No. 9 River Hill (9-2) at No. 4 Atholton (10-1)
Region: 3A East
Coaches: Brian Van Deusen, River Hill; Kyle Schmitt, Atholton
Last meeting: Atholton won, 14-0, Sept. 16
Outlook: Both of these Howard County rivals finished strong. While Atholton won its last 10 games (following a season-opening forfeit of a game it won 39-0), River Hill has won seven straight, rebounding from a 2-2 start caused primarily by injury and turnovers. The Hawks have won their last seven games by an average margin of 35 points. The Raiders have posted four straight shutouts and outscored opponents by 33.7 points.
Don’t look for much change in the game plan. Both teams like to pound it out on the ground behind their strong offensive lines. Aaron Wells, who was injured during the first meeting, leads the Hawks with 113 carries for 784 yards and 15 touchdowns. Raiders running back Kenny Thomas has rushed 125 times for 871 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Raiders will go to the air a bit more than the Hawks with quarterback Brian McMahon (81-for-132 passing for 993 yards, 10 touchdowns; 612 yards rushing 6 touchdowns) and receiver Dequan Ellison (39 catches for 632 yards and 8 touchdowns).
River Hill quarterback Raamah Vaughn has rushed 67 times for 371 yards 6 touchdowns while passing only 34 times. Running back Evan Griffin has 46 carries for 425 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Last season, Wilde Lake knocked both teams out of the regional playoffs and went on to win the class 3A title, but two years ago River Hill won the regional final. The Hawks are in the playoffs for the ninth straight season, aiming for a third state title to go with the 2007 and 2008 crowns. The Raiders, who won their first outright Howard County championship this fall, are in the playoffs for the third straight time and the sixth time in program history but are still looking for their first title.
No. 12 Aberdeen at North Harford
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Region: 3A North
Coaches: Johnny Brooks, Aberdeen; Ken Brinkman, North Harford
Last meeting: North Harford won, 38-12, Sept. 30
Outlook: In the first meeting, Hawks quarterback Ryan Stinar ran the option offense to near perfection thanks to a stellar performance by the offensive line. The Hawks scored the first 10 points before Aberdeen pulled within 10-6 — a score that lasted just 24 seconds before the Hawks began building their advantage to 31-6.
Brooks, who has made some changes to the lineup, said they keys for the Eagles will be cutting down on mistakes and being more disciplined against the option. In the first meeting, the Eagles didn’t get a first down for the first 18 minutes, and the Hawks scored one of their touchdowns off a blocked punt.
While the Eagles boast the top receiver in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division in Christian Carpenter (58 receptions for 1,047 yards and 14 touchdowns), the Hawks gain much of their ground by committee. In the first win, Stinar ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. Eagles quarterback Kenny Faulcon has gone 118-for 174 passing for 2,184 yards and 24 touchdowns.
No. 15 Overlea (11-0) vs. Northwestern (9-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: At CCBC-Essex
Region: 1A North
Coaches: Craig Rollins, Overlea; Eric Woodson, Northwestern
Last meeting: First meeting ever
Outlook: The Falcons had expected a rematch with Baltimore County rival New Town, but the Titans had to forfeit last week’s win over Northwestern — and their entire season — for using an ineligible player, so Northwestern advanced. The Wildcats lost the game 40-12 to the Titans, but before that, they had allowed only six points all season.
Senior running back Alex Wells leads the Falcons with 29 touchdowns, including 20 rushing touchdowns, and 1,613 rushing yards. In last week’s 52-16 win over Reginald Lewis, he scored four touchdowns and rolled up 503 yards from scrimmage. Overlea, which is riding the area’s longest active winning streak at 15 games, has outscored its opposition 304-57 since Oct. 1 after surviving some close early contests.
Overlea, which won the Baltimore County Class 2A-1A Division, is looking for its first trip to the state final four since 1992. This is the Falcons’ 12th trip to the playoffs and their first since 2006. They have never won a state title but made it to the final in 1988.
Northwestern had only made one previous appearance in the playoffs, in 2008, and lost in the first round.