Entering October with as many losses as victories, Eleanor Roosevelt was not a shoo-in for the playoffs. The postseason expansion that went into effect last season allows teams to overcome slow starts, but in a difficult league that becomes its own region in the playoffs, the Raiders had a long way to go if they wanted to have a chance to succeed.
However, with a five-game winning streak and a few additions to the lineup, Roosevelt is looking like the contender it usually is in November.
"We're still not playing as well as we can," Roosevelt Coach Rick Houchens said. "But we're playing better."
The key, according to Houchens, has been getting players healthy and putting two transfers on the field after lengthy investigations into their enrollment at the Greenbelt school. Much has been made about the addition of quarterback Nico Scott from Ballou and running back Malcolm Banks from Parkdale. But defensive lineman Ralph Alexander and running back Harrison Baker missed three games apiece because of a high ankle sprain and a foot injury, respectively. Quarterback Derrick Williams played through a sprained ankle, and tight end-defensive end Will Davis has a pulled groin muscle.
"Against Northwestern [a 43-0 victory Oct. 23] was the first time we had everybody in pretty good game shape," Houchens said. "When you're missing people, you're missing timing, the continuity of playing alongside the guy next to you and being comfortable with all your assignments and being able to execute it."
Roosevelt followed the Northwestern victory with a 34-13 victory over Oxon Hill on Saturday. Barring any last-week surprises, the Raiders will be the third seed in the 4A South Region playoffs, playing at C.H. Flowers in the first round. But Houchens said that because Saturday's regular season finale against visiting Suitland provides an opportunity to earn a share of the Prince George's 4A league title, he has no plans to rest any players.
"Anytime you can gain a part of the county championship, that's a pride factor," Houchens said. "I think the other thing is -- everybody might have a different approach -- but we go into every game to win, and if you alter that at all on the basis of, let's rest some people, to me you're selling your team out.
"We know it's just a steppingstone for the playoffs. But if you're trying to go into the playoffs, you want to be able to go into the playoffs on a good note."
Forestville Coach Charles Harley is unsure what he will do tomorrow night. On the one hand, Harley wants to go to Southern's game at Annapolis, because he knows that if Southern loses, Forestville has a good chance of qualifying for the playoffs if it beats Crossland on Saturday. If Southern wins, however, Forestville will be eliminated from playoff contention in the Maryland 2A South Region.
"Say we go and [Southern wins], our last game could be a bummer and we play with no enthusiasm," Harley said.
Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney knows where he will be tomorrow, at Long Reach to watch the Lightning play Mount Hebron in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the Eagles' playoff fate. If Long Reach wins and Douglass beats Friendly on Saturday, the Eagles would beat out Mount Hebron for the fourth spot in the Maryland 3A East Region.
"It would have been nice to be able to control your own destiny, but we've grown accustomed at Douglass to having to rely on someone else," Pinkney said.
Pinkney said he also plans to go to the Long Reach-Mount Hebron game because if Douglass does make the playoffs, Pinkney wants to have seen both teams play so he can better prepare.
"Of course I'll be a little biased," Pinkney said. "You hate to be in that position and I don't want to wish misfortune on anyone, but I really would like for our guys to go to the playoffs again."
Potomac's Trabue Still Out
Potomac running back Titan Trabue will miss his second consecutive game Saturday against Fairmont Heights because of a separated right shoulder, but Coach Eric Knight said Trabue hopes to return for the playoffs. Knight said Trabue, who has rushed for 759 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, is scheduled to start physical therapy this week.
Without Trabue last week, Ollie Thomas, Steven Boone-Williams and Antonio Coles combined for 205 yards on 18 carries in a 42-0 victory over Crossland.
"Of course, it's going to hurt us losing a back of Titan's caliber and hopefully he'll back," Knight said. "But I thought the guys that stepped in did a good job. They ran hard, too."