Football: In Lions-Owls matchup, 'who would you rather have?'

Football: In Lions-Owls matchup, 'who would you rather have?'
Westminster's Marley Warfield reacts after sacking Century quarterback Brett Kropinski during the second half of the Owls' 32-20 win over the Knights on Oct. 5, 2018. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Week 7 tends to bring about games with playoff and regular-season championship implications, and there’s a big one on tap in the Carroll County Athletic League.

It’s set to kick off Friday at Ruby Field, where Westminster hosts Liberty in the biggest matchup of the year.


The rival Lions and Owls have 11 combined wins, both are unbeaten in county play, and both are in position to qualify for the regional playoffs in a few weeks. But this week, each team is focused on moving one step closer to claiming the CCAL title.

Winters Mill absorbed a 56-0 loss to Liberty in Week 4, a shutout that showed off a combined effort from many of the Lions’ playmakers. Falcons coach Matt Miller said the teams have a balanced roster with athletes on both sides of the ball that are capable of impacting the outcome.

“Both teams are exceptional and very good,” Miller said. “Both have stellar quarterbacks and have exceptionally skilled kids inside the offensive line. Liberty is tenacious and Westminster is big, who would you rather have? Both sides play very good defense and they’re both well coached. I’d have to say, a game like that comes down to who can control the line of scrimmage and maximize opportunities while minimizing what the other team does well.”

Miller said he expects a “nip and tuck” game, and does not foresee the game being a blowout.

The Lions (6-0, 3-0 county) and Owls (5-1, 3-0) boast the county’s top two quarterbacks in Nate Kent and Christian Etchison.

Kent, a junior who came to Liberty from Westminster via transfer, has 1,008 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Etchison leads Carroll with 1,041 yards and also has 13 touchdowns.

“[Kent] is very good,” Miller said. “He keeps his eyes down field and makes every throw to his receivers. I think Liberty’s had some very good teams the last couple years, but this might be the best collection of athletes on the field at one time. That’s nothing against those that have come before them, and they’ve had a lot of great kids top to bottom. It’s tough to wonder who you defend. There’s one or two kids you think can play coverage on the best kid, but they still have two or three other kids they can go to.

“Their line isn’t overly big, but they take care of business up front. Their linebackers close like freight trains.”

Westminster running back Jaden Louis leads the Owls with 61 carries for 506 yards, with two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kent’s 327 rushing yards and five touchdowns is a team high for the Lions.

Tavian Montgomery leads the Owls’ receiving unit with 21 receptions for 263 yards and four touchdowns. Liberty’s Chris Darminio and Mike Spitz have a combined 13 receiving touchdowns.

The Lions’ defense has been stout, with three shutouts this season — a 17-0 victory over Walkersville in Week 2, against Winters Mill in Week 4, and a 35-0 romp over South Carroll last week.

Liberty’s McClain Butler leads the county with 70 tackles, and Westminster’s Owen Babylon has 37 to lead Westminster.

“Westminster’s got a good selection of skilled kids,” Miller said. “We haven’t played them yet this year, but from what we see on film, they have a nice group. It’s what high school football should look like all around.”

Century (4-2, 2-1) travels to South Carroll this week after suffering its first county loss at the hands of Westminster in Week 6. The Cavaliers (3-3, 1-1) are coming off their Liberty blowout.


Francis Scott Key (2-4) travel to Sparrows Point in Baltimore for this week’s non-county matchup. The Eagles dropped their third straight game in a 20-12 loss against Manchester Valley at home last week.

Following this week’s game, the Eagles have three county games remaining in the regular-season schedule — South Carroll, Liberty, and Winters Mill.

Man Valley’s victory over Francis Scott Key last week marked the first county victory for the Mavericks this season. The Mavs travel to Winters Mill on Friday, with the Falcons (1-5, 0-2) looking to snap a five-game losing streak.

The Falcons have 10 players sidelined with injuries, Miller said, with a handful of them slated as regular starters. Close to seven sophomores are seeing active playing time to fill the roles of those who are hurt, he said.

“Other teams will come out to play their game the way they’re going to play it,” Miller said. “We have to coach these kids up and get them in the right spots. Two weeks ago, we got all those kids out and we were 20 seconds away from beating South Carroll. I don’t believe in moral victories, it’s just the nature of the beast.”