Winning championships, or at least getting to the playoffs, takes confidence and ability.
Fifth-ranked North County and seventh-ranked Annapolis (both 9-1) are confident going into this weekend's state football playoff action.
The two teams could face each other only if they get to the final. Coaches and players on both teams believe that is possible.
But that has not happened often with Anne Arundel County teams; only Arundel in 1975 and Annapolis in 1978 won state crowns.
Third-seeded Annapolis plays host tonight (7:30) to sixth-seeded Friendly (8-2) of Prince George's County.
North County, seeded fifth, takes on fourth-seeded and The Sun's ninth-ranked Perry Hall (9-1) of Baltimore County at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Dundalk Community College.
The Annapolis-Friendly victor will meet the winner of game between No. 2 seed Gaithersburg (9-1) and No. 7 Laurel (8-2) in the second round, with the game at the home of the highest seed.
Top-seeded Crossland (10-0), the only unbeaten team in the field, will take on No. 8 Largo (7-2) at 7:30 tonight and the winner gets the North County-Perry Hall winner in the semifinals.
"If we get by Friendly, I really think we have a good chance to be there in the final," said Annapolis coach Roy Brown, who is leading his Panthers into postseason play for the first time since 1989.
Annapolis and Friendly, one of four Prince George's teams in the playoffs, both use ball-control offenses.
"They're a tough team with an excellent quarterback who runs the ball a lot off play-action," says Brown. "In fact, the quarterback might be their leading rusher.
"They only throw about five or six times a game, and they run a 4-4 defense with a lot of stunting. Their defense is big and held Crossland [which had scored 338 points] to 10 points."
Brown, whose team won the county title with an 8-0 mark, would like nothing better than to get the near-perfect execution his team gave him in the season-ending 21-0 win over Severna Park.
The fourth-year head coach knows this game will come down to the play of the offensive and defensive lines.
The Panthers' offensive line has been superb most of the season, clearing the way for Shawn Taylor (1,114 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing) and Kenny Boyd (792 yards and 12 touchdowns).
"And we can throw if we have to," said Brown, whose junior quarterback, Juan Johnson, is very effective in the team's ball-control system.
Johnson has completed 23 of 51 passes for 350 yards and eight touchdowns and been intercepted only twice.
"Our defense is solid," said Brown, whose defense is anchored by senior linebacker Brendan Bellotte. "We don't have big-play men on defense as we've had in the past, but rather a unit that doesn't give up easy TDs. We've got as good a shot as anybody."
North County coach Chuck Markiewicz is just as optimistic.
"This is what we have been playing for all season, and yes, we believe we can be there at the end," said the Knights' coach, whose team is making its second straight playoff appearance.
The Knights would rather forget last year's disastrous playoff appearance. Oxon Hill of Prince George's County destroyed the run-and-shoot Knights, 39-0.
"We were not the offensive team last year that we are now," said Markiewicz. "We looked at tapes of that game and found it hard to believe that we won eight games. Our offense was awful. The offense is 100 percent better this season."
The reason for the improvement: record-setting quarterback Eric Howard settled into the run-and-shoot, the offensive line and the play of running back Frank Brown and wide receiver Mike Quarles.
"Our offensive line was intact starting the season and they keep us moving," said Markiewicz, whose Knights have scored more points (393) than anyone in the state. "Frank Brown has been a valuable addition and Quarles played mostly defensive back last year."
Howard has set county and metro-area records for touchdown passes (27) and passing yardage (2,140) and is within striking distance of the state marks set this year by Pallotti's Jason Boseck. Boseck threw for 2,460 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Howard was intercepted only eight times while Boseck's team was 3-7 and he was intercepted 19 times. Howard has played in one less game than Boseck.
Brown, a transfer from Southwestern High in Baltimore, has averaged 9.7 yards per attempt in rushing for 1,312 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also has caught five touchdown passes. His 22 total is one short of the county record (23) shared by Southern's Bob Stach (1965 and 1966) and Dawnie Dorsey of Northeast (1981).
Quarles caught a county-record and state-high 57 passes. That total matches the Baltimore metro-area records set by Southern's Rory Travers in 1987.
With Damon Martin (36 receptions) out with a knee injury, Quarles has become Howard's No. 1 target.
"And our defense is not bad either," said Markiewicz. His team has yielded only 115 points.
"Perry Hall has a big line [one lineman is 6 feet 5, 300 pounds] and reminds me of Severna Park [beaten 48-19 by North County], a power running team," said Markiewicz with guarded optimism. "They have not played against a run-and-shoot team."