THE TEAMS: No. 1 Joppatowne vs. No. 2 Catoctin
GAME DETAILS: Saturday, Dec. 5 at noon, M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, Md.)
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Catoctin defeated New Town 56-0 in the region semifinal; defeated Pikesville 49-7 in the region final; defeated Dunbar 13-12 in the state semifinal.
Joppatowne defeated Bohemia Manor 49-30 in the region semifinal; defeated Havre de Grace 22-14 in the region final; defeated Allegany 20-13 in the state semifinal.
RECORD IN FINALS:
Catoctin: First appearance
Passing Game Advantage: Catoctin
It's almost unfair to Joppatowne to offer this category. The Mariners never pass - ever. But that has seldom been a problem as this program has made the playoffs the last seven years with five state semifinal appearances and a title in 2003. Joppatowne often throws fewer than five passes a game. The quarterback position usually goes to the team's best athlete, and this year it's Dominic Harper. Harper was 29 of 48 for 742 yards and six touchdowns entering the state tournament. Catoctin's edge in the passing category is thanks to the arm of Dylan May. The senior standout has completed 90 of 141 passes for just under 1,400 yards with 16 touchdowns.
Running Game Advantage: Push
Take your pick -- one team with a big-play capability, the other with a stable of running backs that goes four or five deep and keeps defenses guessing. Epe Henriques has rushed for more than 1,200 yards this season to lead Joppatowne, and he has a long of 85 yards. His 15 touchdowns are a team-high, as well. He's joined in the backfield with Chris Wright, who has just over 900 yards. Catoctin counters with a deceptive wing attack led by Paul Barber and Austin Carter, who have combined for nearly 1,600 rushing yards. Carter saw limited action last week due to injury, but figures to be back in the rotation this week.
Defense Advantage: Joppatowne
Don't be fooled by the amount of points Joppatowne has allowed in the postseason and think that means the Mariners are suspect. Joppatowne gave up 44 points in its first two playoff games (and 57 in the postseason), compared to 52 for the entire regular season. A reason for the lapse was that the Mariners played the first two playoff games without star linebacker Jake McGinnis. With McGinnis in the lineup, Joppatowne has held eight of 11 opponents to seven or fewer points. Catoctin is a bend-but-don't-break defense as was evident in a state semifinal win over Dunbar. The Poets rolled up more than 200 rushing yards, but where held to one offensive touchdown. Both teams run a 4-4 defense, and Catoctin has an edge in the secondary, but given Joppatowne does not throw often, that might be a moot point.
Special Teams Advantage: Catoctin
Neither team is a threat in the kicking game or in special teams. However, the Cougars get a slight edge with May doing the kicking. The teams do not have a field goal between them, but May is rather consistent in extra points, in fact his only PAT last week was the difference in a 13-12 win over Dunbar.
Coaching Advantage: Joppatowne
Playoff experience must account for something. Although Doug Williams has the edge in terms of tenure - 17 years to Bill Waibels' six - it's Waibel who has guided the Mariners into the state tournament four times since taking over in 2004.
Since the state championships have been moved to M&T Bank Stadium, state final scoring is up five percent over the last five years at Byrd Stadium. Advantage offenses. Therefore, give a slight edge to Catoctin in a high-scoring affair.