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Football Game of the Week: No. 1 St. Frances at No. 8 Calvert Hall

No. 1 St. Frances (3-0) at No. 8 Calvert Hall (3-1)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

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Coaches: Biff Poggi and Henry Russell, St. Frances; Donald Davis, Calvert Hall

Last meeting: St. Frances won, 14-0, last season

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KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

St. Frances: DE Eyabi Anoma, Sr.; WR Randy Fields, Sr.; OL Jaelyn Duncan, Sr.; QB Jalon Jones, Jr.; LB-TE Shane Lee, Jr.; RB Joachim Bangda, Jr.

Calvert Hall: LB Chance Campbell, Sr.; OL-DL Reggie Sutton, Sr.; DB Isaiah Watson, Sr.; DE Obinna Ejoh, Sr.; LB-S Caleb Biggers, Sr.; K Brandon Reynolds, Sr.

KEYS TO VICTORY

The Panthers begin defense of their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship against a Calvert Hall squad that has only lost to two-time defending Class 4A state champion Wise, 15-13. The Cardinals gave up eight points on a game-opening kickoff return and conversion and the Pumas picked off a late pass to thwart the the Cardinals' upset bid against the No. 3 team in the state behind No. 1 DeMatha and No. 2 St. Frances.

The Under Armour All-America selection tour stopped at St. Frances Tuesday morning to present Panthers Eyabi Anoma and Jaelyn Duncan with their jerseys.

Both teams are loaded with highly recruited talent, including St. Frances Under Armour All-Americans Anoma and Duncan, so this will be one of the more intriguing matchups in a conference that has five teams ranked in The Baltimore Sun's top eight, including No. 2 McDonogh, No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph and No. 4 Archbishop Spalding.

In last year's meeting, the Panthers scored on the opening drive of the game and their defense did the rest against a Calvert Hall team that went into the game averaging 37.7 points. The Panthers defense has been stingy again this season, giving up just eight points. Calvert Hall is averaging 33.8.

"It's gong to be a tough game, a physical game," Russell said. "They've got some pretty good linebackers and some speed on the outside. Truth is I think they should have beaten Wise (but there were) a couple unfortunate breaks for them. They were right there and their other games have been no contest. First league game is always an interesting one. This is what you work for, to get to this league."

While Wise is by far the best team Calvert Hall has played, the Panthers have beaten a couple of the better teams on the East Coast — Bishop Sullivan from Virginia Beach, 29-8, and Don Bosco Prep from New Jersey, 27-0, last week.

Davis said the Panthers are "big, strong, fast, deep, well-coached, tough, physical. There's a lot of adjectives I can use that are cause for concern."

To Russell, who has one of the top players in the country in ESPN 300's No. 2 defensive tackle Amona, defense is the key. Lee also plays a major role in calling the defensive adjustments, while sophomore linebacker Osman Savage returned an interception for a touchdown against Don Bosco.

Atholton safety Jake Peretti nearly speechless over his state-record five interceptions in Friday's 17-14 win over Oakland Mills.

"In the secondary, we've got three seniors who are getting us lined up right, which is half the battle," Russell said. "You can see it on Sundays. The Ravens make great plays, but if you see a bust, it's probably more a mental bust than a physical bust, so with Davon Williams, Terrell Smith and Jahlil Brown, they've been doing a great job of putting us in good places in the secondary. With Calvert Hall, they've got some weapons that can score from anywhere on the field, so you want to make sure you don't give up any freebies."

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To Davis, challenging the team ranked No. 23 in USA Today's Super 25 also invovles a large mental component.

"The biggest thing," he said, "is our guys can't pay attention to anything other than what's in front of them. We can't worry about who's ranked where and the reputations of players. We've just got to focus and execute, block the guy in front of us and not worry about things we can't control."

OTHER GAMES TO WATCH

— No. 5 Broadneck at No. 12 Arundel, Friday, 7 p.m

— No. 13 Milford Mill at Perry Hall, Friday, 6 p.m.

— Havre de Grace at Aberdeen, Friday, 7 p.m

— No. 11 Mervo at No. 15 Dunbar, Saturday, 2 p.m.

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