Commentary

The usual suspects look to advance

Updated: November 17, 2009, 9:57 AM ET
By Mike Loveday & Sheldon Shealer | ESPN RISE

Dunbar, Fort Hill, Joppatowne, Catoctin.

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.

Heard that before?

Yes, last year's four state semifinalists are all back in the region final, and all four are favored to win this week's meetings - thus earning yet another round of state semifinal match-ups.

The 1A history for these programs is quite amazing. Since the current regional playoff format was enacted in 2003, these four programs have combined for 13 region titles out of a possible 20 (Fort Hill and Joppatowne each spent a two-year rotation in 2A since 2003).

Lowest Seed Likely To Win: Dunbar. The Poets are the lower seed, but far from the underdog. In fact, Dunbar is a clear favorite. The Poets happened to get outpointed by Forest Park in the 1A race based solely on Forest Park's undefeated run through Division II while Dunbar had a 9-1 showing in Division I.

Regional Semifinal Surprise: Havre de Grace. OK, it's no surprise Havre de Grace defeated Snow Hill in the region semifinals, but its win was attention-grabbing. The Warriors shut down Snow Hill's high-powered ground attack, holding the Bayside school to a single touchdown.

West

No. 2 Allegany (8-3) vs. No. 1 Fort Hill (11-0)
Details: Friday at Greenway Avenue Stadium, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, Fort Hill won, 17-7
Allegany Region Final History: The Campers are making their sixth straight region final appearance. The Campers won titles in 2004, 2005 and 2007. The team finished runner-up to Fort Hill in 2006 and 2008.
Fort Hill Region Final History: The Sentinels and Campers are scheduled to play in Week 10 every year, and its beginning to be a habit in Week 12, as well. This is the fourth straight year these programs have played for the 1A West region title, with Fort Hill holding a 2-1 edge. Fort Hill also made a region final appearance in 2004 in its final season at 2A, winning the 2A West title.
Game Notes: Both teams had easy region semifinal wins last week and each team was able to rest players in preparation for this week's rematch. Fort Hill has won three straight games over Allegany, which marks the first time either team has won three in a row in this storied rivalry since Fort Hill won in 2002, 2003 and 2004. In the most recent game two weeks ago, Fort Hill's defense held Allegany's offense to a season-low seven points. Fort Hill boasts the running combination of Dakota Welsh (1,157 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Sam Walker (537 yards, seven touchdowns). Quarterback Devin Lee has thrown for 701 yards and nine touchdowns but also saw time at receiver last week, making a 57-yard touchdown reception in the win over Smithsburg. Allegany's Dustin Wharton and J.D. Hook, both who were sophomores on Allegany's 2007 1A state runner-up, scored two touchdowns each in the win over Boonsboro. Hook has rushed for 1,025 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and Hook has compiled 1,869 total yards from running, receiving, punt and kickoff returns. A key addition to this week's game could be the return of Demetrius Taylor. The senior quarterback broke his collarbone Week 5 and has been cleared to play this week, according to head coach Tom Preaskorn. Drew O'Neil will start at quarterback, but Taylor is available if needed and is more mobile and elusive than O'Neil.

[+] EnlargeDevin
Mike Loveday for ESPN RISE Devin Lee made his first reception of the season last week.
North

No. 2 Pikesville (8-2) at No. 1 Catoctin (11-0)
Details: Friday at Catoctin, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2008 region final, Catoctin won, 50-13
Pikesville Region Final History: Pikesville is making its second straight region final appearance and meet the same program that pinned a 37-point loss on the Panthers last year. Catoctin Region Final History: This is Catoctin's third straight region final appearance. The Cougars are the defending champions in what has been a stair-step improvement each of the past four years. In 2005, Catoctin lost in the semifinals to the region runner-up. In 2006, the Cougars fell in the semifinals to the eventual region champ. In 2007, Catoctin was the region runner-up. Last year, the Cougars won the region title and lost in the state semifinals.
Game Notes: Catoctin comes into this game healthy and with quarterback Dylan May playing as well as he has all season. May has thrown for 1,469 yards and 15 touchdowns this season to lead an offense with several weapons. Running back Paul Barbour rushed for 85 yards and three touchdowns and Austin Carter gained 54 yards on six carries in the win over New Town last week. Receiver Nick Nowacyk has more than 33 receptions this season. Pikesville will rely on its trio of skill position players: quarterback Jeremy Downing, receiver DeVohn Gilmore and running back Kion Wright.

South

No. 2 Dunbar (10-1) vs. No. 1 Forest Park (10-0)
Details: Saturday at Poly Complex, 1 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2005, Dunbar won, 44-7
Dunbar Region Final History: Dunbar was won the 1A South region title every year since this format went into effect in 2003. Therefore, its 6-0 region final record and 13-0 region playoff record are state-best.
Forest Park Region Final History: Forest Park is making its first region final appearance.
Game Notes: After an early season loss to Patterson, Dunbar has rebounded and is playing its best football of the season right now. Led by running back Nathan Ayers, the Poets are looking to win its seventh straight 1A South region title. Head coach Lawrence Smith said his team has overachieved all season. With 22 sophomores on the roster, Smith added that if this team wins another title the program is in position to "run off [a] major numbers of championships because we know what we have." Ayers has rushed for 2,023 yards this season and is coming off a 340-yard, four-touchdown game against Forestville. Forest Park plays a fluid defensive scheme - shifting from several defensive fronts: 4-4, 3-5 and 5-3. Offensively, the Foresters will use a multiple running back set with Patrick Makell, Delron Dantzler and Angelo Lewis all receiving carries. While head coach Damon Bomar said he does not like to pass the ball, quarterback Travis Foncseca is more than capable - throwing for 1,056 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

East

No. 3 Havre de Grace (8-3) at No. 1 Joppatowne (11-0)
Details: Friday at Joppatowne, 7 p.m.
Most Recent Meeting: 2009, Joppatowne won, 35-0
Havre de Grace Region Final History: Havre de Grace is making a bid to join Joppatowne as the only school to win titles in multiple 1A regions. Havre de Grace was the 2006 1A North champ, the year before realignment sent the team to the East region. Havre de Grace is 1-2 in region finals, and both of those losses have come at the hand of Joppatowne (2003 and 2008).
Joppatowne Region Final History: Since returning to Class 1A in 2007, the Mariners have been a fixture in the 1A East final - winning the past two seasons. Overall, Joppatowne is 5-0 in region finals, which also includes a 2A East title in 2005 and back-to-back 1A North crowns in 2003 and 2004.
Game Notes: When Havre de Grace visits Joppatowne this weekend for the region final it will have a few weapons that were not available in the 35-0 loss to the Mariners in Week 9. Havre de Grace head coach John Brooks was without four players and was using a fourth-string running back in the teams' previous meeting. Havre de Grace is healthy and quarterback Maurice Clemons is coming off a two-touchdown performance against Snow Hill in inclement weather. Clemson has 20 touchdowns on the season. Anthony Johnson and Dayshawn Bolling are Clemons' best targets with more than 66 receptions between them. However, Joppatowne is again a state title contender, although the program tends to get overshadowed by Fort Hill and Dunbar. Epe Henriques rushed for 292 yards and four touchdowns against Bohemia Manor last week and has passed the 1,000-yard mark on the season (1,055 yards and 15 touchdowns). The Mariners also have Chris Wright (786) to run the ball and a boast a strong offensive line that has helped the team average more than 300 yards rushing per game this season. Jake McGinnis leads the defense and recorded 122 total tackles during the regular season.