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Game of the Week: County and league titles on the line when North Carroll meets South Carroll

North Carroll quarterback Jack Flowers looks to pass against Westminster.
North Carroll quarterback Jack Flowers looks to pass against Westminster. (Dave Munch / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: South Carroll

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Coaches: Todd Edmondson, North Carroll; Steve Luette, South Carroll

Last meeting: South Carroll won, 47-17, last season

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KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

North Carroll: QB Jack Flowers Sr.; WR-DB Zach Sherman, Sr.; WR-DB Austin Catley Sr.; RB Toby Lowe, Sr.; OL-DL Brandon Yelton, Sr.; C-LB Will Hastings, Jr.; FB-DE Tyler Przybylski, Jr.; FS Connor Waskiewicz, Jr.; DL Brad Turfle, Jr.; LB Peyton Allen, Sr.; TE-LB Noah Kline, Sr.

South Carroll: RB-LB Chris Gavin, Sr.; QB Andrew Louder, Sr.; CB-WR Patrick Kelly, Jr.; FS-WR Silas Kelly, Jr.; OT-DE Scott Eudy, Sr.; OL-DL Brian Norwood, Sr.; RB-LB Steven Baca, Jr.; DB-WR Jamar Williams, Soph; OL-DL Steven Stockslager, Jr.; OL Brian Plummer, OL, Jr.

KEYS TO VICTORY

This clash between the top two teams in Carroll County could decide the county and Monocacy Valley Athletic League Chesapeake Division championships. No. 14 South Carroll (6-2, 5-0 league) tops the standings and North Carroll (7-1, 4-1) is second. If the Cavaliers win, they clinch the county and MVAL Chesapeake titles. If the Panthers win, it's a tie with one game left in the regular season.

The Cavaliers have defeated the Panthers six straight times since North Carroll last won in 2007, and the games haven't been close — the average margin of victory has been 26.5 points.

This season, South Carroll played a tougher early schedule, falling to Linganore, 35-6, and to Oakdale, 35-7. Since then, they've won six straight, including a 42-0 win over a Liberty team that beat North Carroll, 22-13.

"It just took a little bit of time for the players to get working together," Luette said. "Our defense is now solidified and they're playing a lot better, a lot tougher. We played some good teams up front and I like to do that to try and get us to play a little bit harder."

The Cavaliers have the leading running back in the county in Gavin, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound power back who has run 147 times for 1,314 yards and 15 touchdowns. But they also have a second threat in Baca, who has run 29 times for 273 yards and five touchdowns.

Louder has thrown for 550 yards and six touchdowns, completing 50 of 86 pass attempts (58 percent) and throwing two interceptions.

What makes it all come together is a veteran offensive line.

"I only have one new lineman and that's my center," Luette said, "The other four linemen all played last year and two of them have been playing for two years, so I've got some good experience on the line and those guys are going on defense too, so I think that's what's really solidified us and gotten us going these past six games."

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The Cavaliers, however, will be without their kicker, junior Kyle Gavin, who has 30 extra points. On a kick last week, a muscle contraction pulled a chip from Gavin's pelvic bone, Luette said. The coach said he doesn't know how long his kicker will be sidelined.

For the Panthers, the offense centers around Flowers, who has thrown for 1,507 yards and 21 touchdowns with eight interceptions and has completed 75 of 124 (60 percent) passes. In last week's 27-13 win over Westminster, he threw for 284 yards and touchdowns of 60 and 76 yards to Sherman. Flowers also ran for two touchdowns.

His top two receivers, Sherman and Catley, have nearly identical stats, with Sherman catching 19 passes for 594 yards and eight touchdowns and Catley catching 27 for 597 yards.

Edmondson, the Panthers' first-year coach and the defensive coordinator at Loyola Blakefield last season, said his players have adjusted well to new offensive and defensive schemes and that they've been balanced offensively

With just two weeks left in the regular season, the game has implications for both beyond the county. North Carroll has already clinched a regional playoff berth in Class 1A West whereas the Panthers are in second place behind defending state champion Fort Hill (8-0). A win over the Cavaliers would keep them second and help solidify a home game in the first round.

The Cavaliers are in good position for a playoff berth in Class 2A West, where they are tied for third with Liberty (5-3) behind Oakdale (6-2) and Poolesville (6-2). Fifth-place Catoctin (4-4) trails by 1.25 points, but South Carroll could clinch with a win over North Carroll.

"They've got experience," Luette said of the Panthers. "All of their skill position players are seniors and they played real well last year and got into the playoffs, so they've been playing well together for two years. Their quarterback is very accurate and they've got a good running game, so they've got confidence in what they're doing. That's what we're concerned about."

Edmondson said his players learned a lot from the loss to Liberty on Oct. 2 and have used that to continue to develop on both sides of the ball as they prepare for another road test.

"I think this week, it's going to be the line of scrimmage battle," Edmondson said. "I know that sounds cliché, but if you look at both teams and throughout the year, we have similar things in our game plan and it's going to come down to the line of scrimmage and special teams and who makes less mistakes."

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

No. 9 Howard at No. 15 River Hill, Friday, 4:30 p.m.

Edmondson at Dunbar, Friday, 5 p.m.

No. 12 Meade at No. 2 Broadneck, Friday, 6:30 p.m.

No. 3 St. Frances at No. 6 Mount Saint Joseph, Saturday, 1 p.m.

John Carroll at No. 11 Archbishop Curley, Saturday, noon

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