Because Week 4 games were played on Sept. 23, Montgomery County teams got an extra day to prepare for this week's contests. And that's a good thing with perhaps the season's best slate of matchups on tap. Buckle your seatbelt . . .

No. 2 Damascus (4-0)

at No. 4 Northwest (4-0)

Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m.

This should be the game of the year in Montgomery County. At stake in this nonleague matchup are county bragging rights, and, considering where the teams are ranked in The Post's Top 20, possibly bragging rights for the entire metropolitan area.

The second-ranked Swarmin' Hornets (4-0) have won nine consecutive games, dating from last year's run to the Maryland 4A championship. That streak, combined with their comeback victory over defending Maryland 3A champion Linganore earlier this year and their 4-0 all-time record against Northwest, should give the Hornets supreme confidence heading into tomorrow night's game.

"They are as good a football team as there is in our state," Northwest Coach Randy Trivers said of Damascus. "There's really no weakness to their football team."

The Hornets also should be healthier than they have been all year. All-Met running back Matt Reidy sat out last Thursday's 25-8 victory over Blair to heal knee and foot injuries.

"He's doing pretty well," Damascus Coach Dan Makosy said. "He needed like a 10-day stretch without contact. We had him on crutches for about six days. . . . He'll be close to 100 percent this week."

Still, the Jaguars have been downright scary this season. They have yet to trail in a game, and they have outscored their first four opponents 183-19.

"They've got a ton of offensive weapons," Makosy said. "If you try to take something away from them you're giving something up. We definitely have our work cut out for us."

Quince Orchard (4-0)

at Whitman (4-0)

Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m.

Sole possession of first place in the Montgomery 4A West and valuable playoff points are at stake in this clash. It also should serve as a barometer for both teams, as Whitman and Quince Orchard both have played relatively soft early-season schedules (the Vikings and Cougars each have played just one team with a winning record).

Quince Orchard has roared to a 4-0 start, its first since 1995, and last week racked up 465 yards of total offense. "They present a lot of problems," Whitman Coach Dean Swink said.

Quince Orchard tailback Cameron George (55 carries, 435 yards, nine touchdowns) and wide receiver Scot Riddell (11 receptions, 212 yards, two touchdowns) give the Cougars two explosive threats. Whitman, meanwhile, relies upon a ball-control offense and a stingy defense that has allowed just 13 points this year.

History is on Whitman's side. Swink, in his sixth season as head coach of the Vikings, is 5-0 against Quince Orchard.

Gaithersburg (1-3)

at Sherwood (3-1)

Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m.

One of the county's great rivalries, which produced one of the great finishes in state championship history -- Gaithersburg's 24-21 victory over the Warriors in the 2000 Maryland 4A final. This year's game will have a different feel, as Gaithersburg has struggled. The Trojans lost their first three games of the season and picked up their lone victory over winless Watkins Mill, 13-6, last week.

First-year Sherwood coach Al Thomas did not experience last year's game, a 40-0 Gaithersburg victory, but you can be certain he will mention that score to inspire his team before tomorrow night's game.

Churchill (3-1) at Paint Branch (2-2)

Saturday, 2 p.m.

Churchill has recorded historic triumphs over Gaithersburg and Seneca Valley this season, but a victory Saturday in a nonleague game at Paint Branch likely would be just as satisfying to the Bulldogs. The Panthers are coached by former Churchill coach Ernie Williams. Last season, in Williams's first season at Paint Branch, the Panthers defeated Churchill, 16-12.

Damascus quarterback Jason Sprankle, left, will guide the second-ranked Hornets into their biggest game of the year at Northwest tomorrow.Damascus running back Matt Reidy is back after sitting out the Hornets' win over Blair with knee and foot injuries.Northwest senior quarterback Ike Whitaker has guided the Jaguars through a dominating four games, outscoring their opponents 183-19.