The Old Mill and Severna Park football teams will have an opportunity to test their skills against Montgomery County's finest in this weekend's Class 4A state semifinals.
Region IV champion and fourth-seeded Old Mill (9-1) will play host to fifth-seeded Thomas Wootton (10-0) at 7:30 tonight, while the No. 8-seeded Falcons (7-2) travel to top-seeded Springbrook (10-0) tomorrow for a 1 p.m.
Neither task is an enviable one for the local contingents.
The Patriots, whose only loss was at the hands of Severna Park, 21-13, head into tonight's game with their two leading rushers saddled with ankle injuries.
William Beverly, the team's leading rusher with 934 yards and 14 touchdowns (20 overall), injured his ankle in the third quarter of last week's 16-7 come-from-behind victory over Glen Burnie.
If Beverly, who still is listed as questionable, cannot play this evening, the Patriots' ground game will be placed on the shoulders of senior tailback Harold Peters. But the 5-foot-11 junior also is hampered with a sore ankle and may not be able to carry the load.
Despite their misfortunes going into the game, Beverly and Old Mill coach Pete Regala both believe their team can win if they execute on offense and tighten up defensively.
"We saw films and (Wootton) didn't show us anything special," Beverly said. "They run the basic Delaware wing-T offense, nothing special. We can win, we just have to go out and do what we have to do."
"If I get a chance to perform, I'm just hoping I can contribute," he added. "A lot of people are expecting a lot of things from me and if I get in, I'm going to give it all I got."
Regala said, "I wish we could be a lot more healthy than we are, but you can't worry about things that you don't have control of. Right now we're a little thin at tailback, but we have some other kids who can step in and get the job done. We're just going to have to come up a notch."
Coach Andy Borland's Falcons are going to have to step up a notch, as well, if they plan on making a state final appearance. Severna Park will take the field Saturday against a Blue Devil squad that has outscored its opponents 307-54 this season. Moreover, Springbrook is currently ranked 22nd in USA Today's national poll and No. 1 in a statewide poll.
Still, the 18-year coach doesn't fret.
"It was wonderful to see them ranked 22nd in the nation by USA Today," said Borland, who could pick up his 100th win tomorrow. "So, if we beat them, are we 22nd in the country?"
Despite the fact that Springbrook is going for its third straight state title, Borland maintains that the competition in Montgomery County is equal to that of Anne Arundel.
"I don't see a lot of difference in the level of competition," he insisted. "They don't play the schedule that we play. The teams here are mostly even, so we're beating each other up each week. That's why they call it the 'black and blue league'.
"There (in Montgomery County) they have four teams -- Seneca Valley, Springbrook, (Thomas Wootton) and (Winston) Churchill, but the other teams you never hear about."
Springbrook has won six state titles and has posted a 135-16 record since 1979. But Blue Devils coach Bob Milloy hopes his team won't rest on their laurels.
"We're not thinking about the three-peat thing at this point," said Milloy, whose Blue Devils managed to win three straight titles in 1979-1981 and currently are two-time defending state champs.
"I'm happy with the way we're playing now, but I would like to see us put all three phases (running, passing and defense) together this week. We haven't done that yet, but what is encouraging is that we have always found a way to win."
Springbrook's biggest weapon out of its multiple-formation wing-T offense is senior fullback Leonard Green. The 6-foot, 175-pounder has carried the ball 159 times for 1,318 yards -- a 8.3 average -- and 21 touchdowns.
Borland and the Falcons are aware of their opponent's offensive efficiency, but believe they can win the war if they win the battle in the trenches.
"The game is going to be won or lost on the line," said Severna Park quarterback Steve Foreman, who has been reviewing Springbrook game films all week. "The team that wins on the line of scrimmage and the team that makes the (fewest) mistakes is going to win the game.
"Nine of their 11 starters go both ways, so we're hoping to tire them out and wear them down. We're basically a two-platoon team, so we're going to try and take advantage of that."
Borland said, "They are an awesome football team but they are not unbeatable. My kids are really looking forward to the challenge. We must control the line scrimmage and shove them off the ball if we want to win."
While the Falcons look to exploit Springbrook's weaknesses, Milloy and the Blue Devils are busy at work devising a game plan to thwart Severna Park's bid for a state title.