Sherwood Finishes as Maryland 4A Football Champion, and No. 1 Team in Washington Post Rankings

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Zack Splain remembered being in the postgame huddle after Sherwood ended defending Maryland 4A champion Quince Orchard's 20-game winning streak on Oct. 18, and realizing how expectations changed dramatically at that moment. No longer did the Warriors think they were just a good team.

"After that game," Splain said, "we knew that anything less than a state championship would be a total letdown."

Splain and his teammates delivered on Friday night at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. Their overwhelming 21-3 victory over Linganore not only gave the Warriors (14-0) their first undefeated season, but also their third state title (first since winning back-to-back in 1995 and '96) -- and the top spot in The Post's final 2008 football rankings.

All season, Sherwood Coach Al Thomas relished his team's playing the underdog role. After they beat Linganore, he told his players to quit the act.

"I told them that they can brag all they want now," Thomas said.

Thomas said he is undecided whether he will return for a sixth season at Sherwood; he has been on a sideline every year but one since 1964, when he joined Gaithersburg as an assistant to John Harvill. This championship was his eighth, tying Bob Milloy for the most in Maryland history, and pushed his career record to 242-47. His prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in 2004 and promptly put into remission, is still monitored, he said, with weekly doctor visits.

"That's to be determined," Thomas, 69, said about a return to coaching. "I'll see how I feel. I have to think about that."

Finishing right behind Sherwood is River Hill (14-0), the Maryland 2A champion. With All-Met Michael Campanaro leading the way with two interceptions, the Hawks defeated Eastern Tech, 31-6, in the 2A final for their second straight undefeated season. River Hill's seniors will leave having won 41 of 42 games from 2006 to '08, the winningest three-year stretch in state history.

Virginia AA Division 4 champion Broad Run (14-0) is the top school from the Commonwealth in the rankings, completing one of the most amazing turnarounds the area has seen. When Coach Mike Burnett took over the program in April 2006, the Spartans were coming off a 1-9 season and lagged far behind their Ashburn rival, Stone Bridge, which won the 2007 Virginia AAA Division 5 title.

But in 2006, Broad Run went 5-5. Last year, the Spartans went 10-0 before losing their playoff opener. When this season began, Broad Run had enjoyed one playoff victory since the school's 1969 opening. This year, the Spartans earned four more.

If there was ever a year for DeMatha to lose its grip on the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, this appeared to be it. But seven weeks after being humbled by arch-rival Good Counsel, 42-21 -- on national television, no less -- the teams met for the fifth straight year in the conference championship game. There, DeMatha's 34-7 domination of the Falcons was perhaps one of the most stunning results of the season as the Stags (10-2) claimed their record sixth straight WCAC crown and a No. 4 ranking, one spot ahead of the Falcons (11-1).

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