Bel Air resident Qadry Ismail, a member of the 2001 Ravens Super Bowl team, could hardly contain his excitement in the broadcast booth last Saturday in Denver when the Ravens beat the Broncos, 38-35 in double overtime.
"I was calling the game, myself and Gerry Sandusky, and it was one of those times that, as a broadcaster, you kind of lose it," Ismail, who gives color commentary during Ravens' games on WIYY and WBAL, said. "It gets so exciting that you jump out of your skin a little bit. When [Jacoby] Jones caught that pass to tie it up in the fourth quarter, Jerry and I both went through the roof. I think our enthusiasm came through on that broadcast a little bit."
Ismail and another Baltimore sports radio personality with Harford County ties, Jeremy Conn, agreed Saturday's game may stand up as one of the best in Ravens history.
"In my opinion, and I watch football for a living, for pure joy of watching a game, there hasn't been a better one than that, from a football fan's perspective," said Conn, an Abingdon native and 1997 graduate of Harford Tech who co-hosts the Scott Garceau Show on CBS Baltimore's 105.7 The Fan. "I've seen so many games where the momentum has switched, and a team is just completely deflated. In Saturday's game, there were a bunch of instances where the Ravens could have rolled over, like on those two kick returns, but they never did. I watched the second half [and overtime] at a friend's house, and I think everyone in the place was about two seconds away from a heart attack for most of it."
Ismail, Conn and Conn's partner Garceau, also a longtime Harford resident, will turn their attentions this weekend to Foxboro, Mass., where the Ravens will take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship game.
What are the Ravens' chances on Sunday, playing the New England Patriots, who they lost to in last year's AFC title game?
"I said it on the air this week, that I think Baltimore is going to win," Conn said. "I give them a really good shot, any way I look at that game. I think the Ravens are putting it together at the right time, Joe Flacco is coming together and they can definitely win it."
"I give them a strong shot to win it," Ismail said. "They've beaten the Patriots once already this season, and they're not afraid to go up to New England and stare them down. Just about every person on the Baltimore roster right now has been to the playoffs before, so this is not a new stage for them. They've played in big games before."
With the Baltimore Orioles finding success for the first time in 15 years with a playoff run in the 2012 season, and the Ravens making the playoffs for the fifth straight year and going to a second straight conference title game, Ismail and Conn both said that Harford County, and Maryland in general, support both teams, but that football still rules.
"It's a football town, I'd say," Conn said. "The fact that you've had initial success from a team that's only been in town since 1996, it's easier for people to get behind that team. Also, football is just an easier sport to get pumped up for. You have all week to think about the game on Sunday."
"The Orioles have a rich tradition, absolutely, but when it's Purple Friday, you're going to see this area blanketed in that color," Ismail said. "It's Ravens purple from elementary school right up to the top of corporations."