Only guarantee for county is a team in 4A semifinals


November 18, 1994|By PAT O'MALLEY

Now don't go getting your hopes up, you Anne Arundel County high school football loyalists. Haven't you had your hearts broken too many times before?

One thing for sure, Anne Arundel County will have at least one team in next week's 4A semifinals. But that might be the only guarantee.

Anne Arundel's football playoff tradition has been so poor that it's pretty tough to be confident even though there may not be a dominant team in the field of eight.

It's easy to be optimistic, but sometimes difficult to be realistic when aspirations are as high as they are for No. 7 North County, No. 13 Severna Park and Arundel. Severna Park opens tonight at Largo while North County plays host to Arundel at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

A county team will advance to the semis from the game to be played in Linthicum tomorrow, but nothing is guaranteed beyond that.

Don't get too excited because the bottom line is that Anne Arundel has won only two state football championships -- Arundel in 1975 and Annapolis in 1978.

And, since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association went to eight playoff teams in 1986, Anne Arundel County 4A teams have gone 4-15, although they are 2-3 since 1992.

Even more discouraging is the fact that of the four wins in that time, two of them have come over Annapolis -- Meade in 1986 and Severna Park in 1987.

The only victories over teams from outside the county came in the 1992 quarterfinals when optimism was also very high. That season North County hammered Perry Hall, 34-7, while Annapolis defeated Friendly, 21-6. An All-Anne Arundel final was a possibility.

That wishful thinking blew up the next week when Crossland destroyed North County, 27-0, and Gaithersburg beat Annapolis, North County looked even more promising last season, outscoring its regular-season opponents 311-117 and buoyed by Baltimore Sun All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Troy Fowlkes. The Knights were humbled, 30-6, in the first round by Watkins Mill.

I was convinced (along with many others) that North County would make it to the final and have a great shot at winning. Instead, only Class 2A Southern made it to the final for the first time only to lose, 13-6, to Damascus at College Park.

That was the best a county team had done since Annapolis (4A) and South River (3A) lost in 1984, when only four teams qualified in each classification.

Eight of the county's 12 public schools are 4A, and with three teams in the playoffs for the first time since 1987, is there a state champion among them?

I know this won't be too popular, but in my opinion, none of the three is state-championship caliber. Each has its own redeeming qualities, but each is lacking overall.

The three shared the county 4A title with 6-1 league marks and 8-2 overall records.

Arundel's offense is the weakest of the three while North County's might be too erratic. After leading the 4A league in scoring three straight years by averaging over 30 points, the Knights fell off to 23.9.

Also, North County has to believe it can win in postseason and believe it can beat Arundel, something it hasn't done the past two years.

"They don't have our number. We believe we can beat them and we've only lost three home games in five years [none in this the inaugural year of the new stadium]," said Knights' coach Chuck Markiewicz.

Currently playing the best among the three, Severna Park led the county in scoring with 322 points, but may have too many defensive holes (gave up 18 points per game) and too many key players going both ways, which showed in the North County loss.

Annapolis coach Roy Brown, whose Panthers upset Largo, 20-13, in its home opener, dropped a 33-13 decision at Severna Park last week with Mark Frye scoring two touchdowns and gaining 179 yards in kick and punt returns for the Falcons.

"Largo's special teams are better than ours, and their line is considerably bigger [15 pounds a man] than Severna Park's," said Brown. "Severna Park will have to be successful running to win."

The Falcons rely on speed and quickness from their ball carriers, Frye, Ryan Moore and Jermond Davenport. A forecast for rain tonight could create sloppy conditions.

"I don't think playing away is a disadvantage, but if it rains, it would give them an edge," said Falcons coach Andy Borland. "Either way, we expect to score more points than they do."

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