It was Sept. 26, and Lackey's football team was watching video of the Northern-Westlake game as its contest with Northern loomed four days away. The Chargers were supposed to be watching Northern quarterback Andrew Athens's nimble feet or linebacker Ricky Moore chasing ballcarriers.

The Chargers tried, but they couldn't.

"When we were watching the tape, we couldn't help but look at Westlake," Lackey senior running back Morgan Green said. "Even Coach [Scott Chadwick] said he had trouble focusing."

It was just as bad around Westlake.

"Coaches know we were thinking about Lackey way back," Westlake senior lineman Derrell Jones said. "They'd hear us in school talking about Lackey and stop us. After practice, Coach [Dominic Zaccarelli] gathered us together and said, 'We don't want to hear that L-word until that week comes.' Well, now it's here."

For the second year in a row, this game will determine the conference title, and help perpetuate a rivalry not only between schools but also among many of the same players on both teams.

Nevermind that coaching mantra of "one game at a time." Since the start of practice in August, Lackey and Westlake have looked forward to Friday's game in Waldorf.

Westlake's loss to McDonough last week prevented a clash of two undefeated teams, but the stakes remain the same.

"Even though we lost to McDonough," Westlake junior running back Aaris Reed said, "we're still playing for the same things that we always wanted -- the SMAC championship and home field" advantage through the Maryland 3A South Region playoffs.

This will be the third time in 12 months the teams have played -- Lackey won last year's regular season and playoff meetings.

"It makes it a little more intense when you're playing against the same guys," Jones said. "I know certain guys' weaknesses. . . . You think about all the smack talked all year. All the fans are going to be out there. All the hype. This game means a lot."

Dizzying Playoff Scenarios

Southern Maryland, which sent four teams to the playoffs for the first time last season, could place as many as five teams in this year's playoffs. That, however, depends on several games this weekend.

Only two teams, however, Lackey and Westlake, have already secured spots. They have clinched the top two seeds in the Maryland 3A South Region, and the winner of their game Friday will get the top seed.

Also in 3A South, McDonough can clinch its first playoff berth since 1991 with a victory over La Plata, which beat the Rams in last season's finale, 14-7. McDonough can also clinch with a loss by Severna Park, which is visiting No. 10 Broadneck. Broadneck, last year's 4A runner-up, has clinched the top seed in 4A East. If Severna Park loses, Northern also can clinch with a victory over Leonardtown.

If Severna Park wins, it clinches a berth. In that case, the only way Northern can reach the playoffs is if McDonough loses to La Plata.

If all three teams -- McDonough, Northern and Severna Park -- lose, McDonough and Northern would get berths. In the event McDonough and Northern are tied with playoff points, Northern would get the third seed ahead of McDonough by virtue of its 14-12 victory over the Rams on Sept. 18.

In 4A South, the picture is a bit clearer. Three spots are sewn up -- undefeated Broadneck and Old Mill are the top two seeds, and Arundel is in. If Arundel beats South River on Friday, it gets the third seed. If South River wins, it clinches the third seed ahead of Arundel, and the four-team field is set.

But it's never that easy.

If South River loses, that opens the door for two SMAC teams, Thomas Stone and Patuxent. If Thomas Stone defeats Huntingtown, the Cougars clinch the fourth seed. If both South River and Thomas Stone lose and Patuxent defeats Calvert, then the Panthers get the fourth spot.

And in the craziest of scenarios, if all three teams -- South River, Thomas Stone and Patuxent -- lose, Patuxent would get in, unless two of the following three things happen: Glen Burnie beats Old Mill, Chesapeake beats Northeast or Southern beats Annapolis. In that event, South River gets in, despite a loss to Arundel.

And if La Plata were to beat McDonough or Leonardtown beats Northern, then South River would need all three outcomes in their favor to get in.

Got all that?

This Week's Schedule

All games start at 7 p.m.

Great Mills at Chopticon: Records -- Great Mills 1-8, 1-8. Chopticon 2-7, 2-7.

Last week: Great Mills lost to Patuxent, 53-7. Chopticon defeated Leonardtown, 18-10.

Last meeting: Chopticon won, 34-0, on Nov. 7.

Huntingtown at Thomas Stone: Records -- Huntingtown 4-5, 4-5. Thomas Stone 5-4, 5-4.

Last week: Huntingtown lost to Lackey, 36-0. Thomas Stone lost to La Plata, 7-6. First meeting.

McDonough at La Plata: Records -- McDonough 7-2, 7-2. La Plata 4-5, 4-5.

Last week: McDonough defeated Westlake, 23-3. La Plata defeated Thomas Stone, 7-6.

Last meeting: La Plata won, 14-7, on Nov. 7.

Northern at Leonardtown: Records -- Northern 7-2, 7-2. Leonardtown 1-8, 1-8.

Last week: Northern defeated Calvert, 52-7. Leonardtown lost to Chopticon, 18-10.

Last meeting: Northern won, 69-35, on Nov. 7.

Patuxent at Calvert: Records -- Patuxent 5-4, 5-4. Calvert 1-8, 1-8.

Last week: Patuxent defeated Great Mills, 53-7. Calvert lost to Northern, 52-7.

Last meeting: Calvert won, 37-0, on Nov. 7.