On paper, there isn’t much of a difference between Old Mill and Arundel. Both teams enter Friday’s showdown in Millersville with 5-0 records, offenses that are capable of putting up 40 or 50 points and defenses that can post shutouts.
But that’s where the similarities end. Arundel will put its up-tempo, pass-heavy offense against the Patriots’ power-rushing attack in a renewal of one of Anne Arundel County’s best rivalries.
“On offense, they’re going to tell you, ‘Look, here’s what it is,’ and you have to stop it,” Arundel Coach Chuck Markiewicz said of the Patriots. “It’s not like it’s vanilla, but it’s ‘Here it is.’ We kind of appreciate that. There’s not going to be any punches pulled, nobody’s going to do everything different. We’re just going to go out and play.”
“We’ve got to move the football, we’ve got to hope that we can control the tempo of the football game. Arundel wants to be very very up-tempo,” Old Mill Coach Chad McCormick said. “If the tempo dictates, we want to be able to control the ball and control the clock and keep them off the field.”
Moving the ball for Old Mill may be tougher though against an improved Arundel defense that has given up just 40 points this season and has held all but one of its opponents to eight points or fewer. Markiewicz said that with the established reputation of the Wildcats’ offense, it’s Arundel’s defense that feels it has something to prove against the Patriots.
“They’re going to want to run the ball down our throat, keep it from us. I’m sure they’re going to want to control the clock,” he said. “Our defense is formidable, and I don’t know that that’s something that they’re taking seriously. I can’t speak for them, but they’re probably thinking that they can hold the ball on us and control it and kind of go from it from that way, but I don’t see it that way.”
Douglass sophomore Aaron Johnson began the season as a fullback on the junior varsity squad, but he’s become a major part of the Eagles’ offense as a tailback. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound back has led the team in attempts each of the past two weeks, totaling 103 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in a pair of blowout victories.
Coach J.C. Pinkney said Johnson earned the promotion by demonstrating the toughness, vision and speed needed to be a tailback and hopes to increase Johnson’s role as he continues to learn the plays for his new position.
The Eagles (4-1, 3-1 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) have split the carries fairly evenly among five different rushers. No running back has averaged more than six attempts per game, heading into Friday night’s game against Crossland (3-2, 1-2). ...
Injury-riddled Friendly (2-3, 1-2) has dropped three straight since beginning the season with upset wins over Thomas Johnson and Gwynn Park. The Patriots — who allowed a pair of defensive touchdowns in last week’s 36-26 loss to Largo — will try to get back on track Friday when they host Forestville (4-1, 2-1). The Knights turned it over six times last week and still managed to beat Crossland.
Each time McDonough shuts out an opponent, Rams defensive coordinator Thad Freeman rewards his players at their next film session with an appropriately shaped dessert.
“We get donuts,” senior linebacker Christian Cole said. “Even if we didn’t, we take a lot of pride in shutouts. We work too hard and practice too hard to feel good about giving up points.”
Through five games this season, Freeman has had to stop at the donut shop three times, including each of the last two weeks when McDonough beat Great Mills, 41-0, in Week 4 and beat Lackey, 38-0, in Week 5.
The only points the undefeated Rams (5-0, 4-0 Southern Maryland Athletic Conference) have allowed since their season-opening 22-16 win over Northern was a touchdown on the opening kickoff of their 19-7 win over rival Westlake in Week 3, meaning the defense has played four consecutive games without allowing a single score.
“We’re not trying to do too much,” said Cole, who leads the team with 14 solo tackles (35 total) and 6.5 sacks. “We’re just trying to have everything come together as the full 11 guys and that’s the key to our success.”
The Rams emphasize an aggressive scheme that focuses on pressuring the quarterback while maintaining their gaps and not overpursuing.
They’ve run it to near-perfection so far, and have racked up 26.5 sacks through the first five games while forcing nine turnovers.
Cole, senior defensive end Robbie Owens, senior cornerback Alonte Dunn and senior linebacker Juwan Campbell are among the leaders, but 13 different players have at least 10 tackles so far, 10 have recorded a sack, and eight have either an interception or a fumble recovery.
The Rams host defending Maryland 3A North champion Aberdeen on Friday in a nonleague game, then face what could be their two toughest SMAC matchups in consecutive weeks against North Point and at Patuxent.
Potential SMAC and Maryland 2A titles for the second time in three years are a long way off, but the Rams’ quick start has them thinking big.
“One of our concepts is it would be pointless to have a good start only to have a bad finish,” Cole said. “So we have to keep going and keep getting better each week.”