The playoffs have brought a reversal of fortune for South Carroll's undefeated football team, and the No. 11 Cavaliers hope that carries through to Friday night's regional championship at Middletown.
Playing at home a year ago, the Cavaliers fell to the Knights, 21-7, in the Class 2A West regional final after Middletown had beaten Rockville in the opener. This time, the Cavaliers rolled over Rockville, 43-14, in Friday night's opener and will head to Middletown (10-1) for the title game.
To complete that reversal of fortune and earn their second trip to the state semifinals in four years, the Cavaliers (11-0) cannot afford the lapse that coach Steve Luette said cost them last year's Middletown game.
"We played a real tough ballgame except that we fell apart for four minutes and 20 seconds," Luette said. "They got a score and ran some trick plays, and we kind of lost control of the game. We got one touchdown back and were driving down to put a second one on the board, and just couldn't quite finish the job. We felt we outplayed them except for four minutes and 20 seconds, but that's all it took."
A core of seniors who remember that game well are determined to avenge that loss. Running back Ben McCarty, quarterback Anthony Nardo, middle linebacker Joe Wright and lineman George Muller have been critical in South Carroll's undefeated run.
"I think they're better than they were last year and we're better than we were last year, so I think it's going to be a heck of a game" said Luette, whose Cavaliers scrimmaged the Knights in the preseason. "The big keys for us are two things. Our defense is pretty solid. The last game, we shut down the leading rusher in the state. Probably the bigger difference is our offense is a little more explosive than it was last year. We can score in the air and on the ground. We've won different games in various ways, so we can adjust."
All about 'D' at Dunbar
Dunbar is scoring a lot of points these days — 254 in the past six games — but the No. 14 Poets haven't needed most of them — their defense has been perfect for the last six games. The Poets have not allowed a point since Oct. 1.
Chalk that up to the new defense installed by defensive coordinator Michael Carter, a former assistant coach at Bowie State. Carter replaced Anderson Powell, who retired after being the Poets' defensive coordinator since 1997.
"Early on, the kids were running a new system, so they were learning," Poets head coach Lawrence Smith said. Carter is "running a lot of stuff that the kids would adapt in college, a lot of different sets, a lot of different schemes and defenses."
Since the Poets gave up 32 points to No. 9 Patterson in the second game of the season, they have allowed just 19 in the past nine games and shut out their last six opponents. Heading into Saturday's Class 1A South regional championship against Forest Park at Poly, the Poets (10-1) have recorded seven shutouts, including against Poly and Edmondson.
5 looking for a perfect season
Five local football teams are going into this weekend's playoff games without a loss — No. 7 North Harford, No. 11 South Carroll, Western Tech and Forest Park all head into the regional finals 11-0. Maryland Christian is also 11-0 going into its game Thursday at the National Homeschool Football Association tournament in Panama City Beach, Fla.
How tough is it to polish off a perfect season? None of the four local teams that were unbeaten at this point in the regional playoffs last season managed to pull it off.
Only one area team, Annapolis Area Christian School, has completed an unbeaten season. The Eagles won the MIAA C Conference, finishing 10-0 and extending the area's longest active winning streak to 17 games.
10 finalists for Ravens' Coach of the Year
Franklin football coach Anthony Burgos became the 10th and final Ravens' High School Coach of the Week after leading the No. 12 Indians to a 47-14 upset over then-No. 9 Hereford in Friday night's Class 3A North regional semifinal.
Burgos joins Hereford's Steve Turnbaugh, Gilman's Biff Poggi, the Howard coaching staff, Atholton's Kyle Schmitt, North Harford's Ken Brinkman, South Carroll's Steve Luette, Forest Park's Damon Bomar, Thomas Johnson's Ben Wright and Southern's Russ Meyers as Coaches of the Week.
One will be selected Ravens High School Coach of the Year; the winner will be announced Dec. 19 during the Ravens' game vs. the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at M&T Bank Stadium.