It was a rainy Saturday night at McDaniel College when South Hagerstown and Westminster last met on the gridiron.
The Owls pulled away with a comfortable 44-19 victory over the Rebels last Oct. 1, and will face one of their most important contenders early on once again when South Hagerstown comes to Westminster on Friday. The importance of the matchup between these two Class 3A West teams lies in regional playoff points.
South Hagerstown and Westminster top the list with eight points heading into the second week's games, according to the MPSSAA's playoff standings from Week 1. The top four seeds in each classification based on point average advance to the postseason.
It's still very early, but Owls coach Matt Study has been stressing to his coaching staff and team the significance this game could have for them later in the season.
"This is a huge game for us," Study said. "Every week is important but whenever you're able to play a team in your own region, that's just as important for them as it is for us. It's big points when it comes down to it and you're looking at the second week of the season which is crazy it's that important already."
The Owls came away from their season opener at Urbana successful, defeating the Hawks and former Westminster coach Brad Wilson, 14-7, thanks to a second-half comeback.
"We kept plugging away and I saw a couple different things offensively to take advantage of and it just came down to executing," Study said. "It was an ugly game for us and there were a lot of different emotions with Coach Wilson being over there, emotionally for everybody. It was the first game of the year so we're working out some kinks and all those things, so hopefully we come out to put a better product on the field Friday. At the end of the day, a 'W' is a 'W.' "
Liberty will be heavily challenged tonight when the Lions travel to face reigning 2A state champion Walkersville. The teams would have met in the 2A West Region final last season had Liberty not lost to Middletown in the semifinals.
Liberty coach Larry Luthe is aware of the challenge Walkersville presents for its opponents, and alluded to a few takeaways he expects his team to improve upon heading into Friday’s matchup — confidence at the quarterback position, and tweaks on the offensive line.
“Anytime you get to 2-0 would be great,” Luthe said. “They are the defending state champs, they return eight starters on each side of the ball, so it’s a very large challenge for us to get to play Walkersville. They don’t do a whole lot but they do just enough that they’re diverse enough to keep you on your toes. They play great, hard-nosed football and they know what it takes to be successful.”
Mental toughness is key if the Lions want to hang with Walkersville, Luthe added. His Lions defeated St. Paul’s, 10-7, in their season opener on Sept. 1 when sophomore kicker Sean Disbrow kicked a 25-yard field goal with 1:40 left. Luthe said his players have the tools necessary to compete and he was pleased with the resilience they showed in their opener.
Senior linebacker Kevin Lynch made a statement in his second season debut on varsity by helping to hold down the defensive line for the Lions. There were some struggles on both sides of the ball, but Luthe said he has confidence in his players and their improvements as the season progresses.
“Kevin Lynch was everything we expected on the defensive line,” Luthe said. “Gavin Bloom stepped up on the defensive end and did a great job for us, he’s a junior. A sophomore comes in for his first varsity kick and it’s our first varsity field goal. Sean Disbrow worked all season and works hard in the weight room. It was funny because it never occurred to me that the kick wasn’t going through, he was going to do great.”