By Andrew Conrad, firstname.lastname@example.org
12:47 AM EDT, October 4, 2012
Little help: does anyone know what's going on at this point?
I could make some dumb joke about how I must be a replacement power ranker and the commissioner needs to bring the real power ranker back soon, or how some impostor hacked into my account and has been making joke power rankings to make me look bad, or what have you.
But my thought process has been pretty transparent and I hope that any reasonable person would understand that some pretty crazy, unpredictable stuff has happened on the Howard County football fields this season.
Why, just this last week Marriotts Ridge (which had lost 30 games in a row coming into 2012) beat Long Reach (which has had like 15 straight seasons without a losing record), which a week earlier beat previously undefeated Atholton, the defending county champion and the second winning-est program in the county over the past three seasons.
You can say it a million times, and I kind of feel like I have sometimes, but the old cliché fits: any team can win on any given day.
I don't see a single game on the remaining schedule that I would feel comfortable betting my 2006 Nissan Sentra on (that's the most valuable thing I own, so pardon the expression).
I mean, I really don't think that Oakland Mills can beat Atholton this week, or that River Hill is going to lose to Marriotts Ridge on Oct. 12, but if my phone buzzed with the news that one of those things happened, it's not like I would be so shocked that I would run my Sentra off the road. (Don't text while driving.)
Weekly upsets have become the norm, and in addition to the Marriotts Ridge-Long Reach shocker last week, there was also Hammond over Howard and Wilde Lake over Reservoir.
If you're keeping score at home, there have been six games this season that have seen a team beat an opponent with a better record than its own. What makes that number noteworthy is that it doesn't include any games from week one (everyone was 0-0) or any games between teams that were, say, 2-2 when they played each other. Eight games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and three games have gone to overtime.
It should come as no surprise that there are some pretty good games on the schedule this week. The big daddy is Mt. Hebron at River Hill. In case you hadn't heard, both teams are undefeated, so that's obviously an important one.
(Sidenote: Will anyone out there PLEASE consider rescheduling the football game for like 4 p.m. so we can all watch the Orioles wild card game???)
Hammond at Wilde Lake and Howard at Long Reach also look like pretty good match-ups.
Now, let's segue into the rankings the way my Sentra shifts into third gear (it's an automatic transmission):
(Last week's ranking in parentheses; all games are Friday at 7 p.m.)
1. (1.) River Hill (5-0, 238 points scored-57 points allowed)
The Hawks had their first close game of the season last Friday, scoring 13 points in the second half to beat Glenelg, 27-13. If you're looking to poke holes, you could say that they've allowed 41 points in the past two weeks, and they're about to go up against the second best offense in the league. But River Hill is still the best all-around team in Howard County, and they can go places with their multi-faceted offense.
Last week: beat Glenelg, 27-13. This week: home against Mt. Hebron (5-0).
Wins: LR (52-16), OM (49-0), C (56-0), Ha (54-28), G (27-13). Losses: NA.
2. (2.) Mt. Hebron (5-0, 163-58)
The Vikings certainly have momentum on their side, beating their last three opponents 103-19. And they'll need plenty going their way to become the first visiting team to win at River Hill since Atholton last September. There's no reason not to believe in Mt. Hebron at this point though.
Last week: beat Oakland Mills, 27-0. This week: at River Hill (5-0).
W: Re (26-13), LR (32-26 OT), WL (41-6), MR (35-13), OM (29-0). L: NA.
3. (4.) Atholton (4-1, 114-84)
I probably overreacted a little bit when I dropped the Raiders two spots after their loss to Long Reach. After starting the season with three really close wins, the law of averages suggested that a loss was coming, but I think they've addressed a lot of issues already. And the new players are getting more and more comfortable playing together. Last week's shut out gave their scoring differential a nice boost, and they're in a good position to keep improving this Friday at winless Oakland Mills.
Last week: beat Centennial, 25-0. This week: at Oakland Mills (0-5).
W: WL (14-12 OT), Re (28-25), Ho (35-34), C (25-0). L: LR (13-12).
4. (3.) Howard (3-2, 149-102)
I'm not going to penalize Howard too much for their loss to Hammond last Friday. Hammond is a good team and Howard was dealing with a lot last week. Almost every team is going to finish with a loss that you just have to "throw out" as they say. What matters is that Howard still has the third best scoring differential in the league and they don't really have a glaring weakness. One small area of concern is that in their two losses they've allowed 35 points or more.
Last week: lost to Hammond, 39-28. This week: at Long Reach (1-4).
W: G (28-14), MR (38-7), C (21-7). L: A (35-34), Ha (39-28).
5. (8.) Wilde Lake (3-2, 84-70)
Well, I'll admit it, I feel kind of stupid for ranking Wilde Lake so low last week. Looking back, I'm not sure why I had them at No. 8, other than sheer confusion and uncertainty. They've now shut out two opponents in a row and their two losses were to a pair of top three teams: Atholton (close) and Mt. Hebron (not so close). The 41-6 loss to the Vikings doesn't really inspire confidence, but it's still just one loss and if you ignore the score everything else checks out for a top-five team or better.
Last week: beat Reservoir, 7-0. This week: home against Hammond (2-3).
W: C (25-15), OM (34-0), Re (7-0). L: A (14-12 OT), MH (41-6).
6. (5.) Reservoir (2-3, 83-81)
The Gators' 24-0 shut out of Glenelg two weeks ago was very impressive, but they followed that performance up with a 7-0 head-scratching loss. Is the Wilde Lake defense that dominant? The stats would say no, since they gave up 70 points through the first three weeks of the season. Is the Reservoir offense that out-of-synch? The numbers would also dispute that, since the Gators have averaged a respectable 20 points per game against some good defenses coming into last week. With 83 points scored, 81 allowed and one game below .500, smack dab in the middle seems to be about right for Reservoir.
Last week: lost to Wilde Lake, 7-0. This week: at Centennial (1-4).
W: Ha (21-20), G (24-0). L: MH (26-13), A (28-25), WL (7-0).
7. (6.) Glenelg (2-3, 82-93)
The Gladiators have now lost two in a row after a promising 34-6 win over Long Reach, but they showed signs of life last week, dueling River Hill to a 14-7 score at halftime. They also get three teams ranked below them in the second half of the schedule, starting with the Mustangs this Friday.
Last week: lost to River Hill, 27-13. This week: at Marriotts Ridge (2-3).
W: Ha (21-8), LR (34-6). L: Ho (28-14), Re (24-0), RH (27-13).
8. (9.) Hammond (2-3, 124-124)
Hammond deserves at least a little bump for knocking off a good Howard team by 11 points, but it's tough to put them any higher than this because they've lost to the two teams directly in front of them. It's hard to make heads or tails of the Golden Bears this season. So far they've scored 124 points and allowed exactly 124 points.
Last week: beat Howard, 39-28. This week: at Long Reach (1-4).
W: MR (29-0). L: G (21-8), Re (21-20), RH (54-28).
9. (7.) Long Reach (1-4, 88-158)
Times are tough at Long Reach, and it would be easy to write the Lightning off as a run of the mill, 1-win team. But we have to remember that this is the squad that has lost twice in overtime, beaten No. 3 ranked Atholton (4-1), and lost by just a touchdown to the No. 2 ranked and undefeated Mt. Hebron. The defense (31.6 points allowed per game) took a step back after holding Atholton to just 12 points. But this is still a dangerous team, even if the record doesn't show it.
Last week: lost to Marriotts Ridge, 28-27. This week: home against Howard (3-2).
W: A (13-12). L: RH (52-16), MH (32-26 OT), G (34-6), MR (28-27 OT).
10. (NR) Marriotts Ridge (2-3, 89-142)
There are only five teams that can boast more wins than Marriotts Ridge has (2), and they've now scored 89 points: more than six teams in the league and three more points than they scored in all of 2011. The defense is still a work in progress (28.4 points allowed per game) but it's much better than last year, when they allowed almost 38 points per game. I feel bad about dropping Centennial back outside the bubble since they've had some tough competition lately, but the Eagles have been outscored 102-7 in their last three games. (They did lose their starting QB three weeks ago.)
Last week: beat Long Reach, 28-27 OT. This week: home against Glenelg (2-3).
W: OM (20-6), LR (28-27 OT). L: WL (25-15), RH (56-0), Ho (21-7).
On the bubble: Centennial (1-4, 42-133), Oakland Mills (0-5, 19-171).
River Hill, 238
Mt. Hebron, 163
Marriotts Ridge, 89
Long Reach, 88
Wilde Lake, 84
Oakland Mills, 19
River Hill, 57
Mt. Hebron, 58
Wilde Lake, 70
Marriotts Ridge, 142
Long Reach, 158
Oakland Mills, 173
River Hill, +181
Mt. Hebron, +103
Wilde Lake, +14
Marriotts Ridge, -53
Long Reach, -70
Oakland Mills, -152