Get your tickets early for these games, which promise to be among 1999's best.
1.Thomas Stone at Westlake, Nov. 5
The two teams will face each other in the regular season finale for the second straight season, and this year's game could decide the SMAC champion. Last year the four-time defending champion Wolverines easily handled everyone in the SMAC -- except for second-place Thomas Stone. The annual rivalry between the two Waldorf schools was decided by just a field goal last year, 21-18. All-Met senior RB-LB Marcus Whalen has another year of experience and could mean the difference for the Cougars.
2.Calvert at Westlake, Sept. 17
One of the most important meetings of the season for both teams will take place just three weeks into the season. The Cavaliers might have the best shot at upsetting the Wolverines' quest for a fifth-straight SMAC title. Westlake has shut out Calvert in two of the past three meetings, 39-0 last year and 40-0 in 1997. But in 1998, the Cavaliers got within 20-16 of knocking off the SMAC champions. And this season things will be a little different with Calvert's experience -- 19 starters are returning.
3.Patuxent at Leonardtown, Sept. 9
The conference opener for both teams will be Patuxent's first official SMAC game. The Panthers are looking to surprise Southern Maryland teams this season after playing an independent varsity schedule for two years. Even though it has to open league play on the road, Patuxent will be playing a rebuilding Raiders squad, so the Panthers should be right in this game. Meanwhile, Leonardtown, which finished 3-7 overall last season, surely will be eager to atone for last season's mistakes.
4.La Plata at Chopticon, Sept. 17
These two teams met in Morganza in the second game of last season, with the Warriors winning, 13-12, in overtime. This year, La Plata is trying to improve on last season's sub-.500 finish in the conference, but probably will have to beat the Braves in order to do so. Fortunately for the Warriors, this time they won't have to contend with explosive running back James Garrett, who graduated this past spring. However, Chopticon has a new backfield threat: junior fullback Damian Pettie.
5.Lackey at McDonough, Oct. 8
Both teams are coming off disappointing seasons, but few try to do more with less. The Rams moved up from 2A to 3A during the offseason, while the Chargers remain the sole 2A team in the conference. Lackey, in the western end of Charles County, is the school that's farthest off the beaten path -- with McDonough closest in proximity. Their last two meetings hardly were offensive showcases, but were they close? You bet. McDonough won, 12-6, in '97 and Lackey hung on for a 9-7 decision last season.