Maryland 4A final: No. 5 Urbana vs. No. 6 Wise

Host B.J. Koubaroulis and The Post's Josh Barr and Alan Goldenbach preview No. 5 Urbana's meeting with No. 6 Wise in Friday's Maryland 4A state final.
Thursday, December 2, 2010; 10:38 PM

Who: No. 5 Urbana (12-0) vs. No. 6 Wise (12-1)

When, where: Friday, 7:30 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore

How they got here: Urbana quietly has put together one of the most dominant seasons in state history. The Hawks have yet to trail and their first-team defense has allowed just 15 points. Urbana blanked Perry Hall, 28-0, and Patterson, 34-0, to win the North Region, then took care of No. 14 Gaithersburg, 37-6, in the state semifinals. Wise lost its season opener, then took off on a 12-game win streak. The Pumas have had some closer calls, trailing at halftime in three of their past four games, including last week's 14-7 victory over No. 16 Broadneck in the other state semifinal.

Watch for: Neither of these offenses is dazzling, but both defenses have demonstrated an uncanny ability to force turnovers and create short fields for the offense. The team that controls the line of scrimmage will have the upper hand. Both have gotten to the state final in similar fashion, by relying on a running game and taking advantage of opponents' mistakes. Urbana's defense has been terrific, led by pressure-creating DEs Jude Merkel and Colton Kmetz. But they will have a challenge against Wise's physical running game, led by patient running back Uriah Bethea (1,582 yards, 24 touchdowns). On the other side of the ball, Urbana quarterback Michael Spahr made the throws when he had to against Gaithersburg and he might need to do the same this week to loosen things up for running back Wes Garey (1,030 yards, 19 touchdowns).

The skinny: Wise needs to avoid its pattern of slow starts. Falling behind in this game could be costly. Conversely, if the Pumas can get on top early, it will put Urbana in the unfamiliar position of trying to play catch up.

- Josh Barr

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