Last week was a tough one for football speculation around the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
Just when it appeared that the postseason fates were sealed for the SMAC, the scores started coming in.
Up-and-down Patuxent 15, undefeated Westlake 12.
Surging Calvert 54, thought-to-be-surging McDonough 42.
Thomas Stone 20, Great Mills 19 -- thanks to the Cougars' last-minute scoring drive.
"When people don't give you a shot to win a game, you go in with nothing to lose," said Patuxent Coach Steve Crounse, encapsulating the underdogs' motivation for the Panthers against Westlake.
None of the three regions that house SMAC teams has settled its postseason invitations. Patuxent, which figured it had seen its playoff hopes disappear with a loss at McDonough two weeks ago, is largely responsible for the mess that is the Maryland 2A South Region.
Six teams -- including McDonough and Patuxent -- are in contention for the region's four playoff spots, but none of them has clinched one. Any of them can finish between first and fourth.
Calvert might have played better over the past three weeks than any other SMAC team. The Cavaliers have won three in a row, all against playoff-contending teams. Yet last weekend's victories by Patuxent and Atholton (over Glenelg) eliminated the Cavaliers from contention.
McDonough would be in with a victory over Lackey, which has clinched a spot in the 3A South Region. The Rams can also get in with a loss, but they would need a lot of help from the other contending teams -- Atholton, Potomac, Patuxent and Reservoir. At least two of them would have to lose. They can't get any help from Glenelg because the Gladiators' nine-game season is complete.
"If we don't win, we don't deserve to get in," McDonough Coach Dave Bradshaw said. "You don't want to go in losing two straight."
Many scenarios for Patuxent's fate depend on the other teams. This is the simplest way for the Panthers to be guaranteed a playoff spot: beat Northern and have Westlake beat Thomas Stone.
In the 3A South Region, it's much clearer because the four-team field is set. Gwynn Park clinched the top seed with its victory and Westlake's loss last week. If Westlake beats Thomas Stone, the Wolverines will get the second seed. They will host Friendly if the Patriots defeat 5-4 Surrattsville on Saturday. Lackey can only move up from the fourth seed with a victory coupled with a loss by Westlake and/or Friendly.
A scenario that would have been laughed at two weeks ago could have Westlake losing and Friendly and Lackey winning. In that case, the Wolverines would be looking at a first-round playoff game at Gwynn Park.
In the 4A East Region, Thomas Stone has clinched a spot and is poised to finish third. If the Cougars don't beat Westlake, a victory by North County would push Thomas Stone to fourth in the region. The Cougars could move up to No. 2 with a victory and an Arundel loss to South River, which is also playing for the fourth spot.
"The important thing right now is to keep getting better," Thomas Stone Coach Steve Lindsay said. "You don't want to go into the playoffs on a loss."