More than the Howard County football championship will be at stake Saturday when 17th-ranked Oakland Mills takes on 12th-ranked Wilde Lake. Oakland Mills running back Korey Singleton hopes to lay claim to the area rushing title as well, while tight races for top passing and receiving honors also will be decided on this final weekend.
Singleton has amassed 1,817 yards on 224 carries -- an 8.1 average -- and scored 24 touchdowns. In the fifth week of the season, he took the rushing lead from Annandale's James Milliner after consecutive games of 303, 272 and 282 yards.
Milliner is third (1,579 yards on an 11.0 average) and leads the area with 25 touchdowns.
Singleton faces a tough challenge as he goes against a Wilde Lake defense that has five shutouts while allowing 29 points all season. Wilde Lake's opponents have averaged 66 yards per game rushing and have not scored a rushing touchdown.
Oakland Mills is equally stingy on defense, having given up 45 points and 58 rushing yards a game.
When he lines up at outside linebacker, Singleton's job will be to shadow Wilde Lake wishbone halfback Raphael Wall, who ranks fourth among area rushers with 1,502 yards on 139 carries (10.8 average) and 24 touchdowns, despite getting the ball only 15 times a game. The 6-foot, 200-pound senior with 4.46 speed is being courted by Maryland, Tennessee, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Wall, described as a "slash-and-dash" style runner by his coach, Doug DuVall, has spent much of the season in Singleton's shadow, a situation he hopes to change when the 9-0 teams meet Saturday.
"Korey and I are friends and everything," Wall said, "but I think people know who the better back is. His whole offensive line pulls for him and, because he's a little bit slower, he has time to get behind his blocks."
Wall thinks defense will decide the outcome. "If Korey comes out of this game with 200 yards," said Wall, "then I'll give him all the credit in the world and say he's a great back."
Singleton, a bruising runner on the field but soft-spoken off it, said the rushing title "pops into my head every once in a while . . . but I wouldn't have it without the team.
"I've gotten some criticism because people say Raphael's faster . . . he gets less carries," he said. "But in the wishbone you have to key on two backs. In the I-formation, they know I'm getting the ball."
One person who would like to see a defensive struggle is Yorktown wing-T halfback Andre Yates, second to Singleton with 1,754 yards on 180 carries (9.7 average, 21 touchdowns). While playing in eight of nine games, Yates -- 5-5, 155 -- has averaged 218 yards. He needs 250 yards to raise his average to 222.7, which would be good for 10th place on the all-time national list, pending Virginia state playoff games. Twentieth-ranked Yorktown (8-1) plays at Washington-Lee tonight.
"You expect to see a scatback but he mostly runs inside," Yorktown Coach Bruce Hanson said. "His offensive line likes blocking for him because he runs so hard. . . . He always runs upfield and you've got to get your kids to wrap him up because he can break some tackles.
"Andre's got great vision and great quickness. He reminds me of a Barry Sanders-type back: tough enough to run inside."
The race among quarterbacks for most passing yards is more heated, as the top three candidates are separated by 78 yards.
North County's John Ray heads the pack with 1,995 yards on 158-for-330 passing with 15 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Coach Chuck Markiewicz calls the 6-2, 160-pound senior "the reluctant quarterback . . . because at the beginning of the season he wanted to be a split end."
Operating the run-and-shoot offense, Ray averages 37 passes a game and twice threw for more than 300 yards, including a 27-for-50, 307-yard, two-touchdown effort in a 34-21 victory over Queen Anne's.
"We don't throw many screens . . . His passes are mostly in the 10-yard range," said Markiewicz, "but he can throw it though."
North County (7-2) plays Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore (4-5) on Friday.
McNamara quarterback Junior Bynum's 17 touchdown passes lead the area and his 1,918 yards (117 of 250) put him third. He's rushed for 10 scores as well but has thrown 16 interceptions.
"A real mobile guy," said Coach Tom Clark. "He can throw long, short and on the run."
Fifth-ranked McNamara (8-1) can win the Metro Conference title with a victory over Good Counsel (3-6) Saturday.
W.T. Woodson junior Brandon Corso has thrown for more than 200 yards in seven of nine games; he completed 28 of 53 passes for 313 yards in a 17-7 victory over Centreville. For the season, Corso is 187 for 336 with 1,985 yards, 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions for a 3-6 team. Working mostly out of a shotgun formation, Corso throws the ball over 37 times a game and his completions set a Virginia state record.
"He's a drop-back passer. . . . His speed is something we're concerned about," Coach Ken Poates said. "Hopefully we'll be able to incorporate more of a run-and-shoot, instead of a shoot-shoot-shoot, with him running the option more next year."
Corso has found area receiving leader Mike Woolever 60 times for 620 yards and three touchdowns. Woolever gives "a lot of credit to Corso in reading defenses . . . and our offensive line has given him the ability to find someone open."
Woolever's closest competition comes from Glenelg's Juan Dorsey, who has caught 54 passes for 778 yards and six touchdowns.