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FB Preview -- Playoffs a longshot for South in 3A

September 02, 2009|By MARK KELLER/keller@herald-mail.com

In the 35 years since the MPSSAA implemented its postseason football tournament, South Hagerstown has qualified for the playoffs once.

To say that the Rebels have an uphill battle to qualify for its second playoff berth this season might be the understatement of the year.

A bump in South's enrollment has pushed the Rebels into Class 3A in 2009 -- and also into arguably the most difficult region in the entire state. The 3A West houses six playoff teams from 2008, including three teams that went undefeated in the regular season.

"That probably is the toughest region in the state. There are some big boys in there," South coach Greg Kellick said.

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Those big boys include Linganore, which the Rebels played each of the last two seasons, Seneca Valley and Damascus -- all long-time regulars in the state playoffs. Throw in Clarksburg, Tuscarora and Quince Orchard -- all of which are becoming state powers -- and the hill in front of South suddenly looks more like a mountain.

In addition to the stacked region, the Rebels -- the fifth-smallest 3A team -- play only one team above Class 2A this season, while many of their region opponents play mostly 3A and 4A teams and can gain more points for their victories than South can.

It makes nearly every game a must-win for the Rebels to have any chance at the postseason, which has led Kellick to change his approach.

"Last year, we were 3-3 after the sixth week," Kellick said. "We looked at it and said, 'If we take care of business the last four weeks, we're in.' This year, we can be 5-1 after six weeks and still not be able to say that.

"We can't look down the road this year. We need everything in the world to go wrong in order for us to make it. So, we need to get this team to be into taking it week to week, playing for a county championship, a league championship."

Kellick also sees the bump to 3A as putting a target on the Rebels' backs.

"There's no doubt in my mind, we're a target to the teams on our schedule," Kellick said. "I know we would be if I were them. A 3A team, that's extra points, that's incentive. A win over that team -- to a 1A school -- is the difference between making the playoffs and staying home."

The Rebels also are moving back into the MVAL Antietam Conference, but still are playing seven of the same opponents they played last season. With their three new opponents, their schedule is about the same as last year, if not slightly upgraded.

South dropped Linganore, Century and Clear Spring from its schedule, replacing them with Urbana, Catoctin and Boonsboro.

"We're still playing the old Piedmont teams -- Frederick, Middletown and Walkersville," Kellick said. "We dropped Linganore, but picked up Urbana. Century had an outstanding year last year, but Catoctin's always good. And Boonsboro is an upgrade over Clear Spring.

"So the change in conference really doesn't affect us."

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