Just a week ago, we talked about how competitive the Class 4A RegionIV high school football league was going to be this year. Not to labor the point, but after this past weekend, have you ever seen anything like it?
Only two teams remain unbeaten at 3-0 in Old Mill and Glen Burnie, but it's doubtful that either of those two teams will go undefeated, and the team to beat just might be the youngest in the league, Annapolis (2-1).
Just look at what happened this past weekend.
Old Mill posted a "big" win at Severna Park (1-2) by 17-14, and that is indicative ofthe parity among the contenders. The former is defending Region IV champion while the latter is defending county champion, and it might only be three points that separates most of the county 4A teams this year.
Glen Burnie took a squeaker over Chesapeake (1-2) by 21-14 indouble overtime, and that result makes things real interesting. A lot of coaches have been saying that Glen Burnie is a team to watch andthe Gophers may be, but how about the effort by Chesapeake?
The Cougars were coming off a 28-0 shellacking at the hands of Old Mill and have spent most of their football history looking up at the competition from the bottom of the standings. If that effort is an indication of things to come, then the rest of the 4A League teams had better not jot down Chesapeake as a sure win.
Coaches swear they play thegames one at a time and never look ahead, counting wins before the games are played, but we know they at least think about the ones they are "supposed to win" and put them down mentally as they try to figure out the playoff puzzle.
Chesapeake has gone 1-9 the past two seasons and pretty much been the 4A team everybody expects to beat, but they may have changed Friday night against Glen Burnie. Don't look for anyone to take the Cougars lightly the rest of the way, including Severna Park this Friday night.
Severna Park has to be concerned going into Chesapeake. The Falcons have hammered the Cougars the last two seasons by scores of 35-13 (1990) and 28-7 (1989), but in 1988 on the way to a 9-2 record and playoff berth, the Falcons struggled in a14-12 squeaker over Chesapeake.
Coaches' memories are long and you can bet the Falcons' Andy Borland remembers that game well and the fact that Chesapeake was 5-5 that year. Borland is not one to take anything for granted and will have his team convinced that this is going to be a tough game Friday.
in the back of their minds, coaches have looked at Chesapeake as a guaranteed win the past couple of years, but not so this fall. That's what the Glen Burnie game tells us -- or it could be that Glen Burnie is not as good as everyone thought.
I'm inclined to believe the former and that suddenly the lower level of the 4A league is inches away from being on a par with the top level.
Arundel (0-3), Glen Burnie's opponent Friday night, is the only team in the 4A circuit without a win, but the Wildcats could very easily be 2-1 after bowing to North County (2-1) by only 9-8 and to Broadneck (1-2) by 14-7. The same could be said of Broadneck.
Actually with a tad more offense, the Bruins could be 3-0. Broadneck lost its opener by 6-3 to South River in overtime and by 20-16 to Glen Burnie. Annapolis coach Roy Brown, whose Panthers won their second in a row
rather impressively over North County by 33-7 Friday night, iswell-aware of what Broadneck has been doing.
Brown couldn't even savor the victory and his 43rd birthday Friday without thinking aboutthe Bruins. Moments after his Panthers sang "Happy Birthday" to him in the locker room, Brown was talking about the Bruins.
"Right nowwe have the potential to be obviously a lot better than last year (5-5), and I think we have the potential down the road to compete with Severna Park and Old Mill," he said. "But the problem is, we have to play Broadneck this week.
"Glen Burnie is somebody people (media and pollsters) are overlooking. I've heard they look outstanding. I don't want to say we're going to be champions yet because it's too early."
And "early" it would be for Annapolis, in that the Panthers have only 16 seniors on their 45-man squad. There are 16 juniors, 11 sophomores and two freshmen on this year's edition.
With 10th-grade quarterback Juan Johnson leading the way, at least a dozen of the underclassmen have made key contributions in the early going for the Panthers. "J. J.," as he is known, fired three touchdown passes and ran for another this past weekend in the rout of North County.
"We have three quarterbacks (senior Richard Mears and sophomore Chris Johnson the other two) that are pretty decent, and I think J is coming along and hope he keeps improving."
While he was doing his best to control his inner excitement and optimism, Brown was also more than pleased with his secondaries. The Panthers started three sophomores -- Chris Johnson, Jerry Thompson and Kevin Belt -- in the secondary vs. the North County run and shoot.
The result was just 16 completions in 37 attempts for 207 yards and only one touchdown by the Knights with five passes picked off. At least four other passes should have beenintercepted by the Panthers, who at times had butter fingers.
Each of the three 10th-graders had an interception.
On the other side, North County coach Chuck Markiewicz was not devastated by the loss and was looking to the future.
"We just keep shooting ourself in the foot. We found a quarterback tonight, somebody who can throw the ball. We're better than that score."
Markiewicz replaced sophomore quarterback Reggie Moore, who had started the first two games, with junior Eric Howard, and it will be interesting to see how he does thisweek at home vs. Queen Anne's (0-3), with a visit to Old Mill the following week.
Front-running Old Mill plays host to Meade (2-1) this week, and the latter Stangs are capable of handing the Pats their first loss. Meade buried Queen Anne's 48-zip Friday night with soph sensation Kenny Walker rushing for 178 yards and two touchdowns on only13 attempts.
The Mustangs' Kevin Powell returned an interception 74 yards to pay dirt and filled in for Walker when a minor injury took the super sophomore out of the game for a while. During Walker's absence, Powell carried three times for 43 yards, prompting coach HayseHenderson to call him "our spark plug against Queen Anne's."
In the county 3A-2A league, Class 2A Southern (1-2) almost pulled off a major upset before dropping a 27-15 decision to The Sun's No. 2 rankedWilde Lake of Howard County. Coach Buck Gardner's Dawgs hung with the visiting Wildecats until the waning moments.
"We led 9-6 at the half," assistant Southern coach Al Hunt said.
Class 2A Northeast also played a great game in humbling Mount Hebron (1-2) of Howard County, 30-12. Derek Dolch ran for a pair of touchdowns, kicked four extra points and intercepted a Viking pass to pace the Eagles (2-1) of Coach Bart Rader.
Class 3A South River's inability to score more than one touchdown a game caught up with it Friday in a 14-7 home loss to Linganore (2-1) of Frederick County. The Seahawks (2-1) won their first two games by 6-3 over Broadneck and 6-0 over St. Mary's.
St. Mary's (3-1) bounced back from that loss to South River to win a "big" game in its league, the MSA "C" Conference Friday afternoon in Baltimore. Coach Brad Best's Saints won at St. Paul's (2-1), 19-14, on Joe Conte's 16-yard TD scamper in the final minutes of play.
The Saints' defense sacked Crusaders quarterback nine times, with sophomoresJoe Keenan and Greg Carobrese getting five and four, respectively. Senior Rory Kiernan blocked two punts, giving him five on the season.