Longtime high school football coach Al Thomas, who won eight Maryland championships and was inducted into the state's Football Coaches Hall of Fame two decades before coaching his final game, died of cancer Friday night at age 76. He was in hospice care at the time of his death. "He was a great, great man," said Damascus coach Eric Wallich, who played for Thomas. "Of course he was a great football coach, but a great man in general even more." Thomas began coaching in 1964 as an assistant to legendary Gaithersburg coach John Harvill. He became the first football coach at newly opened Seneca Valley 10 years later and won five state titles with the Screamin' Eagles; his 1977 team went undefeated, won a state title and gave up only six points all year. He left in 1987 for Damascus and won two more titles. He was inducted into the Maryland Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997. His final head coaching job, at Sherwood, began in 2004 and ended in 2008 — after his cancer was diagnosed — with an undefeated state title run. His career record was 242-47, putting him 10th on Maryland's all-time wins list. His eight state titles tie him for most all time with Bob Milloy.
132 horses nominated for New Year's Eve stakes
A total of 132 horses were nominated to five stakes worth $475,000 in purses that help make up the New Year's Eve program that completes the 52-day fall meet at Laurel Park on Saturday. Libby's Tail, second by a head in the Frizette (Grade 1) on Oct. 8 at Belmont Park, is among 30 nominees for the $100,000 Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies at 7 furlongs. 3/4 lengths Nov. 28 at Parx. The other stakes are the $100,000 Marylander for 2-year-olds at 7 furlongs, led by James Lewis III Stakes winner El Areeb; the $100,000 Dave's Friend at 6 furlongs, led by Stallwalkin' Dude, whose 48-race career includes multiple stakes wins29; the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go for females 3 and up at 1 mile, led by defending champion Athena; and the $75,000 Jennings for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up at 1 mile, led by two-time defending Maryland Million Classic winner Admirals War Chest, second in last year's Jennings. Laurel is closed today, then will host a program Monday and conclude the fall meet Friday and Saturday. The winter-spring meet will begin next Sunday.
—Sun staff reports
AFC North title is only path to postseason
The Ravens will either be AFC North champions or will be watching the playoffs from home next month. Any hopes of capturing a wild-card spot vanished when the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills, 34-31, in overtime Saturday. The Ravens (8-6) must beat the Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) today or they will be eliminated. If they do beat the Steelers, there are three Week 17 scenarios (one practical, one unlikely and another completely far-fetched) that would get them in:
•Practical: A win at the Bengals (5-8-1) next Sunday would clinch the division for the Ravens. The Bengals have had the Ravens' number in recent years, but Baltimore did win the one matchup so far this season, 19-14.
•Unlikely: A Steelers loss at home to the Browns (1-14) in Week 17 would also do the trick. The Browns might be the worst team in the league but did get their first win of the season Saturday against the San Diego Chargers. The Steelers will probably be two-touchdown favorites.
•Completely far-fetched: If both the Ravens-Bengals and Steelers-Browns games ended in ties, the Ravens would make the postseason — albeit in one of the strangest ways ever. Ties are unlikely, let alone two ties within the same division when one of the matchups seems lopsided. Another far-fetched scenario that would get the Ravens to the postseason is the Ravens tying the Steelers, then beating the Bengals in Week 17 while the Steelers lose to the Browns.
•Unlikely: A Steelers loss at home to the Browns (1-14) in Week 17 would also do the trick. The Browns might be the worst team in the league but they got their first win of the season Saturday against the San Diego Chargers. The Steelers will probably be two-touchdown favorites. (A Browns win in this game would also open up the possibility of the Ravens getting in by tying the Steelers and beating the Bengals.)
•Completely far-fetched: If both the Ravens-Bengals and Steelers-Browns games ended in ties, the Ravens would make the postseason — albeit in one of the strangest ways ever. Ties are unlikely, let alone two ties within the same division when one of the matchups seems lopsided.
Roster move: The Ravens have promoted second-year linebacker Brennen Beyer from their practice squad to their active roster, putting him in line to make his NFL debut in today's game against the Steelers at Heinz Field. Beyer, who played at Michigan and initially signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in May 2015, has spent the past two seasons on the practice squad. Capable of playing inside and outside linebacker, Beyer figures to have a role today on special teams. To make room on the roster, the Ravens placed linebacker Kamalei Correa on injured reserve, ending his disappointing rookie season. Correa, a second-round draft pick, was dealing with an injury to his ribs and had already been ruled out for the Steelers game. Correa played in nine games and started one at outside linebacker. However, most of his playing time came on special teams. He played just 48 defensive snaps and finished with three tackles, a pass defended and a forced fumble.
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