In high school football, playoff games can turn on one play--or one player. With the postseason kicking off Friday, Prince George's Extra has singled out just that kind of player on each of the county's playoff teams: Suitland's Sydney Baskins, Eleanor Roosevelt's Wendall Williams, Forestville's David Barnes, DeMatha's Dennard Wilson and McNamara's Durrell Koon.
Linebacker Is a Hit
6 feet 1
Suitland Coach Nick Lynch realized that putting on shoulder pads and a helmet to play on the scout team offense--as he did during one practice in late September--might not be the best idea as soon as he saw Sydney Baskins, the Rams' hard-hitting linebacker, heading right for him.
"He probably figured that this was his one opportunity to knock Coach out. I think that I slowed up when I saw him," Lynch said.
"We don't have the depth to have other backs run our scout team [offense], so people like [starting running back] Herschel Walker are back there," Lynch said. "Sometimes we have to tell Sydney, 'Slow up some. That's our starting running back.' Sydney goes full speed all the time."
Baskins has been a dominant force at linebacker this season and leads the Rams (8-2) into their Maryland 4A quarterfinal against Eleanor Roosevelt at 1 p.m. Saturday. This is his first year at linebacker--as a sophomore, Baskins played right guard, and last year, he started at defensive tackle. Lynch said Baskins still is learning how to play linebacker, and he's improving every game.
Baskins averages 20 tackles per game; in a 26-14 win over Oxon Hill on Oct. 30, he had 21 tackles and two sacks. He has good speed and excellent instincts; he always seems to be around the ball. He's also strong and, yes, aggressive.
"I go out there and try to be aggressive," Baskins said. "I have to try to get after it to the best of my ability. I always like the big hit. Even in practice."
A Backfield Co-Star
E. Roosevelt, Senior
6 feet 1
Junior running back Edwin Rios is the acknowledged star of Eleanor Roosevelt's high-scoring offense, having rushed for over 1,200 yards and 18 touchdowns. But Rios is quick to point to quarterback Wendall Williams and say, "He's the man. He's Batman and I'm Robin."
To which Williams quietly replies, "I'm the sidekick."
That's what most teams thought earlier in the season. Then, in an Oct. 30 game against Northwestern, the Wildcats bottled up Rios. Williams responded by rushing for 111 yards and four touchdowns in the Raiders' 32-14 win.
"Teams started to key on [Rios]," said Williams, who ran for one touchdown and threw for another in Roosevelt's 35-0 win over Parkdale on Saturday. "That opened up a lot more stuff for me."
"It's almost like we're a married couple," Rios joked. "When I'm having a bad day, he picks me up. When he's having a bad day, I pick him up."
Roosevelt Coach Rick Houchens calls Williams "the unsung hero of our team," because of the way he's taken some of the pressure off of Rios. Houchens compares Williams to Seneca Valley quarterback Chris Kelley, because he can hurt teams by running and passing, and also because he is not afraid to take a hit.
Williams's versatility will be crucial as the Raiders (9-1) face Suitland on Saturday. He has run for 12 touchdowns and has thrown for eight more this season, and he has excellent speed; Houchens said he has run the 40 in 4.41 seconds.
"He's a complete player," Rios said. "He's got all the moves. He'll run over people. Sometimes I look at him and I'm like, 'Is he really our quarterback, or our fullback?' He's tough and he's got a lot of heart."
Forestville's Man in the Middle
5 feet 11
David Barnes will be the first person to tell you just how tough Forestville running backs Larry McClain and Ed Garnes are--after all, he has to face them every day in practice.
"Our two running backs are nice," Barnes said. "I understand they're good. But can our defense please get some publicity? I see pictures of our running backs in the paper all the time."
The senior linebacker makes a legitimate request, considering that Forestville (8-2) has the county's stingiest defense. The Knights--who host Pikesville at 1 p.m. Saturday in a Maryland 1A quarterfinal--yielded 74 points during the regular season, tying them with DeMatha for the fewest in Prince George's County. Forestville shut out three opponents.
Barnes is the leader of that defense. He had 11 tackles in Forestville's 33-6 victory over Surrattsville on Saturday and has over 90 tackles for the season.
"He's your typical linebacker type," Forestville Coach Michael Mayo said. "He's a kid who comes to play, and he's probably one of our hardest hitters. We really rally around him. He's the heart and soul of the defense."
Forestville is making its third consecutive trip to the playoffs. Last year, the Knights lost to Oakland Mills in the 1A championship game, 15-12. Barnes hopes this year's defense can take the team one step further.
"I always tell the offense, 'We'll stop them. Can y'all please score some points?' " Barnes said. "Our defense will be ready for the playoffs, and our offense will be ready, too."
Split Roles, Double Duty
Dennard Wilson says that to play wide receiver and cornerback, as he does for DeMatha, it helps to have a split personality: The cornerback has to be a little mean, because he's trying to shut down an opposing player, while the wide receiver has to be a little cocky, because he's trying to beat the defender.
"When I play wide receiver, I feel like I'm dangerous when I get the ball," Wilson said. "I want to be compared to [Florida State senior] Peter Warrick. When you watch him play, every time he touches the ball he's dangerous. I want to catch the ball first, but it's the yards after the catch that count to me.
"When I play cornerback, I like to hit," Wilson said. "I try to be Deion Sanders. I want to be so good that I don't want any quarterback to pass on my side. I have such support from my teammates, and I believe in myself and my teammates, that as long as I do my job, I'm helping the team."
Wilson and the Stags (9-0-1) enter the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs as the top seed, and face county rival McNamara in a semifinal game Saturday at 1 p.m. at Parkdale.
Wilson starts at wide receiver and cornerback and he also plays special teams. He rarely comes off the field--"The only time I rest is on field goals," he said.
Wilson has over 400 yards receiving and he's caught five touchdown passes--including touchdown receptions of 41 and 20 yards in DeMatha's 44-6 win over Carroll on Saturday. He also has three interceptions.
"He's a blue-collar type of player," DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. "He's hard-working and competitive. He's not exceptionally big, but he comes to play."
Versatile With a Vengeance
5 feet 9
When asked to describe senior Durrell Koon, McNamara Coach Bernard Joseph didn't hesitate for a second.
"Never in my 14 years of coaching have I seen a player make the kinds of big plays Durrell has made this year," Joseph said. "If you need it to be done, he can do it."
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Koon can catch the football, run with the football and play defense, and he's a big reason the Mustangs (6-3) made the playoffs for the seventh straight season. They clinched the WCAC's fourth seed with a 20-10 victory over Good Counsel on Saturday and will play regular season champion DeMatha at 1 p.m. Saturday at Parkdale High School.
Koon has 41 catches for 525 yards and six touchdowns and has carried the ball 34 times for 130 yards and three scores. But Koon doesn't stop there.
As the Mustangs' free safety, Koon has intercepted a conference-leading seven passes, returning three for scores. "All I try to do is play to the best of my abilities and exploit everything I can," said Koon, who lists Virginia, Clemson, Maryland and Boston College as his top choices for college. "I'm not intimidated by anyone, especially not DeMatha."
In the regular season, the Stags beat McNamara, 34-8, but the Mustangs led, 8-7, midway through the third quarter.
"They didn't beat us, we beat ourselves--it's that simple," Koon said. "And then we didn't play as a team. But if we come together as a team on Saturday against DeMatha and play up to our ability, there is no way DeMatha can win. That's not a promise, that's a fact."
CAPTION: Eleanor Roosevelt's Wendall Williams has a top running back to hand off to in Edwin Rios, who has rushed for 1,200 yards. But the quarterback repeatedly has come through in the clutch for the Raiders (9-1), who open postseason by hosting Suitland.
CAPTION: DeMatha's Dennard Wilson, headed to end zone against Carroll, also starts at cornerback.
CAPTION: Forestville senior linebacker David Barnes has made over 90 tackles, including 11 against Surrattsville on Saturday. The Knights (8-2), who are yielding just 7.4 points per game, open their third consecutive postseason with Saturday showdown against Pikesville.