"If we win the Anne Arundel County title," Severna Park football coach Andy Borland said back in August, "we're going to the playoffs. It's that simple."
Well, not quite that simple.
The Falcons are well on their way to the county championship after Friday night's 31-26 victory over host Glen Burnie. They remain unbeaten in the league (6-0, 6-2 overall), one game ahead of Annapolis and Old Mill, and two ahead of Glen Burnie (4-2, 6-3 overall), as the teams enter the final week of the regular season.
But outdistancing its 4A competitors hardly guarantees Severna Park a postseason appearance.
The Falcons entered the game with a 7.5 average (52.6 points). Friendly and Churchill, tied for the eighth and final playoff spot, had a 9.0 average (72.0 points).
Severna Park picked up 14 points with its win over Glen Burnie -- eight for defeating a 4A team, plus an additional point for every Gopher victory.
The Falcons can garner another 13 with a win in their last game against Annapolis, a 4A team with a 5-4 record after downing Meade Friday.
Mathematically, they still have a chance to extend their season past Nov. 9. But realistically?
"Yes," insisted Falcons tight end Darrick Moran, whose diving catch in the end zone in the third quarter gave his team a 28-18 lead. "Coach keeps telling us if we keep playing good and beat Annapolis, we still have a chance. So we're just trying to win the rest of our games."
One fact is indisputable -- Glen Burnie's hopes for competing in the playoffs ended on Pops Whaland Field, but not without a fight.
The Gophers led twice in the first half and were driving for a possible go-ahead touchdown with just under four minutes remaining in the game when senior Dennis White fumbled on the Severna Park 34-yard line.
"I thought we were going to lose it right there," Moran said.
The Falcons' Eric Hemmer applied the hit on White -- who otherwise had an outstanding game with 103 yards rushing and one touchdown -- and Eric Brown made the recovery.
Glen Burnie scored on the game's opening possession, going 72 yards on only three plays. White gained 36 yards on one carry, and quarterback Carlton Ash hit Lee Kinzler with a 25-yard touchdown pass.
"I was concerned," Borland said. "Every time I come up here, it's a heart attack."
Severna Park's Joe Brooks blocked a Kinzler punt later in the quarter, leading to the Falcons' first score and a 7-6 lead. Junior running back John Jennings (24 carries, 113 yards and three touchdowns) ran the ball on all five plays of the 28-yard drive, eventually crashing in from the 1.
Undaunted, Glen Burnie marched 56 yards in 12 plays for another touchdown and a 12-7 advantage. Severna Park kept the drive alive with two penalties, including a roughing-the-kicker infraction after a missed field goal.
"We ran the ball up and down the field," Glen Burnie coach Dave Rigot said. "We made adjustments in the second half and shut them down. I thought we did an excellent job."
Travis Koballa scampered 28 yards on Severna Park's next possession to set up Jennings' 2-yard touchdown run, and with the help of two safeties, the visitors never again trailed.
Falcons senior quarterback Steve Foreman completed four passes for 77 yards and one touchdown.