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Head coach Chris Bassler talks with players during a football practice at Westminster High School Friday, August 13, 2021.
Head coach Chris Bassler talks with players during a football practice at Westminster High School Friday, August 13, 2021. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Westminster went undefeated during the shortened spring season and it was only the third time in school history the Owls finished a regular season unbeaten.

With its 6-0 record, the 2021 squad joined the 2012 (10-0) and 1963 (9-0-1) teams in posting undefeated campaigns. Westminster has never won a state title, but they were state finalists in 1976.

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Owls head coach Chris Bassler was the 2021 Carroll County Times Coach of the Year and he boasts a 15-3 record in his career.

This fall, Westminster will be trying to continue its success with some new faces.

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Gone from the Owls backfield is Carroll County Times Football Player of the Year Erick Stranko. Stranko finished his four-year career with 3,094 rushing yards — the second highest career total in Carroll County history behind 2000 North Carroll graduate Steve Suter (4,067 yards).

Junior running back Mason Fisher will be tabbed to try and replace Stranko, who averaged 8.7 yards per carry.

The Owls, whose opening road game against South River on Sept. 3 has been moved to Severna Park after a tornado damaged the Seahawks’ stadium, also boasted a dominant defense that allowed just 5.8 points per game during the spring.

Manchester Valley and South Carroll were the only other teams that were posted above .500 record in the spring.

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The Mavericks host Williamsport on Sept. 3 (7 p.m.). and the Cavaliers are at Brunswick (7 p.m.).

Century and Liberty are both opening at home on Friday, Sept. 3 with the Knights entertaining Dundalk (6 p.m.) and the Lions hosting Walkersville (6 p.m.)

Also on Sept. 3, Francis Scott Key is at Smithsburg (6 p.m.) and Winters Mill is at Fallston (6:45 p.m.).

The regional tournament will begin Nov. 6 or 7 with the first round and the state tournament finals are scheduled for Dec. 3-4 at Navy Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium.

The 2021 regional alignment has Westminster and Manchester Valley playing in the Class 3A East bracket.

Century and Winters Mill are in the Class 2A West Region and Francis Scott Key, Liberty and South Carroll are in the Class 1A South Region.

Liberty junior Tommy Nelson is tackled by South Carroll defenders during the first half of their game in Eldersburg on Thursday, April 1, 2021.
Liberty junior Tommy Nelson is tackled by South Carroll defenders during the first half of their game in Eldersburg on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Dylan Slagle/Carroll County Times)

Century

Coach: Dave Ferguson (first season)

Record last season: 2-4

Players to watch: Seniors Josh Ahulamibe (WR/S), Austin Curlett (FB/MLB) and Eric Harrell (TB/LB); sophomore Vinny Brown (C).

Extra points: “I’m thrilled to death. I was up there for the past two head coaches of varsity, Todd Edmondson and Jim Holzman, and I learned a lot from those guys. They are phenomenal coaches and they taught me a lot. To step in behind them, they are some big shoes to fill,” coach Ferguson said.

Ferguson, the JV coach for nine seasons, liked what he saw in the team’s first scrimmage.

“We came together really good and we executed,” he said. “We had some goals that we wanted to accomplish from the scrimmage and we exceeded all of our goals and it gave us some good things that we needed to work on.”

Francis Scott Key

Coach: Will Thompson (third season)

Record last season: 1-5

Players to watch: Seniors Nick Diehl (RB/DB), Ryan Rill (WR/OLB), Jarren Rutter (QB) and Ryan Zepp (RB/LB).

Extra points: “We can be very talented, very competitive, but we have to stay healthy and continue to progress and not settle, that’s a big key for us,” coach Thompson said.

Francis Scott Key opens the season at Smithsburg on Friday, Sept. 3.

Liberty

Coach: Lawrence Luthe (ninth season)

Record last season: 2-3

Players to watch: Seniors Nathan Godfrey (WR) and Tommy Nelson (RB); juniors Sam Evans (WR) and Jack Pelliccotti (QB).

Extra points: The Lions are young this year. Offensively, they will be a spread team relying on the athletic Nelson (95 rushes for 518 yards, four TDs) at running back. Nelson is a two-year starter and was named All-County both seasons. Complimenting Nelson will be junior quarterback Pellicciotti (35-87, 489 yards and five TDs). The Lions also return their top receivers, Evans (19 receptions for 243 yards, two TDs) and Godfrey (6 receptions for 98 yards, two TDs). Godfrey’s spring season ended early because of a wrist injury.

The offensive line returns senior Dean Bratsakis and juniors Ethan Crosby and Tanner Herring. If these young linemen come together, the Lions feel like they can be a very good offensive team.

Defensively, the Lions return starting linebacker Brett Overman, defensive tackle Luke Collins and defensive ends Casey Tucker and Phil Sackett. Outside linebacker Matt Slowinkowski returns from injury, and inside linebackers Ethan George and Dominic Day are competing for playing time. Dean Beuamier returns at free safety, while Nelson and Evans anchor the cornerback position.

Manchester Valley

Coach: Bernie Koontz (third season)

Record last season: 4-2

Players to watch: Seniors Kevin Connor (TE/LB/P/K), Joseph Dubsky (T/DE), Mathew Rollman (G/DE), William Sinnott (T/DE) and Vinson Smith (FB/LB); juniors Markel Brown (TE/DE) and Blake Ray (WR/DB).

Extra points: The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Sinnott was a first team All-County offensive lineman and Dubsky was a second team selection in the spring. The Mavericks open the season at home against Williamsport (Sept. 3) before traveling to North Hagerstown (Sept. 10). The Carroll County slate begins at Liberty (Sept. 17). Manchester Valley closes the season with consecutive home games against Francis Scott Key (Oct. 15), Winters Mill (Oct. 22) and Poolesville (Oct. 29).

South Carroll receiver Logan Miller comes down with a touchdown reception while being defended by Century's Andrew Bender, left, and Donnell Clark during a football game at South Carroll High School on Friday, April 9, 2021.
South Carroll receiver Logan Miller comes down with a touchdown reception while being defended by Century's Andrew Bender, left, and Donnell Clark during a football game at South Carroll High School on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

South Carroll

Coach: Mike Kraus (fourth season)

Record last season: 4-2

Players to watch: Seniors Ryan Barnard (QB/FS), Jacob Bisser (C/DT), Gage Duncan (WR/DB), Logan Miller (WR/DB), Sean Patrick (OT/DE), Jacob Shaw (MLB/RB) and Noah Strzelczyk (WR/OLB); juniors Caleb Blum (RB/OLB), Nate Boore (RB/MLB), Carter Mazalewski (QB/FS), AJ Rodrigues (WR/DB) and Jackson Strzelczyk (WR/DB).

Extra points: Coach Kraus will reluctantly admit that this Cavalier team may be among the best collection of athletes he’s had in his years of coaching at South Carroll, but he’ll also quickly be the first to remind all of them that they’ll have to earn whatever they get on the field.

Coming off the abbreviated spring ‘21 season the Cavs will rely on key returners on both sides of the ball, starting quarterback Barnard on offense and linebacker Shaw on defense and veteran playmaking from junior Rodrigues. The team is also looking forward to incorporating junior playmakers like Jackson Strzleczyk (11 touchdowns in five games) and Nate Boore (over 60 tackles).

The fall 2021 season will present a grueling test for the newly reclassified 1A Cavs, facing three 3A opponents in the first five games. The mantra is always the same for Coach Kraus and his players, though — play one game at a time.

Westminster

Coach: Chris Bassler (third season)

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Record last season: 6-0

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Players to watch: Seniors Zach Busic (CB), Jack Gruzenringer (QB) and Mark Owens (OL); junior Mason Fisher (RB).

Extra points: “We have a young but talented team. We are working hard to peak in November and hopefully make another deep playoff run,” coach Bassler said. Fisher is a first team All-County wide receiver who was moved to running back this season and Owens is back as a first team All-County lineman. Gruzenringer was a second team All-County quarterback in the spring.

Winters Mill

Coach: Matt Miller (ninth season)

Record last season: 2-4

Players to Watch: Seniors Brady Forte (RB/DB), Braxtyn Koch (WR/LB/P) and Noah Wagner (OT); junior Kandi Mkpasi (OL/DE).

Extra points: Koch was an All-State, All-County punter last season and 2021 Super 22 punter. He averaged 39 yards per-punt, including a 70-yard punt on March 26 against Manchester Valley. Koch’s dad is Sam Koch, who is in his 16th season as punter for the Baltimore Ravens.

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