Midpoint is starting point for playoffs

October 03, 2003|by MARK KELLER

Believe it or not, the midpoint of the football season has arrived.

West Virginia and Pennsylvania schools have already played their fifth games. Maryland schools will play their fifth games beginning tonight.

Some teams have already had their playoff hopes wrecked; some are hanging on for their postseason lives, while still others are in the enviable position of trying simply to improve their standing in the point standings.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association released its first set of playoff points for the 2003 season Thursday, giving a first chance to analyze where teams stand and what they must do in the second half of the season if they are to continue playing beyond Week 10.

The thing to remember about these projections is that an injury to a key player can change everything for a team. And with six weeks still to play in Maryland, it's possible for teams to get on a roll and turn their seasons around.

Class 1A West

Current top 4: Poolesville, Beall, Catoctin, Hancock.

Also: Smithsburg (5th), Williamsport (8th), Boonsboro (11th).

Outlook: Poolesville and Beall are solid. Catoctin still has big games against South and North Hagerstown and South Carroll. The Cougars will likely need to win one of those three to get in. Hancock has stern tests against Berkeley Springs and St. Vincent Pallotti and bonus points could be an issue. Smithsburg also must play South and North yet.

Watch out for: Allegany. Currently sixth, if the Campers can manage a win against Beall or Fort Hill, they will jump in.

Worth noting: Smithsburg is currently rated 16th in Class 1A. If the playoff system had been changed to a straight 16-team bracket instead of four four-team regions, the Leopards would be officially on the bubble.

Class 1A South

Current top 4: Oakland Mills, Dunbar, W.E.B. Dubois, Forest Park.

Also: Brunswick (7th)

Outlook: Oakland Mills and Dunbar are solid. This region could see two 5-5 teams make the postseason. Brunswick will need at least four more wins in a tough MVAL Antietam to make the playoffs.

Watch out for: Oakland Mills. The Scorpions should win this region in a walk.

Class 2A West

Current top 4: Francis Scott Key, North Hagerstown, Walkersville, Fort Hill.

Also: South Hagerstown (7th), Middletown (9th).

Outlook: None of the top 4 teams have lost this season, but each will be tested before the end of the season. FSK gets North and Walkersville; Walkersville gets FSK and South Carroll; North gets FSK and South; Fort Hill gets Martinsburg and Allegany. It's doubtful that more than one of these teams will finish unbeaten.

Watch out for: South Carroll and South Hagerstown. South Carroll still must play Walkersville and FSK. Wins against them will move the Cavaliers currently fifth up dramatically. South Hagerstown still faces Catoctin, Frankfort and North and might not be able to afford another loss.

Three losses probably won't cut it in this region.

Class 3A West

Current top 4: Seneca Valley, Linganore, Northwest, Wheaton.

Also: Frederick (6th).

Outlook: Without a doubt, Frederick must win out if they are to crack the top 4. That would include wins over Walkersville, Linganore and Urbana in the next three weeks.

Watch out for: Urbana. Currently fifth, the Hawks' chances could be held in the balance when they play Linganore on the final day of the season.

Outside Maryland

No area teams from Pennsylvania will make the postseason this year, extending the playoff drought in Franklin County to five years. Chambersburg and Greencastle-Antrim were the last area Pa. teams to make the playoffs, that being in 1998.

In West Virginia, Martinsburg is rated No. 1 in Class AAA and should finish at or near the top of those standings. With three losses apiece already and several tough games still to come, Musselman and Hedgesville are longshots at best. Jefferson has four losses and will not figure in the race.

Berkeley Springs is rated No. 16 in the Class AA standings, but the next four games will be a challenging run for the Indians. They might sneak in at 7-3.

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