What have we learned through four weeks of the season? Well, that very little separates the top football teams in Frederick County. Although, some separation has developed between the top teams and everyone else.
The best teams, so far, seem to be Linganore, the lone unbeaten team in the county at 4-0, Urbana (3-1) and Oakdale (3-1). On the next tier are teams like Tuscarora (3-1), Walkersville (3-1), Middletown (2-2) and Thomas Johnson (2-2). Then, there is everyone else. Brunswick, which is 3-1 after a nice win at Smithsburg on Friday, is hard to quantify because the Railroaders play a much different schedule than just about everyone else in the county.
But life is good at the top, as proved by Oakdale and Urbana in what was the Game of the Year in the county to date. The Hawks prevailed at home, 21-20, but not before surviving a strong charge by the Bears over the final 17 minutes, as well as a final-minute, 37-yard field goal try that had the distance but sailed just wide to the right.
Both teams can feel good about themselves coming out of the game. Urbana avoided a second loss, which might have been crippling to its playoff hopes in an ultra-competitive region (the Class 3A West). Oakdale, on the other hand, proved it could hang blow-to-blow with a heavyweight away from home. The Bears marched right down the field for a touchdown on their opening possession before falling behind, 14-6, as Urbana quarterback Donovan Pannell scored on a 5-yard keeper and then swung a pass out to senior Zach Cummings for a 12-yard touchdown.
After a big lull in scoring for both teams, the Bears scored two straight touchdowns to take a 20-14 lead with 10 minutes, 15 seconds remaining in the game. First, Malik Boyd scored his second touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run. Then, Jazaih Brightful found the end zone on a 13-yard run to give the Bears the lead. It wasn’t until Urbana sophomore Elijah Atkins finally cradled a 39-yard touchdown pass from Pannell just a few minutes later, after bobbling it four times from the 10-yard line to the goal-line, that the Hawks went in front for good.
Urbana will look for its fourth consecutive win when it hosts much-improved Walkersville this Thursday. Oakdale, meanwhile, will host Thomas Johnson in a game that should draw a lot of intrigue based solely on the number of players that have played for both schools during their high school careers. It could get interesting on the field and in the stands.
In the other big game last week, visiting Middletown held off host Walkersville, 13-12, for their 13th consecutive victory over the Lions. It was important because it kept the Knights’ hopes alive for a playoff spot and, potentially, a fourth consecutive state title. A third loss with a formidable schedule ahead would have virtually eliminated Middletown from reaching the postseason in another competitive region, the 2A West. The Knights defense, much-maligned already in losses to Westminster and Boonsboro, came through when it had to as Louis Prensky batted away the potential game-winning 2-point conversion pass with 2:10 remaining. Walkersville, on the other hand, has to be extremely frustrated that it can’t find a way to get over the Middletown hump, even it what appears to be a bit of a down year for the Knights.
Linganore, meanwhile, might possess the one quality that separates it from everybody else in the county and that is a top-notch defense. The Lancers defense is not just stifling the opposition, it is also producing points on what seems to be a weekly basis. In Friday’s 41-13 victory at Thomas Johnson, the defense forced four turnovers, including a fumble Chris Connor returned 7 yards for a touchdown. TJ, despite scoring more points than anyone has against Linganore all season on a pair of scoring passes from senior quarterback Tyler Magaha, finished with 149 total yards, or 17 fewer than Linganore had on the ground alone in the first half. That total for the Patriots included negative-22 rushing yards. The Linganore defense, which has allowed 32 points through four games while scoring almost as many, is for real. The Lancers offense, led by senior quarterback Nathaniel Musselman and junior running back Dante Butler, is not bad either. Linganore has scored at least 26 points in every game so far.
Tuscarora, after a disappointing loss at Liberty, bounced back in a big way with a 49-6 home win over Frederick. Sophomore Rodney Dorsey returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and the Titans rolled up 246 yards and 42 points in the first half against the banged-up Cadets, who dropped to 2-2.
Brunswick, after a disappointing home loss to Manchester Valley, pulled out an impressive one-point victory (27-26) at Smithsburg. Nick Maidl blocked the game-tying extra point with 40 seconds remaining to preserve the win for the Railroaders. Running backs Seth Wagner (147 yards, three touchdowns) and Erik Jones (106 yards and a touchdown) each had big games for Brunswick.
Catoctin (0-4), MSD (3-2) and St. John’s Catholic Prep, meanwhile, all suffered disheartening losses. The Cougars were beaten at home, 56-18, by unbeaten South Hagerstown. The Orioles went to St. James and lost, 52-28, while the Vikings dropped a 35-6 decision to Avalon School out of Gaithersburg at McCurdy Field.