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County's four finest meet in a pair of big games


A lot of county football fans will be wishing they could be in two places at once this Saturday when two of the top games of the season will take place.

Five-time state champion Wilde Lake (3-0 overall, 3-0 county) visits Oakland Mills (3-0, 0-0) for the Scorpions' homecoming game, and sparks always fly when these two teams get together in Columbia's oldest football rivalry.

And River Hill (3-0, 3-0) travels to Long Reach (2-1, 1-1) for a rivalry that began when the schools both opened seven years ago. It's also homecoming at Long Reach.

The Scorpions, state 1A champs in 1998, have beaten three struggling teams in Atholton, Century and Gibbons, so they will face their first formidable opponent.

Wilde Lake beat two struggling teams in Howard and Atholton, but last week proved it can play with a talented team by defeating Long Reach, 28-14.

Injuries could play a part in the game since Wilde Lake's No. 1 running back, Austen Merrills, injured his arm last week and Oakland Mills' No. 1 runner, C. J. King, left the Gibbons game early nursing an ankle sprain. Merrills has rushed for 334 yards and King for 366 yards. But King got only 42 yards last week.

Oakland Mills, a state 1A finalist and county runner-up a year ago, won last season's game, 28-14, and appears able to give the Wildecats another competitive game.

Freshman Scorpions quarterback Nick Finney, 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, has been outstanding so far, showing poise and a strong arm. Wildecats senior quarterback Hamp Fields hasn't had the chance to throw much, but can run and provides strong leadership.

Size is one big edge for the Wildecats with 6-7, 275-pound Colin Quinn and 6-6, 295-pound Steve Simms hoping to open holes in a smaller but quick Oakland Mills line, led by returnees Sean Meeker (5-10, 190), Dan Alexander (6-1, 210) and sophomore David Howard (6-3, 235).

Both teams have good running backs with A. J. Case, Brandon Bell and Merrills as a potent trio for Wilde Lake, and Darryl Pastor, Dennis Lange and King strong for Oakland Mills. Pastor ran 13 times for 111 yards against Gibbons and Lange ran four times for 91.

The secondary might favor Wilde Lake, especially after it intercepted five passes last week against Long Reach.

At Long Reach, the Lightning will hope to run Jereme Scott and Davon Gilmore behind its huge line led by Justin Pruitt (6-6, 296) and Ryan Pope (6-4, 291).

River Hill also can run with Tim Morgan gaining 275 yards and quarterback Chris Martin picking up 250 yards. Martin also has passed for 214 yards, completing 12 of 18 attempts.

The Hawks have beaten three struggling teams, Hammond, Howard and Atholton, so this will be their biggest test.

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