For the past three years, Owings Mills coach Steve Lurz has had to answer questions about the frustration of missing the playoffs by a game or two.
After Owings Mills' 48-0 victory over Joppatowne on Oct. 26, Lurz was happy to talk about the Eagles' first playoff appearance in 15 years.
"It's definitely a relief," said Lurz, whose team ended a 52-game losing streak in 2009. "It's something we have been really working for. I have 25 seniors on this team so, last year, I think they were disappointed in how things went. They realized we had to put it together and get it done this year."
Owings Mills (9-1) will play at Dundalk (8-2) on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m in a Class 2A North Region semifinal at Lansdowne High.
"The school has never won a playoff game," Lurz said. "We are going to be very excited. We are just going to ride it as long as we can."
Lurz hopes his spread-option offense will continue to score in bunches, to the tune of a 30 points-per-game average.
Speedy senior quarterback Shane Gaines, a three-year starter, makes the offense go. He has thrown 15 touchdown passes and run for four more scores.
"He is a catalyst," Lurz said. "We can throw or run the ball with him. He is like another running back there."
There are other weapons: Running backs Jawon Johnson (10 TDs), Malik Williams (6) and Demetrius Johnson and wide receivers Corey Hill and Kevin Yrizarry.
But an improved defense, anchored by safety Hill (5 interceptions), and linebackers Kenjuan Jones (72 tackles, 15 for loss) and Eric Smith (6 sacks), just might be the difference in why the Eagles qualified for the playoffs.
The unit has four shutouts.
"The linebacking corps has played a lot better and it has helped the defense stop teams," Lurz said.
The Titans, who have suffered through years of postseason frustration, beat Northwestern in a Class 1A North Region semifinal last year, but had to forfeit that win and nine others because of an ineligible player.
On top of that, New Town lost to Brunswick, 52-0, in 2010, Catoctin, 50-0, in 2009 and Pikesville, 26-22, in 2008.
This year, New Town (8-2) will play Overlea (8-2) in a Class 1A North Region semifinal on Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at Woodlawn High.
"We are definitely looking forward to have our chance to win it all," said New Town's Joe Holland, a fifth-year coach. "This is a more complete team than last year. We have more talent across the board. Last year, I thought it was the first time we had more than a couple of individual players."
The Titans are dangerous running and throwing the ball. Quarterback Shawn Maggison (12 TD passes) lets senior running backs Donte Gross, Rayshawn Clark, Derrick Kittrell and Ryan Marine do most of the work, though.
"I think every week, two or three of the backs get about 100 yards and someone else gets 70 or 80 yards," Holland said. "We have been putting up a lot of points (376). I think Hereford is the only team to score more."
Linebackers Chris Fatogoma, Damarco Spears and Marine spearhead the defense that has allowed only 76 points.