South Hagerstown and Westminster last met Sept. 7, Week 2 of the high school football season.
The Owls edged the Rebels 19-18 in Hagerstown, and improved to 2-0. They won five more games to finish 7-3, and defeated rival South Carroll in Week 10 to secure a spot in the Class 3A West playoffs.
The Owls earned the No. 3 seed — and a rematch with the Rebels when they travel to South Hagerstown for the regional semifinals Friday at 7 p.m.
This is Westminster’s second straight playoff appearance, and 10th overall.
The Rebels (8-2) feature senior quarterback Tim Townsend, senior running back Jayswah Sanon and a defensive line capable of coming up with crucial stops, said Owls coach Matt Study. Stopping the Rebels’ run game with the combination of Townsend and Sanon will be crucial for the Owls, Study added.
Friday’s matchup will be the first time South Hagerstown has hosted a playoff game. The Rebels were regional semifinalists in 2013 and 2014, and are back in the playoffs for the first time in four years. They’ve won five games in a row and haven’t lost since falling to Liberty 36-33 on Sept. 28.
Their most recent win came with a 43-0 shutout of North Hagerstown to close out the regular season.
Westminster senior quarterback Christian Etchison returned to the field against South Carroll after missing two weeks because of a concussion. Etchison has 1,426 passing yards, the most in Carroll, and 15 touchdowns this season. He threw touchdown passes of 68 and 27 yards, and added two more on the ground against the Cavaliers last week.
“Having Christian back allows us to do different things and allows to open up the playbook a lot more,” Study said. “He’s shown he can run, he can pass and that obviously opens up our run game too.”
Jaden Louis helps pace the Owls’ running game, and the senior has 867 rushing yards with four touchdowns this season. Tavian Montgomery leads the team’s receiving unit with 26 receptions for 287 yards and five touchdowns.
Westminster’s defense has held five opponents to 12 points or fewer this season, led by senior linebacker Owen Babylon’s 68 tackles. Jacob Busic’s nine sacks leads the team, and he has 56 tackles on the year.
Study said if the Owls play their best game Friday, they should see positive results. It’s the same message the team’s coaching staff has instilled all season long.
“It’s one game at a time, especially in the playoffs,” Study said. “The other point is it could be one and done and that’s not what we want to do, so we have to put all our chips in every game that we play.”