Francis Scott Key (3-2) at Middletown (5-0)
Outlook: In years past, this may have been a game that Monocacy Valley Athletic League power Middletown didn't feel the need to prepare much for. That's no longer the case and the Knights can expect a dogfight against a hungry Key team that's growing in confidence. It began with strong efforts in losses to Walkersville and Smithsburg and has continued with impressive wins over Catoctin and Boonsboro the past two Fridays. Quarterback Jordan Chiaruttini led the way with four touchdown passes against Catoctin and last week it was the defense that stepped up to make the big plays. The Eagles took advantage of seven Boonsboro turnovers in coming away with a 21-15 win. Middletown presents the Eagles with their biggest challenge of the season. The Knights, led by running back Jon Tobery, had no problem disposing of Catoctin, 30-6, last Friday to win their fifth straight.
Frederick (1-3) at No. 12 Liberty (4-1)
Outlook: For the first time this season, the Lions will have to respond to a losing effort. Linganore handed Liberty its first loss of the season last Friday, 28-7, shutting down the Lions' potent running game, taking advantage of six turnovers and showcasing a pretty good runner of its own in Jerit Siedor, who ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns. Most of the Lions' miscues came from over-aggressive play, not being familiar with such a big game this late in the season. Tonight, they'll run up against a Frederick team that's in dire need of a win after dropping to 1-3 with a 30-20 loss last week against Suitland. Expect to see plenty of running with the Lions looking to rebound behind backs Bill Shaffer, Justin Barnowski and Josh Denning. Frederick ran for 308 yards in the loss to Suitland with Altom McCallum rushing for 184 yards and two scores.
North Carroll (1-4) at Thomas Johnson (4-1)
Outlook: One thing the Panthers have shown this season is they won't back down from anyone. Just ask the South Carroll Cavaliers, who needed overtime to get past the Panthers last Friday at home. The Panthers will have a bigger mountain to climb tonight with Thomas Johnson on a roll. The Patriots enjoyed a 41-0 halftime lead against Westminster last Friday and coasted to a 48-0 win. The Panthers will try to shut down the Patriots' big-play offense led by quarterback Randell Jones, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another against Westminster. Ball control from the Panthers' offense is a must. Running back Bryan Hall is the workhorse and the Panthers also got some strong running from Mike Green last week.
South Carroll (2-3) at Linganore (5-0)
Outlook: While South Carroll was just getting by North Carroll in overtime last week, Linganore was having an easier time than expected against a Liberty team that beat the Cavaliers comfortably the week before. That doesn't bode well for the Cavaliers, but they will no doubt come ready to play under coach Gene Brown. The Cavaliers will have to play a near-flawless game, something they didn't do last week, and get a strong effort from running back Mike Chenoweth, who had another 100-yard night and scored from 8 yards out last week. The South Carroll defense, led by linebacker Bryce Baker, will need to come up with some big plays against the Linganore offense that features the running of Jerit Siedor. Siedor gained 130 yards last week against Liberty.
Bladensburg (3-2) at Westminster (1-4)
Outlook: The enthusiasm remains and the hard work continues as the young Owls struggle through a rebuilding season. After last Friday's 48-0 loss to Thomas Johnson, they'll be happy to go out of conference to take on Bladensburg, which dropped a 23-0 decision to Crossland last week. Westminster coach Tim Ebersole is looking for some big plays from his offense and better tackling from his defense. "The football team in general needs to be more consistent. We're still working hard to get better," he said. Sophomore quarterback Billy Mays continues to grow and the defense has gotten a solid season from linebacker Denny Bowers. The Owls will be up against a Bladensburg offense that likes to run the ball behind a big line anchored by a pair of 265-pound tackles.