Two close friends and former Arundel High teammates and junior varsity co-coaches, Chuck Markiewicz and Jeff Herrick, hope to end hexes tonight.
Markiewicz leads the ninth-ranked Knights of North County (6-1) into No. 7 Annapolis (6-1), and Herrick and the Broadneck Bruins (5-2) play host to South River (2-5). Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m.
North County and Markiewicz have never defeated Annapolis, and Herrick and Broadneck have never beaten South River.
In his fourth season as North County coach, Markiewicz has dropped two to the Panthers and coach Roy Brown. Annapolis took a 20-19 thriller at North County last fall when Brown went for the two-point conversion and win rather than the tie and overtime.
In Annapolis in 1991 -- the first meeting between the two schools -- Annapolis humbled the then up-and-coming Knights, 33-7.
As coach at Meade, Markiewicz lost to Brown and Annapolis, 14-0, in Brown's inaugural season as coach in 1989. Brown, also an Arundel High graduate but not a classmate of Markiewicz, succeeded the late Al Laramore.
In 1988, Markiewicz, in his first season as coach at Meade, lost to the Laramore-led Panthers, 15-7. So, the frustration of losing to the Panthers is something Markiewicz would like to end.
It should be a great high school football game, which will be televised (tape-delay) locally on TCI Cablevision of Annapolis and produced by Ron Stafford of Annapolis High.
The game should come down to defense, where, if you go by stats, Annapolis has a slight edge. The Panthers have outscored their opponents, 178-56, and North County holds a 221-96 margin over its seven foes.
This game matches some of the best athletes in the county and could come down to a great athletic play. It should be that close.
Linebackers Troy Fowlkes (6 feet, 240 pounds), Reggie Moore (6-1, 205) and James Rivers (6-3, 190) will play key roles for the Knights in their attempt to contain the county's leading rusher in the Panthers' Kenny Boyd. Boyd (5-11, 175) has rushed for 1,060 yards, 14 touchdowns and 88 total points, all county-leading numbers.
It will be interesting to see how Brown uses Boyd this week. The Panthers' workhorse (164 carries, 16.4 per game) has seen light duty in the first half of most games while going pretty much solo in the second half. The fresh legs of Boyd at nitty-gritty time have been tough to stop.
On the other side, Annapolis linebacker Lamont Henson (6-1, 185), cornerback Darnell Ravenell (5-9, 160) and defensive back Chris Johnson (5-10, 165) will have to play well for the Panthers to stop the Knights' run-and-shoot, which has sputtered at times this season.
While ace back Mike Drocella (5-11, 190) is averaging 7.5 yards a carry with 608 yards rushing and six touchdowns, his numbers are far from the record stats rung up by last year's ace back, Frank Brown, (2,157 all-purpose yards, 1,652 rushing, 24 touchdowns and 144 total points), an All-Metro selection by The Baltimore Sun.
Senior quarterback Justin Rice (6-0, 170) has done a great job with 1,357 yards passing and a metro-area-leading 19 touchdown passes, and if given the time to throw would be a major factor in this game.
In his five seasons as Broadneck coach, Herrick has never enjoyed victory over South River. The Hawks have knocked off the Bruins 20-7 (1992), 6-3 (1991), 7-6 (1990) and 6-0 (1989) in his tenure.
South River has won eight straight against Broadneck since football began at the Cape St. Claire school in 1983 with Grant Jones as coach.
After Herrick's team struggled to nip Northeast (2-5), 22-20, last week, he told the players: "We've never beaten South River, and if you play like you did tonight, we won't this year, either."
Despite the Hawks' 2-5 record, Herrick will not let his Bruins take the formidable foe lightly. There is a lot at stake for Broadneck.
Their Class 3A playoff hopes are alive and a victory over South River would put them within a win over Southern (6-1) next week of taking the county 3A-2A League title.
It also would put the Bruins within one win of matching the best season ever at Broadneck. Jones led the Bruins to a 7-3 record three straight seasons, 1985 to 1987.
Individually, the Bruins' record-setting junior end, Jason Smith, is only 11 receptions and 8 yards away from the county records of 67 for 901, respectively, set by North County's Mike Quarles last fall.
One other game of note finds Arundel (4-3) at Old Mill (1-6) at 7:30 tonight, and a victory by Bill Zucco's visiting Wildcats would assure them of at least their first .500 season since 1990. Their last winning season was in 1985 (9-2).
At 3-1 in the county 4A league, Arundel has games left with Annapolis (4-0 league) and Meade (1-3). The Wildcats, who upset both North County (4-1 league) and Severna Park (1-3), could win the county title in the last two weeks, but must win tonight.