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Warriors first must get by defending champs

November 17, 2006|by TIM KOELBLE

BOONSBORO - Boonsboro has not won a Maryland state football championship since 1993, and in order to think about getting back to the promised land, the Warriors must first dethrone the defending 1A state champion Allegany Campers.

No. 2-seed Boonsboro gets the opportunity tonight when it hosts No. 3-seed Allegany in the semifinals of the 1A West playoffs at 7. The winner will play the Fort Hill-Beall survivor for the region title.

"We've talked as a group, and the players understand it's time to raise it up a level," said Boonsboro coach Clayton Anders. "It's a whole new scenario. We're tickled to be at home. Allegany has a more storied football tradition."

Not that Boonsboro's is that shabby.

Surprisingly, this will be the first time Boonsboro and Allegany will meet on the gridiron.

The Warriors (8-2) won the MVAL Antietam title, breaking a tie with North Hagerstown by virtue of their win over the Hubs. The Campers, coming off an emotional 35-14 loss to Fort Hill, are 8-2. During the regular season, there were two common opponents. Against Moorefield, Boonsboro won 39-14 while Allegany prevailed, 41-7. Against Keyser, Boonsboro won 20-14 in overtime while the Campers lost, 14-7.

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Field conditions will likely come into play and fans can count on a high percentage of plays to be on the ground as both teams feature the wing-T offense.

Anders said Allegany runs a more traditional wing-T, differing some from the Warriors' package, in which additional schemes are derived.

"They have some nice size on both the offensive and defensive lines and they have some skilled players," said Anders. "They've got a nice tackle and tight end."

Quarterback Derrick Haller (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) is 33-of-72 passing for 662 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions for the Campers. When Haller throws, he usually connects with Jeff Babich (6-3, 165), who has caught 19 passes, 10 for scores.

Jeff Link (6-1, 203) has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and scored 71 points, and Anders said, "He is like a bigger version of Kyle (Kane)." Doug Hamilton (5-11, 185) has rushed for over 500 yards and scored nine touchdowns.

"Overall (Allegany) might be a little bigger than us through the backfield," said Anders.

However, the Campers were dealt a major blow in the first quarter against Fort Hill when star fullback/linebacker Tyler Wharton, who had scored 17 touchdowns on the year, dislocated his right elbow and is lost for the season.

For Boonsboro, junior Ryan McLean (5-11, 190) leads the team in rushing with 885 yards while senior Kane (6-1, 185) is close behind with 801. Senior Matt Wetzel (5-11, 161) has added 311 and eight pass receptions and senior QB Mike DeBarge (6-1, 155) has rushed for 348 net yards. In the air, DeBarge is 22-of-59 for 288 yards.

"Allegany is a physical team, but I think we have a speed advantage," said Kane.

"They're a big team overall, but we're not afraid of them," said DeBarge. "I think their backs are a lot like ours. It could come down to being a defensive stand."

In Anders' mind, the key will be in the trenches.

"I think Allegany's biggest threat are their offensive and defensive lines," he said. "We have to win the battle up front. We have to knock people off at the line and when they've got the ball, we have got to defend their blocks."

Comparing team numbers, Allegany has averaged 34.4 points per game to Boonsboro's 28.1. Defensively, the Campers have allowed 9.5 per game and the Warriors 15.5, most of that damage in losses to Middletown and Catoctin.

Boonsboro is making its fifth state playoff appearance overall, all under Anders, in his 20th year at the helm. Last year, the Warriors lost to Beall 29-7 in the semifinals.

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