Dunbar, Snow Hill will turn on jets

Poets, Shore team match speed in 1A semifinal

High Schools

Football notebook


Snow Hill coach Stan Griffin calls tonight's Class 1A state semifinal game against visiting Dunbar "the best speed matchup" of this weekend's football playoffs. His rival coach, Ben Eaton, compares it to his Poets' 8-6, Class 2A state semifinal victory over Cambridge-South Dorchester in 1994.

"It [Dunbar-Cambridge] had a lot of goal-line stands and a lot of athletes with speed who could run, catch and hit," recalled Eaton, then an assistant, of a game that ended with Cambridge's center snapping the ball over the kicker's head on a field-goal attempt from the Dunbar 1-yard line with 3 seconds left.

"We've pulled film of that game for the kids to watch and prepare," Eaton said. "It's going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes."

The '94 Poets eventually won their first of three state titles. This year's fifth-ranked, defending-champion Poets (10-2) are taking a nine-game winning streak that included four shutouts to the Eastern Shore, where they will take on Snow Hill and Auburn-bound running back Ben Tate (1,786 yards, 21 touchdowns).

Tate, who also plays safety, is complemented on offense by running backs Leron Powell and Byron Mason and quarterback Raymond White, and on defense by linebacker Antrey Dale.

"This is probably the first time we'll face a team that's faster than us," Griffin said of Dunbar, which has outscored opponents, 344-33, during its winning streak. "We've gotten away with not playing our best in the past, but that can't be the case against Dunbar."

Was it the shoes?

In the days after last weekend's 38-20, Class 3A West regional win over state power Seneca Valley, coach Brad Wilson of No. 2 Westminster (11-1) learned that losing coach Fred Kim partly blamed footwear for his team's defeat on an icy field and chilly night.

"That [victory] had nothing to do with sneakers," countered Wilson, who allowed only his placekicker, Kawaan Tucker, to wear sneakers on his plant foot. "Their locker room was next to ours. They said some things that challenged our kids. You challenge us and we're going to step up. The shoes had nothing to do with it. They overlooked us."

Wilson will try not to let his homestanding Owls do the same in tonight's 3A semifinal against No. 9 City (11-1), whose defense, led by defensive backs Joshua Rushing (nine interceptions) and Sheldon Bell (seven interceptions), looks to counter Westminster's Kevin Clancy (3,044 passing yards, 35 TDs). City has a school-record 26 interceptions.

Liberty Road clash

Coach Reggie White of No. 8 Milford Mill (11-1) calls tomorrow's Class 2A semifinal at Woodlawn against No. 15 South Carroll (9-3) "The battle of Liberty Road."

Coach Butch Schaffer's Cavaliers of Carroll County are only "20 or 25 minutes up the road" from Milford Mill of Baltimore County, White said.

Each team has a strong and balanced offense, with Schaffer's Cavaliers relying on running back Ryan Hash (1,423 yards, 26 touchdowns) and the Millers being led by quarterback Robert Jackson (1,542 passing yards, 15 TDs).

Firsts for two

Howard County's seventh-ranked River Hill (11-1) and Anne Arundel County's 12th-ranked Old Mill (10-2), led by All-Metro running back Ryan Callahan, are in the state semifinals for the first time. And each meets an unbeaten team from a football-rich district.

River Hill's 3A rival is Gwynn Park (12-0) of Prince George's County, ranked No. 4 in The Washington Post, and Old Mill tackles Damascus (12-0) of Montgomery County, ranked No. 1 in The Post.

Another homecoming

Potomac coach Eric Knight, who graduated from Franklin High, said he comes to the Baltimore area "for Christmas, special family birthdays and to win football games."

Knight, whose team is the defending Class 2A state champion, is well aware of the coaching pedigree of Joppatowne's Bill Waibel, whose Mariners (10-2) play host to his Wolverines tonight. Waibel is the son of the late Augie Waibel, who was a coaching legend at Poly.

"On Thanksgiving Day, I was turning on the television and watching City and Poly, watching [Bill Waibel's] dad coach," Knight said. "The apple can't fall too far from the tree as far as being a good football coach."

Joppatowne was a 1A state champ in 2003 and a 1A runner-up last year.


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