By Jeff Nelson
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
First, for context, go back to Dec. 4, 2003.
Eric Yeroshefsky and Matt Castor have just rushed for more than 100 yards apiece, leading Linganore to a 28-0 win over Lackey in the Maryland 3A championship game.
It is a good day to be a Lancer, having just captured the school's fourth state football title, and it also is a good time to be a fan of Frederick County football. With the victory, county teams have won 10 state championships, including five in the previous six seasons.
Now flash forward nearly five years, to last Friday.
As the 2008 postseason begins, it has been harder to be a Lancer lately, considering the team hasn't won a single playoff game since 2003. And times are tough for county football fans, who are still waiting for an 11th state championship.
But then the weekend unfolds, and new hope emerges. The undefeated Lancers roll past Westminster, 48-20, to reach the 4A North region final. And they are not alone.
In the 1A North, Catoctin crushes Chesapeake (Balt.), 34-0, to reach its region final for the second straight season.
In the 2A West, Middletown handles Clarksburg, 21-7, for its fourth straight trip past the first round.
In the 3A West, Urbana guts out a 3-0 overtime win over another strong Frederick County team, Tuscarora, to bring the Hawks back to a region final they last won in 2006.
Four classifications, four county teams, four remaining chances for No. 11. Could this be the year?
"I would hope so," Urbana Coach Joe Polce said. "I think Linganore has the best shot. They've shown to be the top team at 11-0 and No. 1 in their region."
Linganore has been the most dominant county team, beating all but two of its opponents by double-digit margins.
The Lancers' defense is allowing just 8.5 points per game, and the offense features the dual rushing attack of senior Pat Balderson (904 yards, 10 touchdowns) and junior Zach Zwinak (1,106 yards, 14 touchdowns), who run behind an offensive line led by junior Robbie Havenstein (6 feet 7, 333 pounds).
Linganore's next game will be at home against Perry Hall, whose 35-0 dismantling of yet another Frederick County school, Thomas Johnson, has the Lancers remaining cautiously optimistic about making it to the state semifinals, let alone the title game.
"Every kid dreams about the big game at Ravens Stadium," Havenstein said, "but we have to get past two [more teams] to even get there."
For a time, Urbana (8-3) always made it to the championship game and won.
The Hawks were state champs for four straight seasons, from 1998 to 2001. And even now, despite no titles since, the players know many in the county still view them as a team that should contend every season.
"There's always talk about how great Urbana has been," senior wide receiver Paul Grawbowski said, "how we've had that 50-game winning streak. And it's definitely something we think about."
Urbana's path back to a championship brings it to Seneca Valley, an 11-0 team that survived Damascus by a point last Friday.
Middletown (8-3), which has the county's longest current streak of region final appearances with four, also travels to an undefeated opponent this weekend -- Century (11-0). And Catoctin (7-4) will be a road team, too, when it faces Pikesville (7-4).
No. 11 will not be easy.
"Getting [to the championship] is very difficult," said Middletown Coach Kevin Lynott, who was an assistant on two state runner-up teams -- Brunswick in 1999 and Middletown in 2002. "And once you get there, it's a whole other story."