POSITIONS: Running back and linebacker.

WHAT HE BRINGS TO THE TEAM: In addition to his tremendous speed and agility for a big back (6-0, 208 pounds), Whalen brings experience. He has played running back since he was 9 years old.

"He's a humble and quiet kid," Coach Richard Callahan said. "But give him the ball and he turns into something else -- he's pure determination." Whalen may be shy, but he is not short on confidence. He says his team should win easily this weekend.

"[Westlake] is 8-2; I don't think they should even be in the playoffs," Whalen said.

Key statistic: Whalen also returns kicks for the Cougars, on those rare occasions when he is given the chance. Four times opponents have kicked to him, and three of those kicks he returned for touchdowns. Whalen, a senior, has rushed for 1,522 yards and 14 touchdowns, including 160 yards on 31 carries in last Friday's 20-14 victory over Westlake.

THE GAME

No. 19 Westlake (8-2) at No. 12 Thomas Stone (10-0)

KICKOFF: Tonight, 7:30.

OUTLOOK: These teams met last week in an intense battle that was not decided until Whalen plunged into the end zone with 4 minutes 18 seconds remaining in the game to lift Thomas Stone to a 20-14 victory. It was Thomas Stone's first win over perennial power Westlake and gave it the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title and the Maryland 3A South Region championship.

This game may hinge on Westlake stopping Whalen and his backfield mate, senior Mike Finamore. Each has rushed for more than 1,000 yards

Westlake's Recardo Evans, Gonzie Gray and Denis Hicks are the main ingredients to a formidable Wing-T offense. They will face a tough Thomas Stone defense, which has yielded a SMAC-low 76 points.