It's not yet a trend, but a victory this weekend would make Parkdale the second straight team from the Prince George's 4A league to make the leap from middling to state champion in a year's time. The Panthers, 6-4 last fall, are just one win away from the Maryland 4A title. If successful, they would follow the path taken by Bowie, which was 6-4 two seasons ago before claiming the championship in 2001.

Parkdale (10-1) will play Sherwood (10-1) in a game that features the best team in Prince George's County against Montgomery County's finest.

"We know playing for the state championship is a lot bigger than just Parkdale," Parkdale Coach Mike Rucker said. "It's about proving that Prince George's County is the best league in the state. People always talk about which league plays the best football, and I truly believe that the 4A league in Prince George's County is second to none."

Prince George's County public school teams have certainly made a case for Rucker's assessment during the past four seasons. Parkdale's 20-13 victory over Damascus in a 4A semifinal game this past Saturday marked the fifth time in the past six postseason meetings -- a string of games that began in 1999 -- that a team from Prince George's had defeated a Montgomery opponent.

And it hasn't really been close. Prince George's teams have won by an average margin of 14.8 points and have outscored Montgomery County teams by a combined margin of 189-129. Sherwood's 36-32 victory over Eleanor Roosevelt in a 4A semifinal in 2000 is Montgomery County's only victory in that span.

"There is a lot of good football played in Montgomery County, and I give their players and coaches a lot of credit," Rucker said. "But we can play some football in Prince George's County, too. I think we've proved that the past few years."

Damascus Coach Dan Makosy, whose team has played -- and lost -- to both Sherwood and Parkdale, said he believes it will be Sherwood celebrating its second state title in the past three years, not Parkdale winning its first since 1974.

"We've gone against both teams, and they are both very good teams," Makosy said. "But my heart is with Montgomery County in this one."

Rucker paid little attention when told about Makosy's comments.

"That's fine. No one really thought we'd make it this far, either," Rucker said. "The only people who felt we'd be playing for the state championship are the kids and the coaches wearing the Parkdale uniform, so we'll just go play our best and see what happens."

Friday's championship game will feature two teams that rely on defense to back a run-oriented offense. Sherwood's defense has allowed opponents an average of 7.1 points per game, and its offense has averaged 27.1 points a game. Senior running backs Romeje Richards and Josh Twyman have combined for 28 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards.

Sherwood senior quarterback Bobby Sheahin (937 yards, eight touchdowns) has provided a steady complement, but he has not thrown for more than 80 yards or completed a touchdown pass in the team's past three games. In Sherwood's two playoff games, Sheahin has collectively completed 12 of 25 passes for 130 yards and one interception.

Parkdale's offense averages 26.2 points per game and relies heavily on senior running back Kevin Beverly (254 carries, school-record 2,167 yards, 21 touchdowns) to set up junior quarterback Anthony Brown (843 yards, 10 touchdowns).

In the playoffs, Brown threw just one pass (it fell incomplete) in Parkdale's 28-0 victory over Suitland, but the game was played in a rainstorm that made it extremely difficult to throw the ball. On Saturday against Damascus, Brown completed 2 of 3 passes for 43 yards, highlighted by a game-winning 29-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Markus McFadden with 2 minutes 12 seconds reamaining in the game.

"I think us and Sherwood are very similar in our strengths," said Rucker, who also coordinates Parkdale's defense, which has allowed opponents an average of 8.1 points per game this season. "I think it's going to come down to whoever is able to execute the best."

Sherwood senior running back Romeje Richards, above, has combined with Josh Twyman for 28 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards.