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Previewing the state football semifinals

Previewing the state football semifinals
Howard quarterback Casey Crawford (far left) runs to celebrate with senior Malik Anderson (middle) and junior Cameron Hooper (right) during the Lions 34-14 win over Sherwood in the 4A North region championship game on Nov. 20. (File photo by Brian Krista)

Class 4A

NO. 2 BROADNECK (10-2) @ NO. 5 HOWARD (12-0)

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When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Rob Harris, Broadneck; Bruce Strunk, Howard

Outlook: The most intriguing matchup between two local teams pits Anne Arundel County's top playoff contender against the Howard County champion. Last week, the Bruins stunned previously undefeated Old Mill with Keonte Coates' 99-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff. That 7-0 lead stood up as the Bruins dealt the Patriots their first shutout loss since 2002. Last season, the Patriots beat Howard, 10-3, in the state semifinals. The Lions are undefeated going into the state semifinals for the second straight year and they're looking for a second championship to go with their 1974 title. The Bruins, who have never won a state title, haven't allowed a point in the last six quarters of the playoffs, led by senior LB Ali'i Niumatalolo. To keep that string alive, they have to contain senior RB Malik Anderson. Anderson, the school record holder for career all-purpose yardage, has run 226 times for 1,667 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has also caught four touchdown passes. In the 34-14 regional final win over Sherwood, Anderson caught two touchdown passes and ran for a touchdown as the Lions rallied from down 14-7.The Bruins, with an excellent coverage defense, would prefer to have senior QB Casey Crawford put the ball in the air despite his 2,051 passing yards and 24 touchdowns. Last week against Sherwood, Crawford threw for 291 yards and four touchdowns. Howard will face a Broadneck offense that can mix it up, too. Led by senior QB Emmett Davis (1,216 yards passing, 11 touchdowns), the Bruins get a lot of mileage from junior WR Chris Watts, who has caught 36 passes for 595 yards and five touchdowns and run for 622 yards and seven touchdowns.

Class 3A

POTOMAC (10-2) VS. NO. 7 DUNDALK (11-1)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: At CCBC-Dundalk

Coaches: Ronnie Crump, Potomac; Sean Sandora, Dundalk

Outlook: Dundalk earned a signature win with last week's upset of two-time defending Class 3A champion Franklin, but the Owls aren't satisfied with that. They've earned the most wins in school history and avenged their only loss to reach the semifinals for the first time in state tournament history. Junior QB Darrius Sample wasn't supposed to be the starter, but he took over the job in the first game of the season after an injury to senior Duron Ball. In his debut, Sample ran for four touchdowns and threw for three. He set a school record with 37 touchdowns, 17 passing and 20 rushing. He accounted for all three touchdowns in the 20-16 win over Franklin last week and has 1,405 yards passing and 937 yards rushing. The Owls also rely on powerful senior RB Kobi Eure, who has 118 carries for 706 yards and five touchdowns. Potomac, which won state titles in 2004 and 2005, is in the semifinals for the first time since 2005. The Wolverines, who beat Wheaton, 50-24, in the regional final, have a lot of offensive weapons as well including junior QB Javonte Howard (1,905 passing yards, 21 touchdowns). Senior RB Calil Wilkins has 1,158 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns while senior WR Andre Hall has 1,113 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

RESERVOIR (9-3) @ DAMASCUS (12-0)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Bryan Cole, Reservoir; Eric Wallich, Damascus

Outlook: The Gators are in the state semifinals for the first time in school history, coming off a 10-7 win over Howard County rival Glenelg in the regional final. They draw the top-ranked public school team in the state poll. Damascus, which won the most recent of its seven state championship in 2007, had a 21-0 lead on Franklin in last year's state final before surrendering the final 35 points of the game. Both teams feature strong running games. The Hornets have the top rusher in the state tournament in Maryland-bound senior RB Jake Funk, with 208 carries for 2,288 yards and 41 touchdowns. In the 45-3 regional final win over Seneca Valley, Funk ran for four touchdowns. The Hornets average 47.8 points this fall and have scored 75 points more than any other team in the state tournament. The Gators also boast a strong running game with senior backs Josh Young (162 carries, 1,290 yards, eight touchdowns) and Barry Carter Jr. (161 carries, 1,061 yards, 11 touchdowns). In the win over Glenelg, Young scored the touchdown, kicked the extra point and hit a 31-yard field goal. The Gators also have the Defensive Player of the Year in Howard County as selected by the coaches, senior NG Shawn Hamilton (90 tackles, eight sacks).

Class 2A

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NO. 11 DUNBAR (9-2) @ PATUXENT (10-2)

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Steve Crounse, Patuxent

Outlook: As Smith likes to say, "This is Dunbar time of the year." The Poets have won more playoff games than any other program and they have nine state championships. They've been to the title game four of the past five years with three titles, the last in 2012. In last year's 2A final, they fell to Douglass from Prince George's County, 38-0. Patuxent, from Lusby in Calvert County, was in the final in 2013 and is aiming for its first state championship. Dunbar started the playoffs early with a must-win 44-12 season finale over Edmondson. The Poets have won five straight behind junior QB Darius Jones Clark, who has thrown for 2,003 yards and 20 touchdowns. The Poets have a handful of strong receivers, including 6-foot-5 senior Dae'lun Darien (47 catches for 635 yards, eight touchdowns) and senior Montez Clay (33 catches for 455 yards and five touchdowns), as well as a varied rushing attack. The Panthers have a balanced offense with more than 1,800 yards rushing and more than 1,900 yards passing. Senior RB Chris Long has run for 1,061 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Class 1A

HAVRE DE GRACE (9-3) VS. FAET (10-1)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where: At Poly

Coaches: Greg Long, Havre de Grace; William Crawford, FAET

Outlook: Crawford, whose varsity program is just three years old, said his aim is to get better each year. And the Grizzlies have done that, qualifying for the regional playoffs the first year, making it to the regional final last fall and advancing to the state semifinals this season. The players, who rallied from 14 points down to beat Edmondson, 18-14, in the regional final, want more. They've played stingy defense all season, allowing just 36 points and shutting out eight opponents. Even though they played in the weakest division in Baltimore City, they proved they could play with some of the city's best in a 16-12 loss to Patterson, and the upset of the Red Storm. The Grizzlies should continue to do most of their damage on the ground even after losing 2,000-yard RB Robert Murphy to an injury before the Edmondson game. Defensively, senior CB Kija Jackson (eight interceptions) and senior DL Tavon Joseph (101 tackles, 25 for loss, 23 sacks) lead the way. Havre de Grace, which won the most recent of its three state titles in 1986, is in the state semifinals for the first time since 2010. The Warriors have relied on junior QB Mike Flosser, who stepped into the starting role at midseason and gives them plenty of options. He threw four touchdowns passes in the 26-22 regional final win over Cambridge-South Dorchester. Flosser has thrown for 681 yards and 11 touchdowns and run for 213 yards and a touchdown. He has a host of targets. Senior WR Chris Harris has 106 carries for 531 yards and 12 touchdowns and 16 receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Senior WR Isaiah Jackson has 33 receptions for 474 yards and six touchdowns.

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