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Howard County Football Power Rankings: Week 9

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You didn't think everything would settle down in the county after Reservoir's upset over previously undefeated Glenelg in week seven, did you?

Last Saturday, Long Reach pulled off another huge upset, defeating Hammond (5-3), 33-32 in overtime! To add to the excitement, it was Long Reach's homecoming game. I hope they played that 'Jump on it' song at the homecoming dance later that night!

Now what does all this mean? For starters, Long Reach, which was ranked sixth last week, will move in front of Hammond, which was ranked third.

I doubt you'll see any NFL Power Rankings, other than the ones posted to the Jacksonville Jaguars fan message board, where the Big Cats are ranked ahead of the Ravens, even though Jacksonville beat Baltimore on Monday Night Football. And they probably shouldn't be.

But in Howard County, there are 12 teams and (almost) everyone plays each other, so a win on the field equals a win in the rankings. That's just how it works.

I won't get into explaining the whole 'Common Opponent Circle' thing again, thankfully, but the most recent results negate older results. So even though Long Reach lost to River Hill on Sept. 12, which Hammond beat on Sept. 23, Saturday's game is what we're using now. That doesn't mean that Long Reach moves up to third, and Hammond falls to sixth, but you'll see.

Nothing else nearly as exciting as Long Reach's overtime win happened last week, but there were a few other notable games. Atholton further proved that it is the best team in the league by shutting out defending 3A state champ Wilde Lake, Mt. Hebron held onto its No. 9 spot with a kind-of-ugly 18-14 win over winless Marriotts Ridge, and No. 5 Glenelg beat No. 7 Howard, 35-13, after scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Looking ahead to week 9, the big game is clearly Glenelg (7-1) at River Hill (6-2), Friday at 7 p.m. River Hill could pull into a tie for second in the league with a win and virtually clinch sole ownership of the county title for Atholton, and Glenelg could essentially clinch a share of the county title for itself with a win.

LET'S GO!!! IT'S GAME TIME!!! GET SOME!!! (Sorry, I got a little excited.)

Outside of the county championship race, the playoff race offers plenty of excitement, too. In the 2A South, Glenelg still holds onto the top spot, though by a thread now over Patuxent, and Long Reach's win over Hammond boosted it into sixth, just half a point behind McDonough and Douglass, and less than a point behind Gwynn Park.

Win out, and the Lightning have a shot to get in, though they'll need a loss from one of those teams ahead of them. And they can't afford a letdown this week against potential spoiler Wilde Lake.

The defending state champ Wildecats were pretty much (if not completely, I'm no Joe Lunardi) knocked out of the playoff hunt with the loss to Atholton on Saturday. Atholton and River Hill are still pretty comfy in the top two spots, but Hammond slipped into the fourth and final spot, with Reservoir and Howard only a fraction of a point behind! Want some more intrigue? Howard visits Reservoir this week, and hosts Hammond in week ten!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Saturday's game between winless Centennial and Marriotts Ridge, in the battle of the basement. Those kids have been working hard, and there aren't any other very compelling games on Saturday, so why not go root 'em on?

Onto the rankings!

(Last week's ranking in parentheses)

1. (1.) Atholton (7-1, 290 points-55 points allowed)

The Raiders have proven all they can in league play, and have a pair of teams (Mt. Hebron and Centennial) that have combined to win three games ahead on the schedule. I'm sure they'll be focused on staying sharp and injury free over the next two weeks so that they can hit the ground running in the regional playoffs.

Wins: Howard (28-7), River Hill (14-0), Reservoir (24-14), Marriotts Ridge (54-6), Oakland Mills (56-7), Hammond (40-21), Wilde Lake (35-0); Losses: Glenelg (FF).
Last week: Beat Wilde Lake, 35-0. This week: home against Mt. Hebron, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

2. (2.) River Hill (6-2, 258-60)

The Hawks have worked very hard to erase the memory of back-to-back losses in mid-September, and they've got the perfect match-up to prove how far they've come on Friday night. Glenelg has turned the ball over just once all season, and River Hill turned it over 11 times in those two losses. If the Hawks can hold onto the ball, they can win and return to juggernaut status. It may be a little early to start speculating, but River Hill at Atholton in the regional title game in mid-November? I wouldn't bet against it.

W: Reservoir (28-7), Long Reach (35-14), Wilde Lake (38-0), Howard (42-7), Oakland Mills (59-6), Centennial (47-0); L: Atholton (14-0), Hammond (12-9).
Last week: Beat Centennial, 47-0. This week: home against Glenelg, Friday at 7 p.m.

3. (4.) Reservoir (5-3, 228-103)

The whole cluster of Glenelg (7-1) and then all of the 5-3 teams has become really muddled now, but let me explain why Reservoir gets the nod over the pack. Of the Gators' three losses, two are to Atholton and River Hill. The other was to Long Reach in week three. The Gators beat Glenelg two weeks ago. Finally, Reservoir has the fourth best offense and third best defense in the league. This is their spot to lose.

W: Marriotts Ridge (49-6), Mt. Hebron (42-0), Centennial (34-0), Glenelg (19-13 OT), Oakland Mills (43-0); L: River Hill (28-7), Long Reach (32-20), Atholton (24-14).
Last week: Beat Oakland Mills, 43-0. This week: home against Howard, Friday at 7 p.m.

4. (5.) Glenelg (7-1, 191-127)

It's hard to rank a 7-1 team so low, after all they're undoubtedly going to finish with a higher record than Reservoir. But Reservoir beat Glenelg on the field two weeks ago. And we have to factor in that one of Glenelg's wins -- not that they had any choice in the matter -- was that thing that happened in week one that I said I wouldn't discuss anymore. The Gladiators have beaten Hammond and Long Reach less than a month ago, so it's a no brainer that they stay ahead of those two teams.

W: Atholton (FF), Centennial (34-0), Wilde Lake (28-8), Oakland Mills (41-14), Hammond (17-14), Long Reach (23-20), Howard (35-14). L: Reservoir, 19-13 OT.
Last week: Beat Howard, 35-14. This week: at River Hill, Friday at 7 p.m.

5. (6.) Long Reach (5-3, 259-189)

One spot in the rankings may not have been the jump that Lightning fans had hoped for, but I couldn't really justify putting them anywhere else. They did beat No. 3 Reservoir in mid-September, but the two teams might finish with identical 7-3 records, and right now, Reservoir has outscored its opponents by 125 points (15.6) per game, while Long Reach has a scoring differential of 70 (8.75). Their monster offense (259 points, second in the league) has bailed them out of some spots, and it would be fun to see what they can do in the playoffs. The Hammond win was the first time this season they've won two games in a row, so they would be as pleased as punch to end the season on a four-game win streak.

W: Marriotts Ridge (55-14), Reservoir (32-20), Centennial (42-21), Mt. Hebron (26-6), Hammond (33-32 OT); L: River Hill (35-14), Howard (38-37), Glenelg (23-20).
Last week: Beat Hammond, 33-32 OT. This week: home against Wilde Lake, Friday at 7 p.m.

6. (3.) Hammond (5-3, 200-131)

Things have started to fall apart a little bit for the Golden Bears,who have lost three of their last four games. They've got excellent groups on both sides of the ball, but lately they've been one those cases where when the offense is going good the defense lets down, and when the defense is playing nails, the offense shows up flat. Maybe Saturday's OT loss was a wake-up call, and if the Golden Bears can win out against Oakland Mills and Howard, they'll still be playoff-bound for the second straight season.

W: Wilde Lake (16-12), Mt. Hebron (36-13), Centennial (34-7), River Hill (12-9), Marriotts Ridge (35-0); L: Glenelg (17-14), Atholton (40-21), Long Reach (33-32 OT).
Last week: Lost to Long Reach, 33-32 OT. This week: home against Oakland Mills, Saturday at noon.

7. (5.) Howard (5-3, 201-171)

After winning four of their first five games, the Lions have won just one since, against winless Marriotts Ridge. That's partly because the Lions have had some costly injuries, and partly because their schedule has gotten a lot harder. The highlight of the season so far was the 38-37 win over Long Reach, but they could eclipse that by beating Reservoir or Hammond over the next two weeks.

W: Centennial (41-0), Mt. Hebron (35-7), Long Reach (38-37), Oakland Mills (27-15), Marriotts Ridge (33-7); L: Atholton (28-7), River Hill (42-7), Glenelg (35-13).
Last week: Lost to Glenelg, 35-13. This week: at Reservoir, Friday at 7 p.m.

8. (8.) Wilde Lake (4-4, 172-136)

I still haven't quite figured out what ails the Wildecats, but it's clear that they're much better than the county's lesser teams, and a rung below the top tier. That being said, it's Wilde Lake, and I wouldn't put it beyond them to beat Long Reach or Reservoir over the next two weeks.

W: Oakland Mills (40-7), Marriotts Ridge (40-12), Mt. Hebron (42-0), Centennial (30-0); L: Hammond (16-12), Glenelg (28-8), River Hill (38-0), Atholton (35-0).
Last week: Lost to Atholton, 35-0. This week: at Long Reach, Friday at 7 p.m.

9. (9.) Mt. Hebron (3-5, 91-209)

Last Friday's win over Marriotts Ridge ended a three-game losing streak for the Vikings. While this has been a trying season, Mt. Hebron has three victories to be proud of, and that's more than three other teams in the league can say. Let's just put it out there: they're not going to beat Atholton or River Hill to end their season. But it would be a good end to the season if they can at least play hard.

W: Oakland Mills (26-0), Centennial (21-14), Marriotts Ridge (18-14); L: Hammond (36-13), Howard (35-7), Reservoir (42-0), Wilde Lake (42-0), Long Reach (26-6).
Last week: Beat Marriotts Ridge, 18-14. This week: at Atholton, 1:30 p.m.

10. (10.) Oakland Mills (1-7, 76-312)

Since scoring 15 points against Howard in week five, Oakland Mills has scored less points each week since (7, 6, 0). If the Scorpions can score two touchdowns against a Hammond defense that has allowed 73 points in the last two weeks, it would be a small victory at the end of a long season.

W: Marriotts Ridge (27-20); L: Mt. Hebron (26-0), Wilde Lake (40-7), Glenelg (41-14), Howard (27-15), Atholton (56-7), River Hill (59-6), Reservoir (43-0).
Last week: Lost to Reservoir, 43-0. This week: at Hammond, Saturday at noon.

On the bubble: Centennial (0-8, 42-283), Marriotts Ridge (0-8, 79-311).

Offense
1. Atholton, 290 points scored
2. Long Reach, 259
3. River Hill, 258
4. Reservoir, 228
5. Howard, 201
6. Hammond, 200
8. Glenelg, 191
7. Wilde Lake, 172
8. Mt. Hebron, 91
9. Marriotts Ridge, 79
10. Oakland Mills, 76
12. Centennial, 42

Defense
1. Atholton, 55 points allowed
2. River Hill, 60
3. Reservoir, 103
4. Glenelg, 127
5. Hammond, 131
6. Wilde Lake, 136
7. Howard, 171
8. Long Reach, 189
9. Mt. Hebron, 209
10. Centennial, 283
11. Marriotts Ridge, 311
12. Oakland Mills, 312

Differential
1. Atholton, +235 (29.4 per game)
2. River Hill, +198 (24.8)
3. Reservoir, +125 (15.6)
4. Long Reach, +70 (8.8)
5. Hammond, +69 (8.6)
6. Glenelg, +64 (8.0)
7. Wilde Lake, +36 (4.5)
8. Howard, +30 (3.8)
9. Mt. Hebron, -118 (-14.8)
10. Marriotts Ridge, -232 (-29.0)
11. Oakland Mills, -236 (-29.5)
12. Centennial, -241 (-30.1)

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