No. 4 Gwynn Park at Calvert
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
What: Maryland 3A quarterfinal.
Records: Gwynn Park (9-0, 7-0 -- Prince George's 3A/2A/1A champion); Calvert (8-2, 7-1 -- Southern Maryland Athletic Conference champion).
Setting the scene: Calvert needed help to reach the playoffs after falling to Patuxent in Week 8. A week later, however, Chopticon upset first-place Westlake and Thomas Stone won at Northern. That left Calvert needing only to beat Northern in the season finale to earn the 3A South Region title and an automatic playoff berth. The Cavaliers defeated the Patriots, 21-6, Saturday night.
The Cavaliers have a 28-4 record over the past three seasons but are making only their second trip to the postseason. Their first venture, in 2000, resulted in the county's only Maryland 3A championship as Calvert defeated Annapolis, 34-22, in the championship game.
Gwynn Park endured a different kind of turbulence this season because of the sniper-related postponements that halted Prince George's County games for about two weeks. But the Yellow Jackets got through, recording their first undefeated regular season and earning a school-record third consecutive playoff berth.
Gwynn Park (29-4 the past three seasons) lost to Urbana, 49-8, in the 2000 2A final and fell again to Urbana, 34-14, in last season's 3A quarterfinals.
Outlook: Calvert's offense thrives on running the football; Gwynn Park's defense has built its reputation stopping the run.
The Yellow Jackets' offense is built on a pass-first, run-only-when-necessary basis; the secondary is the mainstay of the Cavaliers' defense. Neither team is likely to stray from its strength.
"They're good," Calvert Coach Brad Criss said. "You watch them on tape and they're dominant. But I think it's a good matchup. We definitely have opposite strengths. I think it's going to come down to special teams and turnovers. If you don't hold onto the football, you're going to be in trouble."
Gwynn Park's offensive numbers are not spectacular, but they haven't needed to be. The Yellow Jackets have benefited from good field position, often the result of quick defensive stops or turnovers.
Junior quarterback Lamar Hyson has completed 61 of 131 passes for 1,004 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions, but the Yellow Jackets have no running backs with more than 400 yards. Their leading rusher, DeAndre Wright, has 368 yards and four touchdowns on 47 carries.
Gwynn Park boasts four receivers with solid numbers: Anthony Vaughn Jr. (12 catches, 217 yards, 5 TDs); Lamar Blake (10 catches, 244 yards, 3 TDs); Anthony Herbin (8 catches, 150 yards, 3 TDs) and Michael Clarke (6 catches, 220 yards, 3 TDs).
They will be pitted against one of the Washington area's fastest defensive backfields. The Cavaliers have made 20 interceptions this season, led by cornerbacks Jerome Brooks (8) and Taros Harris (5).
Calvert, meanwhile, has a ground-oriented offense. Senior tailback Dervon Wallace is the Washington area's fourth-leading rusher with 1,559 yards and 14 touchdowns but averages an area-best 10.6 yards per carry.
Harris will start at quarterback but also will join Brooks at wide receiver. When Harris moves wide, he will be replaced by senior Joe Procopio, who is the better passer.
Maneuvering past Gwynn Park senior linebacker Wesley Jefferson, who is regarded by some recruiting experts as the best high school linebacker in the country, is not an easy task. Defensive ends and fraternal twins Jahiri and Rafiq Gunthorpe have eight sacks each for a unit that has yielded just 11 touchdowns.
"He's real tough," Criss said of Jefferson. "We won't be able to run right at him, so we're going to have some stuff in there to try and get around him. He doesn't look extremely fast, but he's big. The thing is, though, his speed might be deceiving. That's something we won't know until we get out there.
"I know one thing, this game should really be something."