Seneca Valley, which opened in 1974, burst upon the football scene in first-class fashion with winning streaks of 31 and 30 games from 1975-80 while the school was in Class A and B. In the process, the Montgomery County school won three Maryland state titles.
In 1981, Seneca Valley moved up to Class AA and found the road back to the state final a rather difficult one as Montgomery AA powers Springbrook and Churchill proved formidable obstacles. Springbrook won four Class AA state crowns and finished second last year. Seneca Valley gained some playoff experience the past two seasons but lost in early rounds.
Finally, the Screaming Eagles discovered the correct formula and they are one game away from their first Class AA state crown.
In the second game of a doubleheader at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium today, Seneca Valley (12-0) takes on nemesis Springbrook (11-1) for the crown at 7.
In the first game of the doubleheader at 4, Havre de Grace of Harford County (11-1) meets Milford Mill of Baltimore County (12-0) for the Class C title.
Saturday at 4 at Byrd Stadium, Fairmont Heights (11-1) faces Walkersville of Frederick County (11-1) for the Class B championship, and at 7, Laurel (11-1) takes on Linganore of Frederick County (11-1) for the Class A title.
In Virginia AAA playoff action tonight at 8, Woodbridge (9-2) plays at Commonwealth District foe Fauquier (9-2) in the Northwest Region Division 6 final and Courtland (10-1) plays E.C. Glass in Lynchburg (11-0) for the Division 5 title.
Today at 1:30, Marshall (10-1) plays at Fairfax (8-3) for the Northern Region Division 5 crown. Top-ranked T.C. Williams (11-0) hosts Annandale (8-3) for the Northern Region Division 6 championship Saturday at 1:30 .
James Monroe (12-0) hosts Sussex Central (12-0) in a State AA Division 3 semifinal Saturday at 1:30.
A stranger to the Maryland state playoffs is Laurel, which is participating for the first time. The team won only six games the previous two seasons, but third-year Coach Chuck Hickes pushed all the right buttons this season.
"We made sure we had a number of seniors who could help us at the right positions," Hickes said. "We have eight seniors on defense and nine on offense. Since we had experienced players back, we started running our offense the first day of practice. We picked right up where we left off last year."
Getting vintage seasons from quarterback/safety Kevin Dukes, linebacker/tight end Greg Leffler, tailback/defensive end Kevin Bailey, receiver/cornerback Mike Simmons and receiver/cornerback Mike Pasqualone, the Spartans have been one of the more consistent teams in the area. Laurel has scored 246 points and allowed 61 in 11 games.
Laurel's defense will be tested by Linganore, which has a good passing attack.
"Actually, they do a lot of things well," Hickes said. "They pass and run the ball very well and they have good linemen. But we have gotten stronger as the season has gone on."
Fairmont Heights, like its Prince George's County counterpart Laurel, is tough defensively. For a second-straight week, the Hornets, who have allowed only 53 points (second in the area only to T.C. Williams' 49), must stop a highly regarded running back in Donald Staggers.
The Walkersville senior has rushed for 1,300 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. Staggers had two touchdowns in the Lions' 27-8 state semifinal victory over J.M. Bennett last week.
If such a thing is possible, T.C. Williams has been even tougher the last five weeks. Only one of its opponents, Robinson, has scored against Williams in its past five games, losing 21-7 in a regular-season game and 27-7 in last week's semifinal.
With only 49 points allowed, T.C. Williams is on target to better its mark of 66 points allowed in 1984 when it won the state title. This is Williams' fourth appearance in the region final in the past six years.