Meade, N. County on different roads, but making Class 4A playoff stops Mustangs at Seneca Valley, Knights host Lake Clifton

November 15, 1996|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Meade is back and North County is returning after a one-year absence in the Class 4A state playoffs that begin today.

No. 9 Meade (8-2) has the unenviable task of traveling to Montgomery County for a 7: 30 p.m. meeting with the state's top-ranked team, Seneca Valley (10-0).

No. 10 North County (9-1) plays host to No. 5 Lake Clifton (9-1) at 7: 30 p.m.

The two county teams took different paths to the playoffs. Meade started 1-2 before winning its last seven, including a 40-21 romp over North County, to take the County 4A league title for the first time since 1987.

North County won its first eight games, running a win streak to 13 dating to last season, before its visit to Fort Meade. But the Knights rebounded from the loss to crush Broadneck, 33-0, and cop the Class 4A East region title and the playoffs' No. 2 seeding.

This was the Knights' fourth region title in six years, giving it home-field advantage in at least the first round as one of the tournament's top four seeds.

Meade is making its second straight trip to the playoffs under coach Jerry Hartman and the school's sixth overall. Seven-year-old North County is in postseason play for the fifth time in six years. Among Anne Arundel county teams, only Annapolis and Arundel have made more playoff appearances, with eight each.

Meade at a glance

Hartman (19-24, four seasons) has announced his resignation, effective at the end of this season. That declaration may or may not have had an effect on the team's 1-2 start, but a 32-19 victory over Severna Park (6-4) proved to be the Mustangs' pivotal game.

Trailing 13-0 with a couple minutes left in the first half, Meade rallied to start its winning streak. That victory also served notice of big things to come from junior back Tornardo Sharps.

Sharps ran for 132 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown dash against Severna Park, on his way to the county rushing title. In 10 games, Sharps has run for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is just 123 yards and two touchdowns short of the school's season records of 1,676 and 19 touchdowns, set by Roman Harrison in 12 games last season.

Jess Barnes is Sharps' running mate, and the senior has run for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Malwan Johnson directs the run-oriented offense behind one of the biggest and best lines in the state. Johnson has thrown eight touchdown passes and had four passes intercepted in 81 attempts.

"Our line is pretty good," said Hartman. "We knew coming into this season we had the nucleus to be pretty good, and they've come a long way."

Tackles George Houston (6 feet 1, 265 pounds), Brian Hongtong (6-0, 270) and Danny Todd (6-2, 270); guards Rico Walker (6-2, 260), Shawn Dailey (6-2, 235) and Greg Vaughn (6-2, 210); center Nathaniel Hall (6-0, 250); and tight end Justin Patton (6-1, 205) give the Mustangs an outstanding interior line.

It's practically imperative that the Mustangs control the line of scrimmage against Seneca Valley, which is seeking its fourth state championship during the '90s under coach Terry Changuris.

Seneca Valley's special teams and big-play defense played a crucial role in its 27-20 victory over defending Class 4A state champion Sherwood (9-1) last week.

Meade goes up against not only a powerhouse football team, but a rich tradition in a town where the Screaming Eagles draw in excess of 4,000 fans.

North County at a glance

North County is matched by a similar Lake Clifton team from Baltimore. Like the Knights, the Lakers are very athletic and very quick, but the visitors don't throw the ball as much.

Knights quarterback Mike Evans has set state season records for passing attempts (350), completions (214), yards (2,746) and touchdown passes (29).

With a receiving tandem of Corey Wright and Chris Mangum, along with running back Kiki Ellis, who has rushed for 1,069 yards and nine touchdowns, Evans has led the Knights to an average of 30 points a game.

Wright has caught a state season-record 79 passes for 969 yards; 13 catches have gone for touchdowns, a county record. In two seasons, Wright has a school career-record 20 touchdown grabs.

Mangum has 49 receptions for 713 yards and six touchdowns.

Defensively, the Knights would be stronger with three-year starting linebacker Marvin Mobley, but a broken leg in the season's eighth game will keep him out of the postseason. Mobley's fractured fibula was more serious than first thought.

Lineman Richard Allen (6-3, 230) and nose tackle Bobby Lincoln (5-8, 190) will be out to stop the Lakers' junior rushing duo of Darnell Pearsall and Robert Caruthers, who have combined for nearly 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Pearsall and Caruthers run behind bulky Harry Blackwell, who is 6 feet 1 and weighs 325 pounds.

Pub Date: 11/15/96

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