For all the talk of statement games and gut checks that seem to arise every time two top teams square off, Damascus Coach Dan Makosy offered some perspective on tomorrow's game, when his top-ranked Swarmin' Hornets head to No. 8 Sherwood for a clash of unbeatens.
"The good thing about this week's game is I don't think, win or lose, either team is going to be out of it. There's a real chance we'll meet again in the playoffs," Makosy said.
That much is hard to argue. Sherwood and Damascus are two of only three remaining undefeated teams in Montgomery County (Class 1A Poolesville is the other), and both have pulled away from the pack a bit with wins over previously undefeated teams in recent weeks (Damascus topped No. 19 Quince Orchard; Sherwood beat No. 13 Seneca Valley).
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the game is the stark contrast in styles that will be on display, with Sherwood showcasing one of the area's best quarterbacks in junior Deontay Twyman (50 of 79 passing, 834 yards, eight touchdowns) and Damascus (6-0) imposing a power running attack that is averaging 235 rushing yards per game behind running backs Steven Anderson and Kyle Hogan.
But it would also be a mistake to label either team as one dimensional. Sherwood (6-0) has expanded its offense considerably this season handing the ball off to running back Brian Gunderman (79 carries, 511 yards, 11 touchdowns), who missed the second half of last season with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Damascus's quarterback tandem of Nick Sefcik and Kyle Frazier has proven to be effective when called upon.
"Everybody looks at Twyman and says he's a great quarterback," Makosy said. "But in the same way they're just the opposite of us. People stuff our run and we'll try and spread you out. People try and stop their passing game and Sherwood will stuff it down your throat."
An Unexpected Factor
Northwest's Anthony King was supposed to be a situational player on offense this season, a change-of-pace back whose primary contributions would come at defensive back. But with his play over the past month, it looks like he should have a major say in Northwest's playoff hopes down the stretch.
A preseason ankle injury sidelined running back Chuck Burton for the year, opening a spot for King to step into the starting role. King's workload steadily increased as the year progresed and he has responded by breaking the 100-yard rushing mark in each of the last four games, including a career-high 209 yards in a 21-20 loss to Whitman on Oct. 10.
"I think it's a combination of him getting more carries and getting more continuity with the offensive line," Coach Randy Trivers said. "His confidence is growing. He's learning the craft of being a good running back. It's a lot of subtle things with vision, how to maneuver your body and pad level."
Because so much of Northwest's diverse offense was supposed to be predicated on the play of Burton, King's emergence comes at the perfect time. The Jaguars (4-2), immersed in a somewhat cluttered 4A playoff race, have a tough road ahead as they host Quince Orchard (5-1) tomorrow and head to Damascus on Nov. 4.
"Our goals are still intact as far as being in the playoff picture," Trivers said. "What we need is to be really focused on the here and now, and focus on what's in front of us. The only thing we can control is preparation for the next football game. We can't get caught up in how many wins or how many losses another team has."