This is not exactly an easy stretch of the schedule for either Quince Orchard or Damascus. The teams meet tomorrow, a week after facing unbeaten teams that were ranked in The Post's Top 20. It is a critical game in terms of playoff points.

No. 6 Damascus (4-1)

at No. 20 Quince Orchard (5-0)

Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m.

Defending Maryland 4A champion Damascus has to play an undefeated, increasingly confident team a week after a draining showdown in Germantown with third-ranked Northwest.

Quince Orchard, meanwhile, has to gear up for another big test a week after beating then-No. 19 Whitman for the first time since 1998.

"I spent my entire weekend trying to find a weakness [in Damascus], and I couldn't find one," Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini said.

Damascus's county-high nine-game winning streak, which included last season's run to the state title, was snapped last week by Northwest. The Jaguars returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a score and never trailed in a 27-24 victory, their first ever over Damascus.

But the Swarmin' Hornets had to be proud of their effort. They never quit, and after cutting Northwest's lead to three late in the game, they forced the Jaguars' high-powered offense to punt after three plays. With less than three minutes to play, Damascus had the ball with a chance to win or send the game to overtime.

"We were able to keep coming back, we just couldn't come all the way back," Damascus All-Met senior running back Matt Reidy said last Friday. Northwest "is a good team, and we showed we could fight with them. . . . We just need to come back and show 4A that we still have it. We can't get down after this loss."

Though last week's game was one of the most anticipated and hyped games of the regular season -- Damascus and Northwest were ranked second and fourth, respectively, in The Post's Top 20 heading into the game -- it was not a league game for either team.

Northwest is a Maryland 3A team, Damascus is a 4A team. And Damascus Coach Dan Makosy was sure to give his team a relevant history lesson.

In his 15 years coaching at the school, both as a head coach and an assistant, Damascus has won four state titles. And in every one of those state title years, the Hornets lost a game to a team not in their classification that went on to make the playoffs.

Last season, the Swarmin' Hornets lost to eventual 3A champion Linganore. When Damascus won the 3A title in 1996, it lost to Seneca Valley, then a Maryland 4A team. And in 1992 and 1993, when the Hornets won back-to-back Maryland 2A titles, they lost to Class 3A Kennedy teams.

"We had a mindset going in [to the Northwest game] that we weren't going to put all our eggs in one basket," Makosy said. "Our easy games are supposed to be our out-of-conference games, and we played [defending Maryland 3A champion] Linganore and Northwest. We didn't think we'd go undefeated."

Quince Orchard, meanwhile, is closing in on the school's first playoff berth since 1993. The Cougars have succeeded with a balanced offense led by senior wide receiver Scot Riddell, senior quarterback Brian Barrett and senior running back Cameron George, and a swarming defense that has allowed just four touchdowns in five games and no more than one in any single game and forced 16 turnovers.

"Their strength is their defense," Makosy said. "They're tough on the run, and they're going to make us earn every yard we get."

Blake (4-1)

at Richard Montgomery (2-3)

Tomorrow, 6:30 p.m.

Blake, which is attempting to reach the postseason for the first time in school history, is one of the hottest teams in the area. The Bengals' 24-8 victory over Blair last Friday was their fourth in a row after a season-opening loss to Damascus.

Blake has a huge test tomorrow, however, in dangerous Richard Montgomery, a team that is much better than its record indicates. The Rockets' three losses have come to Damascus, Northwest and Sherwood, teams with a combined record of 13-2. Richard Montgomery took Damascus to double-overtime before losing.

Northwest's Terrence Peete sacks Damascus quarterback Jason Sprankle late in the fourth quarter of the Jaguars' 27-24 win -- their first over the Hornets.