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Leopards-Warriors is 'next game'

November 02, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

For the last two months, Week 10 of the Maryland high school football season was being treated like a 400-pound gorilla sitting in the room.

Smithsburg and Boonsboro knew that it was coming, but awkwardly tried to ignore that big, hulking possibility of each team owning a 9-0 record when they come up to the Nov. 7 meeting. Each school tried to take the "one game at a time" approach, probably with a couple of wayward glances ahead.

Well, there is no ignoring the gorilla any more. It's time to go ape because the Leopards and Warriors square off on Friday in one of Washington County's most highly anticipated games in years.

"You thought last year's game was big," said Boonsboro coach Clayton Anders after the Warriors' 38-22 win over Catoctin on Friday. "This year is going to be so much bigger."

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There is a lot of added incentive to this year's edition of the rivalry, but the game is something special all by itself.

"This game means a lot," said Smithsburg coach Buddy Orndorff Friday after the Leopards' 41-0 victory over Williamsport. "They are all big games to me ... Now if I can get the kids to be as excited about this game as I am ..."

Last year, Boonsboro used the game as its lifeline. The Warriors were 6-3 and heading to face 9-0 Smithsburg. Boonsboro beat the Leopards 25-20 in a driving rain to earn the fourth seed in the Class 1A West playoffs. Both teams were eliminated in the first round.

This year the rivalry is spiced up with all the trimmings. At stake is the MVAL Antietam title, local bragging rights and the undefeated regular season. Both teams are in the West's top 4 in the final week before the playoffs.

The outcome of the game at the very least will affect seeding and a possible home playoff game or even more.

"We've been doing some math on the playoffs and someone might even go 9-1 and not make it (to the postseason)," Anders said. "So this one is huge."

Allegany and Fort Hill, the top two teams in the West's top four, face each other on Saturday in Cumberland, Md. Mountain Ridge is No. 5 and could overtake Smithsburg or Boonsboro for a playoff berth in the right chain of events.

As much as the coaches have downplayed the impending matchup, the players have had the game rolling around in the back of their minds.

"We need to win that one ... that's all I have to say," said Smithsburg tailback Erick Parker after rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns against Williamsport. "It's going to be a serious game. All my teammates are getting pumped up for this one."

The Leopards started slowly but dominated Williamsport to hold up their end of the bargain. Smithsburg rolled up 400 yards of offense while holding the Wildcats to 72 yards, including minus-24 rushing.

Boonsboro worked though a challenge from Catoctin by posting a 31-8 lead and holding on for the victory. The Warriors had problems with turnovers and penalties to hold on for the win.

"This is going to be big-game intensity," said Boonsboro's Seth Poffenberger. "We have never been 9-0 until tonight."

Quarterback Tyler Walsh qualified the statement, though.

"It feels good and now we've got to work hard all week to go 10-0."

The two teams will have some compellng contrasts heading into the game.

Boonsboro's running game is spearheaded by junior Brandon McLean, who went over 1,000 yards for the season on Friday. Smithsburg's ground game is headed by Parker, who also surpassed 1,000 yards.

Both teams have capable quarterbacks with strong arms - Walsh for Boonsboro and Kyle Orndorff for Smithsburg.

And both have a stable of receivers to throw to. Walsh has Poffenberger and tight end Sean Colgan, while Kyle Orndorff looks for Josh Conway and Billy Lawrence, who is one touchdown catch away from setting Smithsburg's single-season school record.

The defenses have also had a say in each team's success.

Now that the gorilla is out, there is nothing left to do but play the game.

"We've got a lot to do in practice," Buddy Orndorff said. "They play tough defense and they are big and aggressive.

"I just hope they allow us to go over there to play them," he added wryly.

- Staff writer Tim Koelble contributed to this story.

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