The final week of regular-season football is always tough to call, and this year was no different as the Prophet finished the 10-week schedule with a lackluster 4-3 record. But now he can look forward to the playoffs.
The 4-3 card, which included upsets by Glen Burnie, Northeast and Meade, left the Prophet's overall record at 72-29, a more-than-respectable percentage of .712.
Glen Burnie completed its season at 5-5 by upsetting playoff-bound and Region IV champion Old Mill, 22-20, at Glen Burnie. The sagester had Old Mill winning, 17-7, and was let down by the Patriots (8-2).
Class 2A Northeast (5-5) was the Prophet's underdog at 4A Chesapeake, 21-13, but for the second year in a row the Eagles nipped the 1-9 Cougars, 20-19.
Meade (5-5) upset Arundel, 12-7. The Prophet said it would be the Wildcats (4-6) by 20-14.
Here are the Prophet's correct picks from last week in parentheses following the actual score: Severna Park 16, Annapolis 14 (Severna Park, 27-20); North County 20, Broadneck 16 (North County, 10-6); South River 29, Southern 7 (South River, 20-14); and Sidwell Friends of D.C. 12, Archbishop Spalding 7 (Sidwell, 14-7).
This week the rage of a sage handicaps three Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association playoff games involving Old Mill and North County in Class 4A and South River in Class 3A. Overall, the Prophet foresees a difficult weekend for the trio.
Class 4A: No. 7 Largo (8-2) of Prince George's at No. 2 Old Mill (8-2), 7:30 p.m. Friday
In their first postseason appearance last fall, the Patriots of Coach Pete Regala came up short, 17-7, to Thomas S. Wootton of Montgomery County at Old Mill.
Tomorrow thePats get a chance to redeem themselves by winning their first-ever playoff game at home, but it won't be easy.
It doesn't help that Old Mill is coming off a loss. Its offense has been extremely inconsistent and could be missing big-play man Eric Sheppard, while its defense has been their salvation.
In fairness to the Pats' offensive unit, senior running back Harold Peters has been fighting the flu the last couple of weeks.
"We're hoping the Greek will be back to full strength by Friday," said Regala.
But his team overall may not be at full strength with Sheppard questionable. The senior back chipped an ankle in Friday night's loss to Glen Burnie.
"Eric is iffy rightnow," said Regala of his two-way back, who has a knack for making big plays offensively and defensively. "I've known a lot of guys who have had a hard cast taken off and who have played right after."
Regala also said he wasn't concerned about team morale despite the loss to the Gophers and reported internal problems.
The Old Mill coach swapped tapes with his opponent this week, and it was his first look at Largo.
What Regala saw was a sophomore tailback who can fly, inEric Cariaga. Cariaga has rushed for 1,577 yards and 10 touchdowns on 201 attempts. More importantly, and something the Prophet feels gives Largo the edge, is that Cariaga runs behind a mammoth offensive line with three guys at 250 pounds or more.
Lion senior tackles TonyHeyword and Marcus Moore are 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds and 6-2, 260, respectively.
On defense, linebacker Adrian Callame is considered to be one of the hardest hitters in Prince George's County.
Old Mill can't match the Lions' size, and while the Pats hope to use their own speed, the Lions have some quickness of their own.
The last three weeks of the regular season will take its toll on the Pats, the way the Prophet sees it. Three weeks ago they got a gift at Annapolis when the host Panthers fashioned one of their patented give-aways by 22-14 in OT.
Playing 1-9 Queen Anne's, winless at the time, the following week and winning, 34-7, wasn't much of a test and then losing to Glen Burnie didn't help either.
The Prophet sees too many negatives on the Patriots' page. Instead of peaking at this time of the year, the Pats seem to be sinking. Largo 20, Old Mill 14.
Class4A: No. 5 North County (8-2) at No. 4 Oxon Hill (8-2) of Prince George's, 1 p.m. Saturday.
In contrast to Old Mill, the Knights of Chuck Markiewicz are peaking at the right time. North County has earned its initial postseason berth in only its second season of varsity football, but this is not going to be one of those token "just glad to be there" appearances.
North County intends to win.
When the Prophet asked Markiewicz who the team to beat was in Class 4A, without hesitation, he answered, "North County!"
The Prophet doesn't know about that, but he believes it will win this first game for several reasons. No. 1, coaching. No. 2, this team knows how to win and does whatever it takes. No. 3, Anthony Walker, running back and linebacker standout.
Markiewicz and his staff have turned in a remarkable coaching job this season, and the way they prepare their Knights has shown in the team's ability to bounce back. In their eight victories, theKnights have come from behind.
The tone was set in the season-opener at Oakland Mills when North County rallied in the final minute toedge the Howard County team, 22-21. Sophomore Reggie Moore, who since has lost his starting quarterback position to junior Eric Howard but has contributed as a defensive back, hit the Knights' big-play man,receiver Damon Martin, with the game-winning TD.
Martin, a junior, goes into the playoffs with 52 pass receptions, one shy of the county mark of 53 set by Brooklyn Park's Tommy Butz in 1988.
From thatpoint on, the Knights always figured they would find a way, and whenthey lost in the third game of the season at Annapolis by an embarrassing 33-7, they merely picked up the pieces and pressed on. That's the sign of a great team and great coaching.
"The Annapolis game really brought it home to our kids that they could compete physically with the teams in our league, and that's why we played Old Mill so tough two weeks after," said Markiewicz. "We were really disappointed welost that game (3-0)."
From there, the Knights won the last five games, including Friday's 20-16 thriller over Broadneck, with Moore recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass, both in the end zone, going down the stretch.
"I thought that was our best game of the year," said Markiewicz, who compares Saturday's playoff opponent to Severna Park, a team North County beat, 28-20.
"We watched Oxon Hill play High Point (Saturday) and they won, 7-6. They are a basically run-oriented football team with some big players and a little bit of speed. They kind of remind me of Severna Park. They've got a kid (runningback Jason Buchanan) not as good as (John) Jennings (Severna Park back), I don't think, but we're looking forward to it."
Markiewicz pointed out that the Clippers are used to playing their football inside two tight ends while his team likes to spread things out with its run-and-shoot offense.
"The advantage we have is that if we spread 'em out a little bit and put them on an island out there, and isolatethem, we can neutralize their defense," said Markiewicz.
That's where Walker comes in. Over the last couple of weeks, Walker has run more. The run-and-shoot has not been shelved but rather fine-tuned with Walker providing a serious threat each time he touches the ball.
With Walker running and Howard settled into running the offense, theKnights are tough to stop especially when it gets down to nitty-gritty time.
Walker anchors an outstanding defensive unit that hasn't received its due, but might before all is said and done.
"At this time of the year, anything can happen," said Coach Markiewicz. North County 17, Oxon Hill 13.
Class 3A: No. 5 South River (9-1) atNo. 4 Seneca Valley (9-1) of Montgomery County, 1 p.m. Saturday
Seahawks coach Dave Summey is confident going into the home of the Eagles, who have one of the top high school football programs in the state.
"They've got some very good players, but so do we," said Summey, whose team has really come on offensively to complement an alreadyoutstanding defense.
Of main concern for South River's defense isSeneca Valley's junior tailback Bryan Blessing, a 5-foot-5, 150-pounder who is coming off a four-touchdown, 210-yard rushing game in a 43-28 rout of Watkins Mill (9-1), the No. 7 seed in the 3A playoffs.
Blessing has scored 20 TDs for the Eagles and a total of 122 points this season, as they have outscored their foes, 339-92.
"He's veryelusive, shifty and quick," said Summey.
Seneca Valley also has apretty good pass receiver and kicker in Boli Kabwasa and a 6-foot, 215-pound defensive end in Troy Taylor, who loves to hit people.
South River will counter with running backs Chris Messineo, K. C. Palmer and Kevin Ferguson and quarterback Jake Cameron. On defense, linebackers Ferguson and Trevor Perkins and defensive back Edmund Hicks anchor a unit that has given up only 79 points in 10 games, lowest in the county.
This will be its biggest test, but the Prophet would like South River's chances better if it didn't have to play at Seneca Valley, which aptly could be called Death Valley. Seneca Valley 24, South River 7.
The Prophet to date
Right.. .. Wrong.. .. Pct.
72.. .. .. 29.. .. .. .712