After 10 weeks of the regular season, the three best teams in Frederick County football this season (Linganore, Urbana and Oakdale) deservedly made the playoffs. The other seven public-school teams certainly made the ride a lot more interesting along the way. But, for one reason or another, they ultimately came up short.
Catoctin deserves a lot of credit for nearly qualifying for the postseason after an 0-4 start. The Cougars won their final six games, including a win over the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A West semifinals (Poolesville), to finish 6-4.
The same could be said about Walkersville (5-5), which narrowly missed reaching the 2A West playoffs despite beating Catoctin, the No. 3 seed in the region (Liberty) on the road, and playing Oakdale, the top seed in the region within a point. The Lions endured five straight losses once they hit the strength of their schedule, but they hammered Tuscarora (4-6), a respectable 3A school, last Friday, 55-18, to close the season with two straight wins.
Brunswick (4-6) deserves a lot of credit for winning four games with a roster of 26 players or less all season. Thomas Johnson deserves its due for overcoming the loss seven of its top players due to transfer and going 5-5 with a first-year starting quarterback. Senior Kahari Kilgore was unquestionably the top receiver in the county for the Patriots, who hammered banged-up Frederick, 59-12, Saturday afternoon in the annual City Game. The Cadets lost eight in a row after winning their first two games. And Maryland School for the Deaf (9-2) should be applauded for winning its last six games, including a 42-0 victory over KIPP College Prep last Friday to claim its first Governor’s Cup from the Capital Area Football Conference.
The surprise of the season was Middletown going 4-6 after winning 36 straight games and three 2A state championships in a row. It marked the Knights first losing season since 1976, the second varsity season in school history. For whatever reason, all of the things that have fallen Middletown’s way in recent seasons did not this season.
So, that leaves us with Linganore (10-0), the lone unbeaten team in the county and the new No. 1 team in the state media poll, Urbana (8-2), which saw its eight-game winning streak come to an end with a 35-13 home loss to the Lancers on Friday but got the requisite help they needed to make the playoffs, and Oakdale (8-2), which will be making its first appearance in the playoffs and only lost to Urbana (by a point on the road) and Linganore.
Defense continues to be the overriding story for the Lancers, who have yet to allow more than 13 points in a game this season. Yes, they allowed 268 yards and two touchdowns to Urbana’s unstoppable Ray Gray on 35 carries. But, by in large, they did a good job of keeping Gray in check and limiting his big-yardage runs. It was as quiet a 268-yard game as you are going to see and, ultimately, did not cost them much in the end.
Linganore is the No. 2 seed in the 3A West playoffs and will host unbeaten South Hagerstown in the regional semifinals Friday night. The Rebels (10-0) have not nearly played the caliber of schedule that Linganore, Urbana or even Oakdale have played and will be heavy underdogs against the Lancers.
Urbana, meanwhile, is the No. 4 seed in the 3A West and will travel to top-seeded Damascus (10-0) Friday night for a rematch of a thrilling regional semifinal last season that was won by a point (35-34) by the Hawks when a final-minute extra point by Damascus sailed wide. Gray, who played the second half of that game with a serious calf strain, should be at 100 percent for the rematch. The Hawks can take solace that they hung with Linganore for a little more than a half. But, eventually, the Lancers’ talent and depth, wore them down.
Oakdale, on the other hand, beat Middletown, 28-14, at home last Friday to cap its best regular season, by far. As the top seed for the 2A West playoffs, the Bears are assured of playing on their home field for at least the first two rounds. On Friday night, they will host fourth-seeded South Carroll, a team they already beat, 35-7, at home on Sept. 12. The Cavaliers (7-3) are coming off a 27-14 road loss to Westminster, which was considered an upset.