With the final week of the regular season and the Linganore-Urbana showdown on tap this week, the playoff picture is gradually coming into focus for Frederick County teams.
Linganore (9-0) and Oakdale (7-2) are the only teams, at the moment, that are in for sure. The Lancers are the No. 2 seed in the West region of Class 3A right now, while the Bears are presently the top seed in the 2A West. Urbana (8-1) is in the 3A West draw with a home win over Linganore, while Catoctin (5-4) and Walkersville (4-5) need to win and receive help to qualify in the 2A West.
Urbana, despite eight straight wins and another other-worldly season from senior running back Ray Gray (249 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 35-19 road win at Thomas Johnson), needs to beat Linganore or risk missing the playoffs entirely. If the Hawks don’t beat Linganore, if 7-2 Seneca Valley beats 2-7 Blake and all of the other favored teams win, the Screamin’ Eagles will edge out Urbana for the final spot in the 3A West by a tenth of a point. It would mark the first time the Hawks missed the playoffs since 2011 and just the second time in the last 10 seasons. With a win, however, Urbana could shoot up to the No. 2 seed in the region and host a first-round playoff game, maybe against Linganore.
The Urbana-Linganore matchup is interesting because it matches the top defense in the county (Linganore) against the top running back in the county (Gray), a Temple recruit who has surged past the 240-yard mark in three of the last four games. The winner of this battle will likely determine the winner of the game. The Lancers knocked Urbana out of the playoffs with a dominating, 33-6 win at the end of the 2011 season and would love nothing more to do it again. Linganore is eyeing the top seed in the region and home-field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, at least, with a win and a Damascus (9-0) loss to Churchill (6-3).
For Catoctin, which has won five straight games to pull itself out of an 0-4 start, it is pretty simple. With a home win over Brunswick (4-5) and a Poolesville (6-3) loss to visiting Rockville (7-2), the Cougars are in the 2A West playoffs for the second straight season, likely as the No. 4 seed. Even with a win over Brunswick, which snapped a three-game losing streak last week at winless North Hagerstown, Catoctin is out of the playoffs if Poolesville beats Rockville and Liberty (6-3) beats Century (2-7) on the road.
Oakdale, which won its third straight game last week with a 50-20 home win over Tuscarora, will likely be the top seed for the 2A West playoffs.
Walkersville faces a much more complex scenario to get in. The Lions just snapped a five-game losing streak with a 43-8 road win over Frederick (2-7). This week, they’ll need to beat Tuscarora (4-5) on the road and then have a host of upsets fall their way, including Brunswick over Catoctin on Friday night and Frederick over Thomas Johnson (4-5) on Saturday afternoon. It seems highly unlikely that Walkersville will be a 2A West playoff team. But crazy things can happen.
It does seem strange that Middletown (4-5), the three-time defending 2A state champions, is not in the playoff mix at all entering the final week of the regular season. The Knights will close their season Friday night at Oakdale.
In private-school play, Maryland School for the Deaf (8-2), which has won five straight, will host KIPP College Prep, based out of D.C., for the Capital Area Football Conference Governor’s Cup at 6:30 p.m. Friday. MSD won the earlier meeting between the teams this season, 16-14, on the road.
St. John’s Catholic Prep, meanwhile, closed its season at 5-5 overall last Thursday with a 53-24 win over Baltimore-based Friends School in the first high school football game played on Chuck Foreman Field at Ballenger Creek Park. The Vikings capped their season with three straight wins.