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Dunbar, Dundalk, Milford Mill, Mervo, South Carroll take aim at high school football state titles

Five Baltimore-area football teams have reached their season’s biggest days, each bringing their own storylines to Annapolis in bids to bring home state championships.

On Thursday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, No. 6 Dundalk (12-0) will meet No. 9 Mervo (10-1) in the Class 4A/3A final at 7 p.m. with both teams trying to bring home their program’s first state crown.

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In Class 2A, No. 8 Milford Mill (12-1) puts its 12-game winning streak on the line and is seeking its first state title since 1987 against Douglass-PG (12-1) on Friday at 4 p.m.

In Saturday’s 2A/1A title game, No. 4 Dunbar and No. 11 South Carroll both enter with 12-0 marks. The Poets are chasing the program’s 11th title, while the Cavaliers not only look to bring home the program’s first crown, but also Carroll County’s first.

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Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith is proud of the fact that his Poets have plenty of company this season with three other Baltimore teams reaching the big games.

“It shows when you’re talking about us, and Mervo and Milford and Dundalk, you’re talking about when these teams on the other side of the state from the [Southern Maryland Athletic Conference] and those guys in [Prince George’s] and Montgomery [counties], they don’t think we play football on this side of the state,” Smith said. “So when you’re talking about this many teams going to the state finals from this side, it shows that we actually play football on this side of the state.”

Mervo, which is coming off a 24-7 semifinal win over Sherwood, takes to the field against Dundalk with heavy hearts, having dedicated the season to fallen teammate Elijah Gorham, who died three weeks after suffering an injury in a game played Sept. 18.

“Obviously, that’s been a motivating factor for us. I always say through adversity, a team gets tighter, gets stronger and gets extra motivation. This is as tight as we’ve been as a program for a very long time,” Mervo coach Patrick Nixon said.

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The Mustangs are led by quarterback Derek Dunn, wide receiver/safety Kylish Hicks and defensive end Ayo Meyers. Against Dundalk, they will face an efficient team that has shown no weaknesses throughout the season. The Owls, who handled Arundel, 40-6, in the semifinals, are led by running back Jordan Fiorenza, quarterback Calvin Stokes and line play on both sides of the ball that has overwhelmed opponents.

At Milford Mill, coach Reggie White has a lengthy list of strong contributors that has helped the Millers reach Friday’s title game. At the top is quarterback Tahseen Howard, who threw a 66-yard touchdown pass and ran 15 yards for the winning score in the Millers’ 14-7 semifinal win over Huntingtown.

“It all starts with the leadership of our quarterback, Tahseen Howard,” White said. “He’s just been phenomenal this year. We’re biased, but we call him the best player in the state. He’s smart, athletic, makes good decisions and then he goes and does something amazing that we didn’t know he could do.”

Douglass-PG, which got a last-minute touchdown to beat Oakland Mills, 22-15, in the semifinal round, runs a triple-option offense led by quarterback Trey Manley.

In Saturday’s matchup of undefeated teams, Dunbar brings a wealth of state tournament experience, while South Carroll is looking for a historic breakthrough.

The Poets, who are making their 15th appearance in the title game seeking the program’s 11th crown, have been riding the dynamic dual-threat play of quarterback Devin Roche, who accounted for 300-plus yards and three scores in the team’s 50-17 win over Lackey in the semifinals.

The Cavaliers last reached the title game in 2005. They showed playoff poise in getting past Harford Tech, 14-13, in the semifinal round with quarterback Ryan Barnard capping a 59-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Carter Mazalewski with 2:07 to play. Mazalewski sealed the win with an interception from his safety position on the Cobras’ ensuing drive.

The game will likely come down to the two star quarterbacks and how both defenses manage to contain them.

In the meantime, the Cavaliers are enjoying the ride.

Carter Mazalewski, left, celebrating the winning touchdown catch with teammate Gage Duncan, right, against Harford Tech on Friday, and South Carroll will face Dunbar in the Class 2A/1A state championship game. The Cavaliers are looking to become the first Carroll County football team to win a state title.
Carter Mazalewski, left, celebrating the winning touchdown catch with teammate Gage Duncan, right, against Harford Tech on Friday, and South Carroll will face Dunbar in the Class 2A/1A state championship game. The Cavaliers are looking to become the first Carroll County football team to win a state title. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

“Our program, high school football and high school sports in general, fluctuates — it goes up, it goes down,” South Carroll coach Mike Kraus said. “We’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs, and right now we have an opportunity to go out on a high note, on the upside with the opportunity to be the first in Carroll County. That would be a tremendous accomplishment.”

The state tournament wraps up Saturday with two games featuring out-of-area teams. At 3:30 p.m., Allegany County powers Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge will compete for the Class 1A title, followed by the 3A game featuring Frederick-based Linganore taking on Northern-Calvert at 7 p.m.

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