So it comes down to this. The last week of the regular season and there is plenty on the line: playoff spots, the top seed in the 3A East region, a share of the county title. Now, the casual observer may not have realized that all of that was at stake, because it all hinges on something very improbable happening: namely, River Hill losing. The Hawks have now won 19 games in a row, the last four by shut out, and have lost only six times in their last 90 (!) games overall. That includes playoff games, which is kind of mind-bottling when you think about it.
Howard, their opponent on Friday night, is undoubtedly one of the better teams in Howard County, but the Lions (5-4) have been hobbled by injuries to several starters, and have not beaten River Hill in more than ten years.
If the Lions had beat Mt. Hebron last week (they lost, 20-14) they'd be in much better shape, but there's no use asking "What if?" now, and the task at hand is to beat River Hill to get into the playoffs.
“You never know what can happen with football. Anybody can beat anybody,” Howard senior running back Michael Anderson told the Washington Post earlier this week. “All we got to do is believe and have our confidence up, because we can work miracles.”
If Anderson and the Lions can pull off the upset of upsets, things will get interesting. Howard would gain a hefty 16 playoff points, vaulting past Reservoir and possibly spoiling the Gators chance to make the postseason for the first time in program history, regardless of whether Reservoir beats Oakland Mills (0-9) Friday night or not. Mt. Hebron's game at Hammond (4-5) would become a must-win situation for the Vikings, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003 (if Howard wins, Mt. Hebron loses and Reservoir wins, Howard would get the three-seed, Reservoir would get the four-seed and Mt. Hebron would be out). If Howard, Mt. Hebron (6-3) and Reservoir (5-4) were all to win, Howard and Mt. Hebron would be in, and Reservoir would be out. If Mt. Hebron loses, Reservoir wins and Howard loses, Reservoir will take over the three-seed but Mt. Hebron will still get in as the four-seed.
The county title is also on the line. If Howard won on Friday — River Hill has already clinched at least half of the county title with its win over Wilde Lake last week — and Atholton (8-1) defeated Glenelg (6-3), the Raiders would share the county title with River Hill, and take over the top seed in the 3A East.
Or, in the more likely scenario, if River Hill wins on Friday night, the Hawks will claim the county title outright, the top seed in the playoffs, and Atholton, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir will follow them into the postseason.
Got all that? Good. In another noteworthy game last week, Centennial gave Glenelg quite a scare with a wild fourth quarter. Pretty much every other game was a blowout. In addition to the games I went over a few paragraphs back with all the playoff scenarios, I think Long Reach (2-7) at Centennial (3-6) could be pretty competitive, and I'll keep an eye on Marriotts Ridge (2-7) at Wilde Lake (4-5) to see if the Mustangs can make it a game.
Oh, and I screwed up the rankings last week with that whole 3-4-5-6 bunch. What else is new?
Now, how about some fun Halloween stuff? In addition to the usual power rankings, I've added a link beneath each team's capsule to a scary movie related to each team. For example, "The House on Haunted (River) Hill". (I didn't actually use that one for River Hill).
See everyone in the postseason!
(Last week's ranking in parentheses, note game time and location changes due to unplayable fields)
1. (1.) River Hill (9-0, 415 points scored-57 points allowed)
Last four games, River Hill 177, Opponents 0. Last Friday it was Stephan Osong (71 rushing yards, 2 TD, one more TD on a blocked punt) leading the offense, but it really is a different guy almost every week with this team. I think they're ready for the postseason.
Last week: beat Wilde Lake (4-5), 37-0. This week: at Howard (5-4), Friday at 7 p.m.
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), WL (37-0). Losses: NA.
Shadow of the Hawk (1976, An extraordinary adventure into the unknown...)
2. (2.) Atholton (8-1, 251-122)
The Raiders started the season a little shaky (and to be fair, even the win over Hammond two weeks ago was a little precarious) but there is no argument as to who the second best team in Howard County is. Atholton has the second best scoring differential in the league by almost 60 points, and the Raiders can pass or run the ball. I know their concern is beating Glenelg on Friday, but a showdown with River Hill in the regional championship looms on the horizon.
Last week: beat Marriotts Ridge (2-7), 35-0. This week: home against Glenelg (6-3), Friday at 7 p.m.
W: WL (14-12 OT), Re (28-25), Ho (35-34), C (25-0), OM (48-6), MH (34-14), Ha (20-18), MR (35-0). L: LR (13-12).
Raiders of the Living Dead (1986, The kid from A Christmas Story who puts his tongue on the flagpole makes a laser and uses it against zombies on a prison island...)
3. (3.) Reservoir (5-4, 195-160)
This next group really confounds me, because it doesn't jive in terms of wins and losses, but I look at it this way: Reservoir beat Glenelg pretty bad (24-0) in week four, Glenelg beat Mt. Hebron pretty good (29-12) just two weeks ago, and Mt. Hebron beat Howard (20-14), just last week. So Re, G, MH, Ho. I know it's not that simple, and Howard beat Glenelg and Mt. Hebron beat Reservoir, and Glenelg isn't going to make the playoffs and Mt. Hebron is, and so on and so on, but this group is a mess, so I'm just going to go with this. Send complaints to Andrew@dumbpowerrankings.biz. Also, lets be honest — aside from a strange 7-0 loss to Wilde Lake in week 5, Reservoir has been pretty darn good since back-to-back losses to start the season.
Last week: beat Long Reach (2-7), 45-6. This week: at Oakland Mills (0-9), (at Hammond High) Friday at 4 p.m.
W: Ha (21-20), G (24-0), C (38-14), Ho (29-18), LR (45-6). L: MH (26-13), A (28-25), WL (7-0), RH (41-0).
Alligator (1980, A baby alligator is flushed down a Chicago toilet and survives by eating discarded lab rats, injected with growth hormones. The small animal grows gigantic, escapes the city sewers, and goes on a rampage...)
4. (5.) Glenelg (6-3, 202-143)
Way back in August I had the talent-laden Gladiators ranked No. 2, and I had half a mind to give them the top spot. Then they lost three of their first five games and dropped as low as sixth. Now they've won four in a row to climb back to fourth. Isn't it funny how the ups and downs of the season come and go, and at the end you are where you are? The sad part of it all is that Glenelg doesn't get to be a part of the playoffs, because this team is pretty good.
Last week: beat Centennial (3-6), 30-24. This week: at Atholton (8-1), Friday at 7 p.m.
W: Ha (21-8), LR (34-6), MR (27-7), OM (34-7), MH (29-12), C (30-24). L: Ho (28-14), Re (24-0), RH (27-13).
Gladiators v. Werewolves: Edge of Empire (????, So this movie hasn't come out yet, and maybe it never will, but it was too cool to not list...)
5. (6.) Mt. Hebron (6-3, 209-172)
I'll be honest, I wasn't sure if Mt. Hebron could pull out of its tailspin (three losses in a row in October), but give them credit. They pulled it together and beat Howard, and now the Vikings are in great position to make the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade. Which is exciting, because this team is capable of big things. As Zachary Nicholas said last week after their win "We always were confident what kind of team we were, it's just that we knew we needed to get back to where we were before." Can't let down here against a dangerous Hammond team though.
Last week: beat Howard (5-4), 20-14. This week: at Hammond (4-5), Friday at 7 p.m.
W: Re (26-13), LR (32-26 OT), WL (41-6), MR (35-13), OM (29-0), Ho (20-14). L: RH (37-0), A (34-14), G (29-12).
99 Pieces (2007, I couldn't find any horror movies about Vikings or Mounts, but Mt. Hebron is on Route 99, so this counts...)
6. (4.) Howard (5-4, 257-187)
The Lions have certainly faced some trials this season, but they're not feeling sorry for themselves. They're going to go out and try to beat River Hill on Friday to get into the playoffs. It's just a shame because losing their starting QB (Austin Blair) to a broken leg has clearly made a difference. The Lions scored 35 points per game with him in the line-up and went 4-2, and they're 1-2 with 15 points per game without.
Last week: lost to Mt. Hebron (6-3), 20-14. This week: home against River Hill (9-0), Friday at 7 p.m.
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), MH (20-14).
The Ghost and the Darkness (1996, It's about two man-eating lions — get it? — that terrorize people, and it has a really cool name...)
7. (7.) Wilde Lake (4-5, 140-149)
The Wildecats have one of the best defenses in the league. But the ninth-ranked offense will try to stretch its legs a little bit this week against Marriotts Ridge.
Last week: lost to River Hill (9-0), 37-0. This week: home against Marriotts Ridge (2-7), (at Howard High) Friday at 4 p.m.
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), RH (37-0).
Cat People (1982, This movie has some awesome wildecats in it...)
8. (8.) Hammond (4-5, 208-172)
Similar to other teams in this middle tier, Hammond has some awesome talent, and was just a few bounces away from three or four more wins and a completely different season. All you can do is keep trying to get better.
Last week: beat Oakland Mills (0-9), 33-0. This week: home against Mt. Hebron (6-3), Friday at 7 p.m.
W: MR (29-0), Ho (39-28), WL (20-14), OM (33-0). L: G (21-8), Re (21-20), RH (54-28), C (14-13 OT), A (20-18).
Grizzly (1976, A bear gets after a bunch of campers...)
9. (9.) Centennial (3-6, 107-214)
What a fight they put up against Glenelg in the fourth quarter last Saturday! And almost everyone is coming back next year. They really want to knock off Long Reach to make it a four-win season, but everyone at Centennial should also be getting excited for 2013.
Last week: lost to Glenelg (6-3), 30-24. This week: home against Long Reach (2-7), (at Atholton High) Friday at 4 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), G (30-24).
Night of the Eagle (1962, Something about witches helping people's careers. I sure could use a witch to help my career...)
10. (10.) Marriotts Ridge (2-7, 96-279)
They've been shut out now three games in a row, and points will be hard to come by again this week at Wilde Lake, but they've got some good things to celebrate at the team banquet this winter.
Last week: lost to Atholton (8-1), 35-0. This week: at Wilde Lake (4-5), (at Howard High) Friday at 4 p.m.
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), A (35-0).
Mustang Sally's Horror House (2007, Best not discuss the plot of this one. There should be more horror movies about horses, or ridges...)
On the bubble: Long Reach (2-7, 165-326), Oakland Mills (0-9, 58-322).
Lightning Bug (2004, Laura Prepon — who also produced — is a Goth girl who likes to make haunted houses...)
The Black Scorpion (1957, It has cool stop-motion effects, and scorpions terrorize the countryside...)
River Hill, 415
Mt. Hebron, 209
Long Reach, 165
Wilde Lake, 140
Marriotts Ridge, 96
Oakland Mills, 58
River Hill, 57
Wilde Lake, 149
Mt. Hebron, 172
Marriotts Ridge, 279
Oakland Mills, 322
Long Reach, 326
River Hill, +358
Mt. Hebron, +37
Wilde Lake, -9
Long Reach, -161
Marriotts Ridge, -183
Oakland Mills, -264