While most eyes will be fixed on the colossal Linganore vs. Quince Orchard contest, but truth is all four 3A region final contests are full of intrigue.
Let's start in the South, where Westlake was not even sure it would be playing this week until it cleared a hearing Monday. When Westlake and Huntington met in the regular season, Huntingtown managed a one-point victory.
In the East, Atholton remains the only team to hold a lead on River Hill this year, and the two meet again this week. In the North, Hereford is the favorite, but Franklin has been coming on strong since the regular-season setback to the Bulls.
Lowest Seed Likely To Win: Linganore. All four region finals pit No. 1 vs. No. 2, but Linganore is the most likely No. 2 that could win Friday night. The Lancers have held the No. 2 ranking in the media state poll the entire season. Quince Orchard, meanwhile, will not be a pushover. The Cougars, also undefeated, are ranked No. 6 in Maryland.
Regional Semifinal Surprise: River Hill. Of course, it was no surprise that River Hill won -- but by 70 points! The Hawks clipped the previous mark of 63 points scored in a playoff game with last week's one-sided affair against J.M. Bennett.
No. 2 Linganore (11-0) at No. 1 Quince Orchard (11-0)
Details: Friday at Quince Orchard, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: First meeting
Linganore Region Final History: The Lancers are making their third region final appearance, winning both previous times (3A West in 2003, 4A North in 2008).
Quince Orchard Region Final History: Quince Orchard is making its fifth straight region final appearance, and its only previous win (4A in 2007) was a stepping stone to a state title.
Game Notes: In a week of big games, no public school game is larger than this one. This is the only meeting of Top 10 teams in the state with Linganore ranked No. 2 and Quince Orchard checking in at No. 6. These teams have been on a collision course all season and popular opinion is that the winner of this game is the favorite to win the 3A championship. Both teams center their offenses on the play of strong running backs. Ben Sasu (1,487 yards, 25 touchdowns) leads the Cougars. Quince Orchard expects to get some injured players back for this game which could help hold off a large Linganore line. Quarterback Drew Murphy has been the perfect compliment to Sasu this season, throwing for 1,246 yards and 11 touchdowns. Karim Jones and Pernell Brantley
are playmakers at receiver for the Cougars. The Lancers reached the 4A state final last season and return almost every key member of that team. Zach Zwinak is coming off a 327-yard, two-touchdown game against Damascus and has rushed for 1,466 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Kevin Myers gives Linganore two 1,000-yard rushers this season - rushing for 1,228 yards and 19 touchdowns. Ryan Dixon is a playmaker at receiver, and Linganore has the advantage in the kicking game with four-year starter Alex Eckard. Eckard already holds the state record for career extra points (195) and is only two field goals away from that state record (23).
No. 2 Franklin (9-2) at No. 1 Hereford (9-1)
Details: Friday at Hereford, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, Hereford, 24-6
Franklin Region Final History: Franklin is making its second region final appearance. The last time the Indians reached the final (2006), it stunned favored City College to advance to the state semifinals.
Hereford Region Final History: Hereford is playing in its sixth region final since 2003, missing only in 2005. The Bulls won region titles in 2003, 2007 and 2008.
Game Notes: Franklin got by Poly last week while one of its leading rushers - Zach Silverberg was injured. But the Indians will not have to worry about that this week. Silverberg (975 yards, 10 touchdowns) is back healthy and the team will once again rely on the play of their senior running back and junior Navassa Brown (672 yards, seven touchdowns). For Franklin to defeat Hereford this week, it needs quarterback Joey Dorsey to continue his stellar play. The junior has thrown for 1,337 yards and 18 touchdowns this season and completed 10 of 14 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in the Poly game. Head coach Anthony Burgos compared this year's team to the 2006 squad that reached the 3A state semifinals. Hereford, as usual, will rely on the play of a strong offensive and defensive line and the play of running back Willie Williams. The senior has 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Hereford head coach Steve Turnbaugh always has another back in his offensive system and last week Zach Witkowski rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns against North Harford.
No. 2 Westlake (9-2) at No. 1 Huntingtown (11-0)
Details: Friday at Huntingtown, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, Huntingtown won, 14-13
Westlake Region Final History: The defending state champions are in the region final for the third straight year and the fifth time since 2003.
Huntingtown Region Final History: After back-to-back region semifinal appearances, Huntingtown is in the region final for the first time.
Game Notes: For Huntingtown the game plan is simple - hand the ball to Greg Goodwin. The senior running back leads the state in rushing with 2,284 yards and in total touchdowns with 32. Goodwin has carried the ball more than 270 times this season and no other player on the team has more than 50 carries. Since the first Westlake game, Goodwin has rushed for at least 200 yards in six of the past seven games. Quarterback Justin Bittner has thrown for more than 900 yards and six touchdowns this season, which should keep Westlake's defense just honest enough. Westlake had a distracting week. First, there were rumors
it would have to forfeits its first round playoff game against Potomac. Then it was decided late Monday that the team would continue in the playoffs after possibly having to forfeit two victories. The defending Class 3A champions have been one of the few teams that were able to contain Goodwin this year -- if 105 yards and two touchdowns is containing. Westlake uses a multi-back approach with Kendall Jefferson (737 yards, nine touchdowns) and Antwoine Reese (774 yards, 13 touchdowns) receiving a bulk of the carries. Quarterback Chris Istvan could be a difference maker. The senior helped lead his team to last year's 3A title and has thrown for 866 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
No. 2 Atholton (10-1) at No. 1 River Hill (11-0)
Details: Friday at River Hill, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, River Hill won, 35-14
Atholton Region Final History: Atholton is making its first region final appearance since becoming a 3A school. The 2005 Atholton team lost to eventual state champ Potomac in the 2A South region final.
River Hill Region Final History: The Hawks are in the region final for the fifth straight year, and they have won the past four times - twice in 3A (2005 and 2006) and the past two years in 2A.
Game Notes: River Hill should be well rested after last week's 70-0 win over J.M. Bennett. The Hawks were able to remove their starters early and get them fresh for the rematch against Atholton. The Raiders were able to do what no team had done since 2007 - lead River Hill at halftime, but it was a lead they could not hold, losing 35-14 in Week 9. The game will once again be at River Hill, but Atholton looks to be healthier in this meeting. Atholton running back Andrew King rushed for 191 yards in the win over Wilde Lake last week. King could give the Raiders a wrinkle they did not have in the first meeting with River Hill as he left the game early. For the season, King has rushed for 830 yards and 12 touchdowns. If King can establish the run, it could free up quarterback Kalvin Seamonson and Matt Robinson to find the holes in River Hill's defense. However, Atholton will have to do a better job protecting Seamonson than it did in the first game. River Hill prides itself on its defense. Two years ago they tied the state record with 11 shutouts in a season and this year they have five and have only allowed more than 14 points in one game - Week 10 against Centennial when the allowed 21. Kevin Johnson is the main running back, but head coach Brian Van Deusen utilizes several players to keep them fresh. Nick Bonhag, Brent Kluge and Harry McLaughlin all carry the ball and have helped lead River Hill's offense to 474 points (43.0 average) this season.