When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Coaches: Chuck Markiewicz, Arundel; Chad McCormick, Old Mill
Last meeting: Arundel won, 66-34, last season
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
Arundel: QB Anthony Messenger, Jr. (22-for-37 passing for 277 yards, 3 TDs); RB Larry Barnes, Soph. (21 carries for 140 yards, 1 TD); LB Diondre Wallace, Jr.; LB Marvin Flythe, Soph.; LB Kwame Kumah, Sr., DL Malik Treadwell, Sr.
Old Mill: RB-DB Marcus Hicks, Sr. (20 carries for 149 yards, 3 TDs, fumble recovery for TD, 5 tackles); LB Dominic Kess, Jr., (11 tackles); LB-FB Malik Hicks, Jr., (5 tackles; 8 carries for 25 yards); TE-DE Martin Hayes, Sr. (1 reception for 49 yards, 1 TD, 2 tackles); LB Nikko Ware, Jr., (7 tackles, 1 sack); WR Devin Salisbury, Sr. (5 carries for 15 yards, 3 catches for 18 yards); OL Matt Powell, Sr.; OL Adam Albrecht, Sr.
KEYS TO VICTORY
In their last 10 meetings, including playoffs, Arundel and Old Mill have alternated victories. Based on that, it would be Old Mill's turn to win, but Arundel has won the past three regular season meetings.
In this back-and-forth series, the scores aren't always close, but the Patriots hold a slight edge, having won eight of the past 14 meetings including all four playoff games. Arundel, meanwhile, has won six of the past 10 regular-season games.
A prime draw in the Anne Arundel County football season, the matchup usually features Arundel's passing attack against Old Mill's power running game. It shouldn't be much different this season, although the Wildcats ran for 232 yards in last week's 38-14 win over Severna Park. Markiewicz said he couldn't remember the last time his team ran for 200 yards.
While Messenger is another in a long line of Markiewicz's strong passing quarterbacks, the first-year starter doesn't have the same caliber targets as his predecessors. That could keep the Wildcats from controlling the tempo to the extent they did while rolling up 66 points on Old Mill last year.
"In the past, we had [All-Metro receivers] Tyler Young and Alec Lemon," Markiewicz said. "We've had some guys where third-and-8 was not a big deal to us. We would go for third-and-8 or on fourth down-and-8, we would go for it anywhere on the field, but at this point right now, we don't have go-to-guys.
"We're going to probably have to punt more than we have in the past. Thank goodness we have a good punter [Isaiah Watson], because our defense is good."
The Wildcats' defense will have to look out for Hicks, who made the game-changing play in rallying the Patriots from a 14-0 deficit last week to a 35-21 win over Broadneck. An All-Metro safety last season, Hicks stripped the Bruins' punt returner, ran it back for a touchdown and then went on to score three rushing touchdowns.
Last year against Arundel, the Patriots had a 27-13 lead in the second quarter before a second half that McCormick said "was sort of like a landslide. I don't think we stopped them in the second half."
"We didn't control the tempo," McCormick said. "We weren't able to hold the ball on offense and keep them off the field. That's always going to be key to any team playing Arundel. You've got to limit their possessions."
The Patriots will try to speed up the game by running the football, and McCormick expects Thursday night to be mostly the clash of styles it has always been.
"I think it's going to be pretty similar," he said. "They have a new quarterback, so I think they're going to throw more screens, as you would do with a young quarterback. Their defense is solid. They held us to seven points in the second half last year of what was a shootout in the first half, and they have a lot of returning players."
The Wildcats also have many juniors and a few sophomores up from the junior varsity squad, and those players have never lost a game in high school. Last week, Markiewicz was impressed with their resilience in overcoming a handful of turnovers and 15 penalties.
While the season is young, the showdown may have a big impact on the playoff picture, as both teams are in the Class 4A East region. After this game, the Wildcats have time to mature before facing the other regional contenders, especially Broadneck and Meade in the final three weeks of the season.
The Patriots next week must travel to Meade, the defending regional champion, which upset both Arundel and Old Mill in the playoffs.
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH
No. 3 Meade at South River, Thurs., 6:30 p.m.
No. 12 Milford Mill at Hereford, Thurs., 7 p.m.
Linganore at No. 7 Westminster, Thurs., 7 p.m.
No. 6 Dunbar at Mervo, Fri., 6 p.m.
Good Counsel at No. 5 Calvert Hall, Fri., 7 p.m.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun