Maryland 3A Semifinal

Friday, 7:30 p.m. at Thomas Stone


* When Thomas Stone has the ball: No surprises here--the Cougars are going to run the football. And why wouldn't they? Thomas Stone has completed 20 passes all season but sailed to an 11-0 record behind All-Met RB Marcus Whalen and teammate Mike Finamore. The two have combined for 2,749 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns.

The Cougars used a power-I formation for the first time this season in last week's state quarterfinal win over Westlake, lining up three backs in the backfield. Still, their favorite--and perhaps most productive--play is a sweep by Whalen.

Randallstown's defense, led by hard-hitting LBs Mykal Bouie and Quan Mitchell, will blitz Thomas Stone in an attempt to stymie the run. The Rams were swarming to the ball in last week's quarterfinal win over Milford Mill, knocking the Baltimore area's top player--Milford Mill quarterback Richard Johnson--out of the game with a concussion in the first quarter.

* When Randallstown has the ball: Like Westlake, Randallstown runs the wing-T. Speedy RBs Tyese Ademluyi, Davon Johnson and Jabari Savage execute the deceptive offensive scheme and are equally effective. Though Johnson has the most yards--783 yards on 90 carries--all three backs average more than eight yards per carry. Archie Trader is the quarterback, and his favorite targets are WRs Gary Bates and Mitchell.

Thomas Stone, which has swarmed to the football all season, contained Westlake's running game and, more important, caused five turnovers in the teams' two meetings. LBs Whalen and Mike Farland are the team's top two tacklers, and defensive back Mark Johnson leads the team with four interceptions.

Starting DE Brian Sims, who missed the past two games with a chipped bone in his hip, should return and complement Steve Pepper on the defensive line.

* Special teams: Finamore kicks for Thomas Stone; Trader for Randallstown. And both are members of the return teams as well.

Finamore is averaging 40.1 yards per punt; Trader just 20. That could spell problems for the Rams, particularly with the Cougars' dangerous trio of return men--Finamore, Johnson and Whalen. The three have combined to return seven kicks for touchdowns this season.

Trader, the Rams' leading return man, is averaging 20.3 yards per kickoff return and 7.0 yards per punt return. His longest punt return of the season was 15 yards.

* Outlook: This is Randallstown's third consecutive year in the playoffs. Last year, the Rams lost a heartbreaker, 22-19, to Fort Hill in the 2A semifinals after fumbling the ball on their own 10 yard line with 50 seconds left to play--and they haven't forgotten it. Thomas Stone has never won 12 games in a single season. The home crowd--which overflowed last weekend--could be the difference.

CAPTION: THOMAS STONE LEADERS (This chart was not available)

CAPTION: RANDALLSTOWN LEADERS (This chart was not available)

CAPTION: MARYLAND CLASS 3A FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS (This graphic was not available)

CAPTION: Thomas Stone's Marcus Whalen powers his way through Westlake's defense during a 20-14 victory that clinched the SMAC title. Tackling Whalen is Westlake's Deron Little.