Well, another week, another surprising upset. Oh wait, I already used that line. How about: well, would you look at that? It happened again!
However you word it, I can't remember a season with this many wild finishes and unpredictable results.
The latest plot twist came last Saturday afternoon, when Centennial took down Hammond, 14-13, in overtime, ending a five-game losing streak.
Reservoir also knocked off Howard, 29-18, in a critical 3A East playoff race game on Saturday, but that was less of an upset because they were ranked No. 4 and 5 coming into the week.
If you think things are going to settle down this week, think again! Four of the six games on Friday night pit teams with a difference in W-L record of one game or less against each other.
I'm especially interested in Marriotts Ridge (2-5) at Centennial (2-5), Mt. Hebron (5-2) at Glenelg (4-3) and Wilde Lake (4-3) at Howard (4-3) in a game with big 3A East playoff implications.
It's one of those weeks where I wish I could be in three places at once, but luckily, our new addition to the Howard County Times sports staff — Brandon Hopp — will be helping out with the coverage, so we can at least be in two places at once. Welcome aboard Brandon!
Speaking of the 3A East playoff race, now's as good of a time as any to check in on how everyone is doing.
Howard County still has the top seven spots — River Hill (8.86), Atholton (8.57), Mt. Hebron (6.14), Reservoir (5.71), Howard (4.86), Wilde Lake (4.71) and Hammond (4.29, tied with Stephen Decatur). The big winner was Reservoir, which leapfrogged Howard for the fourth and final playoff spot with its win last Saturday.
Reservoir hosts undefeated River Hill this Friday night, but then closes the season with Long Reach (1-6) and Oakland Mills (0-7). Howard, meanwhile, still has to play Wilde Lake (4-3), Mt. Hebron (5-2) and River Hill. With a win at Howard Friday night, Wilde Lake could be right back in the playoff picture as well. And Mt. Hebron, currently in the three-spot, has certainly not stamped its playoff ticket yet. The Vikings need to end a two-game slide this Friday night at Glenelg, and then have games against Howard and Hammond down the stretch.
Phew! Hang on to your helmets kids, this could be a wild ride! (It's fun to say things like that in a blog, cause you can't in the paper.)
Moving over to the 2A South, don't count the Gladiators (4-3) out quite yet. Their playoff hopes are a long shot — since McDonough (7-0), Douglass (6-1), Patuxent (6-1) and Gwynn Park (6-1) — all have one loss or less. But if Glenelg can win out against Mt. Hebron, Centennial and Atholton, and if one of those top four teams loses a game or two, the Gladiators, currently in the seven-spot, could make up some serious ground.
Ahh, I'm tired of talking about all these playoff scenarios. It makes my head hurt.
Let's do some rankings.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses; all games Friday night at 7 p.m.)
1. (1.) River Hill (7-0, 337 points scored-57 points allowed)
The Hawks just keep gaining momentum. Their 62-0 win at Marriotts Ridge last week was their most dominant of the season, and the Mustangs have proven this year that they're no slouch. It's no time to relax and prepare for the playoffs, though, with their toughest stretch of the regular season (Reservoir, Wilde Lake, Howard) coming up.
Last week: beat Marriotts Ridge (2-5), 62-0. This week: at Reservoir (4-3).
Wins: LR (52-16), OM (49-0), C (56-0), Ha (54-28), G (27-13), MH (37-0), MR (62-0). Losses: NA.
2. (3.) Atholton (6-1, 196-104)
I had half a mind to trade places between Atholton and Mt. Hebron before last week's rankings ("Yeah right," you're probably thinking. "I bet you also guessed the ending to every M. Night Shaymalan movie before it ended.") but then I figured why not just let them decide it on the field? Well, that's just what Atholton did, and now the Raiders are rightfully returned to the No. 2 spot, which is fitting because they are the second most balanced team in the league (+92 scoring differential) behind only River Hill (+280).
Last week: beat Mt. Hebron (5-2), 34-14. This week: home against Hammond (3-4).
W: WL (14-12 OT), Re (28-25), Ho (35-34), C (25-0), OM (48-6), MH (34-14). L: LR (13-12).
3. (2.) Mt. Hebron (5-2, 177-129)
After starting the season 5-0, the Vikings are facing some serious adversity, being outscored 71-14 in their last two games. And the schedule doesn't really let up from here on out, with remaining games against Glenelg, Howard and Hammond. Their offense and defense, which were second behind only River Hill a few weeks ago, have now slipped to fourth and sixth, respectively. It's definitely go time for the Vikings.
Last week: lost to Atholton (6-1), 34-14. This week: at Glenelg (4-3).
W: Re (26-13), LR (32-26 OT), WL (41-6), MR (35-13), OM (29-0). L: RH (37-0), A (34-14).
4. (5.) Reservoir (4-3, 150-113)
The Gators are really moving up in the world. After being ranked as low as ninth after back-to-back losses to open the season (good thing no one reads this dumb thing!) Reservoir has been climbing steadily since late September. Winning four out of five games against ranked teams will do that. Now, if the Gators can just weather the storm against River Hill Friday night (and maybe pull off another shocking upset), and then take care of business against Long Reach and Oakland Mills, they'll have a very real shot at the postseason.
Last week: beat Howard (4-3), 29-18. This week: home against River Hill (7-0).
W: Ha (21-20), G (24-0), C (38-14), Ho (29-18). L: MH (26-13), A (28-25), WL (7-0).
5. (4.) Howard (4-3, 229-160)
Since starting the season with back-to-back wins, the Lions have been alternating wins and losses. If the trend continues, they'll win this week against Wilde Lake, but they'll also finish 6-4 and likely miss the playoffs. With River Hill looming in week ten, it's imperative that the Lions — once a top-three team — win against Wilde Lake this week and Mt. Hebron next week to keep playoff hopes alive.
Last week: lost to Reservoir (4-3), 29-18. This week: home against Wilde Lake (4-3).
W: G (28-14), MR (38-7), C (21-7), LR (62-29). L: A (35-34), Ha (39-28), Re (29-18).
6. (6.) Glenelg (4-3, 143-107)
Glenelg is that team that has quietly gone about its business while everything goes haywire around it. The Gladiators have beat the teams they should, while not rocking the boat with any crazy upsets. However, if they wanna keep playing after the first week of November, they're going to have to start rocking the boat this Friday night.
Last week: beat Oakland Mills (0-7), 34-7. This week: home against Mt. Hebron (5-2).
W: Ha (21-8), LR (34-6), MR (27-7), OM (34-7). L: Ho (28-14), Re (24-0), RH (27-13).
7. (8.) Wilde Lake (4-3, 133-98)
Three weeks ago the Wildecats were No. 5, then they fell to No. 8, now they're back to No. 7. They don't play Glenelg this year, but the two teams would be remarkably closely matched. Just look at their points scored/allowed and common opponents. Wilde Lake shut out Reservoir, 7-0, which shut out Glenelg, 24-0. But Glenelg handled Hammond, 21-8, which lost to Wilde Lake. Anyhow, these two are almost interchangeable. What the Wildecats have had going for them all year is the league's second best defense (98 points allowed). Only River Hill (57) has been better. That could serve them well in the postseason, but they'll need to score more than 19 points per game to get there.
Last week: beat Long Reach (1-6), 35-8. This week: at Howard (4-3).
W: C (25-15), OM (34-0), Re (7-0), LR (35-8). L: A (14-12 OT), MH (41-6), Ha (20-14).
8. (7.) Hammond (3-4, 157-152)
We've got a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Halloween reference!) case here. One week the Golden Bears are beating the likes of Howard and Wilde Lake, scoring four times on the league's best defense (River Hill), or playing Glenelg and Reservoir into the fourth quarter. The next, they're losing to Centennial, which has averaged only ten points per game. That loss basically knocked them out of the playoff chase, and they've got tough games against Atholton and Mt. Hebron coming up. This team is obviously capable of big things, but they need to be more consistent.
Last week: lost to Centennial, 14-13. This week: at Atholton (6-1).
W: MR (29-0), Ho (39-28), WL (20-14). L: G (21-8), Re (21-20), RH (54-28), C (14-13 OT).
9. (NA) Centennial (2-5, 70-184)
So I might not be too popular with Eagles backers for keeping Centennial behind Hammond, even after they just beat them, but allow me to explain myself. First, this IS a three-spot bump. Second, if we relied on head-to-head alone (even recent head-to-head), Long Reach would have been ranked ahead of Atholton, Hammond would be ahead of Howard, and Wilde Lake would be ahead of Reservoir. Now doesn't that seem kind of silly? Also Hammond has beaten Howard and Wilde Lake, and outscored opponents 157-152, while Centennial has beaten Oakland Mills and Hammond, and been outscored 184-70. Not to disparage the Eagles. I think they have a few wins left in them still, and they've shown a lot of promise this year with some good, young athletes. I think this Friday night's game will be a good one, but I think the Eagles, with a little more experience and home field advantage, pull it out.
Last week: beat Hammond (3-4), 14-13 OT. This week: home against Marriotts Ridge (2-5).
W: OM (20-6), Ha (14-13 OT). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0), Ho (21-7), A (25-0), Re (38-14).
10. (9.) Marriotts Ridge (2-5, 96-231)
Am I being too harsh on Long Reach by dropping them into the dreaded 'On the bubble' status? Well, the Lightning just haven't been playing well lately. This isn't the same team that took Mt. Hebron to overtime or beat Atholton. The Lightning have been decent on offense all year, but allowing a league worst 36 points per game (tied with winless Oakland Mills) just won't get the job done. Why am I writing so much about Long Reach in Marriotts Ridge's capsule? Oh, sorry. If you told the Mustangs before the season started that they would be 2-5 in week 8 with a competitive game coming up on the schedule, they'd probably be thrilled, after three straight winless seasons. I think Centennial is a little better, but this year has definitely been a step in the right direction for the Mustangs.
Last week: lost to River Hill (7-0), 62-0. This week: at Centennial (2-5).
W: OM (20-6), LR (28-27 OT). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0), Ho (21-7), G (27-7), RH (62-0).
On the bubble: Long Reach (1-6, 125-255), Oakland Mills (0-7, 32-255).
River Hill, 337
Mt. Hebron, 177
Wilde Lake, 133
Long Reach, 125
Marriotts Ridge, 96
Oakland Mills, 32
River Hill, 57
Wilde Lake, 98
Mt. Hebron, 129
Marriotts Ridge, 231
Long Reach, 255
Oakland Mills, 255
River Hill, +280
Mt. Hebron, +48
Wilde Lake, +35
Long Reach, -130
Marriotts Ridge, -135
Oakland Mills, -223