Maryland 3A East Region
Long Reach (9-1) at Gwynn Park (10-0)
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Saturday.
To the Winner: A spot in the region final against the winner of tomorrow's game between top-seeded River Hill (10-0) and fourth-seeded Douglass (8-2).
How Long Reach Got Here: The Lightning won a school-record nine games to earn the third seed and its first postseason berth since 1997, when it lost in the first round of the 2A state tournament.
How Gwynn Park Got Here: The defending region champion Yellow Jackets posted their second undefeated regular season in three years to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. They were awarded the second seed based on a point system that ranked River Hill the top seed. Gwynn Park has never won a state title and was eliminated in the first round in two of the previous three seasons.
Long Reach TE Eugene Lightfoot vs. Gwynn Park's secondary
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Lightfoot will look to exploit the soft spot between Gwynn Park's linebackers and secondary. Lightfoot's size and speed could create a mismatch for the Lightning, and his ability to establish a presence in the middle will prevent the defense from double-teaming wide receiver Kenny King (17 catches, 465 yards, 3 TDS). Gwynn Park counters with cornerbacks Robert Surratt (4 INTs) and Wilbert Brinson ( 3 INTs), and safety Aaron Hicks (3 INTs) -- each of whom has at least one scholarship offer from a Division I-A school, Coach Danny Hayes said.
"We need big Gene to play big, and that's the bottom line," Long Reach Coach Pete Hughes said. "We need him to be unstoppable."
Long Reach LBs John Montgomery and Brian Taylor and SS Landon Tews vs. Gwynn Park RBs Lorenzo Dixon, Joel Ellerbe and Regis Austin
Long Reach's strength is its run defense, and Gwynn Park's success has been tied to its running game. Long Reach has allowed just two running backs to rush for more than 100 yards, but it hasn't faced a rushing attack as good as the Yellow Jackets, who feature Dixon (738 yards, 8 TDs), Ellerbe (601 yards, 7 TDs) and Austin (430 yards, 8 TDs). Long Reach's 5-2 defensive scheme relies on Montgomery and Taylor, but Tews's speed has made him one of the county's best safeties against the run.
"I call our running backs the 'Three Amigos' because anything you need, they'll help us get," Hayes said. "Lorenzo has speed, and Ellerbe has the power to run up the middle, and Regis does anything else you need."
Directions: Take Interstate 495 to Route 5 south (Branch Avenue). Go nine miles and turn left onto Brandywine Road. The Prince George's County school is on the left.
-- JON GALLO