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Football Game of the Week: No. 14 Arundel at No. 5 Old Mill

For the Patriots and Wildcats, the playoff race begins in earnest this week.

No. 14. Arundel (3-0) @ No. 5 Old Mill (3-0)

When: Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Coaches: Chuck Markiewicz, Arundel; Chad McCormick, Old Mill

Last meeting: Old Mill won, 29-13, last season

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Arundel: QB Ryan Sedgwick, Jr.; DB Ephraim Moore, Jr.; RB Darius Hunter, Jr.; WR Christian Thornton, Sr.; DL DJ Best, Jr.; WR Tim Cole, Sr.; LB Noah Watson, Jr.

Old Mill: TB Sirus Gay, Sr.; TE Devin Purvis, Sr.; NT Ahmad Harvey, Sr.; DT-DE Jamal Boadu, Sr.; LB Mason Grim, Sr.; DE Spencer Adams, Sr.; OL Stanley McCombs, Sr.

KEYS TO VICTORY

There's not much of a secret to an Old Mill-Arundel game. The coaches have their strategies and a few things they like to keep under wraps, but it's basically Old Mill's running game vs. Arundel's passing game.

Old Mill has won the past two meetings – a regular-season win last year and a playoff win the year before — but Arundel won the two before that – also one of each. The Anne Arundel County rivals traded wins over the 10 games before that, so since 2006, they're even.

Last season, Old Mill won the county championship, going undefeated through the regular season, only to be tripped up by Broadneck in the Class 4A East regional final. Arundel, also in 4A East, missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

The Patriots seem to unveil another speedy running back every year and Gay is picking up where All-Metro selection Pete Boone left off last season. Gay has run for 520 yards on 78 carries and scored nine touchdowns.

The Wildcats plug in quarterbacks just as easily with Sedgwick taking over and completing 66 of 96 passes for 917 yards and 15 touchdowns in three games. Cole caught five touchdown passes in the second week and Thornton caught three the first week.

Both teams are capable of employing the other's bread and butter. Hunter leads the Arundel rushing attack while Blaise Fisher, filling in for Old Mill's injured quarterback Brandon Butler, threw for 120 yards on 10-for-17 passing against South River last week. Still, all five touchdowns the Patriots scored came on the ground, including three from Gay.

To Markiewicz, who has a young team in his 17th season with the Wildcats and his 30th overall, a win depends on the offensive line, where he has a sophomore, two juniors and two first-year seniors.

"If we can protect and we can run the ball to try to keep our defense off the field, that's going to be the key early. We like to go fast. Our motto is, 'First downs and touchdowns,' but if we don't eat some clock, it could be tough. The first quarter is going to tell the story."

McCormick, in his sixth season, said his defensive line figures prominently in Old Mill's chances to win, led by All-Metro nose tackle Harvey, who can be overwhelming.

"We have to have great ball security and be able to possess and run the clock and move the ball. Then we have to make Arundel have to score on a long field if they're going to score," McCormick said. "Our defensive line, I'm hoping they can get pressure on the quarterback. They a have a talented quarterback and if you allow him to sit back in the pocket and have a clean look, his receivers run good routes and he throws a good football."

For these teams, the playoff race begins in earnest this week. The Wildcats face the first of three tough 4A East rivals with No. 7 Annapolis next week and No. 10 Broadneck the following week. Old Mill doesn't face those two until the last three weeks of the season. Both coaches know 7-3 almost certainly won't be enough to get into the 4A East playoffs and 8-2 could mean a long road trip.

Old Mill won the last state title by an Anne Arundel County team in 2011 and also won in 2009. Before that, North County won in 1994 with Markiewicz at the helm.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

  • Mervo at Douglass, Friday, 3:45 p.m.
  • No. 6 St. Frances vs. Bishop Sullivan (Va.) at Morgan State, Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Oakland Mils at Long Reach, Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Hereford at Randallstown, Saturday, 1 p.m.
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