North Harford (3-1, 0-0 division) at Aberdeen (4-0, 1-0)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Coaches: Ken Brinkman, North Harford; Johnny Brooks, Aberdeen
Last meeting: North Harford won, 42-6, last season
Key players to watch
North Harford: RB Josh Welsh, Jr., (387 yards on 66 carries, 8 TDs); QB Ryan Stinar, Sr. (459 yards on 12-for-44 passing and 3 TDs, 178 yards on 28 carries for 2 TDs); FS Eric Bayer, Jr., (19 tackles, 1 interception); FS Tyler Campbell, Jr. (24 tackles, 2 interceptions); RB Nick Warren, Sr., (114 yards on 14 carries) WR Brady Maguire, Sr. (241 yards on 9 receptions, 1 TD); LB Sean Cannon, Sr. (20 tackles).
Aberdeen: QB-LB Kenny Faulcon, Sr. (750 total yards, 12 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs); SE-S Christian Carpenter, Sr. (382 yards on 20 receptions for 7 TDs, 2 interceptions); WB-CB Chavez Cheatam, Sr. (202 yards on 12 receptions, 2 TDs, 2 interceptions); RB-LB Dante Warfield, Jr. (averaging 7 yards per carry, 15 tackles); RB-KR Austin Bonsall, Jr. (averaging 25 yards per punt return, 3 TDs) OL-DL Brenton Barnes Sr. (35 tackles, 4 sacks); DB Quintel Kelly, Sr. (38 tackles, 7 sacks, 6 forced fumbles)
Keys to victory: North Harford has been the premier program in Harford County in recent years and is coming off one of its best seasons ever. The Hawks, who have been to the playoffs five of the last six years, went undefeated through the 2010 regular season, swept the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division and finished 11-1.
The Eagles, on the other hand, appear to be the county's up-and-coming program — and then some. Brooks took over this fall after guiding Havre de Grace to the state Class 1A title game last season. Already, the Eagles have posted three more wins than all of last season when they finished 1-9. The Eagles haven't been to the playoffs since 2004, a year after they won their only state title, and they are eager to get back.
This is the UCBAC opener for the Hawks, whose six turnovers contributed to their only loss, 28-13, to St. Paul's two weeks ago. Both teams are coming off knock-out victories — the Hawks 35-0 over Friendly and the Eagles 36-0 over division rival Joppatowne.
The Hawks' offense suffered a big turnover, graduating their entire backfield, so, Brinkman said they're rotating six or seven backs led by Welsh. Defensively, though , they are big and deep on the line with a strong linebacking corps and a solid secondary.
"The key would have to be our secondary," Brinkman said, "because that's the youngest group we have and with the passing they have and their two receivers, [the secondary will] be tested this week. If we can limit big plays, we'll have our chance to win it."
Last season, Brooks' Havre de Grace team played the Hawks to within 29-20, so he's familiar with Brinkman's game plan.
"They like to run a little option and run some isos [isolation plays] with the big fullback and the tailback, so we want to try to maintain the line of scrimmage and put then in third-and-long," Brooks said. "[On offense], we have to look to for the mismatches and take advantage of them. We're pretty athletic and hopefully we can execute what we do."
The Eagles like to do a little bit of everything on offense with a strong passing game and versatile rushing attack. Faulcon, a converted running back in his first season as a quarterback, can throw deep. Carpenter is a favorite target and a mismatch for most opponents, Brooks said. Cheatam, who runs a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, leads a contingent of running backs.
Other games to watch:
Digital Harbor at No. 7 Dunbar, Friday, 3:45 p.m.
No. 10 Archbishop Spalding at No. 1 Gilman, Friday, 4 p.m.
No. 3 Old Mill at Meade, Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Glenelg at No. 9 Hammond, Friday, 7 p.m.
Hereford at No. 13 Catonsville, Friday, 7 p.m.
No. 15 River Hill at Wilde Lake, Friday, 7 p.m.
Broadneck at Severna Park, Satuday, 2 p.m.