By Andrew Conrad, firstname.lastname@example.org
3:41 AM EDT, September 27, 2012
So I've been having this weird dream lately that I'm a kid trying to construct a card castle and every few minutes some big bully walks by and swats it to the ground. The first couple of times he just knocked a card off here or there and I had to switch a few cards around, but on his most recent attack he laid waste to my construction, leaving just a few cards in place at the bottom, and miraculously, the one at the very top (it must have been dangling from a spider web or something). See what I did there?
Yes, last week's mayhem on the Howard County football fields has pretty much made a mockery of my precious Power Rankings, and now I'm basically starting from scratch. The most devastating hit came when No. 9 Long Reach, which was winless, stunned No. 2 Atholton, which was undefeated, 13-12.
And when I say "devastating hit," I don't mean that I was upset personally or anything like that. In fact, I was happy to see coach Hughes and his hard working team get a win after three tough losses, and I know coach Schmitt and the Raiders will bounce back strong from a setback.
But the credibility of my rankings might not bounce back so quickly. When your No. 9 team beats the No. 2 team, you've got some serious 'splaining to do. And it's not as simple as Long Reach becomes the No. 2 team and Atholton drops to No. 9. Especially since that wasn't the only upset last week. No. 6 Reservoir also beat No. 4 Glenelg, and it wasn't on a last second play. The Gators won 24-0.
And that's where things get tricky. Earlier this season, Atholton beat Reservoir, 28-25, then lost to Long Reach, 13-12, and Glenelg beat Long Reach, 34-6 ... but Reservoir beat Glenelg, 24-0.
So A < Re < G < LR < A.
Howard is part of the mix, too. Atholton beat Howard, which beat Glenelg, which beat (see above).
So A < Ho < G < LR < A.
So, to quote a colleague: "Wait…what?"
Not to toot my own saxophone, but I did write this last week: "…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."
The nice thing is, it's four weeks into the season and most of the teams still have a chance of making the playoffs. Just about each team has been knocked down, as have my Power Rankings, but in the words of Tairy Greene, "Maybe the only gift we have is the chance to start again."
About the only clear-as-day thing in the rankings right now is that River Hill, with its 14-consecutive wins dating back to last season, and its +167 scoring differential in 2012, belongs at the top.
And of course Mt. Hebron — which is 4-0 including wins over Reservoir, Long Reach and Wilde Lake — HAS to be taken seriously at this point.
Then there is the bottom group of Centennial, Marriotts Ridge and winless Oakland Mills. But even Centennial played Howard very tough, losing 21-7 after a late Lions score, and Marriotts Ridge has already scored 61 points this season, which is only 25 less than they scored in all of 2011.
As for the other seven teams? Well, read on to find out.
This week's most interesting games include River Hill at Glenelg (they went to OT last year), Howard at Hammond (Howard beat Hammond in a playoff qualifier last year) and Wilde Lake at Reservoir (the Gators beat Wilde Lake, 14-8, on the last day of the regular season last year to secure a winning record). All of those games are on Friday night, and you can count on at least one of them yielding some sort of surprise.
Before we get to the rankings, I also wanted to take a moment to remember a former Howard High player who passed away over the weekend. Joey Bonavitacola, a 2012 graduate and a second team all-county running back last year, was an outstanding athlete and a good kid. I had the pleasure of interviewing him last year after a great performance against Hammond on the last day of the regular season. He will be missed. R.I.P. #6.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses; All games are Friday at 7 p.m. unless noted.)
1. (1.) River Hill (4-0, 211 points scored-44 points allowed)
The Hawks are now averaging 52.75 points per game. But should we be concerned that Hammond put up 28 points on them last week? Nah. It was just one game, they'll be fine. #SloppyAnalysis
Last week: beat Hammond, 54-28. This week: at No. 6 Glenelg (2-2).
Wins: LR (52-16), OM (49-0), C (56-0), Ha (54-28). Losses: NA.
2. (5.) Mt. Hebron (4-0, 134-58)
Well, someone had to take over the No. 2 spot. And who better than the only other undefeated team, and one that also has the second best scoring differential at that! And you can't say that they've padded their numbers by beating up on cupcakes. Three of their wins are against Reservoir, Long Reach and Wilde Lake. That said, their second half schedule is pretty tough, and plenty of teams will be looking to knock them out of this spot!
Last week: beat Marriotts Ridge, 35-13. This week: home against Oakland Mills (0-4), Saturday at 1 p.m.
W: Re (26-13), LR (32-26 OT), WL (41-6), MR (35-13). L: NA.
3. (3.) Howard (3-1, 121-63)
You might notice that I like scoring differential as a telling statistic. (That might get me into trouble in Baltimore, since the Orioles look like they're playoff-bound with a negative differential, but don't hate, I am a big Orioles fan.) Howard has outscored its opponents by 58 points. And they've played some tough teams. I also think that they're one of the most well-rounded teams in the league.
Last week: beat Centennial, 21-7. This week: at No. 8 Hammond (1-3).
W: G (28-14), MR (38-7), C (21-7). L: A (35-34).
4. (2.) Atholton (3-1, 89-84)
The Raiders had to take a tumble, but is this too far for a team that has had so much recent success? Well, I am an impetuous person. They've been riding the edge all season, winning their first three games by three points or less, and the close games finally caught up. That being said, they're 3-1, they've beaten three quality teams, and they have four teams left on the schedule that have won one game or less. If you don't think this is still a playoff team, you're being silly.
Last week: lost to Long Reach, 13-12. This week: home against No. 10 Centennial (1-3), Saturday at 1 p.m.
W: WL (14-12 OT), Re (28-25), Ho (35-34). L: LR (13-12).
5. (6.) Reservoir (2-2, 83-74)
The Gators started the season 0-2, and many were like 'ehhh…' But don't be so flippant! They're now 2-2 after beating Hammond and Glenelg. What's more, the win over Glenelg was a shut out of a team which had been scoring more than 20 points per game.
Last week: beat Glenelg, 24-0. This week: home against No. 9 Wilde Lake (2-2).
W: Ha (21-20), G (24-0). L: MH (26-13), A (28-25).
6. (4.) Glenelg (2-2, 69-66)
I STILL think that Glenelg is capable of big things. But a shut out at Reservoir? I did not see that one coming. They're going to win at least five games, but I think they're capable of more than that.
Last week: lost to Reservoir, 24-0. This week: home against No. 1 River Hill (4-0).
W: Ha (21-8), LR (34-6). L: Ho (28-14), Re (24-0).
7. (9.) Long Reach (1-3, 61-130)
Is two spots enough for the Lightning after upsetting the second-ranked team in the league? Maybe not. But we do have to factor in that they are 1-3, including a bad loss at Glenelg. Long Reach has traditionally been a second-half team though. Last year, they won four of their last five games, and they've already played four teams which have combined for 13 wins this season!
Last week: beat Atholton, 13-12. This week: home against Marriotts Ridge (1-3), Saturday at 1 p.m.
W: A (13-12). L: RH (52-16), MH (32-26 OT), G (34-6).
8. (8.) Wilde Lake (2-2, 77-70)
It's been an up-and-down year for the Wildecats, who have won a blow out, been blown out, won a close game and lost in overtime. What they're really looking for is some consistency, and considering their schedule coming up — starting with Reservoir this Friday — consistency would be very good.
Last week: beat Oakland Mills, 34-0. This week: at No. 5 Reservoir (2-2).
W: C (25-15), OM (34-0). L: A (14-12 OT), MH (41-6).
9. (7.) Hammond (1-3, 85-96)
The Golden Bears scored four touchdowns against the sturdy River Hill defense, which was pretty impressive. But more worrisome, their defense, which is still one of the league's best, allowed 54 points. I'd say that last week was an outlier, and the River Hill offense is really good. This week's game against Howard will be much more telling.
Last week: lost to River Hill, 54-28. This week: home against No. 3 Howard (3-1).
W: MR (29-0). L: G (21-8), Re (21-20), RH (54-28).
10. (10.) Centennial (1-3, 42-108)
It's easy to cast Centennial aside, since they won only one game last year and scored a league worst 68 points, but this year's team is different. They've already won a game, and played both Wilde Lake and Howard tough. I'm not saying they're going to have a winning record, but one of these weeks, Centennial is going to knock someone off that they weren't supposed to.
Last week: lost to Howard, 21-7. This week: at No. 4 Atholton (3-1), Saturday at 1 p.m.
W: OM (20-6). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0), Ho (21-7).
On the bubble: Marriotts Ridge (1-3, 61-115), Oakland Mills (0-4, 19-144).
River Hill, 211
Mt. Hebron, 134
Wilde Lake, 77
Long Reach, 61
Marriotts Ridge, 61
Oakland Mills, 19
River Hill, 44
Mt. Hebron, 58
Wilde Lake, 70
Marriotts Ridge, 115
Long Reach, 130
Oakland Mills, 144
River Hill, +167
Mt. Hebron, +76
Wilde Lake, +7
Marriotts Ridge, -54
Long Reach, -69
Oakland Mills, -125