Wow! It’s already week seven. The season has flown by, and I hope that means that we’ve all been having fun.
I know I have been!
When I look at this week’s schedule, two games jump out at me: Atholton (5-1) at Hammond (5-1), for obvious reasons, and then Reservoir (3-3) at Glenelg (6-0). That second game may seem like a mismatch based on records, but a closer look reveals that Reservoir has outscored opponents by a larger margin (12.66 points per game to 8) than Glenelg, and based on points, Reservoir has the third best offense in the league and the fourth best defense.
And we’re now deep enough into the season that you can’t just say, ‘Oh the numbers are skewed because they’ve been beating up on the little guys.’
Now I’m not saying that the Gators are going to pull off the upset, but I think this is going to be a much closer game than some people realize, and there should be some excitement on the field.
The other thing that I noticed while crunching numbers this week is the disparity between the top eight teams in the league and the bottom four. The top eight, the contenders, have won 33 games. The bottom four have won three. Mt. Hebron (2-4), the leader of that bunch, has defeated Oakland Mills (1-5) and Centennial (0-6).
Howard’s scoring differential of +26 ranks it eighth in the county. Mt. Hebron, in ninth place, has been outscored by more than 100 points.
I’m certainly not trying to pick on anyone by pointing out these numbers. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the county has become pretty competitive, and the good teams are really good.
Now, a quick glance at the playoff picture (top four in each region make the postseason). Glenelg’s win over Long Reach last week helped it hold onto the top seed in the 2A South, just ahead of undefeated Patuxent, while the Lightning slipped into eighth. Gwynn Park, the fourth seed, is only 4-2 though, so there is still hope for Long Reach (3-3).
The 3A East is still all Howard County, with Atholton, Hammond and River Hill entrenched in the top three spots and distancing themselves from the pack. Howard’s loss to River Hill last week allowed Stephen Decatur (4-2) to slide into the fourth spot, but the Lions (4-2), Wilde Lake (3-3) and Reservoir (3-3) still have a chance at the postseason.
Now, after all that hemming and hawing, time for the rankings. There weren’t any upsets last week, and the rankings are based on head-to-head and common opponents, but I have a feeling that No. 8 Reservoir, No. 4 River Hill or No. 7 Wilde Lake could be making a move up the ladder during the final mont. That 5-to-8 group (Howard, Long Reach, Reservoir, Wilde Lake) is the most difficult to sort out right now.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. (1.) Atholton (5-1, 215 points-34 points allowed)
TheRaiders are on fire, scoring 110 points in their last two games (against Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills, it should be mentioned). They’ll have had eight days to prepare for Hammond, so they should be at full strength for this crucial game. Wilde Lake won’t be a pushover in week 8, but this is definitely Atholton’s toughest test left in the regular season.
Wins: Howard (28-7), River Hill (14-0), Reservoir (24-14), Marriotts Ridge (54-6), Oakland Mills (56-7); Losses: Glenelg (FF).
Last week: Beat Oakland Mills, 56-7. This week: at Hammond, Friday at 7 p.m.
2. (2.) Glenelg (6-0, 143-95)
The Gladiators have won two games in a row by a field goal. That says that they’ve got a good kicker, Luke Brister, and that they’ve been winning some close games. But it’s tough to keep coming out on top in close games, especially when you’ve got Reservoir (3-3), Howard (4-2) and River Hill (4-2) ahead on the schedule.
W: Atholton (FF), Centennial (34-0), Wilde Lake (28-8), Oakland Mills (41-14), Hammond (17-14), Long Reach (23-20). L: None.
Last week: Beat Long Reach, 23-20. This week: home against Reservoir, Friday at 7 p.m.
3. (3.) Hammond (5-1, 147-58)
Hammond responded to its first loss of the season by drumming Marriotts Ridge, but now they've got to immediately turn around and play the most complete team in the league. If the Golden Bears strong running game can gain a foothold, they're going to have a good shot to win. But if Atholton's league-leading defense can shut down the run, Hammond could be in trouble.
W: Wilde Lake (16-12), Mt. Hebron (36-13), Centennial (34-7), River Hill (12-9), Marriotts Ridge (35-0); L: Glenelg (17-14).
Last week: Beat Marriotts Ridge, 35-0. This week: home against Atholton, Friday at 7 p.m.
4. (4.) River Hill (4-2, 152-54)
After getting beat up a little bit in September with consecutive losses, the Hawks are starting to take their revenge on the county. After beating Wilde Lake and Howard, two strong teams with seven wins between them, by a combined 80-7, River Hill will get to build momentum even more over the next two weeks against Oakland Mills and Centennial, two teams that have won a single game between them and have allowed more than 400 points. Then in week nine, they’ll really have a chance to reestablish themselves as a power with a home game against Glenelg.
W: Reservoir (28-7), Long Reach (35-14), Wilde Lake (38-0), Howard (42-7); L: Atholton (14-0), Hammond (12-9).
Last week: Beat Howard, 42-7. This week: home against Oakland Mills, Friday at 7 p.m.
5. (5.) Howard (4-2, 155-129)
The Lions’ 4-1 record before last week looked pretty good, but it’s hard to find anything positive to say about their 42-7 loss to River Hill last week. They should be able to dominate Marriotts Ridge on Friday, but then things get tough again with Glenelg, Reservoir and Hammond to close out the season.
W: Centennial (41-0), Mt. Hebron (35-7), Long Reach (38-37), Oakland Mills (27-15); L: Atholton (28-7), River Hill (42-7).
Last week: Lost to River Hill, 42-7. This week: home against Marriotts Ridge, Friday at 7 p.m.
6. (6.) Long Reach (3-3, 200-151)
The Lightning offense was finally overtaken by Atholton this week after leading the league in scoring all season, but it was the somewhat-maligned defense that showed something last week, holding an undefeated team to only 23 points. Long Reach still has a shot at the playoffs.
W: Marriotts Ridge (55-14), Reservoir (32-20), Centennial (42-21); L: River Hill (35-14), Howard (38-37), Glenelg (23-20).
Last week: Lost to Glenelg, 23-20. This week: at Mt. Hebron, Saturday at 1 p.m.
7. (8.) Reservoir (3-3, 166-90)
Why the leapfrog over Wilde Lake? Common opponents: River Hill beat Wilde Lake, 38-0, and Reservoir, 28-7. Reservoir beat Marriotts Ridge, 49-6, Wilde Lake beat them 40-12. I still get the feeling that Reservoir is ready to burst out of this spot and into the top half of the county. Like Wilde Lake though, they’ve been dominating the teams they should beat, and faltering against the top dogs. They’ll certainly have their chance for a statement win Friday night at Glenelg, though.
W: Marriotts Ridge (49-6), Mt. Hebron (42-0), Centennial (34-0); L: River Hill (28-7), Long Reach (32-20), Atholton (24-14).
Last week: Beat Centennial, 34-0. This week: at Glenelg, Friday at 7 p.m.
8. (7.) Wilde Lake (3-3, 142-101)
The Wildecats have scored 40 or more points in each of their three wins, but scored 12 or less in each of their losses. They’ve been dominating the weaker programs, while struggling to rise to the occasion against the top teams. That adds up to another big win at Centennial this week, and a tough haul against Atholton looming on the horizon.
W: Oakland Mills (40-7), Marriotts Ridge (40-12), Mt. Hebron (42-0); L: Hammond (16-12), Glenelg (28-8), River Hill (38-0).
Last week: Beat Mt. Hebron, 42-0. This week: at Centennial, Friday at 7 p.m.
9. (9.) Mt. Hebron (2-4, 67-169)
The Vikings’ dynamic passing game gives them the edge over the teams below them, but they’re still not ready to mix it up with the big boys, losing their last two games to Reservoir and Wilde Lake by a combined 84-0. They’ll face another relentless offense this Saturday against Long Reach.
W: Oakland Mills (26-0), Centennial (21-14); L: Hammond (36-13), Howard (35-7), Reservoir (42-0), Wilde Lake (42-0).
Last week: Lost to Wilde Lake, 42-0. This week: home against Long Reach, Saturday at 1 p.m.
10. (10.) Oakland Mills (1-5, 70-210)
Of the bottom four teams, the Scorpions are the one who can at least say they scored a touchdown in week six. But with River Hill, Reservoir and Hammond — three of the league’s top four defenses — ahead on the schedule, touchdowns and even more so, wins, are going to be pretty hard to come by.
W: Marriotts Ridge (27-20); L: Mt. Hebron (26-0), Wilde Lake (40-7), Glenelg (41-14), Howard (27-15), Atholton (56-7).
Last week: Lost to Atholton, 56-7. This week: at River Hill, Friday at 7 p.m.
On the bubble: Centennial (0-6, 42-206), Marriotts Ridge (0-6, 58-260).
1. Atholton, 215 points scored
2. Long Reach, 200
3. Reservoir, 166
4. Howard, 155
5. River Hill, 152
6. Hammond, 147
7. Glenelg, 143
8. Wilde Lake, 142
9. Oakland Mills, 70
10. Mt. Hebron, 67
11. Marriotts Ridge, 58
12. Centennial, 42
1. Atholton, 34 points allowed
2. River Hill, 54
3. Hammond, 58
4. Reservoir, 90
5. Glenelg, 95
6. Wilde Lake, 101
7. Howard, 129
8. Long Reach, 151
9. Mt. Hebron, 169
10. Centennial, 206
11. Oakland Mills, 210
12. Marriotts Ridge, 260
1. Atholton, +181
2. River Hill, +98
3. Hammond, +89
4. Reservoir, +76
5. Long Reach, +49
6. Glenelg, +48
7. Wilde Lake, +41
8. Howard, +26
9. Mt. Hebron, -102
10. Oakland Mills, -140
11. Centennial, -164
12. Marriotts Ridge, -202