* Great Mills at Chopticon
When: Today, 7:30 p.m.
Last season's meeting: Chopticon, 22-13.
Records: Great Mills (3-4, 2-4); Chopticon (3-4, 2-3).
Last game: Great Mills lost to Lackey, 40-0; Chopticon beat Westlake, 26-25.
Outlook: Chopticon is coming off a 26-25 upset of four-time defending SMAC champion Westlake, and the Braves couldn't be riding higher. After a victory that "made our season, probably," according to Chopticon Coach Andy Palko, the key this week will be avoiding a letdown against a Great Mills team that has lost three in a row. Though every opponent knows Chopticon QB Jamar Mason looks first for standout WR Jamie Byroads, no one seems able to stop the pair. That will be the challenge for the Hornets' secondary this week.
* Lackey at No. 15 Thomas Stone
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last season's meeting: Thomas Stone, 33-30.
Records: Lackey (2-5, 2-3); Thomas Stone (7-0, 5-0).
Last game: Lackey beat Great Mills, 40-0; Thomas Stone beat Patuxent, 41-0.
Outlook: By virtue of its shutout of Patuxent--and Chopticon's upset win over Westlake--Thomas Stone suddenly finds itself alone atop the SMAC. To stay there, the Cougars must resist looking past Lackey and Leonardtown--which have two wins between them--to their season finale against Westlake. Lackey, with its steadily improving offense, is coming off a blowout win over Great Mills, but the defense has struggled this season to contain the run. Against the Cougars' running tandem of Marcus Whalen and Mike Finamore, that could be disastrous.
* Leonardtown at Northern
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last season's meeting: Northern, 28-6.
Records: Leonardtown (0-7, 0-5); Northern (0-7, 0-6).
Last game: Leonardtown lost to McDonough, 30-8; Northern lost to C.M. Wright, 39-7.
Outlook: Either the Raiders or Patriots will win their first game of the season on Friday, as they square off in a game where pride is the only thing on the line. The Raiders have gotten good production from QB Jason Schacter and WR Tommy Davis, but have still struggled to score, averaging seven points a game. The Patriots, led by QB Danny Terracciano, have had even less success offensively, scoring 32 points all season.
* McDonough at La Plata
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last season's meeting: La Plata, 26-7.
Records: McDonough (4-3, 4-2); La Plata (4-3, 2-3).
Last game: McDonough beat Leonardtown, 30-8; La Plata beat Calvert, 35-19.
Outlook: After emotional losses to Patuxent and Westlake, La Plata came out roaring last week against Calvert. The Warriors, led by RB-DB Titus Green and RB-LB Raheem Archer, are tough on both sides of the ball. La Plata's speedy linebackers and defensive backs--who returned two interceptions for scores against Calvert--should challenge McDonough's passing combination of QB Travis Peters and WR Travis Woodland. But the Rams also have a third offensive threat: RB Nick Carrington, who has rushed for more than 100 yards three times this season.
* No. 16 Westlake at No. 9 Suitland
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Last season's meeting: Suitland, 21-0.
Records: Westlake (6-1); Suitland (6-1).
Last game: Westlake lost to Chopticon, 26-25; Suitland beat Parkdale, 21-6.
Outlook: Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli must prepare his team to battle a tough Prince George's County opponent in the aftermath of his team's first conference loss since 1997. The Wolverines, led by RBs Recardo Evans, Gonzie Gray and Denis Hicks, have the talent to win. The problem this season is that Westlake has been starting slowly. The Wolverines managed to come back and win in overtime against both Calvert and La Plata, but ran out of time against Chopticon. LB Sydney Baskins, who had 20 tackles last week against Parkdale, leads a Suitland team that has won six straight.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Patuxent at Calvert
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Last season's meeting: Patuxent, 28-21.
Records: Patuxent (6-1, 4-1); Calvert (5-2, 3-2).
Last game: Patuxent lost to Thomas Stone, 41-0; Calvert lost to La Plata, 35-19.
Each week, Southern Maryland Extra asks key players to preview the key game of the week. This week, Calvert senior Ray Freeland and Patuxent senior Jarrell Ennis size up their teams.
Ennis on Patuxent
"We plan to run a little better than we did last week and [get on] the scoreboard a lot more than we did last week. We just have to get back to basics."
Key stat: The Panthers entered last week's game with Thomas Stone averaging 44.3 points per game, but were shut out by the Cougars.
"We're going to change it up. We have a new package for them. One thing you can be sure of is that we're going to find a way to protect the sweep better. You may even see some blitzing."
Key stat: Through its first six games, Patuxent yielded a conference-low 41 points. That total doubled when the Panthers gave up 41 to Thomas Stone.
* Special teams
"We're not going to fumble the ball this week. Say that double time, with an exclamation point. We're not going to fumble the ball this week!"
Key fact: The Panthers fumbled one punt early in the first quarter against Thomas Stone, giving the Cougars the ball on the Patuxent 8-yard line. Several other kicks also were mishandled but not lost, resulting in poor field position.
* Key to victory
"Both teams can blow up the scoreboard, and we all know that. Whoever plays the best defense is going to win this game. We have to wrap up and tackle."
Freeland on Calvert
"We've got a good offensive line, and that helps us run the football. Our running backs and quarterback are solid, too. We know we can throw the ball, but because of our offensive line, we prefer to run."
Key stat: Junior RB Sean Mizzer has been held under 100 yards rushing just one time this season. He gained a season-high 193 yards last week against La Plata.
"We're a physical defense. We play pretty good as a whole and are very balanced up front and in the secondary. I think as a unit we read schemes pretty well, too."
Key stat: The Warriors yielded a season-high 35 points to La Plata last week.
* Special teams
"We've gotten better on special teams, especially on our kickoff coverage. We've been doing a good job of pinning teams downfield more often."
Key stat: Mizzer has three kick returns for touchdowns this season, including punt returns of 63 and 47 yards and a 78-yard kickoff return.
* Key to victory:
"We've got to play our game. Play smart. We haven't faced too many dominant backs, but we know [Patuxent's] Terry Caulley is good. They've also got a big offensive line, so that's going to be our biggest challenge."