I can't believe the final week of the regular season is here. It seems like only yesterday we were all still going to Orioles games and watching "Sharknado" on the Syfy channel.
Now, it is November. The holiday season is right around the corner, and the high school football playoff picture is taking shape. It's a great time of year.
Before we talk about the playoffs, though, lets talk about the Howard County championship. Coach Butch Schaffer and his staff at Glenelg should be proud. The Gladiators clinched at least a share of the county title last week when they shut out Long Reach and Howard beat River Hill. It is Glenelg's first county championship in more than a decade, and the Gladiators can win it outright with a win at Atholton (1-8) Friday night.
Atholton isn't your typical 1-8 team, but Glenelg is on a roll (eight wins in a row, outscoriing the last four opponents, 128-20) and should be able to take care of business. However, it's worth mentioning that if Atholton does pull off the upset, Howard, Reservoir and River Hill could still share a piece of the crown.
Reservoir and River Hill, which has gone to the playoffs each of the last 10 years, play each other Friday night in the Game of the Week. It's a showdown that has playoff implications. Both teams are likely to get in, but you don't want to leave anything to chance this time of year. I'm no expert, and it might be mathematically impossible, but Centennial (6-3) needs to knock off visiting Hammond (6-3) to have any hope of getting the final 3A East spot.
It's an exciting November for Howard County football, because there could be playoff teams in three different classifications. As the first 4A team in history, Howard will represent the county in the state's largest classifcation.
It looks as if Howard has a chance to have three teams in the 3A East playoffs. Glenelg has the top spot, and River Hill and Reservoir should both get in behind City.
Finally, in the 2A South, Hammond has a solid grip on the No. 4 spot, but the Golden Bears could slip past Douglass-PG into the No. 3 position with a win at Centennial Friday night.
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All games this week are Friday at 7 p.m.
Onto the main course, the rankings. The county is split down the middle with six playoff contenders and the six that didn't come close to making the postseason.
1. (1.) Glenelg (8-1, 239 points scored-62 points allowed)
The Gladiators have been the most predictable team in an unpredictable season: eight wins in a row since a close loss to a strong River Hill team in Week 1, and the league's best defense (6.89 points allowed per game). Atholton will approach this game as if it were a playoff contest.
Last week: beat Long Reach (1-8), 21-0. This week: at Atholton (1-8).
W: WL (14-6), Re (24-6), Ha (35-3), Ho (35-20), OM (49-8), MR (37-9), C (21-3), LR (21-0). L: RH (7-3).
2. (3.) Reservoir (7-2, 241-167)
The Gators haven't been pulling away from opponents, with just the fifth-best scoring differential. But what they have been doing is winning games (six in a row since starting the season 1-2) and what they have is an offense that can move the ball in any type of weather. I don't know if they're going to beat River Hill this Friday, but they earned this spot by beating Howard a few weeks ago.
Last week: beat Atholton (1-8), 33-26 OT. This week: at River Hill (7-2).
W: MH (36-14), OM (49-21), Ha (24-21), Ho (13-6), LR (46-20), WL (27-7), A (33-26 OT). L: C (28-7), G (24-6).
3. (4.) Howard (7-2, 225-133)
The Lions could have let the season get away from them back in mid-October after back-to-back tough losses to Glenelg and Reservoir. But they regrouped before a tough stretch — Centennial, Hammond and River Hill — and they're now one of the hottest teams in the league heading into the 4A North playoffs.
Last week: beat River Hill (7-2), 21-3. This week: at Long Reach (1-8).
W: WL (13-10), A (40-16), MR (35-10), MH (35-13), C (29-26), Ha (26-7), RH (21-3). L: G (35-20), Re (13-6).
4. (2.) River Hill (7-2, 291-98)
It's evident the Hawks are going through a rough stretch. Against Hammond they got torched on pass defense, and against Howard last week they couldn't score and were again hurt by the big pass play. But we've seen this team bounce back before. Back in 2011 the Hawks lost two games in a row before regrouping to go on a 10-game winning streak all the way to a state championship.
Last week: lost to Howard (7-2), 21-3. This week: home against Reservoir (7-2).
W: G (7-3), MR (49-0), A (28-6), C (42-7), MH (42-8), WL (33-0), OM (49-6). L: Ha (47-38), Ho (21-3).
5. (5.) Centennial (6-3, 264-147)
It has been a hard-luck year for the Eagles, who are having their best season since 2006 but probably won't be rewarded with a playoff spot because the 3A East is so crowded with good teams. They've dominated some opponents — beating Atholton, Long Reach and Marriotts Ridge by a combined 113-7. They've lost to River Hill, Howard and Glenelg. They have the league's second best offense and fourth best defense, and have a better scoring differential than three playoff teams (Howard, Reservoir, Hammond).
Last week: beat Marriotts Ridge (2-7), 48-0. This week: home against Hammond (6-3).
W: Re (28-7), OM (59-20), MH (28-21), LR (34-7), A (31-0), MR (48-0). L: RH (42-7), Ho (29-26), G (21-3).
6. (6.) Hammond (6-3, 240-172)
The Golden Bears pretty much secured their 2A South playoff spot with that game-changing 47-38 win over River Hill in Week 7. Since then, though, they've been inconsistent, scoring only one touchdown against Howard in Week 8 and squeaking out a one-touchdown win over Wilde Lake in Week 9. No team wants to limp into the playoffs, so Hammond is going to be looking to make a statement at Centennial Friday night.
Last week: beat Wilde Lake (3-6), 20-13. This week: at Centennial (6-3).
W: MH (27-0), LR (41-8), OM (30-14), MR (44-14), RH (47-38), WL (20-13). L: G (35-3), Re (24-21), Ho (26-7).
7. (8.) Mt. Hebron (3-6, 143-230)
The Vikings have been tough to figure, bringing back a lot of talent from a 2012 playoff team but starting the season 0-5. The offense finally came to life in Week 9, scoring 39 points against Oakland MIlls, which was 18 more than their previous best this season. That win boosted them past the Scorpions into this spot. They have a chance to finish the season with victories in four of their last five games.
Last week: beat Oakland Mills (3-6), 39-21. This week: home against Marriotts Ridge (2-7).
W: LR (20-13), WL (14-7), OM (39-21). L: Ha (27-0), Re (36-14), C (28-21), Ho (35-13), RH (42-8), A (21-14).
8. (9.) Wilde Lake (3-6, 123-147)
Look at the Wildecats' losses: 13-10 to Howard, 14-6 to Glenelg, 14-7 to Mt. Hebron, 27-7 to Reservoir, 20-13 to Hammond. Their fourth-ranked defense (16.33 points allowed per game) has kept them in just about every game, but the offense has struggled, scoring fewer than two touchdowns per game. They get the nod over Oakland Mills because their scoring differential is almost 100 points better with wins over the same three teams.
Last week: lost to Hammond (6-3), 20-13. This week: home against Oakland Mills (3-6).
W: LR (29-7), MR (28-7), A (23-12). L: Ho (13-10), G (14-6), RH (33-0), MH (14-7), Re (27-7), Ha (20-13).
9. (7.) Oakland Mills (3-6, 222-337)
The Scorpions have been scoring a healthy 24.67 points per game, but allowing a not-so-healthy 37.44. Oakland Mills can take the No. 8 spot from Wilde Lake with a win, but a good defense often beats a good offense.
Last week: lost to Mt. Hebron (3-6), 39-21. This week: at Wilde Lake (3-6).
W: LR (44-6), MR (52-21), A (36-35). L: C (59-20), Ha (30-14), Re (49-21), G (49-8), RH (49-6), MH (39-21).
10. (10.) Atholton (1-8, 165-227)
Atholton's record includes a forfeit loss in which they routed Marriotts Ridge on the field, one-point losses to Long Reach and Oakland Mills, an overtime loss to No. 2 Reservoir and respectable losses to River Hill and Wilde Lake. The Raiders' only win came against another 2012 playoff team that never got going in 2013: Mt. Hebron. In a season that has had its share of upsets, it's possible there could be one more.
Last week: lost to Reservoir (7-2), 33-26 OT. This week: home against Glenelg (8-1).
W: MH (21-14). L: MR (FF), Ho (40-16), RH (28-6), LR (15-14), WL (23-12), C (31-0), OM (36-35), Re (33-26 OT).
On the bubble: Long Reach (1-8, 88-270); Marriotts Ridge (2-7, 89-340).
River Hill, 291
Oakland Mills, 222
Mt. Hebron, 143
Wilde Lake, 123
Marriotts Ridge, 89
Long Reach, 88
River Hill, 98
Wilde Lake, 147
Mt. Hebron, 230
Long Reach, 270
Oakland Mills, 337
Marriotts Ridge, 340
River Hill, 193
Wilde Lake, -24
Mt. Hebron, -87
Oakland Mills, -115
Long Reach, -182
Marriotts Ridge, -251