When No. 14 Old Mill travels to Gambrills to take on Arundel on Friday night, it figures to be the toughest test either team has faced this season. Arundel and its high-octane offense will look to dictate the tempo, but it won't be an easy task against an Old Mill defense coming off of consecutive shutouts.
Arundel’s fast start comes on the heels of its most disappointing season in recent memory, as the Wildcats missed the playoffs for the first time in 13 years despite posting a 7-3 record. When the Patriots and Wildcats (3-0) met a season ago, the circumstances were nearly identical.
Old Mill (3-0) came away with a 29-13 victory in a clash of unbeatens, and the Patriots closed out the regular season with six more wins. Arundel lost its next two, against Annapolis and Broadneck, before getting back on track, but its fate by then was all but sealed.
"We didn't make the playoffs last year," senior wide receiver Christian Thorton said. "We can't be the senior group that continues that. We have to make our own legacy and be the ones to put us back on track and get us back to the playoffs and start off another trend of playoff runs."
In his first three games as Arundel's starting quarterback, junior Ryan Sedgwick has thrown 15 touchdown passes, and he attributes his early success to his talented receivers and an offensive line that gives him the time he needs to throw. The line's ability to protect Sedgwick will be critical against a massive defensive front for Old Mill anchored by 5-foot-8, 300-pound senior nose tackle Ahmad Harvey.
Harvey likened playing Arundel to a “hard-fought battle,” with the two teams exchanging “punch after punch.” Old Mill has won the past two contests, and Arundel faces a tall task to keep the Patriots from becoming the first team to win three straight in the series. But the Wildcats are responsible for Old Mill’s most recent regular season defeat — an unusually low-scoring 14-7 road win in Millersville back on Sept. 12, 2014.
“[The Patriots] always have big players that look like college players,” Thorton said. “It’s unbelievable. Their skill positions are always going to be athletic, but their big men are what wow me the most.”
Old Mill has already been forced to adjust its plans on offense, after quarterback Brandon Butler tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in a Week 2 win over Glen Burnie. Linebacker Blaise Fisher has since stepped in to fill the role. It hasn't been much of an adjustment for senior running back Sirus Gay, who is averaging three touchdowns and just under 175 rushing yards per contest this season.
“I’ve played with [Fisher] since I was 10 years old with the Old Mill youth football team,” Gay said. “He was always our starting quarterback.”
To prepare for the Wildcats’ hurry-up offense, Old Mill has been picking up the pace in practice all week. Meanwhile, the Wildcats have been fine-tuning their focus — which, according to Thorton, should be placed on “trying to get better for ourselves” — to prevent a skid like last year’s from taking place.
“If we focus on trying to get better just to beat them, then it’ll mess us up,” Thorton said. “It’s just do what we have to do, and that should be good enough.”
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