For Aberdeen to return to a state football championship game, the Eagles first have to go on the road to River Hill.
The 10-2 Eagles and 10-2 Hawks will square off in a Maryland Class 3A state semifinal tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m. at River Hill High School in Clarksville.
In looking at the matchup, some similarities jump out in the team aspect, starting with the overall records of 10-2.
Both teams suffered their losses in back-to-back fashion. The Hawks fell to Atholton (14-0) and Hammond (12-9) in weeks three and four, while Aberdeen fell to North Harford (38-12) and McDonough (14-12) in weeks five and six.
Both also avenged one of the regular season losses last week to win region titles and reach tonight's game.
River Hill beat Atholton 21-12, while Aberdeen beat North Harford 38-20. Both won on the road.
Since 2003 the Hawks have been a constant in the playoffs. This year marks the ninth consecutive playoff season, highlighted by back-to-back state titles in 2007 and 2008 and a runner up finish in 2006.
This year's team is guided by senior running back Aaron Wells (5-8, 192), who has rushed for 1,066 yards and 18 touchdowns on 167 carries. Evan Griffin, a 5-10, 155-pound sophomore halfback, adds 509 yards and six touchdowns on 60 carries.
Senior Raaman Vaughn (5-9, 165) operates as quarterback, but the Hawks haven't thrown the ball a whole lot. Vaughn is 24-for-44 for 493 yards and six touchdowns.
Defensively the Hawks are led by linebackers Riley Davis and Ryan Higgins. Davis, a 6-1, 225-pound senior, leads the team with 114 tackles, 64 solo, and Higgins, a 5-11, 190-pound senior, has 82 tackles, 50 solo, and a team best 10 sacks.
The Eagles will counter that with the passing game of senior quarterback Kenny Faulcon. Faulcon is 129-for-189 with 26 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Christian Carpenter has been the main target, hauling in 64 catches for 1,112 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior Chavez Cheatham adds 32 receptions for 701 yards and 10 scores.
The Eagles running game is led by junior running back Austin Bonsall, who has 702 yards and eight touchdowns on 102 carries.
Carpenter also leads the defense with 128 tackles, 88 solo and six interceptions. Senior two-way lineman Brenton Barnes has 109 tackles, 62 solo.
The winner of tonight's semifinal will play for the 3A state title Dec. 2 or 3 at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. The other 3A semifinal pits Huntingtown (11-1) against Thomas Johnson (9-3).