Another exciting week in Howard County football! Has this season been fun to watch so far or what? Aside from River Hill, which looks like it's been playing Super Tecmo Bowl out there so far, and the handful of teams struggling at the bottom, pretty much any match-up this season could go either way.
Just this past week, we had two one-point games — Atholton over Howard 35-34 and Reservoir over Hammond 21-20 — and a pretty big upset — Mt. Hebron over Wilde Lake, 41-6.
As a result, I actually had to put in some work with the rankings this week, as five of the top ten teams now have a new home. There was none of that copy and pasting last week's results and just coming up with new cute comments to say about each team.
Mt. Hebron gets another well deserved bump, but things actually got tricky with the 6, 7, 8 and 9 spots. What makes it tough is that two of the teams in that grouping nearly beat Atholton, the No. 2 team in the rankings. And 0-3 Long Reach took Mt. Hebron to overtime. What does this mean? Well, I don't see Marriotts Ridge knocking off River Hill anytime soon, but could the No. 9 ranked team beat the No. 2 ranked team under the right circumstances? Absolutely. That's just the way it goes now, so we'd all better get used to it.
This week's most compelling games look like Glenelg at Reservoir and Hammond at River Hill. Long Reach (0-3) at Atholton (3-0) looks like a mismatch on paper, but Long Reach is starving for a win and that makes them dangerous.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses, all games are Friday at 7 p.m. unless indicated)
1. (1.) River Hill (3-0, 157 points scored-16 points allowed)
Last two games: River Hill 105, Opponents 0. The Hawks are averaging more than 52 points per game. Evan Griffin, Stephan Osong and Justin Arn have each scored at least five TDs already, and Austin Altman has thrown seven TD passes. The schedule is about to get much tougher over the next three weeks, though, with games against Hammond (the last team to beat River Hill), Glenelg, which took River Hill to overtime last season, and undefeated Mt. Hebron.
Last week: beat Centennial, 56-0. This week: home against No. 7 Hammond (1-2).
Wins: LR (52-16), OM (49-0), C (56-0). Losses: NA.
2. (2.) Atholton (3-0, 77-71)
After the first quarter at Howard last week, with Atholton down 21-0, I thought we were going to have a mild shake-up at the top. Then Atholton outscored the Lions 35-13 the rest of the way. This team just know how to win, and QB Luke Casey is a weapon. Don't let the 71 points allowed fool you. Once this defense gets it together, it'll be one of the best units in the league.
Last week: beat Howard, 35-34. This week: home against No. 9 Long Reach (0-3).
W: WL (14-12 OT), Re (28-25), Ho (35-34). L: NA.
3. (3.) Howard (2-1, 100-56)
The Lions took a hit when RB Brady Curley was lost for the season after reinjuring his knee, but the Lions still have one of the best offenses in the league. QB Austin Blair stepped up last week to rush for 80 yards and a score, taking some pressure off of star Michael Anderson, who has twice scored 3 TDs in a game this year.
Last week: lost to Atholton, 35-34. This week: at No. 10 Centennial (1-2), Saturday at 1 p.m.
W: G (28-14), MR (38-7). L: A (35-34).
4. (4.) Glenelg (2-1, 69-42)
Since a week one loss at Howard, Glenelg has shown what it's capable of by beating two quality opponents 55-14. So far the defense has quietly been one of the best in the league, and we know about the weapons they have on offense (QB Mark Darden, RB Nick Crabill, RB Jared Jacoby, WR David Brookhart, TE Ben Carta...) I see this week's game potentially coming down to the fourth quarter though.
Last week: beat Long Reach, 34-6. This week: at No. 6 Reservoir (1-2).
W: Ha (21-8), LR (34-6). L: Ho (28-14).
5. (7.) Mt. Hebron (3-0, 99-45)
Be careful or you might get a crick in your neck trying to keep up with the Vikings' rapid climb! Is this where they plateau for a while, or will they take the next step into the county's elite? With home games against Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills the next two weeks, they have a great shot at improving to 5-0, but then the schedule gets MUCH tougher, with games against River Hill, Atholton, Glenelg, Howard and Hammond down the stretch! Their wins over Reservoir and Long Reach to start the season were impressive, but 41-6 over Wilde Lake? Gadzooks! Right now they've got the second best scoring differential in the league behind River Hill. ATH Zach Nicholas already has six TDs, and QB Malik Gilmore has thrown seven TD passes. I'm sold.
Last week: beat Wilde Lake, 41-6. This week: home against Marriotts Ridge (1-2).
W: Re (26-13), LR (32-26 OT), WL (41-6). L: NA.
6. (9.) Reservoir (1-2, 59-74)
The Gators beat Hammond by the slimmest of margins, but hey, a win is a win. Reservoir gets the biggest bump in the fallout of the Mt. Hebron-Wilde Lake upset because if you look at it, the Gators are the only team in this next group of four to have beaten one of the others. This is a huge game coming up on Friday night.
Last week: beat Hammond, 21-20. This week: home against No. 4 Glenelg (2-1).
W: Ha (21-20). L: MH (26-13), A (28-25).
7. (6.) Hammond (1-2, 57-42)
The Golden Bears might be kicking themselves about last week's 21-20 loss to Reservoir for awhile, but the best elixir would be an upset at River Hill this week. The Hammond D is actually tied for second best in the league, and they have a positive scoring differential (thanks to a 29-0 win over Marriotts Ridge in week one), but two losses in the first three weeks isn't an encouraging sign.
Last week: Lost to Reservoir, 21-20. This week: at No. 1 River Hill (3-0).
W: MR (29-0). L: G (21-8), Re (21-20).
8. (6.) Wilde Lake (1-2, 43-70)
After two weeks Wilde Lake was looking like the Wilde Lake of old — losing in overtime to Atholton and beating Centennial — but then Mt. Hebron came to town. The Wildecats had trouble on both sides of the ball, losing 41-6 to the upstart Vikings. Especially concerning is the offense, which has now scored less points than Marriotts Ridge on the season. This Friday's trip to winless Oakland Mills couldn't come soon enough.
Last week: lost to Mt. Hebron, 41-6. This week: at Oakland Mills (0-3).
W: C (25-15). L: A (14-12 OT), MH (41-6).
9. (8.) Long Reach (0-3, 48-118)
It's hard to believe that the team that scored 16 points against River Hill and took Mt. Hebron to overtime in week two is still winless. While the Lightning offense hasn't been blowing anyone away, the defense has allowed a league-worst 39 points per game. What's more concerning is that now they have to visit Atholton. The crazy thing is, I wouldn't be surprised if this game came down to the fourth quarter. That's just how competitive the league is this year.
Last week: lost to Glenelg, 34-6. This week: at No. 2 Atholton (3-0).
W: NA. L: RH (52-16), MH (32-26 OT), G (34-6).
10. (10.) Centennial (1-2, 35-87)
So I gave the Eagles Marriotts Ridge's ten-spot last week, and then Centennial goes out and loses to River Hill 56-0 (the most lopsided game in league play since the Hawks beat Marriotts Ridge 61-0 in 2009) and Marriotts Ridge beats Oakland Mills, 41-13. Do I regret the move? Nah, you've got to consider the opponents. Besides, the two teams will get a chance to sort it out on the field when they play on Oct. 19.
Last week: lost to River Hill, 56-0. This week: home against No. 3 Howard (2-1), Saturday at 1 p.m.
W: OM (20-6). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0).
On the bubble: Marriotts Ridge (1-2, 48-80), Oakland Mills (0-3, 19-110).
River Hill, 157
Mt. Hebron, 99
Long Reach, 48
Marriotts Ridge, 48
Wilde Lake, 43
Oakland Mills, 19
River Hill, 16
Mt. Hebron, 45
Wilde Lake, 70
Marriotts Ridge, 80
Oakland Mills, 110
Long Reach, 118
River Hill, +141
Mt. Hebron, +54
Wilde Lake, -27
Marriotts Ridge, -32
Long Reach, -70
Oakland Mills, -91