This, that and the other:

No matter how the football season turns out for Centennial High School, first-year Eagles coach Ed Holshue won't soon forget the misfortune that's marred his return to the sidelines.

Four weeks ago Holshue watched star senior running back Mike Rainwater go down with a season-ending knee injury at Howard. Two weeks ago a classmate and friend of many Centennial teammates was killed in an automobile accident.

If bad luck does comes in doses of three, Holshue received his third portion late Friday night, when senior kicker/punter Brian Reid was seriously injured in a head-on automobile collision -- less than a block from Holshue's Ellicott City home.

"I was so exhausted that I slept through the whole thing," Holshue said.

"I'm glad I did."

Reid, 17 and three other teen-agers were flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at University Hospital in Baltimore, where they are listed in critical but stable condition. Reid, who underwent four hours of surgery to repair a ruptured spleen, was moved out of the intensive care unit Monday and will likely remain in the hospital for another 10 days to two weeks. A full recovery is expected.

"He's in quite a bit of discomfort. He's bruised from head to toe," Holshue said. "He doesn't remember anything. But he's getting better, and he's been getting a ton of visitors."

Suffice it to say football hasn't been a high priority for the Eagles lately. The day after Reid's injury, they lost to Glenelg 20-18 to fall under .500 for the first time this season. Centennial is 1-3 against the county, 3-4 overall.

The Eagles missed Reid's strong leg against Glenelg, and they will miss him badly for the rest of the season. Through six games he was the county's top punter with a 39-yard average. He was 8-for-8 in extra point attempts, he'd won two games with field goals and he was averaging 53 yards per kickoff.

"We haven't had any shape or form of concentration," Holshue said.

"We've had a series of things happen, and hopefully this is a culmination.

I've never in all my years of experience had this number of tragedies occur in such a short window of time."

Howard's football team received quite a scare Saturday at Mount Hebron, but this one has a happier ending.

With 1:30 remaining in the Lions' 22-18 loss to Hebron, Darwin Saunders suffered what appeared to be a serious leg injury. The Lions' senior linebacker laid on the field for 15 minutes before an ambulance arrived to take him to Howard County General Hospital.

It turns out Saunders suffered a severe bruise of the lower leg. The swelling went down later Saturday, and Saunders is expected to play this week against Oakland Mills.

Duane Saunders, Darwin's twin brother, is already out for the season with a knee injury.

More good news: Hammond's Cliff Epps, who appeared to be lost for the season to a knee injury incurred four weeks ago against Wilde Lake, returned to action Saturday -- at wide receiver instead of quarterback.

Epps, who spent a week on crutches before beginning his comeback, caught five passes for 48 yards in Hammond's 42-6 defeat at the hands of Oakland Mills. He'll stay at wide receiver for the rest of the season, and will continue to play strong safety on defense.

"He was at about 90 percent. He felt good and said he wanted to play," Hammond coach Joe Russo said. "He worked out with me every night for two weeks strengthening the thigh muscles. I expect him to be at 100 percent this week."

As the season's most-eagerly awaited football clash between Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills creeps closer, the county's two remaining unbeaten teams are heading into their eighth week in eerily similar fashion.

Begin with the defenses that, despite the presence of great running backs like Wilde Lake's Raphael Wall and Oakland Mills' Korey Singleton, are still the heart of each team.

Wilde Lake has allowed 24 points while recording three shutouts. Oakland Mills has allowed 40 points -- 22 of them against tougher non-league competition -- and has blanked two opponents. Wilde Lake has yet to allow a rushing touchdown and is giving up an average of just 69 rushing yards and 101 in total offense. Oakland Mills is surrendering an average of 59 rushing yards, 98 total.

Offensively, Wall and Singleton, easily the class of the county, might be the best in the state. Behind equally powerful offensive lines, they've each rushed for 20 touchdowns and have enjoyed a five-TD game.

Wall, who plans to visit Notre Dame, Michigan and Tennessee after the season, has exploded for 1,169 yards on 104 carries (an 11.2 average).

Singleton has amassed 1,316 on 162 carries (8.1).

Looking at the strengths of each defense -- Wilde Lake figures to have an edge with the fearsome Ricky Rowe at strong safety -- the Wildecats-Scorpions winner could be the team that passes with more success.

Neither team has been tested in that area, but Nov. 10 might be the day Wilde Lake quarterback Phil White emerges from Wall's shadow.

For good reason, the Wildecats have attempted only 26 passes with White.

When called upon, however, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior has been terrific, completing 17 (65 percent) for 441 yards -- an outstanding 26 yards per completion -- and six touchdowns. Wideout Oba McMillan has just five of those receptions, but they've gone for 166 yards (33 yards per catch) and four TDs.

The week's Come-Back-to-Earth Award goes to Centennial's volleyball team, which saw its 37-game regular-season winning streak erased by Glenelg last Thursday. The Eagles, fresh off a blowout victory over contending Mount Hebron, took a 2-1 lead but lost the last two games to the Gladiators to fall into a first-place tie with Hebron, making the Eagles-Vikings Nov.

2 rematch more meaningful.

Centennial can blame their first loss since 1988 mainly on two things: 12 service errors and Glenelg's senior outside hitter Gael Smith, the county's "Best Player Who Came Out Of Nowhere" -- more specifically New Zealand.

Smith is a foreign exchange student who notified Glenelg coach Marlene Kalafos in early August that she was coming out for the volleyball team. At the team's first practice Kalafos knew she'd been blessed with a special player.

"The skills, the footwork, I could tell from the first five minutes of Day 1," Kalafos said. "She was the spark we needed this year."

As she's been all year, Smith was the offensive spark against Centennial with 17 kills. She has 79 in her last eight matches and has led the Gladiators in each of them.

"We needed a slap on the wrists. I saw a loss coming in game four," Centennial coach Bill Shook said. "Glenelg played very well. They served aggressively, and Gael Smith was superb. She's definitely first team All-County material.

"We had some attitudes that Centennial volleyball never loses. We got sidetracked. If we ever needed a loss, this was it."

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