Usually, this time of year, North County, Severna Park and Annapolis would be making runs at the state football playoffs. Things have changed.
Instead, No. 4 Arundel (7-0) and No. 15 Meade (6-1) are making playoff runs down the stretch while the aforementioned trio will be hard-pressed to put up winning seasons.
North County visits Annapolis tonight with both teams at 4-3 and if either is able to win its last three games and finish 7-3, it appears it still won't be enough to qualify for the playoffs. There is still a remote possibility, but a lot of "ifs" are involved.
In its six-year existence, North County never has had a season with fewer than eight wins under coach Chuck Markiewicz and the Knights have been to the playoffs four straight years. Prospects of defending their 4A state championship are slim, but a chance to gain a share of the county 4A title is very real.
North County is 4-1 in league action behind Arundel and Meade, both 4-0. Meade visits North County next week and plays host to Arundel the final week. North County victories over Annapolis and Meade, coupled with a Meade triumph over Arundel, and there could be county tri-champions at 6-1.
That possibility provides incentive down the stretch for the Knights as they hope for a miracle berth in the playoffs. Their final game on Nov. 10 is at 3A Broadneck (1-6).
Annapolis, a 7-0 loser to North County last year, has a tough road to close its season and avoid a losing campaign. The Panthers, coming off a 31-7 romp over Chesapeake, visit Arundel and play host to archrival Severna Park the final two weeks.
The Panthers' last losing season was 4-5 under the late Al Laramore in 1983. In coach Roy Brown's seven years the Panthers have never had a losing season, but have gone 5-5 twice (last year and 1990) and made the playoffs twice (Brown's inaugural season of 1989 and 1992).
Severna Park (3-4) visits Glen Burnie (4-3) tonight and then the Falcons play host to Old Mill (2-5) and travel to Annapolis. Coach Andy Borland's team needs two wins in the last three games to avoid its first losing season since 1984 (4-6).
In 1986 the Falcons were 5-5 before going on a very successful run from 1987 through last season (61-21, .744), making the playoffs in 1987 (10-1), 1990 (7-3) and 1994 (8-3).
The young Falcons will have their hands full trying to stop Gophers running backs Bobby Beale (756 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Chris Riles, who ran for 122 yards on 18 attempts in a 36-20 loss to Meade last week.
County and 4A East Region-leading Arundel and Meade both face 2-5 teams this week with the Wildcats traveling to Old Mill and the Mustangs entertaining Chesapeake. Old Mill was hammered by North County, 28-3 last week.
Arundel quarterback Erik Lipton completed 11 of 17 passes for ** 326 yards and two touchdowns in a 32-16 victory over Severna Park and should give Old Mill a lot of trouble.
Old Mill's versatile quarterback/punter, Chuck Manns, is likely finished for the season after suffering a hip pointer and subsequent ligament damage to a knee.
Chesapeake took a wild 36-35 decision over Meade last year, but the Cougars are facing the county's most improved team this year.
Meade is a serious contender with great size, speed, the county's best back in Roman Harrison (1,160 yards, 13 touchdowns), the county's leading punter in Chris Grayson (37.5 yards average) and an excellent coaching staff headed by Jerry Hartman.
South River (3-4) plays its first 2A-3A League game at Broadneck (1-6, 0-1). The Seahawks humbled the Bruins, 24-0, last year.
St. Mary's (4-3) visits McDonogh (0-5) in MIAA A Conference action with Saints coach Brad Best on cloud nine after a 19-6 victory over Poly and the recent birth of his first child, Mitchell.
Severn (5-2) was routed by No. 8 St. Paul's (7-0) in MIAA B Conference play last week 28-0, but visits Archbishop Curley (0-6) today.
In contrast, Archbishop Spalding (2-6), a 26-8 victor over Curley on the strength of Brian Judy's two touchdowns and 169 yards rushing, plays host to St. Paul's 7.30 p.m. tomorrow.