The balance of the Mid-Atlantic Conference has caught the attention of the new coaching staff of the league’s perennial power, Flint Hill, which along with the Potomac School have owned the majority of conference championships the last decade.
With only four teams in the league, winning a conference title is typically predicated upon which team can go unbeaten in the league, a proposition that has become more interesting in 2012 with the caliber of talent that has arrived at Sidwell Friends (4-0) and Maret (3-1).
The pressure to beat the league is on for Flint Hill Coach Tom Verbanic, who in his first year with the Huskies has not only been charged with implementing a new system, one that includes a complex zone-read offense, but also to return the school a MAC title, which was lost last season to the Potomac School on the final day of the season.
“Our goal is to be playing our best during the end of the year,” said Verbanic. “I think [the MAC] is really balanced. Those other teams are stepping up. . . . I think it’s going to be close all the way.”
After starting the season 0-2 with nonleague losses to Paul VI Catholic and Episcopal, Verbanic stayed patient with his new offense and challenged his defense to respond after allowing 57 points in those two games. The Huskies have allowed just nine points since, and have not given up a touchdown in two consecutive wins. And two running backs are streamlining a young offense. Connor Chess and Cameron Vaughn have each run for over 100 yards in the last two games. Chess ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s win over St. Anne’s Belfield, and also hauled in a 50-yard touchdown catch. Vaughn ran for 103 yards on just 10 carries, a week after recording 101 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries in a 37-6 win over John Paul the Great.
“[Connor] is a very hard, tough runner. He’s getting more used to our system, reading the zone plays,” said Verbanic. “Cameron Vaughn is also running well. And that’s actually helping, because Chess plays defense too. He’s able to get some rest.”
The Potomac School, which will meet Maret and Sidwell Friends in back-to-back games the next two weeks, tuned up Saint James 36-0 on Saturday, while Sidwell stayed unbeaten with a 34-14 drubbing of Hancock.
Maret lost its first game of the season Saturday, suffering a 20-13 defeat at the hand of Riverdale Baptist despite another stellar performance from tight end and defense end Tre Bowens, who recorded four catches for 92 yards. Bowens added four sacks, which gives the 6-4, 230-pound senior 12 through four games. Coach Mike Engelberg called Bowens’ performance the best of the season, but he’ll need his star to show up this weekend more than ever, in the conference opener against the Potomac School.
“Potomac hasn’t lost a league game in two seasons,” said Engelberg. “We’ll know right off the bat whether we’re legit or not.”
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (5-0) rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to beat Paul VI Catholic, 28-24, to remain unbeaten. The Saints got the game-winning score in the fourth quarter after Ish Seisay hit Sam Gallahan on a 22-yard touchdown pass to cap the rally. Seisay, who finished with 69 yards passing and two touchdowns, also rushed for 89 yards. Darius Manora added 126 yards and two touchdowns for the Saints. . . . St. Albans scored 21 second-quarter points to run away with a 35-13 win over Allegany, marking the Bulldogs’ third straight win. Arthur Jones ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns for St. Albans (3-2), which got another strong performance from quarterback Mike McCurdy, who threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 74 yards and another score. McCurdy has thrown for 1,191 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. . . . Bullis (4-0) and Landon (3-1) both had byes this weekend, while Episcopal (2-1) lost 35-0 to Collegiate.