While its Montgomery County brethren slug it out with each other in the Montgomery 4A West Region, ninth-ranked Sherwood will open the playoffs on Friday against Parkville, an unfamiliar opponent in an unfamiliar region.
In the latest MPSSAA reclassification, Montgomery County has 15 4A schools, too many for one region. So Sherwood (9-1), Blake and Springbrook were shifted from the county's 4A West Region to the 4A North Region, where the three teams in the Warriors' bracket hail from either Baltimore County or Baltimore City.
It would appear history is on Sherwood's side, as none of those three teams has won a state title. Top-seeded Perry Hall was the only team to reach a final, and that was in 1974. Sherwood Coach Al Thomas isn't subscribing to the notion the past will have any impact on the Warriors' fate against Parkville (9-1).
"We've got some film on" Parkville, Thomas said. "The big thing is traditionally over the years Baltimore County hasn't won a lot of state championships. But you're going to tell me that because a kid is born in Baltimore County he's not a great football player? [Parkville] is aggressive, and they will hit you."
Westlake's Film Class
When his players gathered Saturday morning for their weekly film session, Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli had a re-run prepared. The Wolverines watched their 18-6 victory over Lackey on Sept. 23.
Only after watching that, did Zaccarelli show his players the tape of their 18-6 loss to Thomas Stone last Friday.
"Then I asked them, 'What's the difference?' " Zaccarelli said. "Some people were surprised at the differences -- the intensity, the physical [play], the emotion."
Now they know what much of the Maryland football community has wondered. Three weeks ago, Westlake was 8-0 and had a chance to secure the top seed in the Maryland 3A playoffs. Following a 15-12 loss to Patuxent and last week's loss to Thomas Stone, the Wolverines are the fourth seed in their region and will visit No. 4 Gwynn Park on Saturday in a 3A South semifinal.
Injuries have devastated Westlake, most notably its star backfield of Aaris Reed and Pha'Terrell Washington. Reed, who has missed the past three games with a knee injury, is doubtful for this week's game, while Washington, who was limited to one carry last week with an ankle injury, should be back.
Other sprains and strains throughout Westlake's deep roster have prevented the Wolverines from starting their regular lineup since consecutive victories over Lackey and McDonough, both playoff teams.
"We are not the same personnel as we were for the Lackey and McDonough games, but that's still not an excuse for not executing," Zaccarelli said. "There was still enough talent on the field to win the last two games.
"We have to see how we respond because I think we are good enough to beat Gwynn Park."
Urbana on a Roll
Though Urbana's 9-1 record was good enough to earn only the third seed in the Maryland 3A West Region tournament, the 10th-ranked Hawks are entering the postseason playing as well as any team in the state.
Since a 27-25 loss to Westminster after a field goal that would have won the game fell short, Urbana has reeled off five consecutive victories in impressive fashion. The Hawks posted three shutouts and outscored the competition, 229-23, after blanking rival and then-No. 15 Linganore, 10-0, in a Monocacy Valley Athletic League Chesapeake Division game on Saturday.
"Our guys talk about shutting teams out all the time, and I don't discourage them from it," Urbana Coach Joe Polce said. "I think we've gotten a lot better as the season has gone on, but that doesn't mean it gets any easier for us."
Urbana will play at second-seeded Seneca Valley (9-1) on Friday night at 7, with the winner advancing to next week's region final against either top-seeded Westminster (9-1) or fourth-seeded Linganore (8-2). Linganore defeated Westminster, 22-10, during the regular season.
Against Linganore, Urbana got all it would need in the second quarter when quarterback Mike Murray threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Snowden before Zach Beach added a 24-yard field goal in the third quarter.
"I don't think this gives us any advantage over Linganore because we could see them again next week," said Polce, whose team had lost its past two games against the Lancers dating from 2003. "But it was still a big win for us and a great way to go into the playoffs."