The day might come when middle linebacker Maurice Royster will turn around on the football field and not see his best friend, Raymond Mack, near him. After playing on the North County varsity football team for three years together, the two seniors might have to part ways when this year is over, when it comes time to go to college. The two hope tomorrow isn't that day.

To keep their fun going, Royster, Mack and the rest of the Knights have to overcome Old Mill tomorrow night in the first playoff game North County (6-4) has played in nine years. The only problem?

The first meeting wasn't pretty for the Knights, a 51-0 loss in their second game of the season.

That's history as far as Royster is concerned.

"I think it's going to be a game to see," Royster said of the first round 4A East game at 5:15 p.m. tomorrow at Old Mill. "I think we're going to do a lot better. If we really work hard there's no doubt in my mind, I know we can win. In the beginning of the season basically we weren't really ready. We were still moving people around. Now we're set."

The energy and the optimism with which Royster speaks is characteristic of the person Mack knows so well.

"He's a good friend, positive," said Mack. "Whatever he does he works hard at it. Maurice brings a lot of energy to this team. He always seems to have energy no matter what. We can be down to Old Mill 51-0 and he'll still have energy trying to keep going."

"There hasn't been a game where he hasn't given us 100 percent," Coach Gary Liddick said after last week's game, a 20-13 win over Meade in which Royster was once again the team's leading tackler, with seven. "He's all over the field, he's a tough kid. Words can't express how I feel about him."

Liddick's strong feelings for his middle linebacker are rooted in the fact that, in his first year coaching at North County, Liddick brought Royster, then a sophomore, up to the varsity level.

"He's truly family," Liddick said.

It's that family feeling Royster has tried to instill in the rest of the team as well, saying the most important aspect within a team is the way it pulls together.

Also helping is fan support, something the Knights have gotten this season and something Royster is proud to have.

"It's a drive really," Royster said. "Fans are coming to see us, they come to see the North County Knights play because they know we can turn it up and win some games. We definitely can do something here."

Maurice Royster, left, helped North County to its first playoffs in nine years.