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State semifinal football previews

By Katherine Dunn

9:00 AM EST, November 24, 2011

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A glance at Friday's four state semifinal football games featuring area teams.

Class 4A

No. 4 Catonsville (12-0) at No. 3 Old Mill (12-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Rich Hambor, Catonsville; Chad McCormick, Old Mill

Winner faces: Quince Orchard (12-0) or C.H. Flowers (9-3)

Key Players to Watch

Catonsville: RB DeAndre’ Lane, Sr. (210 carries, 1,666 yards, 20 TDs); WR Deniko Carter, Sr. (18 catches, 489 yards, 8 TDs); QB Aaron Jones, Sr. (39-for-89 passing for 828 yards, 5 TDs), TE-DE Julian Jones, Sr. (9 catches , 221 yards, 5 TDs; 80 tackles, 8 sacks); DE Sean Lipscomb, Sr. (85 tackles, 11 sacks)

Old Mill: RB Rob Chesson, Sr. (287 carries, 2,222 yards for 41 TDs, 1 ret. TD); WR-DB Torie Wagner, Sr. (28 catches for 586 yards, 9 TDs; 43 tackles, 8 INT, 2 returned for TDs); QB Deonte Sheilds Sr. (60-for-100 passing for 1,132 yards, 15 TDs); LB Rafael Kess, Sr. (68 tackles, 5.5 sacks); LB Salaman Riddell Sr. (84 tackles, 10 sacks)

Outlook: The strategy for these teams will be no surprise to anyone. Both have literally run into the playoffs. Old Mill boasts the area’s top-scoring running back in Chesson, who needs just one touchdown to tie the state record of 43 set by Wicomico’s David Brown in 2007, while the Comets have followed Lane’s lead. Although they don’t go to the air as much, both teams have quarterbacks whose passing ability makes the team adaptable to whatever the opposition can stop.

The Patriots, the Anne Arundel County champions who beat North Point 28-7 in the regional final, are making their third appearance in the semifinals and won the title in 2009 with a similar power running game. They haven’t scored fewer than 21 points since their season opener and allow just 7.2 points per game. The Comets, the Baltimore County 4A-3A Division champ, upset then No. 5 and undefeated Poly in its regional final to reach their first state final four. The Comets haven’t scored fewer than 28 points all season and allow 13.1 per game.

Class 3A

No. 12 Aberdeen (10-2) at No. 5 River Hill (10-2)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Johnny Brooks, Aberdeen; Brian Van Deusen, River Hill

Winner faces: Huntingtown (11-1) or Thomas Johnson (9-3)

Key Players to Watch

Aberdeen: QB Kenny Faulcon, Sr. (129-for-189 passing for 2,319 yards, 26 TDs); WR-DB Christian Carpenter, Sr. (64 catches for 1,112 yards, 14 TDs; 128 tackles - 88 solo, 6 INTs); WR Chavez Cheatham, Sr. (32 catches for 701 yards, 10 TDs); RB Austin Bonsall, Jr. (102 carries for 702 yards, 8 TDs); OL-DL Brenton Barnes, Sr. (109 tackles)

River Hill: RB Aaron Wells, Sr. (167 carries for 1,066 yards, 18 TDs); QB Raaman Vaughn, Sr. (24-for-44 passing for 493, 6TDs), Evan Griffin (60 carries, 509 yards, 6 TDs); Riley Davis (114 tackles) Ryan Higgins (82 tackles, 10 sacks)

Outlook: The Eagleshave something River Hill hasn’t seen all season — a big aerial game. While the Hawks like to pound the ball on the ground with Wells leading the way, Aberdeen likes to air it out, with Faulcon looking mostly for Carpenter or Cheatham. The Hawks will look to put pressure on Faulcon and try to contain him, while the Eagles will need tough play on the defensive line to hold Wells and company in check.

These teams had mirror image trips to the semifinals. Each lost back-to-back games early in the season and rebounded in the regional final to avenge a regular-season loss to its toughest county rival — Aberdeen 38-20 over North Harford and River Hill 21-12 over Atholton. While Aberdeen is making its first trip to the semifinals since winning the Class 2A title in 2003, River Hill is back for the fifth time since 2005, having won Class 2A titles in 2007 and 2008.

Class 2A

Edmondson (8-4) at Middletown (11-1)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Dante Jones, Edmondson; Kevin Lynott, Middletown

Winner faces: Kent Island (11-1) or Frederick Douglass (10-2)

Key Players to Watch

Edmondson: RB Steve Everette, Sr. (198 carries for 1,372 yards 13 TDs); ATH Lawrence Jackson, Sr. (58 carries, 625 yards, 6 TDs; 25 catches for 385 yards, 6 TDs) QB Tyjuan Eaton, Jr. (103-for-205 passing for 1,150 yards, 16 TDs); SS Jamel Nesbit, Sr. (75 tackles—35 solo).

Middletown: RB-DB Zach Welch, Jr. (146 carries for 1,470 yards, 24 TDs; 4 INTs); QB-DB Michael Pritts, Sr. (108 carries for 564 yards, 8 TDs; 76-for-131 passing, 16 TDs); WR-DE Ben Lewis, Sr. (43 catches for 673 yards, 10 TDs; 48 tackles, 6 sacks); LB Collin Delauter, Sr. (65 tackles – 51 solo).

Outlook: Edmondson had an up-and-down season but is rolling through the playoffs, outscoring opponents, 67-6, in the two regional games. Jones said it took a while to find the right chemistry with a balanced team that has no particular star. The players will need that chemistry and discipline to get past the Knights, who fell to McDonogh 21-4 in last year’s state final. The Red Storm has been playing well defensively up front and will need that too against the Knights’ strong running game.

Back in the state semifinals for the fifth time and the first time since its 2006 championship, Edmondson allows just 8.9 points per game, and three of the Red Storm’s losses came by a touchdown or less. The Knights, who play in a tough Frederick County league, nipped Walkersville, 28-21, in the regional final. They allow just 11.6 points per game. Middletown has been to the state title game four times without a title.

Class 1A

No. 6 Dunbar (10-2) vs. No. 15 Overlea (12-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: CCBC-Essex

Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Craig Rollins, Overlea

Winner faces: Fort Hill (12-0) or Perryville (12-0)

Key Players to Watch

Dunbar: WR-FS DeonTay McManus, Sr. (36 catches for 492 yards, 4 TDs; 209 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 90 tackles); WR-DB Aaron Haynes, Sr., (16 catches for 261 yards, 3 TDs; 7 INT – ret. for TDs); QB William Crest, Soph. (95-for-148 passing for 1,289 yards, 13 TDs); RB Paki Brown, Jr. (84 carries for 568 yards, 3 TDs); RB-LB Charles Brown, Sr. (336 yards rushing, 5 TDs; 109 tackles).

Overlea: RB-SS Alex Wells, Sr. (123 carries for 1,503 yards, 30 TDs; 107 tackles); QB Tevin Berry, Sr. (51-for-79 passing for 1,191 yards, 18 TDs); OL Austin Newcomb, Soph. (65 tackles); LB John McCargo, Soph. (85 tackles); FS Ashantee Washington Jr. (6 INTs)

Outlook: The Poets have been the most successful state playoff team in recent years, winning five of their nine state titles since 2004. The Falcons are riding the area’s longest active winning streak, 16 games, after going 5-5 last season. Overlea’s only trip to the state final was 23 years ago.

The Poets do just about everything by committee, with a host of capable running backs and receivers, while the Falcons get most of their spark from workhorse back Wells. Both teams can put the ball in the air and both have athletic defenses. This is the first ranked team the Falcons will face this fall, and one challenge for the Baltimore County 2A-1A champs will be to move the Poets’ monstrous defensive line to create holes for Wells. Dunbar allows just 6.5 points per game, and only two teams have managed more than one touchdown against the Poets. The Falcons have won every game since September by at least 18 points.