High School football league games begin this week in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League as the Francis Scott Key Eagles play host to the Walkersville Lions.
The Eagles will try to rebound from the 38-6 whomping delivered to them by North Carroll last Friday, while the Lions from Frederick County enter the game having beaten Hanover, Pa., 28-7 in their season opener.
Mike Coons, head coach of the Eagles, said their home opener Friday will be important beyond its MVAL significance.
"We're at the point in our program where everything is important," the second-year head coach said. "We're capable of doing a lot more than we showed Friday."
What the Eagles showed was an offense that managed only six points. All of their forward movement came through the air, as the ground game gave up ground, finishing with minus-10 yards.
Of as much concern to Coons as the lack of offense is a defense that seemed to lose intensity when it should have buckled down.
The Panthers faced long downs in the first half of third and 20, third and 13 and second and 27. Each time they were able to come up with the big play against the Eagles defense. With only five seconds left in the first half, Key's defense gave up a nine-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-0.
Coons said he and the rest of the staff will work to prevent those lapses of concentration from doing them in against a team he picks as one of the three best in the MVAL.
"We had them and we didn't finish them off," he said. "We tell the kids, 'You've got to pull the trigger.' So we'll try to devise things to work that out."
Just as important to Coons is maintaining the team confidence that was developed through practice.
But they will face a challenge against Walkersville, which returns 18 lettermen from its 8-2 squad of last year. The 1989 Lions gave up only 88 points all season, tying the school record for fewest points allowed.
The offense will be strong, with Eric Williams back at quarterback for the Lions, after starting and winning the final six games last season. Also back in the backfield are seniors Kevin Griffith, A.J. King and Mike Thompson.
Coons said he will have his squad ready for the challenge.
"We're going to do some things differently," he said. "We're going to try to penetrate more on defense and tailor our athletes to play them. We've looked at film and have some ideas on what to do against them. We have to look at the things we can do, not just line up and try to smash them."
While Key's league games start Friday, the county's other four high schools won't begin their Central Maryland Conference play until Sept. 28.
Liberty, North Carroll, South Carroll and Westminster each won their opener and will try to start the season with back-to-back victories this weekend.
The Liberty Lions were on the road Saturday and blanked Glenelg High 19-0. They travel Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against Atholton High.
North Carroll will try to follow up its victory over FSK when it visits Watkins Mill in Montgomery County for a 7:30 Friday night game.
South Carroll will try to keep playing shut-out ball when the Cavs host Centennial High of Howard County for a 7:30 Friday game under the lights. They started the season strong with a 23-0 pasting of Atholton on Saturday.
Westminster beat up on Woodlawn High of Baltimore County, 42-6, Friday night at Westminster. The Owls will try to keep their winning ways alive when they host Dulaney High at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Jeff Oeming's Owls are ranked 11th in The (Baltimore) Sun poll and 14th in The (Baltimore) Evening Sun poll. Coach Ken Parker's Cavaliers are ranked 18th by both The Sun and The Evening Sun.
In other football action, the Western Maryland College Green Terrors can match their 1989 season total of wins with a victory 1:30 p.m. Saturday when they host the Gettysburg College Bullets at Scott S. Bair Stadium.
The Green Terrors, who went 2-8 last year, won their opener Saturday night in Reading, Pa., beating the Albright College Lions 45-31.
Trailing 24-14 at the half, the Terrors scored 31 second half points en route to their second consecutive season opening victory over Albright.
Football won't be the only sport this weekend, with the cross country season getting under way.
The Francis Scott Key Eagles will head west, to compete in the Smithsburg Invitational in Washington County, scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.
And the fall sports season will be in full swing by next Monday and Tuesday, when the field hockey, boys and girls soccer and volleyball seasons all start.