Two weeks ago, Glen Burnie (4-1) failed its big test with North County (2-3), getting routed, 35-8. After bouncing back with an 18-0 victory over Annapolis (3-2), the Gophers face their mid-semester exam tonight when they play host to No. 5 Arundel (5-0).
Arundel outlasted defending 4A state champion North County, 21-14, last week on a John Norsworthy 2-yard run with 1:51 left. It was the Wildcats' third consecutive regular-season triumph over the Knights.
Despite the victory over North County, Arundel coach Bill Zucco is not taking the Gophers lightly.
"Glen Burnie and Meade [also 4-1] are two teams to be reckoned with, but we're in position to control our own destiny, as far as the playoffs are concerned," said Zucco.
Led by junior quarterback Erik Lipton, Zucco's well-balanced Wildcats have averaged nearly 28 points a game. Lipton has passed for a county-leading 801 yards, while Gene Collins (45-338), Joe Williams (39-316) and Norsworthy (36-221) have combined for 875 on the ground at the halfway mark.
Glen Burnie's defense had a lot of trouble, especially in the first half, with North County's passing and will be facing another efficient air attack this week. The Gophers need to avoid playing catch-up or it could be another disastrous outing.
Tailback Bobby Beale will play a major role in any success the Gophers might have. Beale, who has rushed for 595 yards on 88 attempts (6.8 yards average) and scored a county-leading eight touchdowns, will get the ball most of the time and his success means time off the clock.
That, of course, translates into keeping the ball away from Arundel and having a chance to win in the final period. Coach Dave Rigot's Gophers have played the Wildcats tough the past three seasons, dropping a 35-24 decision a year ago but winning the previous two games by 20-0 (1993) and 13-6 (1992).
Beale, the county's third-leading rusher, ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns against Annapolis last week and this week the Panthers face the county's leading ground gainer in Meade's Roman Harrison. Harrison has rushed 108 times for 769 yards (7.1 average) and six touchdowns.
Annapolis will be hard-pressed to avoid a reversal of last year's 13-0 victory by coach Jerry Hartman's Meade Mustangs, who are getting raves from many quarters.
Coming off its 23-13 triumph over Chesapeake, Severna Park (3-2), with games remaining against Arundel and Glen Burnie on the road the next two weeks, would also profit from a Gophers win tonight.
Of course, the Falcons have to hold up their end by knocking off North County, something they have not done in four meetings between the schools. The Knights, who have given up 121 points (24.2 per) in their five games, will have to stop one of the county's top backs in Jihad Morris. Morris leads the Falcons with 560 yards rushing on 90 attempts (6.2 average), scoring six touchdowns.
The other 4A East region contest finds Chesapeake (1-4) at Old Mill (2-3), in a battle of teams hoping to rebound from losses. Old Mill quarterback-punter-kicker-DB Chuck Manns is expected to return after missing most of the past two weeks.
Old Mill won only two games last year, one of them by 8-6 over Chesapeake, but the Patriots will have to deal with the Cougars' "Mr. Versatility," Kevin Necessary.
Necessary is second in the county in scoring (40 points on five TDs, two field goals and four extra points) and eighth in rushing with 439 yards on 63 carries, an average of 7.0 per carry.
After its heartbreaking 22-21 loss at No. 14 Randallstown (4-1) last week, South River (2-3) is back home at Joe Papetti Field vs. Kenwood (1-4). The Seahawks' Tom McCaffrey ranks second in the county in rushing (627 yards and three touchdowns).
Broadneck and Southern, two 1-4 teams, are also home to a pair of pretty good 3-2 teams in Carver and Elkton, respectively.
On the private school scene, Severn (4-1) and St. Mary's (3-2) are both on the road after rebounding from losses.
Severn, ripped 35-7 by John Carroll (2-2) two weeks ago, edged McDonogh of Baltimore, 22-20, last week and visit Archbishop Spalding (1-5).
St. Mary's travels to No. 9 City College (3-2) in Baltimore to face a Knights squad that hammered Gilman, 36-8, last week while the Saints defeated (0-4) Loyola, 15-6, following a hard-fought 26-12 loss to top-ranked Mount St. Joseph (5-0).