Previewing six of the top football playoff matchups this weekend

The first weekend of the high school football postseason for all but the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, which started with quarterfinals last weekend, features 21 games involving Baltimore-area teams in state regional semifinals and MIAA A, B and C Conference semifinals. Here is a look at the top six games to watch this week:

MIAA A Conference semifinals

McDonogh (3-7) vs. No. 1 Gilman (7-2)

When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

Where: Archbishop Spalding

Coaches: Dom Damico, McDonogh; Biff Poggi, Gilman

Last meeting: Gilman won, 48-12, on Oct. 27

Outlook: At the beginning of the season, Poggi said McDonogh probably had more talent than any of the Greyhounds' other A Conference opponents, but the Eagles were young and they went through some growing pains. Three weeks ago, Damico switched talented freshman quarterback Jansen Durham for senior Travis Woods and the Eagles beat Mount St. Joseph, 24-0, and topped Loyola, 28-7, in last week's quarterfinal. In between, however, Gilman easily handled the Eagles with its combination of versatile offense, led by QB Shane Cockerille, and a stalwart defense. The defending MIAA A Conference champions have allowed an average of 8.8 points against A Conference foes and have won by an average of 32.6 points.

Mount St. Joseph (4-6) vs. No. 2 Calvert Hall (7-2)

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Archbishop Spalding

Coaches: Blake Henry, Mount St. Joseph; Donald Davis, Calvert Hall

Last meeting: Calvert Hall won, 27-21 in 2 OTs, on Oct. 6

Outlook: Mount St. Joseph didn't win a regular-season A Conference game but came awfully close to beating Calvert Hall last month. In last week's quarterfinal, they finally broke through with an impressive 19-13 win over then No. 10 Archbishop Spalding behind RB Nevone McCrimmon (176 yards, 2 TDs). The Cardinals suffered their only A Conference loss to Gilman. Kevin Nickel's 10-yard scoring run made the difference in the double-overtime win over the Gaels last month, but the Cardinals played the first half without 15 players, including eight starters, who were taking the SAT exam. This time, the Cardinals will have everyone suited up at kickoff as they aim for a rematch of last year's title game against Gilman.

Regional semifinals

No. 11 South River (8-2) @ No. 9 Old Mill (8-2)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Region: 4A East

Coaches: Lance Clelland, South River; Chad McCormick, Old Mill

Last meeting: South River won, 36-35, last Friday

Outlook: The Seahawks clinched a playoff berth with last week's victory over the defending Class 4A state champions. QB Connor Cox scored the game-winning points on a conversion run after throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass to Eric Young with less than two minutes to go. Cox has thrown for 38 touchdowns and more than 2,800 yards in leading the Seahawks to their second straight playoff appearance. For Old Mill, Shawn Brown ran for three touchdowns and Marcus Hicks added two scores as the Patriots rallied from a 21-0 deficit to take a 35-28 lead. Last year, Old Mill won the regular-season finale over South River and went on to win the following week in the playoff opener. That might seem to bode well for the Seahawks, who are looking for their first state crown, but the last time the Patriots lost their final regular-season game (2009), they went on to win their first state championship.

James M. Blake (6-4) @ No. 5 Westminster (10-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Region: 4A North

Coaches: Tony Nazarro, Blake; Brad Wilson, Westminster

Last meeting: First meeting

Outlook: The Owls are cruising behind their passing offense, led by QB Deryk Kern (52 TDs, 3,004 passing yards) and a strong corps of receivers, including Garrett Bean (15 TDs) and Bradley Metcalf (14 TDs) and RB Dan Johnson (2 rushing TDs, 8 receiving TDs). After missing the playoffs last season when they had to forfeit a game for using the same player in a varsity and JV game in the same week, the Owls are looking for their first state title in their fifth appearance in the playoffs. Blake, from Montgomery County, who is in the playoffs for the first time, also has a multifaceted offense with strong running and passing games.

Douglass (7-3) vs. Edmondson (9-1)

When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

Where: Poly

Region: 2A North

Coaches: Elwood Townsend, Douglass; Dante Jones, Edmondson

Last meeting: Edmondson won, 14-6, on Sept. 14

Outlook: The Ducks may be the best 7-3 team out there, losing only to No. 8 Dunbar, 8-6, No. 14 Milford Mill, 18-16, and to Edmondson. While Baltimore City teams nearly always rely on the run, Townsend opted for a passing attack with senior QBs Brandon Oliver and Dontrell Kelly. The defense has also come a long way, allowing only 93 points after giving up 230 last season when they went 3-7. Edmondson, which has allowed only 88 points and lost only to Dunbar, 13-8, reached the state semifinals last season and aims for a second title to go with its 2006 state championship. Douglass will have to stop a strong Red Storm running game to get its first playoff win.

Manchester Valley (7-3) vs. Reginald Lewis (9-1)

When: Saturday, 1

Where: Poly

Region: 1A North

Coaches: Tony Shermeyer, Manchester Valley; Donte' Foster, Reginald Lewis

Last meeting: First meeting

Outlook: In its fourth season as a varsity program, Manchester Valley is in the regionals for the first time, while the Falcons are still looking for their first playoff win in their third trip to the postseason in five years. Senior RB Donnie Neal, who has gained 100 or more yards in 19 straight games and has 143 carries for 1,199 yards and 13 touchdowns, leads the Falcons. Senior QB Dominick Frank, who has 1,112 yards passing with 15 touchdowns and 973 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns, leads a versatile Mavericks offense.

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