There has been only one difference in Glenelg’s preparation for the Class 2A state football championship game this week.
“It’s a little darker earlier, but that’s about it,” coach Butch Schaffer said.
That’s because the Gladiators (13-0) have never played this late into the season before, as a 35-0 win over New Town on Nov. 23 advanced them into the state final for the first time in the school’s 60-year history.
Senior running back and Yale commit Wande Owens, who owns just about every Howard County rushing record and is second all-time in state history with 6,251 career-rushing yards, is among a large group of seniors that will suit up for their last high school game 7 p.m. Saturday against Oakdale (12-0) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Glenelg, which has made the playoffs six straight seasons and is averaging nearly 40 points per game, has ridden Owens all season long, and that won’t change against the Bears. He has 39 rushing touchdowns and 2,577 yards on 274 carries this fall. Defensively, senior linebacker Sam Alsheimer has commanded a defense that has eight shutouts, including three in the playoffs, and has allowed just five points per game.
“We have to block and we have to tackle. That’s what it comes down to for us,” Schaffer said. “There’s no secret formula for us; we know how we’ve got to play. We’ve got to play the way we play and do things that we can do and play to the best of our ability for 48 minutes.”
Oakdale is also making its first appearance in the state final after a 38-0 victory over Elkton in its first state semifinal game, but it has been fielding a varsity team for just eight years now. Still, coach Kurt Stein has seen the Bears become one of the state’s best teams by making the playoffs five straight years and ending Damascus’ 53-game winning streak with a 24-7 win over the Swarmin’ Hornets in the Class 2A West regional championship game Nov. 16.
“I think they’re pretty special,” Schaffer said of Oakdale. “They’re a tremendous football team in all facets. They’re extremely well-coached and they do everything well.”
The key to the Bears’ success has been senior quarterback Collin Schlee, a verbal commit to Kent State who has a 23-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Schaffer said he’s one of the best high school quarterbacks he’s seen in his 13 years as head coach. On defense, Schaffer said they are physical and quick to the ball.
“Their linebacker, Maurio Goings, he’s just a tremendous football player, and everywhere you look they have really, really good football players that play hard and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” he said. “They look very similar to what I see in my team.”
Linganore (12-1) vs. Franklin (11-2)
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium
Outlook: Franklin earned its sixth trip to the state championship game and first since finishing as runner-up in 2016 after a 21-10 home victory over Huntingtown in the state semifinals. But the Indians will have their hands full in the final against defending Class 3A state champion Linganore, which cruised to a 45-6 victory against Chesapeake-AA in the other semifinal and has won six state titles. Elijah Solomon, who has 17 rushing touchdowns, ran for 80 yards and a score on 20 carries to lead Franklin to the title game, which will be a rematch of the 2013 Class 3A final, which the Indians won, 20-7, for their first state championship. Lancers quarterback Ryan Leyh has 23 passing touchdowns and running back Devon Butler is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry and has 12 rushing scores.
Outlook: Quince Orchard slayed the dragon that was Henry A. Wise, the three-time defending Class 4A state champions, with a 31-6 victory in the semifinals to avenge losses in the 2012, 2016 and 2017 championship games. Cougars running back Marquez Cooper, who has 36 rushing touchdowns, scored twice in the first half and Charles Bell had an interception return for a touchdown against the Pumas. North Point rolled over Mervo, 23-13, and will be playing in its first state championship game. The Eagles have allowed just 5.5 points per game over the past six weeks and quarterback Asa Williams had 27 passing touchdowns and 37 overall in their first 12 games. The game is a rematch of last year’s semifinal, which Quince Orchard won.
Frederick Douglass-PG (8-4) vs. Fort Hill (12-0)
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
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Outlook: Fort Hill’s attempt at winning a fifth straight Class 1A state championship came to an end in last year’s title game against Dunbar, but the Sentinels can make it five out of six on Saturday afternoon. They ran for more than 300 yards in a 43-6 victory over Havre de Grace in the semifinals. Running back Carter Swan has 987 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and led the way with 143 rushing yards and two scores on 20 carries against the Warriors. Their opponent, Frederick Douglass-PG, secured perhaps the biggest upset of the semifinal round by taking down the Poets, 20-6, and are in the title game for the second time in school history and first since winning the Class 2A state title in 2014.
Outlook: Glenelg had failed in its first six tries to reach the state championship game but finally broke through by shutting out New Town, 35-0, and earning its third straight shutout of the playoffs. Gladiators senior running back Wande Owens is averaging 9.41 yards per carry this season and has 2,577 yards and 39 touchdowns, while senior quarterback Tyler Reiff has 10 passing touchdowns in just 51 attempts. But senior linebacker Sam Alsheimer and the Glenelg defense will have its hands full trying to slow down Oakdale senior quarterback Collin Schlee, who has verbally committed to Kent State and has thrown 23 touchdown passes to only two interceptions. The Bears own a 56-7 victory over Class 3A state finalist Linganore and a 24-7 win that snapped Damascus’ 53-game winning streak in the Class 2A West regional final. They shut out Elkton, 38-0, in the other semifinal and are also playing in their first state championship game after winning their first regional title.