By sunset Saturday, eight teams will be a game away from winning Maryland football championships in their classifications. Tonight, as they compete in semifinal games, three will move closer to accomplishing the goals they set during the first days of practice in August.

"We know that we are the underdog," said Wootton Coach Bob Hampton, whose Cinderella Patriots will visit top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Springbrook in a Class 4A semifinal showdown between 11-0 teams Saturday at 1.

Do you think you can win? "I've been asked that question so much and there is a little bit of uncertainty, but our kids believe that they can go out and compete," said Hampton. "We're not going to go up there and try to lose; we're going to try and win."

Springbrook has played in the Class 4A final the last four years. The Blue Devils were state runners-up in 1986 and '87 before winning the title the past two seasons. Coach Bob Milloy has won six state titles in his 17 seasons.

"There will be a lot of electricity in the air," said Hampton. "We know that our backs are up against the wall because we are playing the defending state champion. We are trying to build tradition; they already have it."

No. 3 Oxon Hill (11-0), which will play host to Randallstown (11-0) Saturday at 1 in the other 4A semifinal, pledges to surprise its high-powered opponent. Larry Washington gained 319 yards on 23 carries to lead Randallstown to a 33-21 victory over Seneca Valley last week.

"Everything that you see is not necessarily what you're going to get," said Oxon Hill Coach Cliff Haskins. "I heard {Washington} came out and saw us play last week and said that he was going to get 200 yards against us. We think that we can do some things; we just need to stop him."

"Everybody {left playing} is good," said Haskins. "This will probably be the best semifinal that {the state of Maryland} has had in quite a while."

Two of the metropolitan area's more exciting players -- Korey Singleton of Oakland Mills and Douglass's Truman Washington -- are out for the season, but nothing can be taken away from the Class 3A and 2A semifinals either.

The 3A championship matchup will be set by tonight. Northern (11-0) entertains McDonough (10-1), which it pummeled, 39-0, earlier in the season. McDonough has won six straight games since then. Oakland Mills (10-1), which lost Singleton -- a 1,000-yard rusher -- to a knee injury a couple weeks ago, visits C.M. Wright (11-0). Both games begin at 7:30.

In a 2A semifinal, the quick-strike offense of Damascus (10-1), will be challenged by J.M. Bennett (9-2) at Wicomico County Stadium tonight at 7:30. Wilde Lake (11-0), which lost in the state finals last year, will host Douglass (10-1) Saturday at 1 in the other 2A game.

Wilde Lake has outscored opponents, 398-37, this season. Tailback Ralphael Wall and hard-hitting safety Ricky Rowe are the Wildecats' key players.

Douglass, making its first playoff appearance in 15 years, isn't intimidated and isn't worried because it already has exceeded its expectations.

"We're pleasantly surprised," said Coach John Latzo. "We surely didn't think that we would be 10-1 this season."