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Liberty and Westminster are preparing for football state quarterfinals this Friday, and the Lions and Owls will both be facing undefeated opponents.

The Lions (8-3) travel to Cecil County to take on Elkton (11-0) on Friday night at 7 in a Class 2A quarterfinal, while Westminster (9-2) visits Baltimore City’s Mervo (11-0) on the 3A side.

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The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association tweaked its playoff system this season, and the top eight teams in each region qualified based on the usual playoff point system. The eight teams remaining after two round of regional play were then re-seeded based on their point averages heading into the postseason.

Liberty had a 7.0 point average and gets the No. 7 seed for the 2A quarterfinals. Elkton came in with a 10.44 average, and the Golden Elks are the No. 2 seed.

It’s the first time in school history the Lions have won two postseason games in the same year and advanced this far into the playoffs.

Liberty opened the 2A West playoffs with a 51-13 rout over Oakland Mills in Eldersburg, and clipped Glenelg on the road last weekend 35-28 to advance.

In other 2A state quarterfinal action, No. 1 Douglass (Prince George’s County) hosts No. 8 New Town, No. 6 Middletown gets No. 3 North Caroline, and No. 4 Milford Mill hosts No. 5 Potomac.

Westminster (8.11 point average) is the No. 6 seed in the 3A quarterfinals, and Mervo (10.23) is seeded third. Their 3A quarterfinal is set for Friday night at 7.

The Owls defeated Marriotts Ridge 16-7 last Friday at Ruby Field, fueled by a strong defensive effort, and took down Long Reach 47-28 in their 3A East first-round game.

“All 11 guys doing their job on defense is something special," said Owls junior Erick Stranko. "If we did that, we made the plays we needed to make. Seven points is a great defensive effort.”

The Owls got past a persistent Marriotts Ridge team 16-7, thanks to touchdown runs from running backs Nate Mattingly and Erick Stranko, and a strong defensive performance in Friday’s Class 3A East second-round playoff game at Ruby Field.

No. 1 Huntingtown takes on No. 8 Wilde Lake, No. 2 Linganore hosts No. 7 North Point, and No. 4 Damascus gets No. 5 Franklin.

The quarterfinal winners move onto the state semifinals Nov. 29-30. The state finals are slated for Dec. 5-7 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis.

Knights, Eagles relish state title runs

Century’s boys soccer team made state tournament appearances in 2006, 2009 and 2017 since capturing a state championship in 2003, and the Knights continued to fall short of the ultimate goal.

It took 16 years — and a lone goal off a free kick from Alex Grasso — for the Knights to capture their second state title in program history with a 1-0 victory over La Plata in the 2A state final last Thursday.

The Knights finished 15-4, not bad for a program that had 13 boys at varsity tryouts back in August.

“After we were done in the huddle, I told the guys to take a minute to look around and soak it in,” Knights first-year coach Trey Howes said. “We can never take opportunities like this for granted and it’s a great atmosphere. We were just able to live in the moment a little bit.”

Century Knights boys soccer Head Coach Trey Howes holds the state championship trophy high as he and his team celebrate their 1-0 win over La Plata in Thursday night's Class 2A state final at Loyola University in Baltimore.
Century Knights boys soccer Head Coach Trey Howes holds the state championship trophy high as he and his team celebrate their 1-0 win over La Plata in Thursday night's Class 2A state final at Loyola University in Baltimore. (Matt Button / Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media)

Six Carroll County boys soccer teams have won state titles, with Francis Scott Key the first to do so in 1985 and 1986 led by coach Granville Hibberd. Century won its first in 2003 under former coach Scott Smith, Liberty won two years later under Ed DeVincent, and Andrew Harrell led North Carroll to state titles in 2013 and 2015.

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Grasso’s goal came off a play called “Six” that the Knights implemented about two weeks into the season. Howes, a 2011 Century grad, said he used Instagram to discover the play and the Knights have been successful with it a handful of times.

“We did it for the first time against Catonsville and I thought … this could work, and it did,” Howes said. “Just doing that play, creating goalkeeper deception and trying to make the goalkeeper flat-footed and move and with Alex just being able to put the ball really wherever he wants helps as well.”

Francis Scott Key’s chance of giving Carroll County a second boys soccer state crown fell a little short, but the Eagles (9-6-2) made the most of their postseason journey. It was a memorable one for sixth-year coach Larry Haines, an FSK alum, who said the program prides itself on using everyone who shows up at tryouts.

Francis Scott Key head coach Larry Haines Jr., center, holds his team's runner-up trophy after losing 3-0 to Mountain Ridge in the Class 1A boys soccer state championship.
Francis Scott Key head coach Larry Haines Jr., center, holds his team's runner-up trophy after losing 3-0 to Mountain Ridge in the Class 1A boys soccer state championship. (Steve Ruark For Carroll County Times/Carroll County Times)

“I take who I got, and we battle to the end,” Haines said after the 1A final Friday night, a 3-0 loss to Mountain Ridge. “We know we’re putting ourselves on the map. Sometimes the record doesn’t show it. ... I’ll never replace these guys, because this is a group that has been so special for four years. We saw this freshman class come in and we knew we had something special.”

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