Howard County Football Playoff Preview

The football playoffs start Friday, Nov. 11, with three games involving Howard County teams: Gwynn Park at Glenelg, Stephen Decatur at Atholton, and Howard at River Hill, all at 7 p.m.

Here's a quick preview of all three games:

2A South

No. 3 Gwynn Park (8-2) at No. 2 Glenelg (8-2)

(Thanks to Prince George's Gazette sports editor Seth Elkin for the intel on Gwynn Park)

The background:

Gwynn Park was 8-2 last year also, but missed the playoffs, so they're not taking this year's appearance for granted.

The Yellow Jackets have outscored opponents, 285-98, with three shut outs and their best win coming over Potomac (8-2 and the second seed in 3A South), 14-12, in week one.

Gwynn Park's losses were to Douglass, 14-6, and to Friendship Collegiate (D.C.), 26-6.

This is Glenelg's first playoff appearance since a first round loss to Douglass in 2009.

Both of Glenelg's losses were in overtime, to Reservoir on Oct. 14 and to River Hill two weeks later. In week one, they were awarded a win over Atholton — the top-seed in the 3A East — because of an offseason practice violation.

Each team is making its 13th playoff appearance. Glenelg is 2-11 in the playoffs, having advanced to the 1A state semifinals as recently as 2000. The Gladiators' last playoff win was in 2003.

Gwynn Park is 12-10 in the playoffs, winning a state title in 2005 and making its last playoff appearance in 2009, when it lost in the regional championship. River Hill defeated Gwynn Park in the regional semifinals in 2008, on its way to the state title.

The players:

Gwynn Park sophomore quarterback #13 Jay Adams (67-for-123, 941 yards, 16 TDs) is throwing to senior wide receiver #3 Brandon Banks (10 catches, 193 yards, 5 TDs), who will play for Vanderbilt next fall.

Top running back #10 Dewayne Staten has rushed for 744 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, and #6 Joseph Hayman has spelled him with 452 yards and five touchdowns.

Glenelg's top player on offense:

Junior QB Mark Darden #10
Junior RB Nick Crabill  #25
Sophomore RB/WR David Brookhart #5
Junior RB Jared Jacoby #21

And on defense:

Senior LB Glenn Lucas #35
Senior LB John Warfield #4
Senior DE JT Komsa #54
Senior DE Ben Carta #20
Senior DB Joe Tolbert #22

3A East

No. 4 Stephen Decatur (7-3) at No. 1 Atholton (9-1)

The background:

Atholton (9-1) is having its best season in school history, outscoring opponents 377-55 with five shut outs. The Raiders won their first ever outright county title (they shared county titles in 1976 and 1988) even after having to forfeit their week one game with Glenelg because of an offseason practice violation (Atholton won the game on the field, 39-0).

This is the Raiders' sixth playoff appearance, with all but one of them coming within the last six years.

In 2005 and 2009, Atholton lost in the regional championship, and in 2007 and 2010 it lost in the regional semifinals. In 1985, the Raiders were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Stephen Decatur finished 7-3 and claimed the last spot in the 3A East region by beating Snow Hill in the final week of the regular season. That win also knocked Hammond out of the playoffs.

The Seahawks have made eight playoff appearances, advancing as far as the state semifinals in 2004. Last year, River Hill beat Decatur 47-14 in the regional semifinals.

The players:

Atholton's top player on offense:

Senior QB Brian McMahon #12 (81/132, 993 yards, 10 TDs; 612 rushing yards, 6 TDs)
Senior WR Dequan Ellison #10 (39 catches, 632 yards, 8 TDs)
Senior WR Austin Tennessee #1 (9 catches, 145 yards, 4 TDs)
Senior RB Kenny Thomas #7 (125 carries, 871 yards, 17 TDs)
Senior RB Kendall Newsome #8 (94 carries, 390 yards, 6 TDs)

And on defense:

Junior Patrick Mullens #26 (52 tackles, 3 fumbles recovered)
Senior Steve Whiting #55 (44 tackles, 10 sacks, 4 PBUs)
Senior Morgan Powell #3 (37 tackles, 7 PBUs, 3 INTs)
Senior Cameron Fogle #50 (29 tackles, 7 sacks)
Senior Brett Haas #16 (34 tackles, 3 INTs)

Stephen Decatur is led on offense by RB D.J. Kee, QB Teron Tyre and OL Nick Craven.

No. 3 Howard (7-3) at No. 2 River Hill (8-2)

The background:

Howard won its last two games of the season, against Reservoir (13-7 in OT) and Hammond (39-6), to secure a spot in the playoffs. The Lions finished the season with the league's seventh ranked defense, but allowed only 13 points in those two games.

Howard won a state title in 1974 and was a runner-up in 1975. The Lions have made the playoffs six times, most recently in 2007 and 2008, when they lost in the opening round.

This season, River Hill lost twice in a row for the first time in a decade. They lost to Atholton, 14-0, on Sept. 16 and to Hammond, 12-9, a week later. In those two games, the Hawks turned the ball over 11 times. They've had only five turnovers in their other eight games.

Since the loss to Hammond, River Hill has won six games in a row by a combined score of 249-33, including three shut outs and a 42-7 win over Howard.

River Hill, which opened in 1996, made its first playoff appearance in 2003 and has not missed the postseason since then. The Hawks won state titles in 2007 and 2008 and lost in the 2006 championship game. Their loss to eventual state champ Wilde Lake in overtime of last year's regional championship game ended a streak of five straight regional titles. Their streak of eight straight county titles ended this year when Atholton won its first ever outright championship.

The Hawks are 16-6 in eight postseason campaigns.

The players:

On offense, the Lions are led by seniors Ryan Wade (QB #10), Evan Jackson (WR #8), Joey Bonavitacola (RB #6) and junior Michael Anderson (RB #1). On defense, they are led by seniors Noah Johnson (DL #75), Shamir Parham (LB #32), Chris Mukasa (DE #5) and Konner Ruggles (DB #12).

River Hill's top players on offense:

Senior RB Aaron Wells #8 (113 carries, 784 yards, 15 TDs)
Junior RB Evan Griffin #18 (46 carries, 425 yards, 5 TDs)
Senior QB Raamah Vaughn #5 (67 carries, 351 yards, 6 TDs; 18/34, 371 yards, 5 TDs)
Junior RB Stephan Osong #1 (61 carries, 355 yards, 5 TDs; 65 tackles, 9 for loss, 3 sacks)
Senior WR Randall Lawson #3 (21 carries, 199 yards, 1 TD;  5 catches, 110 yards, 2 TDs; 6 INTs, 2 for TDs)

And on defense:

Senior LB Emmett Brew #34 (85 tackles, 8 for loss, 5 sacks)
Senior LB Riley Davis #47 (96 tackles, 5 for loss)
Senior DL Jason Johnson #52 (68 tackles, 10 for loss, 3 sacks)
Senior LB Ryan Higgins (63 tackles, 5 for loss, 7.5 sacks, 3 fumbles recovered)
Senior DE Alec Rau (64 tackles, 4 for loss, 7 sacks)

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