Ben Bennett and Phillip Higgins have a standing bet. Gwynn Park's junior linebackers talk about it in practice during the week, in the locker room before games and in the huddle between plays.
Whichever player makes the most tackles in that week's game gets to watch the other player lug his helmet and shoulder pads back to the locker room after the game.
Higgins has a team-high 131 tackles this season, Coach Danny Hayes said, and Bennett is second on the team with 116 tackles. Each says he wins the bet more often than not.
"I always win the contest, he knows that," said Bennett of Higgins. Higgins said he always wins, and Bennett knows it.
Regardless of who has to tote the extra set of equipment, the winner of the contest seems to be Gwynn Park (10-0), which posted its second undefeated regular season in three years and has won 45 of its past 47 regular season games. The Yellow Jackets host Long Reach (9-1) in a Maryland 3A East Region semifinal on Saturday.
Although there is significant pressure for Gwynn Park to advance in the postseason -- it has outscored opponents 373-56 -- Hayes knows that next season's team should be even better.
In addition to the standout linebackers, Gwynn Park is playing several other juniors, notably defensive end Adrian Moten, linemen Phillip Taylor and Brian Benjamin, linebacker William Little and wide receiver Quintin McCree.
"During scrimmages you wondered how good we were going to be because we were so young," Hayes said. "But they're playing like upperclassmen. That's what I'm so proud of. Your nucleus of your team is just juniors and sophomores and those guys are playing like seniors. There are just so many that are coming back."
The Road to Baltimore
Prince George's-Howard matchups typically are dominated by Prince George's schools, but if that trend is going to change, it could happen when Douglass plays at River Hill. The Hawks have a strong passing attack, something that has hurt Douglass this season, though the Eagles did a good job last weekend against Friendly quarterback Joe Haden, the county's leading passer.
Regardless, the team to beat is Gwynn Park, which was threatened only once this season and has its sights on advancing further than last season, when it lost, 7-0, to Linganore in the state semifinals.