Football state championship previews
Ryan Crowder (shown returning an interception in the regional final against Surrattsville) is part of a Dunbar defense that allows just 6.4 points per game heading into Saturday's Class 1A state final against Perryville. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / November 19, 2011)
(At M&T Bank Stadium)
No. 3 Old Mill (13-0) vs. Quince Orchard (13-0)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 54
Coaches: Chad McCormick, Old Mill; Dave Mencarini, Quince Orchard
Outlook: There’s no secret to Old Mill’s success. Aiming for their second state championship in three years, the Patriots rushed into the title game on the state record-breaking performance of RB Rob Chesson, who scored seven touchdowns in the 49-20 semifinal win over No. 4 and previously-unbeaten Catonsville to bring his season total to 49. That crushed the old record of 43 set by Wicomico’s David Brown in 2007. Chesson, who rushed for 306 yards against Catonsville, has gained 2,528 yards this fall, an average of 194.5 per game. While the Patriots average 41.3 points per game, Quince Orchard averages 31.4 behind a similar power running game featuring RB Mark Green (290 carries, 1,853 yards, 25 TDs). Green ran for 276 yards and scored twice in a 23-17 state semifinal win over Flowers.
Defensively, the Patriots, led by DB Torie Wagner, LB Salaman Riddell and LB Rafael Kess allow 8.2 points per game while the Cougars give up 8.8. The Cougars have forced 31 turnovers, but Old Mill rarely gives up the ball. The Patriots haven’t played a game closer than 21 points since the second game of the season, and they win by an average of 33.1 points. The Cougars, who win by an average of 22.6 points, won one game in overtime during the regular season and had two close ones in the playoffs, a 23-20 win over Churchill in the West Region final and a six-point win over Flowers. The Cougars, from Gaithersburg, have won two previous titles, in 1991 and 2007.
No. 5 River Hill (11-2) vs. Thomas Johnson (10-3)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
TV: Ch. 54
Coaches: Brian Van Deusen, River Hill; Ben Wright, Thomas Johnson
Outlook: Both teams rebounded from early losing streaks to make strong runs into the state finals. The Hawks, who are hoping to add to their 2007 and 2008 state titles, started off 2-2, but since dropping back-to-back games to Atholton and Hammond they have allowed just 32 points in their last nine games. In the regional final, they avenged the loss to Atholton, then they routed Aberdeen, 41-7, in the state semifinal. The Patriots, from Frederick County, slipped into the fourth-seeded spot in the West region by bouncing back from a three-loss skid in October to win their final three games. They scored convincing wins over Seneca Valley and Damascus in the regional and defeated Huntingtown, 12-3, in the state semifinal. The Patriots aim to deliver their first state title to Wright, who will retire after the championship game.
The Hawks rely on a solid running game behind RB Aaron Wells (187 carries, 1,187 yards, 18 TDs), and QB Raamah Vaughn (104 carries, 562 yards, 10 TDs; 25-for-49 passing for 530 yards, 7 TDs) gives them passing options as well. The cornerstone of the Hawks’ success down the stretch, however, has been a defense that allows 5.8 points per game and just 3.8 since Sept. 30. Thomas Johnson has allowed 30 points in the playoffs and 14.8 per game for the season. Offensively, the Patriots — who won their only state title in 1982 — rely on RB Brandon Berney (153 carries, 1,014 yards, 14 TDs heading into the state tournament) and QB Heath Dahlgren (80-for-149 passing for 1,371 yards, 14 TDs).
No. 6 Dunbar (10-2) vs. Perryville (13-0)
When: Saturday, noon.
TV: Ch. 54
Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Chris Johnson, Perryville
Outlook: This game features a David and Goliath matchup. Defending champion Dunbar is looking for its eighth state title, while the Panthers had never won a playoff game until this fall. The Panthers, however, have already taken down one Goliath with their 20-14 overtime semifinal victory at previously-unbeaten Fort Hill — a game Fort Hill led 14-0 into the final minute of the third quarter. The Cecil County team overcame five turnovers to nip the Sentinels in Western Maryland. The Poets have a way of overcoming trouble too, rolling past then-No. 15 Overlea, 42-6, in their semifinal despite four turnovers and four touchdowns negated by penalties.
The Poets, who have scored 142 points in the playoffs, rely on a strong running game with a host of backs and an emerging passing game with sophomore QB William Crest (99-for-156 passing, 1,412 yards, 15 TDs). WR DeonTay McManus (38 catches, 561 yards, 6 TDs) led the Poets against Overlea in receiving (2 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD) and rushing (10 carries, 88 yards). RB Paki Brown (84 carries, 572 yards, 3 TDs) is the leading rusher. The Poets have one of the area’s stingiest defenses, allowing just 18 points in the playoffs and 6.4 per game all season. Like the Poets, the Panthers rely more on their ground attack led by FB Joe Peaker (137 carries, 1,490 yards, 22 TDs), but QB Gabe Sherrod, who hit seven different receivers in the Fort Hill game, is a dual threat (95-for-176 passing,1,525 yards, 19 TDs; 58 carries, 394 yards, 5 TDs). They average 39 points per game while giving up 9.8.