Commentary

Can Poets do what no program has done?

Updated: December 7, 2009, 11:12 AM ET
By Mike Loveday & Sheldon Shealer | ESPNRISE.com

Dunbar is out to prove the Poets' program is much more than Tavon Austin.

Playoff Coverage

MDVarsity.com covers all four classifications from the pre-snap to the post game press conference for the 2009 maryland high school playoffs.

Austin guided Dunbar to three state titles before graduating last school year. The Poets find itself back in the hunt in Class 1A and in position for a state first - four straight state titles in the same classification. Urbana is the only school to win four in a row, but the first three were in 2A before a move to 3A for the 2001 crown.

Dunbar's path to a four-peat is certainly not a given. Forestville is a dangerous first-round opponent. Forest Park, which is undefeated, could be the region final foe. If the teams play to the seeding, Dunbar could see undefeated Joppatowne in the state semifinals and Fort Hill in the final.

Most Dangerous No. 3 Seed: Sparrows Point. The Pointers nearly defeated Pikesville last week, and a first-round rematch is always tricky.

Most Dangerous No. 4 Seed: Bohemia Manor. It's not so much that Bohemia Manor is considered a serious title threat, but rather, it's the only No. 4 team with any chance of getting past the second round.

Tough Break: Cambridge-S.D. Two weeks ago, the Vikings were 6-3, coming off a victory over Snow Hill and in position to make a run at the playoffs. Then the squad had to forfeit three wins for what was reported as being two former players serving in the role of volunteer coaches while not being of the legal coaching age of 21.

West

No. 4 Smithsburg (6-4) at No.1 Fort Hill (10-0)
Details: Friday at Greenway Ave. Stadium, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2007 region semifinal, Fort Hill won, 45-0
Smithsburg Playoff History: 22-15 in 20 playoff appearances. Smithsburg has five state titles (1976, 1979, 1984, 1988, 1994). The Leopards are making its third straight regional playoff appearance.
Fort Hill Playoff History: 26-21 in 23 playoff appearances. Fort Hill has two state titles (1975, 1997). The Sentinels have made the playoffs every year since the regional format started in 2003, and the program has reached the region final the past three years. Fort Hill's 2007 win over Smithsburg is the programs' lone meeting.
Game Notes: One year after a heart-breaking loss in the Class 1A state final, Fort Hill appears primed for a second shot at the title. The Sentinels defense has been imposing this season, holding opponents to an average of 7.6 points per game. Fort Hill has wins over the MIAA's Mount St. Joseph and the MVAL's Thomas Johnson and are coming off a strong performance against Allegany. Do not expect to see many passes attempted in this game with Smithsburg's Ben Daniels and Fort Hill's Dakota Welsh leading their respective teams in rushing this season.

Fort Hill
Mike Loveday for ESPN RISEFort Hill appears to be the favorite in Class 1A this season.
No. 3 Boonsboro (6-4) at No. 2 Allegany (7-3)
Details: Saturday at Greenway Ave. Stadium, 1 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2007 regional semifinals, Allegany won, 49-19
Boonsboro Playoff History: 6-7 in eight playoff appearances. Boonsboro won a state title in 1993. The Warriors have qualified for the region playoffs the past four years, losing all four contests.
Allegany Playoff History: 35-11 in 19 playoff appearances. Allegany won state titles in 1978, 1980, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2001 and 2005. The campers have made the playoffs the past five years and reached the region final four times.
Game Notes: Boonsboro's win over Smithsburg in Week 10 pushed them into the No. 3 seed and helped them avoid Fort Hill in the first round this season. Unfortunately, it still has to face Allegany. The Campers' top two quarterbacks have been injured but the team still has a wealth of talent that remembers the 2007 Class 1A state championship game. Dustin Wharton leads the Campers, which average 42.4 points per game. This marks the third time since 2006 Allegany and Boonsboro have met in the playoffs. Allegany has won both meetings. Boonsboro is led by senior running backs Branden McLean and Drew Lowery.

North

No. 4 New Town (5-5) at No. 1 Catoctin (10-0)
Details: Friday at Catoctin, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: Programs have never met
New Town Playoff History: 1-2 in two playoff appearances. New Town reached the region final in 2006 and was a region semifinalist last year.
Catoctin Playoff History: 5-7 in seven playoff appearances. Catoctin is making its fourth straight playoff appearance, and last year's state semifinal showing matched the program's best-ever finish (semifinalist in 1982 and 1986). Since the regional format started in 2003, Catoctin has made the playoffs every year except one (2004).
Game Notes: Catoctin may be the No. 1 seed, but there will be no looking past No. 4 New Town. The Cougars were a No. 4 seed last season and defeated Chesapeake-BC. New Town makes the playoffs for the second straight season under head coach Joe Holland. Catoctin is led by senior quarterback Dylan May, who has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.

[+] EnlargeJoshua Alaeze
Mike LovedayDunbar is looking for its fourth straight 1A title.
No. 3 Sparrows Point (6-4) at No. 2 Pikesville (7-2)
Details: Friday at Pikesville, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, Pikesville won 35-28
Sparrows Point Playoff History: 1-8 in eight playoff appearances. Sparrows Point's lone playoff win was in 2004 when the Pointers reached the 1A North region final. Sparrows Point is making its third playoff appearance in four seasons.
Pikesville Playoff History: 1-3 in three playoff appearances. Pikesville is making its second straight playoff appearance and its only postseason win was last year.
Game Notes: These teams will not have to go back far to look at film from their previous game. Pikesville defeated Sparrows Point 35-28 last week. Pikesville's Davon Gilmore scored four touchdowns to give the program its first-ever conference title. Sparrows Point broke a 26-year playoff drought when it made the playoffs last season and makes the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.

South

No. 4 Carver Vo-Tech (6-4) at No. 1 Forest Park (9-0)
Details: Friday at Poly Complex, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, Carver Vo-Tech won, 20-14
Carver Playoff History: 0-1 in one playoff appearance. Carver lost in the 2005 regional semifinal round.
Forest Park Playoff History: 0-7 in seven playoff appearances. Forest Park is making its sixth playoff appearance this decade and is still searching for win No. 1.
Game Notes: There will be celebrating in Baltimore City no matter which team wins on Friday night. Forest Park and Carver are 0-8 in the playoffs combined all-time. Their Week 4 meeting was decided by six points with Forest Park coming out on top, 20-14.

No. 3 Forestville (5-4) at No. 2 Dunbar (9-1)
Details: Saturday at Poly Complex, 1 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2008 region semifinals, Dunbar won, 54-14
Forestville Playoff History: 12-10 in 11 playoff appearances. Frostville's only state title came in 1999. Forestville is making its third straight playoff appearance.
Dunbar Playoff History: 30-7 in seven playoff appearances. Dunbar has won six state titles (1994, 1995, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008). The Poets are making their eighth straight playoff appearance. Dunbar is the only school to have won a region title every year since the regional format was started in 2003.
Game Notes: These two teams do not play in the regular season, but they have become very familiar with each other after meeting in the region playoffs the last three years. During that time, Dunbar has outscored Forestville 158-64. Forestville's Rahmann Lee has rushed for at least 145 yards in three of the Knights last five games, including a 150-yard performance against Friendly. Antonio Belt will be difficult for Dunbar to defend, mostly because the senior can line up in any of three spots on offense. Belt has thrown for 380 yards, rushed for 304 and caught for 297 yards this season, accounting for 10 touchdowns. Dunbar is led by running back Nathan Ayers, who has accounted for 1,683 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing this season. Ayers is also the team's second-leading tackler with 115. Defense is where Dunbar has excelled this season. Reynard Parks has 117 tackles and 6.5 sacks and Darian Scott has 17.5 sacks this season.

East

No. 4 Bohemia Manor (7-3) at No. 1 Joppatowne (10-0)
Details: Friday at Joppatowne, 7 p.m.

Ames
Connie Bowen/ESPN RISEDeron Ames finished sixth all-time in career rushing yards.
Most Recent Meeting: 1994, Joppatowne won, 20-7
Bohemia Manor Playoff History: 5-7 in eight playoff appearances. Bohemia Manor won its only state title in 2002. The Eagles are making their second straight playoff appearance and third in four seasons.
Joppatowne Playoff History: 21-14 in 16 playoff appearances. Joppatowne won state titles in 1975 and 2003. The Mariners hold the distinction of being the only team toenter the playoffs with a losing record and come away with a state title (2003, going from 4-5 to 8-5). Joppatowne has qualified for the playoffs every year since the creation of the regional format in 2003, but was forced to vacate its 2007 region crown for using an ineligible player.
Game Notes: Bohemia Manor is riding a six-game winning streak and will be looking toward Matt White to lead them to a win over the Mariners. White (1,095 yards rushing) became the second Bo Manor player to rush for more than 1,000 yards since Shane Hines in 2002. That same year Bo Manor won a Class 1A state championship. Joppatowne won a 1A state title the following year in 2003 and have been a perennial playoff contender. The Mariners are led by running backs Jake McGinnis and Epe Henriques.

No. 3 Havre de Grace (6-4) at. No. 2 Snow Hill (8-2)
Details: Friday at Snow Hill, 6 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 1978 state final, Havre de Grace won, 13-0
Havre de Grace Playoff History: 18-12 in 15 playoff appearances. Havre de Grace won state titles in 1978, 1981 and 1986. Havre de Grace is making its fourth straight playoff appearance.
Snow Hill Playoff History: 13-14 in 16 playoff appearances. Snow Hill won titles in 1980 and 1982, while Havre de Grace won in 1981. Snow Hill missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002 last year. Snow Hill is 5-4 in regional playoff games.
Game Notes: Looks for two different approaches to win the game as Snow Hill will look to run behind Deron Ames while Havre de Grace will rely on quarterback Maurice Clemons. Snow Hill averages 35.8 points per game behind the running of Ames and Kyle Wharton. Ames has rushed for 1,273 yards and 19 touchdowns this season and averages 11.27 yards per carry. Wharton has rushed for 957 yards and seven touchdowns. Clemons has thrown for 1,351 yards and 18 touchdowns for Havre de Grace and has several receivers to choose from, including Anthony Johnson (37 catches, 591 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Dayshawn Bolling (29 catches, 473 yards, 9 touchdowns). The difference maker could be Snow Hill's defense, which has allowed only 42 points over its past five games. Havre de Grace was held to just 65 total yards two weeks ago against Joppatowne.