Football: Maryland playoff preview

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Quince Orchard quarterback Billy Plante looks for an open receiver last week against Churchill in the Maryland 4A West final. (Toni L. Sandys/WASHINGTON POST)
November 23, 2011
4A semifinal
No. 12 C.H. Flowers at No. 3 Quince Orchard

Friday, 7 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the 4A final on Dec. 2 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Watch for: The Jaguars’ Holland to Payne connection. C.H. Flowers (9-3) has made the deepest playoff run in school history because of a pair of game-winning touchdown passes from Jonathan Holland to Keith Payne. Running back Edwin Walker (784 yards rushing, 6 touchdowns) is Flowers’ leading threat on the ground. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be a challenge for both teams, as the Cougars (12-0) rely heavily on their running game, led by running back Mark Green (1,562 yards, 23 touchdowns). Quince Orchard has benefited from timely defensive plays by defensive end Darnell Leslie and linebacker Marcus Newby, including a key fourth-and-one stop late in last week’s 23-21 victory over Churchill.

Skinny:Quince Orchard is trying to become the fourth team in five years to go undefeated and win the Maryland 4A championship; Flowers is trying to become the first three-loss team to ever win a state title in Maryland’s largest classification.

4A semifinal
Catonsvilleat No. 5 Old Mill

Friday, 7 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the 4A final on Dec. 2 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Watch for: Old Mill running back Rob Chesson to get the ball early and often. The senior took over the area’s rushing lead with 248 rushing yards and three touchdowns in last week’s win over North Point, topping the 200-yard mark for the seventh time in eight games. He has 2,237 yards on 288 carries with 42 total touchdowns this season. If the Comets (12-0) load up to stop the run, senior quarterback Deonte Shields (15 passing touchdowns and no interceptions) can make plays, too.

Skinny:Old Mill (12-0) has rarely been tested this season, outscoring its opponents, 492-86. With another win, the Patriots will play for their second state title in three seasons.

3A semifinal
Aberdeen at No. 14 River Hill

Friday, 7 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the 3A final on Dec. 3 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Watch for: Two unheralded teams that are peaking at the right time. Running backs Aaron Wells and Evan Griffin and quarterback Raamah Vaughn power a run-oriented River Hill offense that has outscored its opponents 299-45 during its eight-game winning streak. Aberdeen (10-2) has won six straight, capped by a 38-20 win last week over a North Harford team that it had lost to, 38-12, in September. Quarterback Kenny Faulcon and running back Austin Bonsall lead the Eagles.

Skinny: River Hill is 18-6 all-time in playoff games, and the Hawks (10-2) are making their sixth state semifinal appearance in the last seven years. Aberdeen hasn’t reached the state semifinals since winning its only state title in 2003.

3A semifinal
No. 20 Thomas Johnson at No. 9 Huntingtown

Friday, 7 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the 3A final on Dec. 3 at M&T Bank Stadium.

Watch for: The battle in the trenches. The Patriots (9-3) have a high-powered running game, with a bruising offensive line and running backs Brandan Berney (1,014 yards, 14 touchdowns), Doug Sponyoe (503 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Richie Anderson (846 yards, 3 touchdowns). The Hurricanes (11-1) also rely on the running game, with Davonte Fletcher (1,768 yards, 28 touchdowns). But if either team overcommits defensively, look for quarterbacks Heath Dahlgren of Thomas Johnson (13 touchdown passes) and Zach Piazza of Huntingtown (10 touchdown passes) to make plays. Huntingtown has trailed only once, briefly, during its seven-game winning streak.

Skinny: Huntingtown is in the state semifinals for the third consecutive season, advancing to a title game loss in 2009 and falling on the final play, 15-14, to Franklin last season. Thomas Johnson last advanced this far in 1997, when it was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 1 in the final minute of a championship game, 7-0 loss to Wilde Lake. Patriots Coach Ben Wright, in his 26th season, has said this will be his final year at the school.

2A semifinal
Douglass at Kent Island

Friday, 7 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the 2A final on Dec. 3 at M&T Bank Stadium against either Edmondson or Middletown.

Watch for: Douglass junior wide receiver Paul Harris to spread out a Kent Island defense that posted five shutouts during the regular season. The 6-foot-5 DeMatha transfer caught three touchdown passes from senior quarterback Taitor Reynolds in the Eagles’ 40-20 win over Glenelg last week, opening up the running game for senior running backs Josef Hinnant and Emmanuel Smith.

Skinny: Douglass (10-2) has been Prince George’s County’s best-kept secret, winning eight straight games to reach its second state semifinal in three years. Kent Island (11-1) trailed Wicomico by 14 points with 2:06 left in regulation last week, and needed overtime to reach its first ever state semifinal.

— Josh Barr, Eric Detweiler and Greg Schimmel

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