Suddenly, after playing an admittedly weak schedule late in the season, the Randallstown Rams (10-0, No. 1 in The Evening Sun) find themselves facing a traditional Montgomery County power in the first round of the state football playoffs.
"From what everybody tells me, Seneca Valley may be the team to beat," said Randallstown coach John Buchheister.
Randallstown is one of 11 area teams in the 32-team Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association playoff field. Here's an overview from some participating area coaches. The complete schedule of Friday's and Saturday's games is in the Scoreboard, Page E6.
* CLASS 4A: "The way the field shapes up, it's pretty formidable," Buchheister said. The Rams play Seneca Valley (9-1) Friday at Catonsville Community College. "In talking to other coaches, I would think Oxon Hill is pretty good. Springbrook is pretty good . . . There's no easy game there. Anybody can get upset in the first round."
In other first-round games involving area teams, Severna Park is at two-time defending champ Springbrook, and Wootton is at Old Mill.
* CLASS 3A: Oakland Mills coach Ken Hovet sees one standout. "I think the dominant team, from what we've seen, is Northern of Calvert County," he said. "I think the rest of us are pretty similar; we have our strengths and our weaknesses. Northern has a big linebacker, J.C. Price, who's 6 feet 4, 250 pounds. He's really good."
Northern opens against North Hagerstown, and Oakland Mills hosts Laurel. Hovet hopes Korey Singleton, the area's leading rusher with 1,817 yards, will have recovered from a knee injury that limited him to defensive action in Saturday's 18-0 loss to Wilde Lake for the Howard County championship.
In another first-round game involving local teams, Dundalk is at C.M. Wright.
* CLASS 2A: After coaching six years at Randallstown, including a state championship in 1984, Ken Johnson has Chesapeake-BC in the playoffs in his first year there. The Bayhawks travel to Wilde Lake, which lost in the state semifinals last year.
"Wilde Lake looks real strong," he said. "They have a rare balance, they're huge, and they're real fast. When the playoffs come around you look for teams with a good defense and an explosive player on offense."
Wildecats tailback Raphael Wall (1,546 yards) fits that description. "Fort Hill is physically overbearing," said Johnson, "and they're huge. They've got a big fullback, Rick Budd [6-3, 212]."
The other area team in 2A is Overlea, making its fifth straight trip to the state playoffs, where it will play J.M. Bennett.
* CLASS 1A: Owings Mills, with its best record ever, 8-2, is the top seed and has the home-field advantage until the finals. Coach Ray Groszkowski said, "Kent is the defending champ, so they're tough. Joppatowne has good running backs. Smithsburg [last year's runner-up] is in the playoffs every year. I think we have a good shot at getting to the finals. I don't think there is a clear favorite."
Owings Mills plays Northern of Garrett County at Catonsville Community College, and Joppatowne, the other area team in the field, is at home against Rising Sun.