It's not a battle for the state playoffs, since both teams already have clinched spots. And it's not just for the Howard County championship, though that's at stake, too.
This is for a year's worth of bragging rights. It's a border war with U.S. 29 the front line. When No. 4 Wilde Lake visits No. 5 Oakland Mills Saturday at 1:30 p.m., both undefeated (9-0) football teams will give a little extra.
"It's my senior year," said Wildecats running back Raphael Wall, "and it's always been a war. [This game] means as much to me as the states mean to me . . . I'm ready to go and give it my all. I want this to be my best game in high school."
Wilde Lake's outstanding senior safety, Ricky Rowe, feels the same, even though he played youth league ball with some of the Scorpions. "It's just a feeling of beating them," he said. "It'll make the year go by easier."
Rowe, 6 feet and 185 pounds, moved to this area when he was 7 from Jamaica, where his father had been a cricket player. Now Raphael embraces football, a most ungentlemanly game. A starter since his sophomore year, he said, "I love defense -- the contact and going to the ball, picking off a pass and going for a touchdown, making a nice stick. I like my team. [We have] a very tight bond."
Rowe, who can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, believes his strength is "coming up to help on the run," and he'll have plenty of opportunity to do that against Oakland Mills' powerful Korey Singleton. With 1,817 yards rushing this season, Singleton is trying to reach 2,000, something never done in this area within memory.
"He's a great hitter," said Wilde Lake coach Doug Duvall. But Rowe has a gentler side, too. "I like to work with little kids," he said. Saturday mornings, before games, he participates in Helping Hands, a program for "little kids who may be having trouble in school. We play . . . It's kind of like giving back."
"He's a natural leader-type of kid," Duvall said of his defensive signal caller and captain. "If he had no talent, he'd still be a leader." But he does have talent.
After reviewing last year's films, a Penn State assistant coach told Duvall that the Nittany Lions made Rowe their No. 1 recruiting target at defensive back this year. Other schools on his list are Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Clemson, and North Carolina State.
The explosive Wall (4.45 seconds in the 40) has 1,504 yards rushing on just 136 carries, an 11.1 average. He shares the area lead in touchdowns with his close friend Singleton, both with 24. Notre Dame, Tennessee, Michigan, Rutgers, Clemson, Pitt and Maryland are hot on his trail.
Yet Wall's biggest thrill this year, he said, is seeing Wilde Lake's little receiver, Oba McMillan, do so well. McMillan, 5-8 and 150 pounds, carries a 4.0 grade-point average and ranks No. 1 in his class. "He's the hardest worker on the team," Wall said. "He's small, he has great grades, and he has the highest average in the county [330 yards on 10 catches, a 33.0 average, with seven touchdowns]."
Other key seniors for the Wildecats are offensive guard/defensive tackle Darius Waters, center Len Cotter, offensive tackle Drew McCallum and defensive back Joe Guyton.
Wall said he likes "the excitement of Saturdays. The bigger the crowd, the better I'll play. I like to play tough games." The crowd will be there, and so will Oakland Mills.
Have a nice war.