Prep football playoffs begin for both public and private schools on Friday, as area teams attempt to capture Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association or Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association titles.
Top-seeded Gilman opens the weekend festivities by hosting fourth-seeded Archbishop Spalding (7-3) in an MIAA semifinal at 1:30 p.m. in Roland Park.
The Greyhounds (8-1) walloped the two-time defending B Conference champion Cavaliers in their first A Conference encounter, 42-8, after honoring Spalding coach Mike Whittles' battle against pancreatic cancer in a pregame ceremony.
Both teams' coaches wore purple T-shirts for the occasion inscribed with "Keep fighting coach Whittles." Moreover, Gilman coach Biff Poggi marked the day by donating $10,000 to pancreatic cancer research.
Poggi's sister, Betsy McAvoy, succumbed to the disease last year.
Yet when it comes to the game, Poggi will hold nothing back as the Greyhounds look to regain the title that second-seeded Calvert Hall (8-1) took from them in 2010.
That Cardinals (8-1) will have their hands full on the other side of the A Conference bracket, hosting McDonogh (6-4) at Paul Angelo Russo Stadium in Towson at 7 p.m.
The teams staged an epic triple-overtime thriller less than two weeks ago with Calvert Hall prevailing, 48-42.
Quarterback Thomas Stuart led the Cardinals to the victory, tossing seven touchdown passes. His senior sidekick, running back CJ Williams, caught the winning TD pass and intercepted McDonogh quarterback Joel Jorgensen in the end zone to secure the victory.
The Eagles followed that heartbreaker with a 31-21 loss to archrival Gilman the following week while Calvert Hall was eliminating Mount St. Joseph from playoff contention with a 26-7 victory over the Gaels.
Resurgent Boys' Latin (4-6) will try to run past top-seeded Archbishop Curley (7-3) in a B Conference battle on Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
The Lakers' recent success can be attributed to a ground-and-pound philosophy spearheaded by senior Brandon Cherry, who carried 39 times for 219 yards in the BL's 6-0 old-school win over archrival St. Paul's, which was knocked out of the postseason party when Curley bowed to John Carroll.
Unbeaten Catonsville tops the local public schools' slate, as the Comets (10-0) host Paint Branch (9-1) in a Class 4A North Region semifinal on Friday at 7 p.m.
Catonsville heads into the playoffs with playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Defensive ends Sean Lipscomb and Julian Jones put quarterbacks on instant sack alert, helping a secondary that includes Lane, Deniko Carter, Joe Tebo, Josh Frazier and Jerome Williams score nine defensive touchdowns.
Moreover, Williams and DeAndre Lane were the two featured running backs to start the season before Williams broke his collarbone in the third game and didn't return until last week.
Before he was injured, Williams ran for 213 yards (41 carries) and three touchdowns.
Lane picked up the slack, totaling 1,193 yards (9.8 per carry) and 14 rushing touchdowns.
Senior wideout Carter made the most of his 16 catches on offense, turning eight into touchdowns and averaging 28.6 per catch (457 yards). He also added a punt return and interception return for touchdowns.
Julian Jones (24.6 yards per catch) contributed five touchdown receptions and Lipscomb added a pair.
Running back Josh Hylton added seven TDs and quarterback Aaron Jones contributed three rushing touchdowns and 15 more through the air.
Also in 4A North, Poly (10-0) hopes Friday night's battle with Perry Hall (8-2) won't be the last for coach Roger Wrenn, the schools' legendary coach who is retiring at the end of the season.
The Gators, whose boys and girls soccer teams are still in the hunt for state laurels, would like to send Wrenn home with a loss so they could avenge a 33-23 loss to Catonsville, if the Comets get past Paint Branch.
Franklin (3A, 7-3), New Town (1A, 9-1) and Overlea (1A, 10-0) are the other area schools to earn postseason berths.
The Indians travel to Aberdeen (8-2) while the Titans (9-1) host Northwestern at Woodlawn High and the Falcons (10-0) welcome Reginald Lewis to Overlea. All three games are Friday night at 7 p.m.