Record setters Jason Galloway and Kelvin Collins have played the key roles in putting Old Mill in position for its first playoff berth since the 1990 and 1991 seasons.
The Patriots (6-2), who have won six in a row and clinched their first winning season since their back-to-back playoff seasons, when they were 9-2 and 8-3, respectively, moved into second place in the Class 4A East region behind No. 13-ranked Severna Park (7-1). They control their own destiny with two games left.
Unfortunately, the Pats will have to proceed without Galloway, a three-sport senior standout and easily one of the county's top five all-around football players.
Galloway suffered a serious knee injury in the opening minute of the final period of Saturday night's 24-18 victory over North County. It was a freak injury; his cleats caught on the soaked turf as he attempted a tackle.
The Patriots lost not only their game-breaking threat at wide receiver and returning kicks but also a superb defensive back who is second in the county in interceptions with four, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Collins, who owns school single-season records for rushing (1,312 yards), rushing and total touchdowns (21 and 22), set the school record for yards rushing (276) and attempts (46) for one game in the huge win over North County.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Collins, a junior who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, also contributed defensively by moving into the secondary for the game's last six plays.
With a burst of speed, Collins recovered to catch North County's Greg Scott, who had gotten behind him, and batted away a potential game winning touchdown pass from Mike Pfisterer in the final 30 seconds.
"I was a little concerned without Galloway and felt I had to step up and do my job," said Collins, who had not played cornerback all season. But because of his athleticism, coach Mike Marcus did not fear making what turned out to be a brilliant move.
Galloway gets the results of an magnetic-resonance imaging test today knowing his football season is over but hoping he can be ready for the basketball season.
"It s disappointing," said Galloway, the county's leading pass receiver with 40 receptions for 707 yards and 11 touchdowns, all school records. "I'm going to work hard to get ready for basketball."
If Old Mill wins tomorrow at Meade (1-7) and closes next week with a victory at Severna Park, the Pats could win the region, an automatic qualifier for the eight-team state tournament. The four region winners take the top four seeds, and the bottom four seeds are determined by playoff-point averages throughout the state.
Seventh statewide, the Patriots would be in if the playoffs were starting today, but a split in the final two games would mean a 7-3 record that might not get them past the cut when bonus points are tabulated.
The idea is to keep winning without the 5-11, 170-pound Galloway, an outstanding athlete with 4.5 speed. He's also a team leader along with fellow three-year players, All-County, two-way tackle David Kim, center Mike Tetlow, end Montese Henson and receiver/linebacker Antoine Cooksey.
"It's a close team that I hope makes it to the playoffs with or without me," said Galloway.
Cooksey, who tied Galloway for most receptions (28) last season but has concentrated more on defense this year, is expected to assume Galloway's role as prime target for quarterback Brian Williams, who has thrown for nearly 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"We need to keep Jason in our prayers and see what the doctor's prognosis is," said Marcus, who is not giving up hope that Galloway might be back for postseason, if the Pats make it.
"He's battled back before -- called me in June and said his football career was over because of a stress fracture in his back. It turns out that we got a second opinion, and he's fine and had a heck of a year. I feel sorry for him, but we're not going to panic, because we've got other people if he does go down."
Galloway was second-team All-County as a junior in football, a shooting guard on the 21-4, No. 8-ranked basketball team and an All-County outfielder in baseball who batted .405 and led the county in stolen bases with 28.
With a 3.2 grade-point average and 990 SAT, Galloway qualifies academically and would like to get an opportunity to play football and baseball in college. Western Carolina is interested in him.
Baseball might be his best sport, but with his speed, quickness and instincts, he could get a chance to play football.
"My parents [Ronald and Lynne] have been real positive about my injury, and my dad said that football might not be my sport," said Galloway. "But they will support whatever I do, like they always have."
And Galloway intends to support his teammates in spirit in their drive to closing the decade the way Old Mill started it.