It's a homecoming to behold. How about the county game of the week?
What has developed into one of the county's best football rivalries resumes at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Ferndale as No. 5 Arundel (4-0) visits No. 10 North County (2-2) in a key Class 4A East Region encounter.
The Wildcats have won the last two regular-season meetings with the Knights, including a 28-14 victory last fall. Defending state champion North County leads the series, 3-2, by virtue of last year's 39-15 triumph in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
After dropping their first two, the Knights, who start seven to eight underclassmen on both sides of the ball, erased all doubt last week with a 35-8 romp over previously unbeaten Glen Burnie.
The big-play run-and-shoot returned and North County looked like North County, the result of giving senior quarterback Maurice Bowie time to throw.
Bowie was 9-for-14 for 180 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown pass to Chris Mangum, who leads the county with 14 catches for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Bowie also raced 88 yards for a score on a sneak right up the middle.
The 0-2 North County start can be attributed to toughness of schedule, with the losses to two Prince George's teams in Crossland and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both are among the top-ranked teams in the D.C. area.
"Our schedule has helped us to find out about our team," said North County coach Chuck Markiewicz. "We want to play top teams. It can only make us better."
And better the Knights have gotten. Markiewicz finds out tomorrow how much better his young team has gotten. Arundel is the real deal.
Coach Bill Zucco's Wildcats are on a mission. Before the season, Zucco said one of the 'Cats' goals was "to get back to postseason and go farther."
That hope is becoming reality with each passing week because Arundel is seasoned, aggressive and very confident and has an excellent quarterback in junior Eric Lipton. Last week's 34-25 homecoming victory over Chesapeake (1-3) was impressive.
Lipton completed 12-of-19 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns and leads the county in completion percentage (39-for-64, .609), yardage (592) and touchdowns (six). It's the first time at this stage of the season that a quarterback other than a Knight owns the lead in the three major passing categories.
pTC Bowie is 45-for-86 (.523) for 534 yards and four touchdowns, but is coming off his best game. Wildcat defensive back Mike McKnight leads the county and metro area in interceptions (six).
Tonight another big 4A East game finds Glen Burnie traveling to Annapolis in a crucial game for both 3-1 teams.
The Gophers, who beat the Panthers for the first time since 1989 by 32-7 last fall, will be trying to get back on track while Annapolis is on the high road. The Panthers have reeled off three in a row after a season-opening 32-0 loss to top-ranked Mount St. Joseph.
After a 12-9 overtime loss to Annapolis, Old Mill (2-2) is at the crossroads in what coach Pete Regala hoped would be a turnaround season. The Patriots travel to Meade (3-1) with quarterback and punter Chuck Manns questionable after suffering a hip pointer in the Annapolis loss.
The host Mustangs boast the county's leading rusher in Roman Harrison (662 yards) and rank as the county's most improved team. Meade won only three games in its first two seasons under coach Jerry Hartman and its only win last year was by 20-0 over Old Mill.
Severna Park (2-2) visits Chesapeake (1-3) tonight in the other 4A East game. The Falcons are coming off a tough 26-19 loss to Meade, Chesapeake off its late defeat to Arundel.
All of the county's 2A-3A teams are on the road. Tonight 3A Broadneck (1-3), coming off its first win by 13-6 over Dundalk (1-3), visits Queen Anne's (0-4) and 2A Northeast (1-3) travels north to Fallston (3-1).
Tomorrow, 2A teams South River (2-2) and Southern (1-3) journey to Randallstown (3-1) and Surrattsville (0-4), respectively. The Seahawks will need a big game from its Sam Worsham-led defense to win at Randallstown.
The private school slate finds the state's best 0-3 team in Loyola meeting St. Mary's (2-2) at Anne Arundel Community College tonight. The Dons' record is deceiving with their most recent loss to Philadelphia's No. 1 team Malvern by 19-8.
Severn (3-1) will attempt to rebound from its 35-7 loss to John Carroll (2-1) in a visit to McDonogh (0-4) tomorrow, while Archbishop Spalding (1-4) plays host to Cardinal Gibbons (1-2).