Oh man, you people are probably starting to get as tired of reading these things as I'm getting of writing them!
Haha, just kidding, this is a lot of fun!
Seriously though, there are only two weeks left in the regular season, right?
It has gotten a little exhausting with all the changes every week. In the first month or so of the season you expect everything to bounce around until the teams get settled into their respective spots, and then I can just copy and paste and write a few new cute comments each week. You're just like "River Hill continues to roll!" or "Atholton is playoff bound, and look out because they'll be dangerous!" But not so this year, when every week I'm having to make major overhauls. Ah, but I can't complain too bad. I get paid to watch sports.
And this last week was relatively calm in terms of upsets. No. 6 Glenelg took out No. 3 Mt. Hebron, and No. 8 Hammond gave No. 2 Atholton a pretty good run for its money, but all-in-all, it was a fairly quiet week (except for all that lightning and rain and postponements!)
The playoff picture is starting to get a little clearer, but nothing is set in stone. Even after it's win over Mt. Hebron last week, Glenelg still has a lot of ground to make up in the 2A South. The Gladiators are sitting in sixth place (the top four teams get into the postseason), and their 44 playoff points are more than 20 behind fourth-place Gwynn Park (65). I'm no mathematician, but I'm thinking that Glenelg would probably need to beat Centennial AND Atholton down the stretch, and have Gwynn Park lose to both Forestville and Surrattsville, who are both, 5-3, to get in. But time will tell.
Howard County's prospects in the 3A East region are MUCH better. We're virtually assured of getting four teams into the playoffs. Which four teams those are is still in question though. If the season ended right now, it would be River Hill (76 playoff points), Atholton (72), Howard (48) and Mt. Hebron (44). But there are three more local teams right behind them: Reservoir (43), Wilde Lake (35) and Hammond (31). River Hill and Atholton are pretty much locked into the top two spots, but the last two teams could definitely change. Howard still has to play Mt. Hebron and River Hill, Mt. Hebron still has to play Howard and Hammond, Reservoir still has Long Reach and Oakland Mills, Wilde Lake still has River Hill and Marriotts Ridge, and Hammond still has Oakland Mills and Mt. Hebron.
I just don't see Hammond getting in with a 3-5 record after eight weeks. If Wilde Lake can somehow upset River Hill they'll net a treasure trove of playoff points, and could make up a ton of ground. Reservoir has by far the easiest remaining schedule, the problem is that those wins aren't worth as many playoff points. Obviously the Friday night game between Howard and Mt. Hebron is going to have huge implications.
And we'll all be on upset alert with the Wilde Lake/River Hill game, which always seems to be a good one.
Oh, and happy Halloween! Has everyone been watching AMC FearFest? I think I might be Michael Myers this year. I've already got a pair of shoes. Now, does anyone have a Michael Myers mask and wig, and worksuit that I can borrow?
OK, that's enough fooling around, onto the rankings.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses; all games Friday night at 7 p.m. unless indicated)
1. (1.) River Hill (8-0, 378 points scored-57 points allowed)
What more can be said at this point? River Hill is clearly a step above every other team in the county, and we'll soon know how they compare to the other top public schools in Maryland. Last three games: 140-0. QB Austin Altman threw touchdown passes No. 13, 14 and 15 in last week's win over Reservoir.
Last week: beat Reservoir (4-4), 41-0. This week: home against Wilde Lake (4-4).
Wins: LR (52-16), OM (49-0), C (56-0), Ha (54-28), G (27-13), MH (37-0), MR (62-0), Re (41-0). Losses: NA.
2. (2.) Atholton (7-1, 216-122)
Earlier this season — after four straight games decided by four points or less — it looked like Atholton was going to be fighting for every win, let alone be in contention for a county title. Now that they're 7-1, it's hard to not look back and think "Shoot! We should have beaten Long Reach and we'd be two wins away from at least a share of the county title!" But there's no use worrying about that now, and I'm sure the Raiders would prefer a win over River Hill in the playoffs to a 10-0 regular season. This defense is much better than it was in mid-September, and dual-pass/run threat Luke Casey and RB Isaac Murray make the offense tough to stop.
Last week: beat Hammond (3-5), 20-18. This week: at Marriotts Ridge (2-6).
W: WL (14-12 OT), Re (28-25), Ho (35-34), C (25-0), OM (48-6), MH (34-14), Ha (20-18). L: LR (13-12).
3. (4.) Reservoir (4-4, 150-154)
So Reservoir gets shut out by River Hill, 41-0, and drops into a negative scoring differential, and I reward them by bumping them up one spot in the rankings? What the heck am I doing anyway? Well, there's really no right or easy way of sorting out these next four teams, and you could argue for the Gators to be ranked sixth. The reason I have them here is that the one knock against them among this group is that they lost to Mt. Hebron, but that was eight weeks ago. They shut out Glenelg, and they beat Howard by 11 points (to be fair, Howard lost its starting QB on the first drive of that game). Also, their scoring differential might not look pretty right now, but we have to take into account that they face the league's two worst ranked defenses in the next two weeks. There's a pretty good chance that each of these next four teams will finish 6-4, so take your pick.
Last week: lost to River Hill (8-0), 41-0. This week: at Long Reach (2-6).
W: Ha (21-20), G (24-0), C (38-14), Ho (29-18). L: MH (26-13), A (28-25), WL (7-0), RH (41-0).
4. (5.) Howard (5-3, 243-167)
The Lions ran into a rough patch from mid-September to mid-October, losing a one-point game to Atholton, dropping a game to Hammond that they feel like they should have won, and losing their starting QB (Austin Blair) to a broken leg in a loss to Reservoir two weeks ago. But with junior Neil Caruso starting to get more comfortable running the league's second-ranked offense (30 points per game), one of the best lines in the league, and a solid defense, Howard has weathered the storm and is poised to make the playoffs. Friday night's game at Mt. Hebron is going to be critical, though.
Last week: beat Wilde Lake (4-4), 14-7. This week: at Mt. Hebron (5-3).
W: G (28-14), MR (38-7), C (21-7), LR (62-29), WL (14-7). L: A (35-34), Ha (39-28), Re (29-18).
5. (6.) Glenelg (5-3, 172-119)
Preseason darling Glenelg lost some luster after starting the season 2-3, but they've been gaining a lot of momentum lately, winning their last three games by a combined 90-26 (that stretch did include Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills, to be fair). They've now got the league's third-ranked defense, but unfortunately, the 2A South has four 7-1 teams, so their playoff hopes are fading. We all got to see what this team is capable of last week, though, when the Gladiators rushed for 296 yards and four touchdowns in a 29-12 win over Mt. Hebron.
Last week: beat Mt. Hebron (5-3), 29-12. This week: home against Centennial (3-5), Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
W: Ha (21-8), LR (34-6), MR (27-7), OM (34-7), MH (29-12). L: Ho (28-14), Re (24-0), RH (27-13).
6. (3.) Mt. Hebron (5-3, 189-158)
You knew that Mt. Hebron's second half schedule was tough, but yikes! After starting the season 5-0, they've now been outscored in three losses, 100-26, and they still have tough games against Howard and Hammond. The funny thing is that while it may seem like the sky is falling, if they manage to win their last two games, which isn't a stretch considering the talent they have (QB Malik Gilmore, ATH Zach Nicholas, WR Dillan Solo, RB Jackson Porter, etc.), they can secure the No. 3 seed in the 3A East regional semifinals. Right now, the Vikings just need a little push in the right direction.
Last week: lost to Glenelg (5-3), 29-12. This week: home against Howard (5-3).
W: Re (26-13), LR (32-26 OT), WL (41-6), MR (35-13), OM (29-0). L: RH (37-0), A (34-14), G (29-12).
7. (7.) Wilde Lake (4-4, 140-112)
It's hard to give Wilde Lake too many demerits for a hard-fought 14-7 loss against a very good Howard team last Friday (and Saturday), but the lack of scoring continues to be a concern. Their offense (17 points per game) has slipped to ninth in the league, and they've now lost three games by a touchdown or less. The defense (14 points allowed per game, second only to River Hill) is excellent, though. And if Wilde Lake can somehow shock River Hill this Friday, they could still be headed for the playoffs.
Last week: lost to Howard (5-3), 14-7. This week: at River Hill (8-0).
W: C (25-15), OM (34-0), Re (7-0), LR (35-8). L: A (14-12 OT), MH (41-6), Ha (20-14), Ho (14-7).
8. (8.) Hammond (3-5, 175-172)
After seeing Hammond play last week, it's kind of hard to rank them so low. Dionte Jones is an all-state talent, and the Golden Bears have a pretty darn good defensive unit, as evidenced by this stat: they've lost only once this year by more than two touchdowns, and that was to River Hill. They've lost three games by a combined four points. The problem seems to be similar to last year, when — by the end of the season — the offense was leaning too hard on just one player. Last year it was Player of the Year Devon Paye, this year it's Jones. Still, this team is just a few bouncing balls away from being 6-2 and playoff-bound. They should bounce back against Oakland Mills this Friday, and then the week ten showdown with Mt. Hebron could be a fun one. It's tough to keep them ranked behind Wilde Lake, but the Wildecats have been just a little more consistent this year.
Last week: lost to Atholton, 20-18. This week: at Oakland Mills (0-8).
W: MR (29-0), Ho (39-28), WL (20-14). L: G (21-8), Re (21-20), RH (54-28), C (14-13 OT), A (20-18).
9. (9.) Centennial (3-5, 83-184)
It's been a good, but not great, year for the Eagles. They've taken care of business against the teams that they were "supposed" to beat, and they pulled off a signature upset against Hammond. I doubt they take out Glenelg on Saturday, but they have shown a penchant for spoiling teams' homecoming games. And the week ten game against Long Reach could certainly be a dogfight. Walter Fletcher (700 yards, 5 TDs) has proven to be a high-caliber running back, and he's only a junior. In fact, many of Centennial's top playmakers (QB Patrick McKinnis, QB Tyler Morris, KR Quinn Western, WR/DB Damon Reaves, RB/LB Michael Price, DB/WR Chase Conley, RB Logan Tignall, K Nicholas Cooper, P Austin Kraisser, OL/DL Conner Marcineck, OL/DL Kade Conner) are underclassmen, so there are plenty of reasons for Eagles fans to be excited about 2013 as well.
Last week: beat Marriotts Ridge (2-6), 13-0. This week: at Glenelg (5-3), Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
W: OM (20-6), Ha (14-13 OT), MR (13-0). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0), Ho (21-7), A (25-0), Re (38-14).
10. (10.) Marriotts Ridge (2-6, 96-244)
To take a positive from last week's loss to Centennial: the Mustangs held the Eagles to only 13 points. Unfortunately, Marriotts Ridge did not score against the league's ninth ranked defense. They've got two tough games left on the schedule, but whatever happens, 2012 has been an encouraging season after a few very lean years.
Last week: lost to Centennial (3-5), 13-0. This week: home against Atholton (7-1).
W: OM (20-6), LR (28-27 OT). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0), Ho (21-7), G (27-7), RH (62-0), C (13-0).
On the bubble: Long Reach (2-6, 159-281), Oakland Mills (0-8, 58-289).
River Hill, 378
Mt. Hebron, 189
Long Reach, 159
Wilde Lake, 140
Marriotts Ridge, 96
Oakland Mills, 58
River Hill, 57
Wilde Lake, 112
Mt. Hebron, 158
Marriotts Ridge, 244
Long Reach, 281
Oakland Mills, 289
River Hill, +321
Mt. Hebron, +31
Wilde Lake, +28
Long Reach, -122
Marriotts Ridge, -148
Oakland Mills, -231