The Rams improved to 7-0 for the first time since 2006 after they scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter of a 28-21 win against North Point, including a wild fumble return touchdown after a blocked field goal in the final minutes. Patuxent went toe-to-toe with undefeated Calvert County rival Huntingtown, but lost a 42-35 slugfest in its first defeat of the season.
The anticipation for those rivalry games had been building for weeks, but now the teams must avoid a letdown in a game that will have a huge impact on the playoff seeding in one of Maryland’s toughest regions, the 2A South.
“It was emotional afterward [Friday] but the kids showed resolve Saturday during our film session and even more Monday in a very physical practice,” Patuxent Coach Steve Crounse said. “I’m pretty happy with where we are.”
The 2A South region contains teams from five different counties, and McDonough currently holds a one-game lead over Patuxent and Prince George’s powers Douglass and Gwynn Park, with upstart two-loss Calvert one game behind those teams.
McDonough — the 2010 Maryland 2A champion — can virtually clinch a postseason berth and take firm control of the region’s No. 1 seed with a win this week, but that’s not the focus yet.
“We have some players that have playoff experience and championship experience and we’re leaning on those guys,” McDonough Coach Luke Ethington said. “It’s a matter of keeping things in perspective. We’re trying to look through the end of a straw rather than at the full picture all at once.”
Patuxent has averaged 44.3 points per game so far, but is focusing on improving its defense this week against an extremely athletic McDonough squad who provides a challenge similar to what Huntingtown did.
Like Huntingtown, McDonough’s lead running back has been slowed by injuries, but the backup has filled in and actually provided the Rams with an extra weapon they didn’t know it had.
“The kids are very aware that McDonough is a very formidable opponent,” Crounse said. “We know the next three weeks are playoff games now. We want to control our own destiny.”
While Surrattsville made its first Maryland 1A South playoff appearance under Coach Robert Harris last fall, the task was made tougher by a 28-17 loss to Forestville, which also competes in the 1A South.
Both teams finished with five wins, but the Hornets snuck into the playoff field on bonus points, buoyed by a win over 3A Crossland. Meanwhile, the Knights lost to the Cavaliers and missed the postseason for the first time since 2005.
Surrattsville — now 0-4 in the annual head-to-head matchup under Harris — can again solidify its playoff positioning with a home win over Forestville on Saturday.
“Last year we were right there and just didn’t really finish,” Harris said. “The kids that returned are excited to have another chance. They feel like they have something to prove.”
The Hornets — currently third in the 1A South standings with Forestville fourth — have won three of their past four games and allowed just three total touchdowns in that span. They expect a boost from the return of sophomore quarterback Robert Harris III (concussion), the coach’s son, and senior lineman Jaylen Harris (suspension).
Forestville hung tough against league co-leader Douglass last week before the Eagles punched in two fourth-quarter scores for an 18-0 win. In that game, the Knights battled injuries, especially at quarterback. Sophomore Quenton Boston started the game, left with a back injury and then had to return when his replacement, senior Andre Dalton, got banged up.
Coach Charles Harley said his team had just 16 players suited up for practice on Wednesday with seven starters, including seniors Jourdan Ginyard (six interceptions) and Marcel Joly (624 rushing yards), sidelined by injury.
The coach isn’t certain how many players he’ll have available on Saturday, but he spent part of Wednesday’s session walking through the game plan with those injured to at least get them mental reps.
“It’s not a good recipe going into a big game,” Harley said, “but it’s something we’re used to.”
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Glenelg, but Gladiators Coach Butch Schaffer said that his team’s up and down fall is simply the cost of doing business in Howard County.
At 4-3, Glenelg finds itself firmly planted in a four-way tie for fourth place in Howard County, essentially the middle of the pack. Traditional powers like No. 9 River Hill (7-0) and Atholton (6-1) sit atop the county standings, but below them sits 5-2 Mount Hebron and a jumble of three and four-loss teams that have spent the season beating up on one another.
“Our league is extremely tough. Every week, all the teams are so balanced for the most part. You can win or lose every week. If you don’t play your best you’re going to lose. It’s real simple,” Schaffer said. “The county is a tough county. It doesn’t get as much credit as it should, because we play some real quality football. There’s not any weeks off. It’s much like the NFL. There’s a lot of parity. You can only have one team up top, and a lot of the other teams are pretty darn equal.”
For the Gladiators, the difference between winning and losing has been dramatic, with wins coming as a result of impressive defensive performances. Glenelg has held opponents to eight points or fewer in each of its four wins so far this season, including back-to-back road wins the last two weeks against Marriotts Ridge and Oakland Mills. In their losses, the Gladiators have been far less stingy on defense, allowing just over 26 points per game while scoring just nine.
Schaffer said the difference for his team has been its ability to control the ball and avoid the turnovers that have been so costly in its three losses. Injuries up front have also caused depth-chart issues for Glenelg, one of three 2A schools playing in predominantly 3A Howard County.
“Our league is just tough week in, week out. If you make mistakes, you’re going to lose regardless of how you play,” he said. “That’s just how our league is. It’s not that we did anything different. The games we lost, we deserved to lose. The games we won, we deserved to win.”