Saturday afternoon's showdown between Westminster and Randallstown will be one of the most noteworthy games involving county teams in many years.
Among the things at stake in what would normally be just another non-league game are the inside track on a state football playoff berth and some bragging rights in the metro area.
"It's a pretty exciting week," said Owls coach Jeff Oeming. "There's a lot of excitement around here."
As well there should be.
Randallstown of Baltimore County, coached by Hampstead resident John Buchheister, comes into the game with wins over Lackey of Prince George's County and highly regarded Annapolis of Anne Arundel County, and is ranked second and third in the two Baltimore-area rankings.
Westminster owns a pair of more-lopsided victories against foes considered somewhat weaker and is ranked 10th in both polls.
A win over the Rams would likely move Westminster into the top 5 in the area, the highest ranking by a county grid team since at least the early 1980s.
But Oeming said his players likely are thinking less about that than about the two recent losses to the Rams, one of which the Owls won on the field. Westminster scored a 17-12 victory over the Rams in 1988, but the outcome was reversed later after Westminster discovered it had accidentally used an ineligible player and reported the problem to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
Last year, Randallstown nipped the Owls, 18-14.
"If it's going to be like that again this year, then your conversions and special teams can make a big difference," Oeming said.
Randallstown's offense is led by running back Larry Washington, who's already gained 370 yards on 40 carries in just two games. He also has two interceptions on defense.
Westminster has an assortment of weapons, with three running backs who have gained more than 100 yards. Calvin Warfield has 193 yards on just 15 carries, Boomer Warfield has 114 on 12 rushes and Mike Rodgers has carried 17 times for 104 yards.
The Owls haven't done much passing -- they haven't needed to -- but they have been effective. Marty Brennan has completed six of 12 for 87 yards.
"We've scored pretty consistently," Oeming said. "But we haven't played a defense as tough as theirs yet. How much tougher they are, I don't know."
A win over the Rams would give Westminster the inside track on a MPSSAA playoff berth, something Randallstown has gained the last two years but Westminster hasn't earned since 1981.
"This isn't Westminster-South Carroll," Oeming said of the intensity of the rivalry between the two clubs. "But the Westminster-Randallstown game has been picking up for a while. The games have been very tight."
Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at Randallstown.
In other sports this weekend: * Western Maryland will look to see in which direction its football program is heading Saturday when the Green Terrors travel to Collegeville, Pa., for a 2 p.m. meeting with Ursinus. The Terrors suffered a close, 28-25 loss to perennial Centennial Conference Power Gettysburg Saturday.
A convincing victory over the Golden Bears could mean Western Maryland is ready to challenge the traditionally strong CFC teams, such as Dickinson, Franklin & Marshall and Muhlenberg.
Friday high school grid games include Smithsburg at Francis Scott Key, Howard at Liberty and Glenelg at South Carroll, all at 7:30 p.m. North Carroll visits Centennial at 1 p.m. Saturday.
* At least three Carroll teams -- Liberty and North and South Carroll -- are scheduled to compete in the Howard County Invitational cross country meet at Centennial High at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
The meet will give South Carroll's boys a chance to gauge themselves against the best Howard County teams, such as Oakland Mills and Centennial, the top two squads at the state Class 3A meet last year.
On the girls side, Liberty can see how it stacks up against some tough 2A schools, Atholton and Glenelg, also one-two in their state meet last year.
A week from today, all five Carroll schools will line up at Western Maryland College as part of the Westminster Invitational, an early season gauge for the upcoming county championships.
* The Westminster High golf team and individuals playing for the county team will get a chance to compare themselves against many other District V competitors at the Westminster Invitational at 1 p.m. Monday at Wakefield Valley Golf Club.
* Francis Scott Key and North Carroll will battle in what should be an important early season field hockey matchup at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Uniontown. The junior varsity game starts at 5:30.
* Some early season indication of which county boys soccer teams are strongest should be seen after two games Thursday. Pre-season favorite Liberty visits South Carroll at 7 p.m. (5:30 jayvee), and the fiercest rivalry in the county -- Westminster-North Carroll -- is at Westminster at 7 and 5:30.
* The big girls soccer matchup figures to be the South Carroll at North Carroll game at 7 Monday night (5:30 jayvee).
* The WMC volleyball team heads to Fredericksburg, Va., Saturday for the Mary Washington College Tournament. Eastern Mennonite of Virginia and Kean (N.J.) College are two of the teams that could challenge the Terrors.
Copyright The Baltimore Sun 1990