Playoff berths at stake around Montgomery, Prince George’s

Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST - Eleanor Roosevelt has thrived since James Warren, above, moved to slot receiver and Elijah Liverette stepped in at quarterback.

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Game to watch: No. 13 Suitland (8-1) at Eleanor Roosevelt (7-2), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

Eleanor Roosevelt senior James Warren is the Raiders’ most talented athlete, and as such, his coaches figured at the season’s outset that it made the most sense to put him in the position where he’d be able to exert the most control over a game.

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Devin Williams of St. John’s is coming back strong after and injury shortened his season.

Devin Williams of St. John’s is coming back strong after and injury shortened his season.

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McNamara’s Damian Prince, Kevin Robbins and Darius Commissiong will all play college football.

McNamara’s Damian Prince, Kevin Robbins and Darius Commissiong will all play college football.

But for all his abilities, Warren struggled with ball security, one of his primary jobs as the team’s quarterback, through the first seven contests this fall. The Raiders averaged four turnovers per game during that span, and after their 33-14 loss Oct. 13 at C.H. Flowers, Roosevelt Coach Tom Green opted for a change. He moved Warren to slot receiver, and inserted junior Elijah Liverette at quarterback.

In two games since the switch, the Raiders have turned the ball over once and won both contests by a combined 82 points. That included a 39-0 victory over previously unbeaten DuVal on Oct. 20.

As Roosevelt enters its regular season finale against No. 13 Suitland – a contest that carries playoff implications for the Raiders – Green said the late-season change to his team’s starting lineup was a critical turning point in the Raiders’ postseason push.

“James is an exceptional athlete, but he’d only played quarterback before this year in two games, and we were hoping that he would pick it up a little quicker,” Green said. “With Elijah having more experience in the offense, I think that makes a big difference.”

Liverette played quarterback on the school’s junior varsity squad last season and had started this season at slot receiver and at safety prior to his return under center. In the past two games, Liverette has thrown for two touchdowns – both to Warren – and rushed for another. In addition to his two receiving scores in the past two weeks, Warren also has rushed for two touchdowns.

“Now [Warren] is out there catching the ball; they can bring him in motion and run the ball, so it’s a big challenge for us,” Suitland Coach Ed Shields said. “And the guy they have playing quarterback now, he’s doing a good job. So it just creates challenges all over the board for us.”

Green said he is confident his experienced defensive line can contain Suitland senior tailback Anthony Squire, and the Raiders will double-team and rotate pass coverages toward Suitland senior wideout Taivon Jacobs to try to keep the ball out of his hands.

If Roosevelt – which has won three straight over Suitland, and four of the last five – can succeed in those two regards, Liverette’s primary objective will remain unchanged.

“We have a good defense. We can flat play defense,” Green said. “And I’ve told [Liverette], ‘Your only job is not to turn the ball over. Whatever [points] we get, we get.”

Game to watch: Fairmont Heights (1-8) at Forestville (5-4), Saturday, 2 p.m.

Forestville Coach Charles Harley was working out in the weight room at Landon, where his two sons attend school, on Wednesday morning when the Wings classic “Live and Let Die” blared through the speakers. The coach decided the song’s title represented a perfect motto to reflect his team’s current situation.

The Knights (5-4) missed out on the playoffs last fall and were blitzed by No. 17 Gwynn Park, 48-0, last Saturday, but with a win in their regular season finale against Fairmont Heights (1-8), Harley’s team will likely make the state playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons. Surrattsville (5-4), which travels to Gwynn Park (8-1) on Saturday, is also in the mix with Forest Park (5-4) and Southside (4-5) for the last two spots in the Maryland 1A South field.

“We’ve got to let all that stuff in the past die – last year, last week,” Harley said. “We’ve got to live for right now if we want to keep on living.”

Harley said the disappointing effort against the Yellow Jackets provided a reality check. Forestville allowed 399 rushing yards and produced just 107 yards of total offense.

Though the Knights dressed just 21 players, about half as many as Gwynn Park, Harley said his team can’t afford to use lack of bodies as an excuse. Its path to a region title would likely go through two-time defending state champ Dunbar (8-1), which regularly has a roster bigger than any team in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A.

Forestville, which has beaten Fairmont Heights six of the past seven seasons, will continue to use a quarterback by committee going forward. Senior Andre Dalton began the season starting under center but has battled a knee injury in recent weeks, forcing sophomore Quenton Boston and senior Jourdan Ginyard, the team’s leading receiver, into action.

Harley expects Ginyard, who has nine interceptions and nine total touchdowns this season, to begin landing Division I BCS scholarship offers soon.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound safety/wide receiver has offers on the table from Hawaii and Ohio and interest from Illinois, among others. The coach said he finished working on Ginyard’s senior highlight tape earlier this week when he was stuck inside during the storm.

“He’s caught six touchdown passes, returned a kick and scored on defense — He even threw for one,” Harley said. “Now all he needs is a rushing touchdown. We’ll see if we can get that on the books this week.”

Game to watch: Watkins Mill (7-2) at No. 9 Seneca Valley (8-1), Friday, 6:30 p.m.

On a six-game winning streak, Watkins Mill can earn its first state playoff appearance since 1999 by beating Seneca Valley in Germantown on Friday.

Coach Kevin Watson led the program’s junior varsity squad at that time, but he said it’s been so long, the details on the Gaithersburg school’s last playoff run remain fuzzy in his mind. He does remember the team’s attitude, an ease buoyed by fresh memories of winning the 1993 Maryland 4A championship.

“They were used to that then,” said Watson, whose team currently ranks fourth in the Maryland 3A West standings and would likely be eliminated from contention with a loss. “Making the playoffs for them was the expectation. We’re trying to get to that point where it’s an expectation and not just a goal. That’s the difference right now.”

That’s not to say Watkins Mill doesn’t enter the game with confidence thanks to their recent winning streak. The Wolverines fell to 1-2 on Sept. 14 when their rally came up short in a 28-19 loss to Blake. Since then, they’ve been perfect with three shutouts along the way.

Senior quarterback Patrick Schlosser (978 passing yards, nine touchdowns) directs the offense, while freshman cornerback Jaron Woodyard has been a pleasant surprise, leading the defense with four interceptions.

The Wolverines will face a Seneca Valley squad coming off its first loss of the season. The Screamin’ Eagles — who will host a playoff game next week with a victory — held rival Damascus scoreless in the second half but turned the ball over three times, including one that went the other way for a touchdown, and fell 14-13.

Around Montgomery County

With a win over Clarksburg last week, Bethesda-Chevy Chase clinched three straight winning seasons for the first time since 1959. Now the Barons, who have never earned back-to-back state playoff appearances, can make more program history. They will return to the postseason with a victory on Friday against Walter Johnson (3-6) and a bit of outside help.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase (6-3) currently sits fourth in the Maryland 4A West standings and has several paths into the four-team playoff field. With a win this week and a Richard Montgomery (6-3) loss to Northwest (6-3), the Barons will continue their season. If both B-CC and Richard Montgomery win or lose, the team’s postseason fate will come down to bonus points.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase, which lost its opening-round playoff game at Quince Orchard in 2011, has kept its hopes alive this season by winning five of its past six games. The Barons have averaged nearly 24 points per game in that span after scoring just 13 total points in their first three games.

At this point last year, four teams were in contention for the region’s final two playoff spots, and Bethesda-Chevy Chase Coach Rich Noland did not even bother figuring out the scenarios that would land his team in the postseason. Instead, the Barons closed the regular season by beating Walter Johnson for their sixth win and celebrated minutes after the game when Noland learned from reporters they’d received enough help elsewhere to earn their first playoff appearance in 16 years.

“That was a really nice surprise to have happen” last year, Noland said. “Now it’s at least a little bit clearer for us. It’s nice for the guys to go in knowing more specifically what’s at stake.” ...

Churchill junior Malik Harris eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark just once in his team’s first seven games, but he’s surging to the finish for the playoff-bound Bulldogs (7-2) with back-to-back strong efforts.

In wins over Springbrook and Wootton, Harris combined for 269 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. The 6-foot, 208-pound back leads the team — which currently holds the No. 2 spot in the Maryland 4A West standings — with 790 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season.

Harris will try for his third straight 100-plus yard effort on Friday when Churchill travels to Sandy Spring for a nonleague matchup with No. 19 Sherwood (7-2), which can clinch a home game to begin the Maryland 4A North playoffs with a victory. . . .

After Northwest and Sherwood pounded Blake by a combined score of 67-7 in the first two games of the season, the Bengals have won six of seven games, including two straight shutout wins over Blair (2-7) and Springbrook (3-6) to secure the first playoff berth in the program’s history. The revival has centered around the improved play of quarterback Stefan Sigwalt, who has thrown for 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns through nine games.

More impressively, he has eliminated poor decision-making from his game; Sigwalt threw five interceptions in his first three games this season, and has thrown just two since, the last one coming all the way back on September 21. He completed 27-of-32 for 265 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s 29-0 win over Springbrook. Blake will meet Einstein (5-4) on Friday.

 
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