Football: A look back, and forward, at Carroll County's regional playoff teams

Westminster quarterback Christian Etchison looks to pass during the Owls' regular-season game against Liberty.
Westminster quarterback Christian Etchison looks to pass during the Owls' regular-season game against Liberty. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times)

Westminster got the rematch it wanted last Friday in the Class 3A West Region semifinals, when the Owls traveled to South Hagerstown and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to hold off the Rebels in a 24-21 victory.

Now for another sought after rematch — after beating South High for a second time this season, the Owls advance to face Linganore on Friday in the regional championship game.


Westminster (8-3) took a 2-0 record into New Market back in Week 3 for a showdown with the Lancers, but couldn’t keep up and lost 48-7. Linganore (10-1) beat the Owls 16-14 in the 3A West final last season, after dusting them 50-28 in their Week 3 matchup a year ago.

"We're excited,” Owls coach Matt Study said after last Friday’s game. I can't lie to you, three times we've played Linganore … we're excited to get to work. Linganore is an incredible program, they're well coached. I've said it over and over and we're blessed to be able to play those guys. It's always a great, competitive game.”

The Lancers are the reigning 3A state champions.

Westminster has won two in a row thanks in part to the return of senior quarterback Christian Etchison, who missed two games with a concussion but came back for the Owls’ Week 10 victory over South Carroll — one that clinched a playoff spot.

Etchison had two touchdown passes and a touchdown run against the Cavaliers; he tossed a TD pass and was part of a two-point conversion in the Owls’ win over South High.

Study pointed to Westminster’s defense, however, for rising up to keep the Rebels from mounting a big lead.

“They definitely made some adjustments and we made some incredible stops in the first half,” Study said. “We didn't make penalties that we had been making all year and we've been on them for quite some time. They definitely played a well disciplined game on both sides.”

The Owls will likely need to be disciplined again this week, one win away from making it to a state tournament.

Study said this year’s unit carries a strong bond, something that has helped the squad get this far.

“They have been close, a lot of them eat dinner together and hang out together and they compete on and off the football field,” Study said. “We don't have any inside locker room bickering which is definitely important. It's a different group than I've ever had to deal with, but they're all different these days. They're teenagers.”

Liberty looks back at program’s best season

The Lions’ 2018 fall campaign ended last Friday with a loss in the 2A West semifinals. Despite a strong start against Oakdale, Liberty saw its 14-0 lead turn into a 38-14 defeat with the Bears moving on to face Damascus in the regional final.

But the Lions, at 10-1, put together the best season in team history.

“[The seniors] set the table,” Liberty coach Larry Luthe said. “You don’t want to talk about next year you want to enjoy this year but we have a great base of kids coming back. Once we get through the banquet and through the holidays, we’ll work back up and start getting ready for next year.”

Liberty's Nick Henderson moves the ball against Westminster with Liberty's O-line leading the way.
Liberty's Nick Henderson moves the ball against Westminster with Liberty's O-line leading the way. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times)

The Lions won the Carroll County Athletic League championship and became the fifth team in county history to finish a regular season with a 10-0 record. They averaged 32.4 points per game and posted five shutouts on defense (Liberty allowed a mere 12.5 points per game, with the Oakdale loss included).


The Bears proved too tough, though, and the game turned when they scored on a Hail Mary pass as time expired in the first half.

“We fought until the end,” Luthe said. “We had a great week of practice and [I] thought we had a good game plan. [Oakdale] made some plays and we didn’t, and they come up with the victory.”

Luthe said the finality of any season is difficult, but this one may have been the toughest on the seventh-year coach.

“This is especially tough,” he said. “Ryan [Luthe], my son, is a senior and I’ve known his friends … So when you say goodbye, it’s just the end of a chapter. But they set a great example of how to lead and they left their legacy and I look forward to them carrying it on forever.”

Century took ‘steps forward’ with playoff berth

The Knights (6-5) earned the No. 4 seed in the 2A West playoffs, and their reward was a regional semifinal matchup last Friday with Damascus.

The Hornets won 42-3, but Century coach Todd Edmondson said he was proud of his players’ efforts. The Knights led 3-0 in the early going, thanks to a field goal from Kevin Hackett.

Edmondson led Century to a 4-6 record last fall in his first year as coach, and improved by two wins this season. Edmondson said he’s hoping guiding the Knights into the playoffs will be the start of something in Eldersburg.

“The seniors I’ve been with for almost two years and they’ve taken steps forward for this program,” the coach said. “And the younger kids are learning from them and if we keep that work ethic that they had, we’re going to be just fine.”