Top football teams wary of opponents with 'nothing to lose'


November 13, 2008|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Baltimore Sun

While some of this weekend's opening-round matchups in the state football playoffs might seem lopsided, coaches of the area's top teams have spent the better part of this week reminding their players of one fact: If they want to advance far into the second season, then first things first.

"When you get to playoff time, records don't matter," Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. "Everyone is 0-0, and they're playing with nothing to lose."

For the third straight year, Smith's third-ranked Poets (9-1) will face Forestville (5-5) in the Class 1A South semifinals. A year ago, Dunbar dismantled the Prince George's team, 66-29, on the way to its second straight state title.

One of the most intriguing regions is Class 3A North, where the top three seeds are Baltimore County rivals Hereford, Milford Mill and Franklin. If the No. 8 Bulls can find a way to defeat Mervo - which has allowed more points than it has scored - they will then have a regional final date with an opponent they have already defeated during the regular season.

To Hereford coach Steve Turnbaugh, however, that's not necessarily good news.

"It's hard playing the same team twice, and the games that we've played have been tight ballgames," he said. "You see it happen in every region. Team A beat Team B in the regular season, they meet in the postseason and Team B beats them. If you're equally matched and playing good, competitive football, it's hard to beat the same team twice in a row."

Pointers aim for title

Set to play defending Class 1A state champ Glenelg in a rematch of last year's championship game, the Sparrows Point girls soccer team believes there will be a different outcome tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at UMBC Stadium.

The Pointers, who beat Poolesville in a semifinal last week, will lean on last year's experience and the motivation of getting a second crack at Glenelg. The Gladiators came away with a 2-0 win in last year's title game after claiming the Class 2A crown in 2006.

Sparrows Point's fifth-year coach, Conrad Snyder, sees something unique in this year's group, and he's not afraid to say it as the Pointers try to bring home the program's first title.

"Last year, I didn't think the girls were quite ready for this level of play. We pretty much played toe to toe with Glenelg, but their speed of play and the fact that they were a successful 2A program dropping to 1A was a big factor," Snyder said.

"At the beginning of this year, I thought they could do something special - something no other team at Sparrows Point has done. I know I'm giving [Glenelg coach Dean] Sheridan stuff for his bulletin board, but you know something, I'll take these girls to his girls straight up and we'll see what happens."

The Pointers will bring back the majority of their starters from last year's game and have two seniors who have played in four straight state tournaments - Gabby Antalffy and Lauren Miller. The Gladiators have eight new starters looking to repeat as champions.


Mavericks back again

With a senior-laden team fueled by last year's double-overtime loss to River Hill in the Class 2A state title game, the No. 4 Eastern Tech girls soccer team was plenty confident it would get another chance at the state crown.

The Mavericks, led by senior forwards Amber Womack and Brittany Rhodes, were not at all surprised they would be up against the defending champ Hawks, ranked No. 5, again. The two will meet Saturday at noon at UMBC Stadium.

"We're definitely looking forward to seeing River Hill, just because of last year," said Eastern Tech coach Kim Williams, whose team advanced with a semifinal win over North Hagerstown on penalty kicks. "It was a great game, and as soon as it ended, the River Hill coach [Brian Song] and I both said, 'We'll see you next year.' "

With such lofty expectations, she added, the most difficult part of the season was keeping the team sharp through it.


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