First-year Pikesville football coach Jamie Willis came into this season with admittedly modest goals after taking over a team that won just two games a year ago.
"When I took the job, I told the kids in our first meeting that we're going to work hard and get what we deserve," Willis said.
Never did he imagine his Panthers would earn a spot in the regional final. That's where they are, however, as they will host Catoctin tomorrow in the 2A North final.
The Panthers (7-4) already have left their mark, winning their first postseason game ever, 22-18 over New Town last week.
Willis has opened the offense, spreading the field to give his top athletes - including several members of the Panthers' basketball team that nearly upset Dunbar in last winter's regional semifinals - room to make plays.
And they have done just that, with quarterback Jeremy Downing throwing for 1,158 yards and 12 touchdowns, including seven to top receiving target DeVohn Gilmore, who also has scored on three kickoff returns. Downing leads the team with nine rushing touchdowns as well.
After lopsided losses to Overlea, Eastern Tech and Randallstown, the Panthers have found their stride, winning five of six.
Winners in defeat
First-year Towson volleyball coach Emily Berman knew she had a solid core group, but during the preseason, the Generals were ranked behind Dulaney and Catonsville. Not only did the Generals beat both of those teams twice and win the Baltimore County title, but they also made it all the way to the Class 3A state final.
Even though No. 1 Centennial ended Towson's state title aspirations Monday night, taking the title match, 26-24, 25-18, 25-21, at Ritchie Coliseum in College Park, Berman can't help but call this season a great success.
"It's like, 'Yeah, you lost in the state finals but you did unbelievable things to get here,' " said Berman, whose No. 4 Generals finished 17-3.
Middle hitter Julia Myers, who had 11 kills in the championship match, led the Generals along with setter Kat Lincalis, libero Lauren Demarzo and hitter Amelia Thomas, who also provided much leadership and team cohesion.
Bailey Webster of St. Paul's has been named a first-team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
The University of Texas-bound Webster was invited to play in the inaugural All-America High School Volleyball Match and Skills Competition on Dec. 21 in Omaha, Neb.