The 2013 Howard County football regular season ends tonight, and much is on the line. Howard's convincing 21-3 win over River Hill last Friday set several storylines in motion, and two of the county's 7-2 teams — Reservoir and River Hill — face off in Clarksville.
Howard "outplayed us in all three phases, so give them credit. They'll go on into the 4A (North) playoffs now with that win," River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen said. "For us, we've been banged up. We've had the injury bug worse than we've ever had it ... we don't have the depth this year that we've had some other years ... We've got to get better. It's not the end of the world. We win (at Reservoir), we get into the (3A East) playoffs and anything can happen from there."
At 8-1, Glenelg has clinched a share of its first county title in a little more than a decade, and the Gladiators can win the county championship outright and clinch the top seed in the 3A East with a win at Atholton (1-8) Friday night.
But the Raiders are no typical one-win team. Since a Week 1 win over Marriotts Ridge was forfeited because of an offseason practice violation, the Raiders have struggled, losing two one-point games — to Long Reach and Oakland Mills — and an overtime game, to Reservoir, last week.
Led by talented senior quarterback Lamarre Whitlock (17 completions for 262 yards and two touchdowns, 85 rushing yards and one touchdown against Reservoir), Atholton is capable of playing the spoiler.
If Atholton does upset Glenelg, a three-way tie — between Glenelg, Howard (with a win over Long Reach), and the winner of the Reservoir at River Hill game — for the county championship becomes possible.
But for River Hill, which has won at least a share of nine of the last 10 county titles, making it into the playoffs is more important.
After losing to Howard last week, the Hawks slipped into third in the 3A East playoff standings, just ahead of Reservoir. Both teams could still make it in, but the winner will likely pass City for the No. 2 seed.
"It looks like we need to win to get in, and if we lose we're going to need some help," said Reservoir coach Bryan Cole, whose team could also set a regular season record with eight wins. "If City loses (to 6-3 Poly) and we win, we could possibly get a home playoff game as well."
With sturdy senior running back Avian White (1,250 yards, 15 touchdowns) leading the offense, the Gators could be a dangerous team in November.
"We call him the 'A-Train'. He gets a lot of carries, but he keeps coming back. That's a testament to his work ethic and his offseason training,," Cole said. "We are what we are. We're a cold-weather-built team. I don't think there's any secret about our game plan. I like to think we've gotten better during the year."
Centennial (6-3) would need a win over visiting Hammond, as well as losses by Digital Harbor and Poly to have any hope of a playoff berth.
Hammond is looking good for at least the No. 4 seed in the 2A South, but the Golden Bears could slip past No. 3 Douglass-PG with a win at Centennial.
Friday, Nov. 8 schedule (all games at 7 p.m.)
Glenelg (8-1) at Atholton (1-8)
Hammond (6-3) at Centennial (6-3)
Howard (7-2) at Long Reach (1-8)
Marriotts Ridge (2-7) at Mt. Hebron (3-6)
Oakland Mills (3-6) at Wilde Lake (3-6)
Reservoir (7-2) at River Hill (7-2)
Nov. 1 results
Centennial 48, Marriotts Ridge 0
Glenelg 21, Long Reach 0
Hammond 20, Wilde Lake 13
Howard 21, River Hill 3
Mt. Hebron 39, Oakland Mills 21
Reservoir 33, Atholton 26 OT