4A East Region Semifinals
Thomas Stone (7-3) at Arundel (8-2)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Playoff history: Thomas Stone was last in the playoffs in 2003, when the Cougars lost to Broadneck in the 4A East final. They have played in the state championship game twice -- in 1980 and 1999. Arundel won its lone state title in 1975 and was a runner-up four years later. This is the Wildcats' third straight postseason appearance.
Outlook: After losing seven of eight dating to last season, Thomas Stone won six of its last seven to end the regular season, with none more impressive than last week's 18-6 victory at Westlake. The Cougars' defense should be faster and more aggressive than any that Arundel has seen. The key will be whether that's enough to contain quarterback Kyle Sumpter, who has accounted for nearly two-thirds of Arundel's total offense this season. Not only has Sumpter thrown for 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns, he is also the Wildcats' leading rusher with 699 yards and 13 scores. Look for linebackers Nekos and Wiley Brown to keep an eye on Sumpter, but also watch for lineman Justin Kelly to apply plenty of pressure. Kelly seemed to be in Westlake's backfield more than most Wolverines last week. Arundel has averaged 34.3 points against seven opponents with losing records but just 19.7 against three opponents with winning records.
3A South Region Semifinals
Lackey (8-2) at Friendly (9-1)
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Playoff history: Lackey has advanced to the 3A state final each of the past two seasons and won the 1986 Class B title. Friendly lost in last year's 2A South Region final, its first playoff appearance in six years. The Patriots have won state titles in 1974, '78, '83 and '98.
Outlook: Two explosive offenses with very capable passing games could make for an active scoreboard. Lackey senior Aaron Smith overcame a slow start to throw for 772 yards, 12 touchdowns and only 1 interception over the past five games. Seniors Greg Bowman and Dante Page are equal threats deep and over the middle, each catching 22 passes and five touchdowns. Friendly junior Joe Haden, meantime, has thrown for at least 200 yards in five of the past seven games. For the season, Haden has tossed 22 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. His top target is 6-foot junior Vincent Hill, who has 37 catches for 852 yards and 10 scores. Three Friendly backs have rushed for at least 350 yards, but sophomore Lamaar Thomas's 644 lead the team. The running game might be where Lackey has the edge. Sophomore Mike Johnson (1,135 yards and 15 touchdowns) should be fine after resting a sore ankle last week, but if he's not, senior Josh Briscoe, a state qualifier in outdoor track, has proved to be a nice replacement. He rushed for 232 yards and four touchdowns last week in his first start.
Westlake (8-2) at Gwynn Park (10-0)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Playoff history: This is Westlake's eighth playoff appearance since 1995, but the Wolverines have not advanced to the state semifinals except in 1996, when they lost to Seneca Valley in the 3A final. Gwynn Park is making its sixth consecutive playoff appearance. Its best finish was the 3A final in 2000.
Outlook: Which Westlake team will show up? If it's the one that dominated playoff teams Lackey and McDonough in the first half of the season with its substantial depth and confidence up and down the roster, this will be a terrific game. That team, however, hasn't been there the past two weeks, as Westlake has put up a combined 18 points in a pair of losses. Except for its 18-6 victory over Lackey, Westlake scored at least 27 points in every other victory. Pha'Terrell Washington should be recovered from an ankle injury, and Westlake needs him to make a couple of big plays out of his wingback spot. The Wolverines will have their hands full no matter how healthy they are -- no public school team in the Washington area may have more Division I recruits than Gwynn Park. Don't expect to be impressed by the Yellow Jackets' stat sheet, though; they have outscored their opponents 277-6 in the first half, relegating their starters to the bench for most of the second halves. Running back Rashad Carmichael (who is bound for Virginia Tech) and wide receiver Quintin McCree will offer speedy Westlake its biggest challenge yet. The biggest test for the undersized Wolverines will be 340 pound lineman Phillip Taylor, who is being pursued by a number of colleges. Maryland-bound linebacker Adrian Moten also is a threat.
2A South Region Semifinals
McDonough (6-4) at Atholton (7-3)
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Playoff history: McDonough is in the playoffs for the second straight season after a 13-year absence. The Rams won state titles in 1983, '85 and '90. Atholton's only previous playoff game was a quarterfinal loss in 1985.
Outlook: Last week's loss to Lackey might benefit McDonough, because it dropped the Rams to the region's fourth seed. That kept them from facing defending 2A champion Potomac, the region's second seed and a much more physical opponent. But a more pressing concern for McDonough is its defense, which allowed 106 points in consecutive losses to end the regular season and at least 28 in each of its last four. In each of those four games, the Rams have allowed more rushing yards than the previous week. That's what Atholton senior Matt Winger wants to hear. He has rushed for 1,758 yards and 19 touchdowns. Atholton, however, has allowed a 100-yard rusher in eight of its games, and A.J. Wallace is poised to make it nine. McDonough's superstar has rushed for at least 300 yards in three of the past four games, and has scored 18 of the Rams' 23 touchdowns in those games. It is hard to imagine one player single-handedly carrying his team through the playoffs. Will the Rams' one-man show have another act?
-- ALAN GOLDENBACH