At halftime of last week's game at Huntingtown, McDonough Coach Dave Bradshaw did not mince words.
"I can tell you where your season's going to end if you keep this up," he told his team, which trailed 7-3.
Bradshaw didn't need to deliver the zinger. The Rams knew that a loss would keep them out of the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active slump in Charles County. They went on to win 28-7.
Amid all the conjecture and guesswork over playoff possibilities, this much is certain: If the Rams defeat Westlake on Friday and La Plata next week, they will go to the Maryland 3A South Region playoffs.
The coaches "basically put it on our shoulders," said junior running back A.J. Wallace, who rushed for a season-high 227 yards against Huntingtown, including three second-half touchdowns. "We're in control of our own destiny."
While the Rams could still make the postseason with a loss Friday, they don't want to leave anything to chance. McDonough missed the postseason by one playoff ratings point in 1994 and 2000.
The Rams also know a victory over Westlake, the county's dominant team over the past decade, would be a season-defining moment. The Wolverines have defeated McDonough in each of the past three seasons, by an average of four touchdowns.
"This is a game where you've got to lay everything on the line," Wallace said. "This is it for us."
Westlake at McDonough
Records: Westlake 8-0, 8-0; McDonough 6-2, 6-2.
Last Week: Westlake defeated La Plata, 27-0. McDonough defeated Huntingtown, 28-7.
Last Meeting: Westlake won, 40-14, on Oct. 31.
Calvert at Northern
Records: Calvert 1-7, 1-7; Northern 6-2, 6-2.
Last Week: Calvert lost to Leonardtown, 24-21, in overtime. Northern defeated Great Mills, 54-35.
Last Meeting: Northern won, 12-0, on Oct. 30.
Outlook: The path to the playoffs seems simple for Northern. The Patriots need to win their remaining games -- against Calvert and Leonardtown (1-7) -- and hope that McDonough and Severna Park don't do the same. With McDonough facing Westlake on Friday and Severna Park visiting undefeated Broadneck next week, Northern has a shot.
Huntingtown at Lackey
Records: Huntingtown 4-4, 4-4; Lackey 8-0, 8-0.
Last Week: Huntingtown lost to McDonough, 28-7. Lackey defeated Thomas Stone, 34-6.
Last Meeting: The teams have never played.
Outlook: Morgan Green re-injured his hamstring last Thursday, sat out Lackey's victory over Thomas Stone and might remain sidelined this week as the Chargers prepare to visit unbeaten Westlake in Week 10. Expect Lackey's pass defense to be tested by Hurricanes quarterback Bobby Brown, who has completed 21 of 41 passes for 338 yards over the past two weeks.
Thomas Stone at La Plata
Records: Thomas Stone 5-3, 5-3; La Plata 3-5, 3-5.
Last Week: Thomas Stone lost to Lackey, 34-6. La Plata lost to Westlake, 27-0.
Last Meeting: Thomas Stone won, 44-0, on Oct. 31.
Outlook: Although Thomas Stone has lost three straight games by a combined 122-24, the Cougars can still make the playoffs. They need to win their last two games and hope Arundel and South River (the third- and fourth-place teams in the 4A East Region) stumble or fall short in playoff bonus points (awarded for wins by opponents a team has defeated). Thomas Stone needs to reestablish its running game; after averaging 234 yards on the ground the first five games, the Cougars have managed just 88 per game the past three weeks.
Chopticon at Leonardtown
Records: Chopticon 1-7, 1-7; Leonardtown 1-7, 1-7.
Last Week: Chopticon lost to Patuxent, 44-22. Leonardtown defeated Calvert, 24-21, in overtime.
Last Meeting: Chopticon won, 14-10, on Oct. 31.
Outlook: Leonardtown, which has employed a pass-heavy offense the past few years, defeated Calvert for the first time since 1997 thanks to an unfamiliar game plan -- ball control. The Raiders threw two passes and held the ball for 33 minutes 27 seconds of regulation last week. Calvert's three touchdown drives used a total of 2:03. "When you're not playing good defense," Leonardtown Coach Alan Raley said, "it's nice to be able to hold on to the ball." Sophomore Jaquan Shields rushed for two touchdowns and 191 yards, the highest Raiders total in nearly three years.
Great Mills at Patuxent
Records: Great Mills 1-7, 1-7; Patuxent 4-4, 4-4.
Last Week: Great Mills lost to Northern, 54-35. Patuxent defeated Chopticon, 44-22.
Last Meeting: Patuxent won, 48-22, on Oct. 31.
Outlook: Patuxent might have solved its rushing woes with junior Robert McClain, who gained 155 yards last week -- Patuxent's highest single-game total this season -- in his first start at tailback. Patuxent's Delonte Janey has thrown a touchdown pass in every game, and his 17 for the season tie him for second in the Washington area.
Note: All games are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday.