Westminster quarterback Duke Etchison

Westminster quarterback Duke Etchison (Kim Hairston / The Baltimore Sun / September 6, 2013)

When: Today, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Matt Martello, North Carroll Panthers; Brad Wilson, Westminster Owls

Last meeting: Westminster won, 42-14, two years ago

KEY PLAYERS


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North Carroll: QB Jack Flowers, Jr. (765 yards passing, 11 TDs); RB-FS Aaron Heinle (419 yards rushing, 9 catches for 106 yards, 5 TDs; 30 tackles, 1 INT); C Jake Devan, Sr.; TE-LB-P-K Kyle Fiedler (17 tackles, 3 INTs; 23 receptions for 509 yards, 7 TDs; 6 FGs, long 38 yards); RB Sean Floto, Sr. (665 yards rushing, 8 receptions for 134 yards, 5 TDs); NG-OG Eddie Merrill, Sr. (37 tackles, 4 sacks); LB Justin Tunis, Sr. (42 tackles, 2 sacks); LB Jake Justice, Sr. (34 tackles); LB-OG Alex Bredenburg, Sr. (37 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INTs)

Westminster: QB Duke Etchison, Sr. (68.3 completion percentage on 166-of-243 passing for 2,123 yards, 21 TDs, 6 INTs); WR Ryan Hursey, Sr. (59 catches for 726 yards, 6 TDs); SR Jesse Uhlman, Sr. (42 catches for 508 yards, 2 TDs); RB-DB Brian Kohr, Sr. (26 carries for 202 yards, 4 TDs; 15 catches, 206 yards, 5 TDs); LB John Morrissey (57 tackles, 1 sack); LB Joe Jenkins, Sr. (31 tackles); SE Patrick Fitzgerald, Jr., (17 catches for 347 yards, 5 TDs); WR Chase Sankovich, Sr. (20 catches for 256 yards, 2 TDs; 6 tackles)

KEYS TO VICTORY

North Carroll has won more games this season than the last three years combined and is assured ofits second winning season in a decade. The last time the Panthers got off to a 7-0 start was 2007, and that's also the last time they beat Westminster.

"Last year, we were 1-9, and one of our 10 goals for this year was to beat someone we're not supposed to beat," Martello said. "Well, going into the year, that was probably everybody on our schedule. Right now, we're not supposed to beat Westminster even though we're 7-0. They're state contenders every year and for us, this is a new thing."

The Owls, state Class 4A semifinalists last season, have been rolling along in Carroll County since dropping close games to Frederick County foes Linganore, Middletown and Urbana. Etchison tied a state record with seven touchdown passes in last week's 51-22 win over Francis Scott Key, and directs an aerial offense that averages 303 yards per game. The Owls haven't lost to a county opponent on the field in three years, although a forfeit cost them a win two years ago.

North Carroll and Westminster, who are in a three-way tie for first place in the county with South Carroll, didn't play each other last year, but the Owls have beaten the Panthers by an average of 25.5 points in their last four meetings.

This fall, however, North Carroll has been pulling out late victories with big plays. Trailing by four last week against Century, Merrill and Bredenburg returned fourth-quarter interceptions for touchdowns to win 23-14.

The Panthers run a hybrid wing-T offense. With a small line — only one player weighs more than 200 pounds — they're a possession team. They've only thrown the ball less than Westminster, but Flowers has a 60.7 completion percentage.

The Owls made some adjustments during their opening three-game stretch, including moving Kohr, who had been playing defense, to running back. He's now their top back, a needed complement to the Owl's explosing passing game.

"Over the last four weeks, we've been playing some pretty good football," Wilson said. "We're not making mistakes on offense, Defensively, we're playing pretty good ball. Our special teams have been lights out the last two or three weeks.

"We just need to play a complete ball game. I think North Carroll's a big-play team. They count on it. They look for it. We've just got to limit their big plays."

The two didn't meet last season, because Westminster was a 4A school and North Carroll was 1A. Wilson chose to replace 1A teams on his schedule with non-league, higher-classification opponents to help the Owls' playoff chances. This season, Westminster is in 3A and had to keep the 1A programs on its schedule.

In the regional playoff races, the Panthers are in second place in Class 1A West behind Fort Hill, which is also 7-0 but has more bonus points for beating teams with better records. Fort Hill has been to the playoffs twice, most recently in 2007.

Westminster is in 10th place in Class 3A North but still has a chance to gain one of the top four spots needed to advance to the regional playoffs. Third-place Franklin and second-place Dundalk are 5-2 and six teams have 4-3 records with three games left in the regular season.

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

Calvert Hall at No. 1 Gilman, Friday, 3:30 p.m.

No. 11 Broadneck at Arundel, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Howard at No. 13 Hammond, Friday, 7 p.m.

No. 12 Glenelg at Centennial, Friday, 7 p.m.

Franklin at No. 8 Milford Mill, Saturday, 1 p.m.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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