Seven suburban Maryland high school teams begin their quests for state football titles today, while in Virginia the AAA Northern Region final grabs the spotlight.
The prize Virginia matchup takes place at W.T. Woodson, where Annandale and Madison engage in a battle of unbeatens at 1:30 p.m.
Annandale won the Potomac District tittle and the area's top ranking by rolling over 11 opponents by an aggregate score of 310 to 60. The Atoms qualified for the region championship with a 21-0 win over Fort Hunt last week.
Madison, third-ranked and the Great Falls winner, has rumbled to an 11-0 mark behind the running of All-Met Rick Lipscomb, who has 1,200 yards rushing and an area-leading 24 touchdowns, including three in a 35-22 win over West Springfield that put his team into today's contest.
Annandale will counter with a topnotch passing attack and a suffocating defense. Quarterback Mark Cox can throw to Phil Denfeld, a 6-foot-5 second team All-Met selection, and tight end Tom Tatum. The defense is keyed by two All-Mets, linebacker Ron Renzi (88 tackles) and defensive back Mike Gullette (48 tackles, four interceptions.)
Each team will be seeking to erase past disappointments. Madison was dumped by Robinson, 35-14, in last year's region final. Annandale has ended its last three seasons with playoff losses.
In contrast, Maryland AA semifinalist Walt Whitman is in its first state playoff game. The Vikings earned the right by upsetting two-time champ Churchill to end the Bulldogs' string of four consecutive Montgomery AA titles.
Whitman, 9-1 and ranked 10th in the area, features a good blend of size of size and poise. Size is represented by All-Met ben Quinn, a 6-3, 260-pound two-way tackle. Levelheaded quarterback Tim Agee and running back Joe McShea lead the offense.
The Vikings' opponent at Gaithersburg at 1 p.m. is Dulaney High of Baltimore County. Dulaney also is a newcomer to the state playoffs, logging an 8-2 mark and winning a county title for the first time in 10 years.
Dulaney, which lost one contest in double overtime and another when it turned over the ball seven times, fields its smallest and quickest team ever. The largest player is 205-pound quarterback Darry Walters. His main weapon is halfback Barrett Tucker, who has scored eight touchdowns and thrown the halfback-options pass for three more.
Friendly (9-1) and Arundel (9-0) will match tough defenses in the other Maryland class A semifinal at Largo at 1 p.m. Friendly, the perennial Prince George's A champion, and Arundel, a new playoff entry from Anne Arundel County, each have allowed fewer than six points a game to their opponents.
Defensive end Paul Massie and linebacker Lewis Evans, both second team All-Mets, head the unFriendly defense. They will look to shut down Arundel running back Earl Hendon, who has scored 10 touchdowns.
Wootton lost all the skin from its teeth in a series of close wins and losses en route to a 7-3 record and the Montgomery County class A title. It will face Franklin of Baltimore County at 1 p.m. at Walter Johnson.
Despite losing three of its first five games by a total of 16 points, Wootton gained a playoff berth with a 6-0 overtime upset of Gaithersburg. Wootton's main threat is running back-defensive back Gavin Jackson.
Two other Maryland playoff games have been rescheduled for tonight after rainouts yesterday. Prince George's AA champion Crossland (8-2) takes on Anne Arundel County's Annapolis (10-0) at Severna Park and Oakland Mills (10-0) faces Allegany (9-1) in a class B semifinal at South Hagerstown. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.