Churchill is one of the hottest teams in Maryland, while Damascus has one of the state's best programs. The 4A West Region championship should turn on several key points.
No. 16 Churchill (10-1)
at No. 4 Damascus (10-1) Tomorrow, 7
* 1. Who controls the tempo.
In its last five games, Churchill has averaged 40.2 points. Last week the Bulldogs scored 35 second-half points to rally against Quince Orchard. Churchill QB Nick Scrivens, in his first season of organized football, has run the Bulldogs' offense like a veteran, completing 101 of 192 pass attempts for 1,537 yards, 20 TDs and five INTs.
But how often will Churchill have the ball? Damascus, thanks to All-Met running back Matt Reidy and its well-disciplined and powerful offensive line, can shorten a game with its rushing attack. And the hard-running Reidy pounding between the tackles 35 to 40 times can take a toll on a defense.
"They're not running 10,000 different plays, they're running basic stuff," Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini said of Damascus's offense. "There's nothing more frustrating than knowing what's coming and not being able to stop it."
* 2. How Churchill responds to the pressure.
Last week the Bulldogs made their first playoff appearance since 1995, but the pressure of the postseason did not seem to bother them. Churchill, led by the confident Scrivens, barely flinched when it fell behind, 17-3, at the half.
But last week, Churchill was playing another team relatively unaccustomed to the playoffs. Quince Orchard had not reached the postseason since 1993, while defending state champion Damascus is making its seventh consecutive playoff appearance. Also, Churchill was at home last week and this week will have to travel to Damascus.
* 3. Who makes the big plays on special teams.
Churchill could hurt Damascus here. In the Hornets' lone loss, against Northwest, they gave up a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. They gave up another long return the following week to Quince Orchard. Last week, Damascus gave up a long kickoff return and botched a punt snap deep in its own territory. Those two plays led to Richard Montgomery's only scores.
Churchill, meanwhile, has a special teams weapon in Scrivens. Last week he kicked a 33-yard field goal, was 5-for-5 on extra points (including two that measured 35 yards after penalties) and pinned the Cougars with four touchbacks on kickoffs.