Even before football practice began last month, Aberdeen's Byron Turner was wrestling with thoughts of tomorrow night's showdown against Edgewood.
The 6-foot-1, 280-pound senior hasn't forgotten last season, when the Eagles and Rams shared the Harford County championship with identical 9-2 records.
"Out of all the games, I want this one the most," said Turner, a two-way tackle. "Every day at practice you hear something about Edgewood."
Not only does Turner, an All-Metro selection last year, want this game, he also wants a state Class 2A title. And he wants one badly.
As team captain, he understands not only the emotional, but even the mathematical importance of tomorrow's game.
"In our class, it's two games [losses] and you're out," said Turner.
Last Friday Turner and the Eagles were upset by C. Milton Wright, 14-13, and slipped to No. 16 in The Evening Sun rankings. Edgewood is ranked No. 7.
Turner said his teammates have put that loss behind them. They now realize they have to be better prepared.
"When you're winning, it's difficult to see things you do wrong, or at least you overlook them," said Aberdeen coach Macon Tucker.
"We scored and then let down," said Turner. "We can't lie down."
Turner has had four years of varsity experience learning how not to "lie down." He was the only freshman ever to start for Tucker, but he said a lot has changed since then.
"I used to just go on my abilities, but now I have learned technique," said Turner.
That skill has forced opponents to double- and even triple-team him.
"They [C. Milton Wright] double-teamed me the whole night from play one all the way to the end of the game," he said.
A lifelong resident of Aberdeen, Turner said playing football was a neighborhood tradition. Playground games were rough and opponents find out how tough when unkindly remarks are tossed Turner's way on the field.
"It brings the beast out of me," he said. "It makes me more intense."
Intensity is one thing Tucker likes so much about Turner.
"When it comes to game time, he's ready for you," said the Aberdeen coach. "Sometimes you have to watch him [even in practice], because somebody might get hurt.
Although Turner plans to participate in basketball and track after the season, football is his No. 1 priority now.
He has fielded calls from Division I schools such as Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee and Ohio State. He plans to visit a few after the season.
When Turner isn't playing football, he picks up a pool stick or sits down to watch his favorite professional football player, Reggie White of the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I like to keep my eye on him the whole time," said Turner.