Locals play part in nine region football finals this weekend

The Baltimore Sun's high school sports editor Alexander Pyles previews the nine region football finals involving local teams. (Kevin Richardson/BSMG)

Nine region finals feature local football teams between Friday and Saturday, with a spot in the state playoffs at stake in each. Here's what to expect:

Class 4A East


NO. 2 OLD MILL (9-2)

@NO. 5 ARUNDEL (10-1)


When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Chad McCormick, Old Mill; Chuck Markiewicz, Arundel

Last meeting: Arundel won, 14-7, Sept. 12

Outlook: Before Old Mill hit its stride with nine straight wins, the Patriots lost to Broadneck and Arundel. Last weekend in the semifinals, they avenged the season-opening loss, stunning former No. 1 and undefeated Broadneck, 26-0. A win over Arundel would put the Patriots in the state semifinals for the third time in six years. In 2009 and 2011, they went on to win the state title. The last Anne Arundel County team to win before that was North County in 1994. Markiewicz coached that team and hopes to take the Wildcats to their first title since 1975. The Patriots offense is ground-based and led by Donovan Franklin, who ran for 157 yards on 34 carries last week. The Patriots forced six turnovers and posted their seventh shutout in nine weeks. Kicker Chris Walker made four field goals between 28 and 41 yards. The Wildcats, who beat the Patriots in last season's region semifinal, have scored 35 or more points in every game except the Old Mill game. Although built on Markiewicz's preferred passing game with quarterback Anthony Messenger, the Wildcats also run. Larry Barnes carried 24 times for 221 yards and three touchdowns as Arundel held on to beat North Point, 35-29, last week.


Class 4A North


@NO. 7 HOWARD (11-0)

When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Mike Nesmith, Paint Branch; Bruce Strunk, Howard

Last meeting: Paint Branch won, 28-3, in 1975

Outlook: The Lions and Paint Branch have met twice before, both times in the state final. Each won its only state title over the other with the Panthers' 1975 win avenging Howard's 40-14 championship victory in 1974. Since then, each has gone as far as the state semifinals only once. The Lions hadn't won a playoff game since 1999 before they beat Perry Hall, 28-7, last week. The Panthers, state semifinalists last season, come into the game averaging 30.5 points per game after rolling past Mervo, 42-8, in the semifinal, but the Lions have allowed just 54 points all season. They've only allowed 10 over the past six games. That defense will be need to pressure Panthers quarterback Danon Davis-Cray (1,436 yards passing, 15 touchdowns), who threw for three touchdowns last week and ran for two. The Lions, who also average 30 points, are led by running back Najee Savage (1,283 yards, 23 touchdowns) and quarterback Kevin Sheahin (1,314 yards passing, 15 touchdowns).

Class 3A North

NO. 14 BEL AIR (10-1)

@NO. 4 FRANKLIN (10-1)

When: Friday, 7

Coaches: David Huryk, Bel Air; Anthony Burgos, Franklin

Last meeting: Franklin won, 31-12, in 2010

Outlook: The Indians are riding a 10-game winning streak after falling to Calvert Hall in the season opener. Since then, no team has gotten closer than 14 points as the Indians have outscored the opposition by nearly 300 points. If that sounds familiar, it's because the Indians did the same thing last year en route to the first state football championship in school history. Much of the same cast is driving the re-run, including quarterback Jacquez Adams (1,173 yards passing, 657 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns), wide receiver-return man Steven Smothers (1,061 all-purpose yards, 16 touchdowns) and running back Darius Hinton (1,502 yards, 21 touchdowns). Bel Air will have its hands full with all of Franklin's scoring threats, but the Bobcats, aiming for their first state title, are enjoying their best season since 2004 when they reached the state semifinal. They also have outscored their opposition by nearly 300 points and if they can sustain long drives behind 1,000-plus-yard rushers Brad Casale and Devin Bowers, they can keep the ball away from the Indians' big-play makers. The Bobcats did that last week against an athletic Aberdeen team and won, 28-0, to avenge their only loss of the season.

Class 3A East



When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Butch Schaffer, Glenelg, Brian Van Deusen, River Hill

Last meeting: River Hill won, 15-12, Sept. 5

Outlook: River Hill, which has been to the playoffs 12 straight times and won four state titles, ended a three-game skid last week by avenging its regular-season loss to Reservoir, 28-26, in the region semifinal. The Gladiators had an easy time last week, scoring all of their points in the first half en route to a 41-12 win over City. Both teams have lost three tight games — Glenelg by a total of 13 points and River Hill by 15. The last five meetings between the two have been decided by an average of 5.4 points, but the Gladiators haven't beaten River Hill since 2002. Two of their last four games have been decided by one point and one had a 4-point margin. In college at Western Maryland, quarterback Van Deusen and receiver Schaffer were a record-setting combo, but their teams now do a lot of running. The Gladiators tuck in behind Florida State-bound lineman David Robbins. Brent Richardson, who ran for 140 yards and both touchdowns in the first meeting, is their best weapon. The Hawks rushing attack is led by Jon Kanda, who scored both touchdowns in the first meeting, and Trey Simpson.

Class 2A North

DUNBAR (8-3)


When: Friday, 7

Where: CCBC-Essex

Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Marc Mesaros, Eastern Tech

Last meeting: None.

Outlook: No team has won more state playoff games than Dunbar (46) and only one program has more than the Poets' nine state titles. After winning seven in nine years between 2004 and 2012, the Poets lost in the first round of the region playoffs last season. To get back to the state final four, they will have to get past an Eastern Tech team that has been grinding out wins on the ground all season. Mesaros said he doesn't believe the two teams have ever even scrimmaged, although they did meet in a summer passing league at Morgan State six years ago. The Mavericks, who won their only state title in 2009, have 10 players who've run for a combined 3,077 yards, including two 800-yard rushers, Brandon Hlavach and Ian McBorrough. Hlavach scored on a 6-yard run in overtime last week to beat Hereford, 27-21. The Poets, who use a more balanced offense with quarterback Zionnez Spencer, rolled past Overlea, 35-6, in their semifinal.

Class 2A West



@LIBERTY (8-3)


When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Steve Luette, South Carroll; Larry Luthe, Liberty

Last meeting: South Carroll won, 42-0, Oct. 17

Outlook: Last week, South Carroll avenged an early-season 35-7 loss to Frederick County foe Oakdale with a 35-12 win in the region semifinal. Now the Carroll County champion Cavaliers want to make sure Liberty doesn't do the same to them. The Lions had never won a football playoff game before their 37-7 win over Poolesville. Ryan Scheufele scored four touchdowns, including three rushing, and quarterback Austin Bode threw for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the win. It was a different story, however, when the Lions played their "backyard rivals" in October. Against South Carroll, Bode, who has thrown for 1,704 yards and 25 touchdowns this fall, managed just 68 yards passing while the Cavaliers' offense rolled with four scoring plays of 48 yards or more. Running back Chris Gavin, who set the Carroll County single-season rushing record of 1,844 yards last week, ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Liberty and quarterback Andrew Louder threw for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The Cavaliers, who have never won a state title, are looking for their sixth region title and their first since 2007.

Class 1A West


vs. FORT HILL (11-0)

When: Friday, 7

Where: Greenway Avenue Stadium, Cumberland

Coaches: Todd Edmondson, North Carroll; Todd Appel, Fort Hill

Last meeting: Fort Hill won, 49-6, last season

Outlook: The Panthers have the unenviable task of traveling to Western Maryland to meet the team with state's longest active winning streak, 25 games. While North Carroll has never won a state title and hasn't won a region final since 1978, the Sentinels have been one of the state's most successful programs, with three state titles and 20 trips to the final four. The teams have one common opponent this season, the Sentinels' cross-town rival Allegany. Last week, the Panthers rallied from 11 points down to edge Allegany, 17-14, in the first home football playoff game in school history. Quarterback Jack Flowers (2,064 yards passing, 25 touchdowns) rallied his team with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Zach Sherman (855 yards, 10 touchdowns), the second one to complete a 96-yard drive with 41 seconds left in the game. The Sentinels, who beat Northern of Garrett County, 65-16, in their semifinal, beat Allegany, 26-8, two weeks ago. Fullback Raen Smith ran for four touchdowns against Northern as the Sentinels increased their average margin of victory to 34.3 points.


FAET (10-0)


When: Saturday, 1

Where: Poly

Coaches: William Crawford, FAET; Robert Harris, Surrattsville

Last meeting: Surrattsville won, 35-0, last season

Outlook: Friendship Academy of Engineering and Technology, in only its second year as a varsity program, earned its first playoff win last Saturday, 6-0 over Fairmont Heights, but needed almost the full 48 minutes to do it. With 10 seconds left, Quantez Snow hit Kija Jackson with an 8-yard touchdown pass. The Grizzlies have to start quicker against Surrattsville and its senior running back, Amaru Major, one of the state's best. Major, who ran for 266 yards in last week's 42-18 win over Forestville, has 1,890 yards and averages about 10 yards per carry. Last fall in the region semifinal win over FAET, he ran for a 70-yard touchdown on the Hornets' first play from scrimmage to spark a 22-point first quarter. He presents the biggest challenge so far for a Grizzlies defense that has shut out five opponents and allowed just 38 points. Robert Murphy III led the FAET rushing attack in the semifinal with 135 yards on 35 carries.

Class 1A SOUTH


vs. DOUGLASS (10-1)

When: Saturday, 4

Where: Poly

Coaches: Corey Johnson, Edmondson; Elwood Townsend, Douglass

Last meeting: Douglass won, 20-14 in 2OT, last season

Outlook: After Douglass won last year's region final meeting, the Ducks went on to the state final for the first time in school history. They lost to Fort Hill but vowed to return. The Red Storm, which turned the ball over eight times in that game, is out for revenge and the social media banter started immediately after their wins on Saturday — Douglass, 50-6, over Lake Clifton and Edmondson, 36-0, over Northwestern. Johnson even tweeted a picture of a roasted duck. This matchup could be as close as last year's when a 5-yard Red Storm penalty helped the Ducks score the game winner. Both teams have steady rushing attacks but like to mix up the offense. Against the Lakers, Douglass' Maurice McFadden ran for three touchdowns in the third quarter and finished with 195 yards on 16 carries while quarterback Dariun Miller threw for three touchdowns. For Edmondson, which won its only state title in 2006, Damani Thomas ran 16 times for 170 yards to set up several touchdowns. Quarterback Michael Taylor threw for two and Brian Campbell, Corye Smith and Jae'Quan Hill each ran for one.

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