By Andrew Conrad, email@example.com
November 2, 2011
The homecoming games have all been played, the county title winner has all but been decided, and the gameday temperatures have begun to drop into the 30s. After nine weeks of gridiron action, though, there is still plenty of suspense heading into the final Friday night of the regular season.
Atholton (8-1) has a one-game lead entering the final weekend of the season and can win the county title outright with a win at Centennial (1-8) Friday night.
The title picture grew a little clearer when River Hill (7-2) beat visiting Glenelg (7-2) in overtime, 21-20, last Friday night. That knocked Glenelg out of a tie with Atholton, which rolled past Mt. Hebron, 38-0. River Hill's win was also meaningful for the Hawks, who in mid-September lost back-to-back games for the first time in more than 10 years.
"It was a great win for us," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "(After) getting off to a slow start it's just been focusing on getting better each week, and this was like a playoff game. Winning this we get some more momentum, five wins in a row. We just want to keep getting better for the playoffs."
But Atholton has established itself as the clear-cut king of the hill in Howard County this year.
Quarterback Brian McMahon has passed for 920 yards and eight touchdowns this season and rushed for 584 yards and six TDs. DeQuan Ellison has caught 36 passes for 589 yards and seven TDs, and Kenny Thomas has rushed for 804 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Ean Katz (51 tackles), Pat Mullens (47), Steve Whiting (42 tackles, 10 sacks) and Cameron Fogle (seven sacks) have led the Raiders defensive unit.
Atholton has scored the most points (328) and allowed the fewest (55). They are outscoring their opponents by more than 30 points a game and that trend should continue this week.
But there are other games on Friday night that aren't so easy to predict.
Hammond (6-3), which won a playoff game for the first time last year, will visit Howard (6-3) in a game with major 3A East playoff implications. Atholton and River Hill have clinched the top two spots in that region and could be headed for a regional championship showdown at Atholton in several weeks if each team continues to win. But behind them, Stephen Decatur, Hammond and Howard are all deadlocked at 6-3 and battling for the last two playoff spots.
Howard defeated Reservoir (5-4) last week, 13-7, in overtime, virtually ending the Gators' hopes for their first trip to the playoffs.
In that game, Howard quarterback Ryan Wade put his team on the scoreboard first, tossing a 35-yard touchdown pass to Evan Jackson. Reservoir tied the game with a 19-yard touchdown pass from E.J. Montgomery to Kenny Frazier. In overtime, the Howard defense came through, stuffing Reservoir on its possession, and then Michael Anderson scored the winning touchdown on a 10-yard run.Last year, Hammond clinched a share of its first county title with a 17-12 win at Howard in the last week of the regular season. This year, Howard hopes to get some redemption.