There’s senior Randy Fischer, who leads the Bruins with 77 tackles and 16 tackles for a loss. Or Michael Hildebrand, a fellow three-year starter who has played all season with a torn labrum and still forced two fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns. Or sophomore Ali’i Niumatalolo, the son of Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo whom Broadneck coaches call “man strong.”
“We all compliment each other pretty well,” Fischer said. “I believe we have one of the best linebacking corps in the area.”
In a match-up that could all but solidify either team’s place in the Maryland 4A East region playoffs, Broadneck and No. 11 Meade are both focused on the Bruins’ linebackers.
Fischer, Hildebrand, Niumatalolo and senior nose tackle Landon Reecher will try to slow down Evans, who ranks second in the area with 1,514 rushing yards. Meanwhile, Coach Rich Holzer and Meade (7-1) will try to disorient Broadneck’s defense with a variety of shifts, motions and formations.
“I think the more we can confuse those linebackers, the better,” Holzer said. “Last year, our offense hadn’t really evolved yet. We only ran three or four formations the whole game. Now we’ve got like 30 formations. We’re going to keep trying to confuse them.”
The Bruins (7-1) stymied one high-powered offense last week, holding Arundel (6-2) to 224 total yards in a 37-18 victory. But Friday night will be different. The Wildcats ran a pass-heavy offense with lots of screens, while the Mustangs use a more balanced approach, making it tougher for defensive players to diagnose plays.
“Our linebackers and defensive line just need to stay disciplined,” Fischer said. “With Evans, nobody has been able to contain him, so we know that’s going to be up to us to stop him. We have a lot more pressure than we did last week.”
Meade’s massive linemen will also pose a challenge for Broadneck. Led by 6-foot-6 Navy recruit Jake Hawk on the offensive line and 6-foot-5 senior Niquekko Cook on the defensive line, the Mustangs have the ability to control both lines of scrimmage.
“Meade is the first team that we’ve faced in a while that can match us with their size up front,” Broadneck Coach Rob Harris said. “I’m very interested to see how our kids battle and compete. It’s going to be a very close game on both sides.”
Friday night will feature a playoff-like atmosphere at Fort Meade, where the winner will almost certainly clinch one of the four playoff spots in the 4A East region. Broadneck will play at Glen Burnie (1-7) in the final week of the regular season, while Meade will travel to Arundel for a decisive final game.
Though their record might not show it, the Mustangs got off to a sloppy start this season and are just beginning to find a groove. Their 2012 season followed a similar trajectory and ended in the 4A state semifinals against eventual state champion Wise.
“I think that’s been the case all three years I’ve been here,” Holzer said. “We’ve kind of started slow and then built momentum throughout the year and we’re playing really well at the end. I don’t know if that’s a function of the fact that we’ve got so many transfer students with the base or what it is, but it seems like we gel as the season goes on. That’s a good thing.”