Tony Cole's face was covered in sweat and dirt, and his orange Oakland Mills jersey was smeared with mud. A dingy cast protected the junior's right wrist, and his bulky shoulder pads concealed his 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame.

To be sure, Cole looked the part of the defensive lineman after his four-sack performance during the Scorpions' 28-12 win over Howard on Saturday on Oakland Mills's Senior Day.

However, Cole hardly resembled the swift sophomore who was a surprise winner in the 100-meter dash at the Maryland Class 1A Track and Field Championships last May.

Then again, all along Oakland Mills's offensive and defensive lines, looks can be quite deceiving.

"I am faster than all the offensive linemen in front of me, and I can just run around them, and they are really not used to that, so they don't know what to expect," said Cole, who was hand timed at 4.3 in the 40-yard dash earlier this season and was electronically timed when he won the 100 last year in 11.23 seconds.

Cole would be undersized on most teams, but he fits right in at Oakland Mills, where sophomore David Howard is the team's most imposing lineman, tipping the scales at 240 pounds.

Howard missed Saturday's game with an ankle injury, leaving the Scorpions with lines on both sides of the ball that averaged less than 200 pounds.

"We are just scrappy, and we like to hit," said Sean Meeker, the team's 160-pound guard. "We are smaller, but we have to play with heart, and that's what it comes down to no matter how big you are."

Meeker started at guard last year as Oakland Mills made its run to the Class 1A championship game, but the Scorpions then had size along the line with bookend tackles James Violand and Andrew Croner plowing holes for jackhammer fullback Justin Barnes.

It was late in the season when the Scorpions began to look like championship contenders. But this year, they are looking for answers at a time when they should be fine-tuning their parts.

Oakland Mills clinched a Class 1A playoff berth with the win Saturday but was missing Howard and junior tailback C.J. King because of ankle injuries. The Scorpions used different formations on offense and defense, and hardly looked like "the future 1A state champs," as Glenelg Coach John Davis dubbed them several weeks ago.

"This feels more like you would feel after the preseason at the beginning of the year," Oakland Mills Coach Ken Hovet said. "No one is established anywhere. We are trying people at different positions. We still don't have a base offense we are committed to, and we don't have a base defense we are committed to. It's a peculiar feeling going into the playoffs because we are not set anywhere. We are still trying to find some answers."

If one thing is for sure, Cole will be a big part of the answer if the Scorpions can replicate last season's run, albeit at a position most would not predict for such a speedster.

"I tried out to be a wide receiver when I was a freshman," Cole said. "I was faster than everyone, but my coordination wasn't very good and I didn't really know the game. I was expecting to at least carry the ball or be a linebacker or something. I really didn't expect to play the line or anything like that."

Cole admits that he is not blessed with the hands of a skill player, and Hovet said he is a natural fit for the Scorpions' undersized unit, which relies on speed and technique rather than power and brawn.

"We are tiny," Hovet said. "He is a little bit better athlete than everybody else, but our objective is to put the little quick guys in there rather than put the 200-pound guy that is mediocre. We just go the total opposite strategy and put all little quick guys in there."

Cole's performance against Howard -- 4 sacks, 11 tackles, 1 blocked punt and 2 fumble recoveries -- was the jewel of a breakout season and helped keep the Scorpions in the game while their offense was stumbling and fumbling its way to only eight first-half points.

In all, Oakland Mills fumbled five times, and Howard twice pulled within two points of the Scorpions in the second half.

"We thought our offense would be able to hold it down a little bit, but things just happened," Cole said. "You've got to step up when it does. Our defense, we are like a family. We help each other out, and we work for each other. When they don't score, that's us doing good for each other."

And if Oakland Mills looked anything like a state champion, it was on the defensive side of the ball.

"We said a couple weeks ago that the playoffs start now, and we've got to start playing like it's a playoff game now," said senior linebacker-fullback Dennis Lange. "That's how I feel about it. We've got to be ready for the playoffs. We need a strong game next week, and we need to come out firing in the playoffs and get some things done."

Oakland Mills's Dennis Lange tries to break away from Howard's Jacob Lefenfeld, center, and C.J. Tyson during the Scorpions' 28-12 victory Saturday.Howard's James Coleman avoids a tackle by Oakland Mills's Tony Cole, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound defensive lineman.Lions' Alan Hankinson strips the ball from the Scorpions' Dominique Owens.