceptions, and Watson adding 33 solo tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
The Cats win over the Screamin’ Eagles was the fourth one possession win for the Wildcats, including two one point wins. With the win over the Eagles, the Cats have a positive cumulative point differential for the first time since their 28-27 opening week win over Dover.
In eight games, Wildcats quarterback Jake Long has 92 completions in 158 attempts for 1.148 yards, with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Junior running back Ahmad Taylor has rushed for 851 yards and eight touchdowns on 200 carries. Junior wide receiver Dejuan Bowdry has nine touchdown receptions on just 23 receptions.
Dundalk coach Matt Banta was an assistant on the Owls 2015 3A state finalist team, and took over two years later. Banta is 36-12 in his five seasons at Dundalk, leading the Owls to something the school hasn’t seen in 50 years. Arundel coach Jack Walsh is a Chuck Markiwicz disciple, both as a player and an assistant, and has a 27-11 record in his fourth season with the Wildcats.
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Sherwood Warriors (9-2) v Mervo Mustangs (9-1)
Coaches – Sherwood Andrew ‘Doc’ Fields 10th season (1st with Sherwood) 59-36, 2-4 p/o; Mervo Patrick Nixon 9th season 74-23, 8-5
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Sherwood 28.5-17.6/ +10.9; Mervo 39.8-8.0/ +31.8
MPSSAA playoff history – Sherwood 34-20, 8-4 in SF; Mervo 8-9, 0-2
The old guard and the new guard. Sherwood is making its 24th post-season appearance, and boasts 34 playoff wins, while Mervo is making its sixth appearance in seven years, after just four berths in their first 21 seasons in the MPSSAA. The Warriors are making its 13th state semifinal appearance, while Mervo is making its third state semifinal appearance, all in the last three post-seasons.
Sherwood advanced to the semifinal after being Blake a second time, 42-21. The Warriors out-gained the Bengals 415-147, with 251 of those yards coming on the ground. Dillon Beideleman led the Warriors balanced rushing game with 69 rushing yards on 11 attempts, while quarterback Anthony Corneau threw 11 completions on 17 attempts for 164 yards and three scores. Warriors linebacker Liam Haley added two sacks.
Mervo got some revenge on North Point for their 23-13 loss to the Eagles in the 2018 4A state semifinal. The Mustangs took a 20-0 halftime lead and cruised. Mustangs quarterback Derek Dunn threw four touchdown passes in the win, where the hosts mounted a 27-0 lead. A year after advancing to the 4A state semifinal, the ‘Stangs advanced to the 3A state semifinal in 2019, falling just short of Linganore, 27-25.
Sherwood is making their first state semifinal appearance since 2009, when the Warriors fell to the eventual 4A state champion Old Mill Patriots, 20-13. The Warriors advanced to the state semifinal ten times in 15 years from ‘95 through ‘09, winning the 4A state title three times, in ‘95, ‘96, and ‘08.
Corneau has hit on 33 of 51 passes in the post-season, for 417 yards and five touchdowns. On the season, Corneau has thrown 116 completions in 178 attempts for 1,518 yards and 18 touchdowns, with six interceptions. Beideleman is the Warriors leading rusher, with 895 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Malachi Herring has rushed for 458 yards and six touchdowns, including 80 yards and two scores in the Warriors 22-16 win over Springbrook in the ‘Round of 16’.
The Mustangs win over North Point was just their eighth game played on the field this season, and the seventh time in eight tries they’ve held an opponent to seven points or less. The Mustangs have four shutouts in eight games. The ‘Stangs have scored 25 or more points in each of their eight games. The Mustangs only loss was a 48-46 overtime thriller to Dunbar in week three.
Warriors coach ‘Doc’ Fields is in his first year at the helm in Sherwood, replacing the legendary Tom Crowell. Fields spent the last two years at Gonzaga and Good Counsel, after stints at Northwest, Blair, and Churchill. Mervo coach Patrick Nixon in his ninth year at Mervo, producing a 74-23 record, and a 8-5 post-season mark.
Linganore Lancers (11-0) v Frederick Cadets (10-2)
Coaches – Linganore Rick Conner 23rd season (20th at Linganore) 208–59, 31-14 p/o; Kevin Pirri 5th season 23-43, 3-1
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Linganore 40.4-15.1/ +25.3; Frederick 44.5-18.7/ +25.8
MPSSAA playoff history – Linganore 43-17, 13-1 in SF; Frederick 6-5, 1-0
This state semifinal features the two top teams from the competitive Frederick County league, a league that produced two state champions in 2019, in 2A and 1A – Middletown and Catoctin, the 2018 2A state champion, Oakdale, the 2018 and ‘19 3A runner-up Lancers, the 2017 3A state champion Lancers, and the 2016 2A state champion Walkersville Lions.
The Lancers are seeking their fourth straight 3A state championship berth, after winning it all in 2017, with a 28-27 victory over Milford Mill, then falling just short of Franklin in ‘18, 17-14, and getting shutout by Damascus in the ‘19 3A state title game, 38-0. The Lancers are 13-1 in state semifinal games.
Frederick’s program is on the rise, following a 14-56 record over the previous seven full seasons. The Cadets three post-season wins this month match the program’s total over their first 46 seasons in the MPSSAA. Coach Kevin Pirri’s Cadets average 44.5 points per game, which ranks third among the 182 teams in the MPSSAA, trailing only Dunbar and Wise. The Cadets, who have won nine of ten games, have scored 33 or more points against everyone but the Lancers.
Rick Conner’s undefeated Lancers rolled through City College, 50-6, in the quarterfinals. With the win, Conner became the winningest (most wins) active coach in the MPSSAA, with 208 wins, surpassing Lake Clifton’s James Monroe. With another post-season win, Conner will match Montgomery County and state of Maryland high school football legend Al Thomas, with 32 playoff victories. The Lancers 43 post-season victories rank fifth in MPSSAA history.
The Lancers average 40.4 points per game, headlined by an offensive line and a sophomore running back that have produced over 200 rushing yards in each of the last five games. Arneson is the MPSSAA’s leading rusher, with 1,968 yards, scoring 21 touchdowns on the ground. Senior quarterback Timmy Conner has hit on 58 of his 100 passes for 868 yards, with 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior middle linebacker Chase Schultz leads a Lancers defense that picked off three City College passes. Schultz has registered 17 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, three fumble recoveries, forced a fumble, and blocked a kick. Sophomore Carter Neal leads the team with 40 solo tackles, and has added 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a safety.
Prior to this season, Frederick had won just one playoff game since winning a state semifinal game in 1985, their only other state semifinal appearance. The Cadets lost the 1985 Class A (3A) state championship game to McDonough, coached by Larry Johnson, 10-0.
This year’s Cadets feature a plethora of weapons, headlined by junior Travon Neal, who has 56 receptions for 1,072 yards and 13 touchdowns on offense, and seven interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery on defense. In all, Neal has amassed more than 1,700 all-purpose yards, and scored 16 touchdowns. Cadets junior quarterback Brian Mbuthia has connected on 102 of 155 passes for 1,815 yards and 20 touchdowns, with six interceptions. Sophomore running back Tae Anderson, who rushed for 300 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s win over the Knights, has rushed for 1,322 yards and 21 touchdowns on 178 carries this season. Junior Josh Hayward, who totaled 101 yards from scrimmage and scored on nine touches in the quarterfinal, has recorded 70 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, eight forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Hayward scored five touchdowns, three different ways, in the Cadets 55-8 opening round win over North Hagerstown.
In their week seven matchup, the Cadets squandered some opportunities (had two scores called back), and the Lancers relied on their steady ground game, rushing for 207 yards and three scores in a 28-14 win. The Cadets rushed for 129 yards on 29 carries. Conner threw for a score, and Mbuthia threw a pair of touchdowns and an interception.
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Northern Patriots (10-1) v Chesapeake AA Cougars (10-2)
Coaches – Northern Rich Holzer 8th season (1st at Northern) 55-32, 6-2 p/o – also 41-15 in five seasons at Mt St Joe; Chesapeake Rob Elliott 10th season 59-47, 5-4
Points per game – Points allowed per game / Point differential – Northern 36.1-9.0/ +27.1; Chesapeake 38.5-13.5/ +25.0
MPSSAA playoff history – Northern 7-7, 0-3 in SF; Chesapeake 5-4, 0-1
Two high powered offenses are featured in this state semifinal, one boasting the #2 passer in the MPSSAA in passing yards, and the other boasting the #2 rusher in the MPSSAA in rushing yards. The winner will earn a state title game berth for the first time in either of the programs history.
Northern averages 36.1 points per game, led by senior quarterback Zach Crounse, who has thrown 196 completions in 304 attempts for 2,777 yards (2nd in the MPSSAA) and 28 touchdowns, against 14 interceptions. Chesapeake is paced by its running game, led by senior Victor Listorti, who ranks second in the MPSSAA in rushing yards, with 1882 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns on 234 carries.
Northern advanced to the state semifinal with a commanding 40-7 victory over Westminster, with the Patriots producing 516 yards, with 292 passing yards, and 226 rushing yards. The Pats limited Westminster to 75 rushing yards. The #19 Patriots have scored 32 or more points in nine of their eleven contests, and have limited opponents to ten points or less in ten of eleven games. The Patriots only loss was a 10-7 overtime loss to #20 Huntingtown. The Patriots have allowed opponents only nine points per game.
Chesapeake advanced to the state semifinal with a 27-0 shutout of then 10-1 Atholton. The Cougars led 7-0 at intermission, but wore the Raiders down with their ground game, while their defense limited the hosts to just five first downs and 25 rushing yards. Listorti rushed for 137 yards and a score on 35 carries. The Cougars are amidst the greatest season in their program’s history, recording their first 10-win season. The Cougars average scoring 38.5 points per game, and sport a +25.0 point differential. The Cougars advanced to the 2018 3A state semifinals, before taking a 45-6 loss to Linganore.
In addition to Crounse, the Patriots feature running back Nathan Torres, who rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Westminster. Senior Tyler Baskett caught seven passes for 216 yards and a pair of scores in the win over the Owls. Baskett has registered 56 receptions for 1,127 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, and adds two interceptions at safety. Senior middle linebacker Gavin Whittington is the leader of the Patriots defense, while fellow senior linebacker Hayden Cleary leads the Pats with 113 tackles, adding eight tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a safety.
Cougars quarterback Luca Genovese has thrown just 67 passes, but has completed 38 of them for 842 yards and 15 touchdowns, with just one interception. Genovese averages 22.2 yards per completion. Senior safety Kyle Lane leads the Cougars in tackles, and has four interceptions, while junior cornerback Rushaun Tongue has four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Northern coach Rich Holzer is in his first year in Owings, after coming off five successful seasons at Mt St Joe, including winning the 2019 MIAA A title. Chesapeake Rob Elliott is in his tenth season in Pasadena, and led the Cougars to their 2018 3A state semifinal berth.
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.