Six games to watch on high school football state semifinal weekend

Howard running back Brent Richardson.
Howard running back Brent Richardson.

Six of this weekend's eight state semifinal football games feature local teams aiming for berths in state championship games next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. Here's what to expect:

Class 4A


NO. 2 OLD MILL (10-2)

@NO. 5 HOWARD (12-0)

When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Chad McCormick, Old Mill; Bruce Strunk, Howard

Outlook: This is the marquee matchup of the state semifinals for Baltimore-area teams. The only semifinal with two local teams features a couple of the stingiest defenses in the state. The Lions allow only 5.1 points per game and have four shutouts while Old Mill give up 7.3 and has seven shutouts. The Howard County champion Lions, in the semifinals for the first time since 1999, are looking for their first state title in 40 years. The Patriots won state titles in 2009 and 2011. The Lions were more dominant in the region playoffs, winning by an average of 26.5 points, but Old Mill avenged both of its regular-season losses to move into the state semifinal with a 10-game winning streak. Howard, led by running back Najee Savage (259 carries, 1,468 yards, 25 touchdowns), quarterback Kevin Sheahin (111-for-189, 1,489 yards, 18 touchdowns) and defensive end Winston DeLattiboudere III (17.5 sacks) are a senior-laden team. The Patriots are younger, especially on the offensive line where they suffered some growing pains in the season-opening losses to Broadneck and Arundel. The line is now key to a strong running game led by Donovan Franklin (254 carries, 1,533 yards, 20 touchdowns).

Class 3A


@NO. 4 FRANKLIN (11-1)

When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Paul Friel, Thomas Stone; Anthony Burgos, Franklin

Outlook: After beating Bel Air 28-14 in the region final, defending-champion Franklin takes on another strong running team. The Indians face a team that has accumulated 3,670 yards rushing, most from Juwuan Briscoe (127 carries, 1,346 yards, 22 touchdowns) and Trey Lee (156 carries, 1,122 yards, 19 touchdowns). The Cougars have only thrown the ball 30 times and for two touchdowns while Franklin quarterback Jacquez Adams is 82-for-140 for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Indians also have a stellar running game led by Darius Hinton (192 carries, 1,637 yards, 23 touchdowns) and Adams (123 carries, 748 yards, 10 touchdowns. They have big-play potential at every turn. Steven Smothers has 1,143 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns. Both teams have stingy defenses that also make big plays — 43.5 sacks and 19 interceptions for the Indians; 24 sacks, 17 interceptions for the Cougars, who have allowed only 82 points this season. For a return trip to the state title game, the Indians, who average 40.3 points per game, will have to make the most of their opportunities and stop Thomas Stone's run. If the Cougars grind out long possessions, they can keep the ball away from the Indians big-play makers.


@DAMASCUS (12-0)

When: Friday, 7


Coaches: Butch Schaffer, Glenelg, Eric Wallich, Damascus

Outlook: Glenelg faces one of the more daunting tasks in the state semifinals, taking on what many would consider the top high school football team in Maryland. The Montgomery County team, ranked No. 1 by The Washington Post, upset the top team in the Maryland State Media Poll, Linganore, 14-13, in the region final. Last week, the Swarmin' Hornets survived a 30-minute blackout and an ensuing 13-point rally by the Lancers, who lost to Franklin in last year's state final. Like the Gladiators, Damascus relies on the run with Jake Funk (180 carries, 1,454 yards, 29 touchdowns) leading the way. Glenelg, whose offensive line is anchored by Florida State-bound David Robbins, has a couple of 1,000 yard rushers: Brent Richardson (106 carries, 1,057 yards, 20 touchdowns) and Trey Davis (190 carries, 1,238 yards, eight touchdowns). Richardson ran for 197 yards and a touchdown in the Gladiators' 21-6 region final win over River Hill, which had been to the state final eight of the past 10 years. The Gladiators are in the state semifinals for the first time since 2000 and are seeking their first state title. The Hornets have won seven championships, the latest in 2007.

Class 2A

DUNBAR (9-3)

@ KENT ISLAND (10-2)

When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Lawrence Smith, Dunbar; Byron Sofinowski, Kent Island

Outlook: The Poets have come a long way this season with a roster full of new names, and Smith has told them it's all about having fun and building for next season. Making it to the state final would be a pretty solid building block. They face Kent Island, which Smith said is tough to prepare for because the Buccaneers are a hard-working, "lunch-pail" team like the Poets. Junior quarterback Zionnez Spencer leads the Poets with 34 touchdowns — 26 passing (172-for-286, 2,275 yards) and eight rushing (85 carries, 543 yards). Juan Robinson (85 catches, 992 yards, 14 touchdowns) is the top receiver. The Buccaneers have run for 3,308 yards and 47 rushing touchdowns, led by running back Zach Goodrich (228 carries, 1,314 yards, 16 touchdowns) and quarterback Zach Smith (167 carries, 745 yards, 15 touchdowns). Last week, the Poets won the region title, 30-28, over Eastern Tech, a team which also ran for more than 3,000 yards. Kent Island rolled over Easton, 41-0, in its region final. The Poets are aiming for their 10th state title and their first since 2012. Kent Island has never won a state championship.


Vs. DOUGLASS-PG (12-0)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Where: Oxon Hill High School

Coaches: Steve Luette, South Carroll; J.C. Pinkney, Douglass

Outlook: South Carroll comes into its first state semifinal in seven years boasting the second-most prolific running back in the tournament, Chris Gavin, who has accumulated 1,999 yards on 252 carries and has 26 touchdowns. He set a Carroll County record for most rushing yards in a single season. While Gavin gets much of the attention, the Cavaliers also have a strong quarterback in Andrew Louder (80-for-133 passing, 1,051 yards; 118 carries, 740 yards) who has scored 20 total touchdowns. Averaging 26.4 points per game, the Cavaliers will face the stingiest team in the state tournament. The Eagles have allowed just 55 points all season. Offensively, Douglass is also a running team, but the Eagles have three equal threats in the triple option: quarterback Devin Butler (87 carries, 730 yards, six touchdowns), slotback Akiva Wedge (81 carries 765 yards, 11 touchdowns) and fullback Thomas Myers (59 carries, 692 yards, eight touchdowns). While the Cavaliers have faced teams with two strong ball carriers, Luette said it will be a challenge against a team with three. Plus, Butler has thrown for 14 touchdowns, going 43-for-75 for 781 yards. The Eagles have the second highest scoring team in the tournament with 530 points. Their average margin of victory is 40 points. Neither team has ever won a state title.

Class 1A

No. 14 DOUGLASS (11-1)



When: Friday, 7

Coaches: Elwood Townsend, Douglass; Jake Coleman, Cambridge

Outlook: Baltimore City's Douglass defeated Edmondson for the second straight time in the region final and now the Mighty Ducks face another familiar foe in Cambridge-South Dorchester, which they beat 54-13 in last year's state semifinal. Defense drove that victory and it's still the Ducks' hallmark. They have allowed just 60 points this fall, the fewest of any team in the Baltimore area, and are led by DE Davon Stewart, LB Sam Thomas, DB Davon Monette and CB Zaywhon Johnson. After falling in the state title game last season to Fort Hill, the Ducks vowed to return to the final this season and they know the Vikings have the same feeling about the semifinal. Both teams boast a couple of prolific running backs, the Ducks' Maurice McFadden (85 carries, 913 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Azariah Bratton-Bey (51 carries, 609 yards, 10 touchdowns) and the Vikings' James Smith (120 carries, 1,020 yards,11 touchdowns) and Tre' Lake (88 carries, 613 yards, eight touchdowns). They also have quarterbacks who can throw — the Ducks' Dariun Miller (48-for 90, 930 yards, 17 touchdowns) and the Vikings' Nate Lowe (51-for-89, 933 yards, 16 touchdowns). Douglass is aiming for its first state title. Cambridge has won three but none since 1996.

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