Maryland 3A South Region Semifinals
McDonough (8-2) at No. 5 Lackey (10-0)
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: Lackey won, 51-13, on Oct. 15.
Last playoff appearance: McDonough: 1991 (3A finalist); Lackey: 2003 (3A finalist).
Key player: Lackey's Avery Lancaster began his senior season with one of the most dubious jobs among area football players: He was the backup to All-Met running back Morgan Green.
Lancaster didn't know how much playing time he'd actually get. After all, Green set the state record for carries last year with 356, which he turned into 2,630 yards, the second highest single-season total in Maryland history.
But now that Green's hamstring injury has flared up again, it's Lancaster's turn to step into the spotlight.
Lancaster already overcame the toughest barrier -- realizing he is not going to match Green's monstrous totals.
"It's not that easy, but I know I've got a big heart," said Lancaster, who is 5 feet 7 and 155 pounds. "I have to do my best to fill his shoes. I know that I'm not going to be better than him. He's the best running back in the state."
In the four games Green has either left early or missed because of injury, Lancaster has compiled a modest 335 yards and three touchdowns. In last week's 13-7 victory over Westlake, he gained 88 yards on a career-high 24 carries. Lancaster's 23-yard run to the Westlake 1 in the second quarter set up Lackey's first touchdown, and he scored the tiebreaking touchdown on a four-yard carry in the fourth quarter.
Lackey knows that Lancaster's success running the ball is key to the Chargers' passing game. Many of quarterback Aaron Smith's 1,213 passing yards have come off play-action fakes to Green.
Scouting report: McDonough never had a chance against Lackey in the teams' regular season matchup. Lackey led 20-0 less than seven minutes into the game, thanks to two interceptions and a bad snap on a McDonough punt. The Rams committed five turnovers, which Lackey converted into 29 points.
If the Rams go to their diverse passing attack, as they did sporadically in the second half against Lackey, the Chargers could be vulnerable. In addition to finding wide receivers Mike Lucero and Rob Lowery and tight ends David Harvey and Barry Galbreath, McDonough quarterback Cory Yates has thrown to running back A.J. Wallace seven times for 178 yards the past two weeks.
Even if Green is able to play for Lackey, he will not be 100 percent, and McDonough's defense showed in its 23-3 victory over Westlake two weeks ago that it can stop a powerful running attack.
Severna Park (7-3) at Westlake (8-2)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Last meeting: Westlake won, 39-0, on Nov. 14, in a Maryland 3A South Region semifinal.
Last playoff appearance: Severna Park: 2003 (3A South semifinalist); Westlake: 2003 (3A South finalist).
Key player: Westlake's Jerrell Edelen is pulling double duty this fall. He's one part football player, one part film producer.
The 6-4, 286-pound Edelen is in only his second season of organized football, having sat out his freshman and sophomore seasons because of grades. As he began his senior season, he realized he needed to build up a videotape of plays at defensive tackle to showcase himself to college recruiters.
"I saw last season that I wanted to go to college," Edelen said. "So this year, I made sure I made some good plays and got some game film."
Let the tape roll on Edelen on Saturday night when he gets in the trenches against Severna Park. The Falcons have shied away from throwing much since junior quarterback Greg Zingler broke his hand two weeks ago, forcing senior running back Andrew Ferris to step in under center.
Paired with fellow behemoth Derrell Jones (6-3, 295) at defensive tackle, Edelen forces opponents to pick their poison. There might be only a handful of offensive linemen statewide who can block either of them one on one.
"You put your strongest man on one of them," Westlake junior linebacker Aaris Reed said, "but that just leaves the other one open to beat you."
In last week's 13-7 loss to Lackey, Edelen was one of Westlake's bright spots. He had four tackles for a loss and a fourth-quarter fumble recovery.
"In our first game of the year against Northern, I got overlooked," Edelen said. "They double-teamed Derrell, and if I'm doing what I should be doing, I don't think there's anyone who can guard me one on one."
Scouting report: A lot depends on a pair of ankles -- Reed's left and Pha'Terrell Washington's right. Both junior running backs left Westlake's game against Lackey in the second quarter with severe sprains and sat out practice early this week.
If both players are healthy, Westlake should have little trouble running on the Falcons, who cannot match the Wolverines' depth up front.
The key for Westlake is to take an early lead and force Severna Park to play catch-up by throwing the ball -- not the Falcons' preference. In last year's game, the Wolverines scored a pair of first-quarter touchdowns on plays of at least 80 yards.
Maryland 4A East Region Semifinal
Patuxent (6-4) at No. 20 Broadneck (9-1)
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Last playoff appearance: Patuxent: 2001 (3A finalist); Broadneck: 2003 (4A finalist).
Key player: Shortly after noon last Friday, 230-pound senior lineman David Garcia felt faint and went to the Patuxent nurse's office. He was having an allergic reaction to preservatives that had been in his lunch, and he fell in and out of consciousness, said Panthers Coach Steve Crounse.
With his pulse faint and blood pressure plummeting, Garcia was rushed in an ambulance to Calvert Memorial Hospital. Along the way, he received three injections of epinephrine, a form of adrenaline that quickly raises the heartbeat, increases blood pressure and opens up constricted airways to ease breathing. Garcia was released from the hospital that evening, just in time to watch the last three quarters of Patuxent's 45-20 victory over Calvert.
"We hope that he's back" for tomorrow's Maryland 4A East semifinal at Broadneck, Crounse said, "because he's the key to our team, not only on the line, but emotionally, too. It was tough to play without him, but it was so emotional when he came back onto the sideline. The reason why we jumped out [to a 28-0 lead] was the guys had dedicated the game to him because of what he means to us."
Garcia's presence along Patuxent's offensive line this week would be even more critical. The Panthers have had a tough time establishing their running game, and Garcia is perhaps their best blocker.
"We're capable of being a ball-control team," Crounse said, "and David is a big part of that."
Scouting report: Crounse knows the toughest part will be the first quarter, when playoff-tested Broadneck can exploit a Patuxent roster with no postseason experience.
"Broadneck definitely has an advantage over us because of that," Crounse said. "But we've definitely been an exciting team to watch. We've been a big-play team. . . . Now we have to work on our protection schemes for [quarterback Delonte Janey] and use our speed to our advantage."
Patuxent has scored 30 of its 48 touchdowns this season on plays of 20 yards or longer. While the Panthers will have to gamble against an opponent with more talent, they also know that, to stay close, they'll need to control the clock and not wear down their thin defense.