The three Maryland football match-ups that are analyzed below will undoubtedly shape who goes on to win state championships. There are only six combined losses between the play-off teams listed below, making it apparent that not one of these teams is going to go down without a fight.
I've thoroughly gone through each match-up and given arguments as to how each team could win, assorted tidbits, who the winner will play and a prediction. If you disagree please send me feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryland 4A South
No. 3 Suitland Rams (9-1) @ No. 2 Henry A. Wise Pumas (9-1) Saturday, Nov. 12, 1 p.m.
How the Rams will win: Junior wide receiver Taivon Jacobs may be the state of Maryland's version of Philadelphia Eagle DeSean Jackson. Gaines can score every time he touches the ball -- he did so 12 times in 2011 -- including on special teams. Saturday's loss to Eleanor Roosevelt may have been a blessing in disguise for Suitland. Getting some mistakes out of your system before the playoffs has been a successful recipe in the past for certain teams.
How the Pumas will win: The Puma's have ridden the one-two punch of running backs Chase Powell and Uriah Bethea for a combined 1,527 yards and 24 touchdowns. Still, Suitland's secondary was exposed last Saturday by Roosevelt, and I would expect Wise to throw the ball down the field more than usual. Receiver Zachary Pascal hauled in seven touchdowns on just 15 catches and is an ideal target at 6-foot-2. Pascal and Bethea are both committed to JMU next year.
Tidbits: Wise reached the 4A state championship in 2010 before falling to Urbana...Both teams' lone loss was to Eleanor Roosevelt...Wise is averaging 35.8 points on offense and allowing 8.6 points on defense...Suitland is averaging 36.4 points on offense and is allowing 7.7 points on defense...Wise is on a seven-game winning streak....Suitland running back Anthony Squire (1,440 yards) was the leading rusher in the Prince George's 4A division...These teams did not meet in the regular season.
The winner will play: Either No.4 C.H. Flowers (7-3) or No.1 Eleanor Roosevelt (10-0)
Prediction: Suitland 29 Wise 35
Maryland 4A East
No. 3 Paint Branch Panthers (9-1) @ No. 2 Catonsville Comets (10-0) Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.
How the Panthers will win: The Panthers throw the football as much as any team in the region. Quarterback David Smith's 1,186 passing yards are double of any other total in the Montgomery 4A East. Smith does a great job of spreading the rock around -- four different Panther receivers had at least 140 yards receiving. One of those top ball catchers also happens to lead the team in rushing. Bene't Williams reached the end zone 19 times this season.
How the Comets will win: The Baltimore school has flown under the radar all year, shocking football pundits in Maryland with their first undefeated season and county championship in school history. The Comets are extremely well-coached by Rich Hambor, who's now in his 14th season with the school. Catonsville's closest game all season was a nine-point victory over Perry Hall. Watch out for the old-school running attack of fullback Julian Singletary.
Tidbits: Paint Branch's lone loss this season was to undefeated Quince Orchard, 24-8 back in week three...The Comets haven't won a play-off game since the 2007 season...Catonsville is averaging 38.2 points on offense and allowing 11.1 points on defense...Paint Branch is averaging 32.2 points on offense and allowing 12.4 points on defense...Paint Branch quarterback David Smith did throw ten interceptions on the season.
The winner will play: Either No.4 Perry Hall (8-2) or No.1 Poly (10-0)
Prediction: Paint Branch 27 Catonsville 16
Maryland 2A South
No. 4 Frederick Douglass Eagles (8-2) @ No.1 Patuxent Panthers (9-1) Friday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m.
How the Eagles can win: Douglass comes in as the hotter of the two teams, having not lost a game since their week four overtime heartbreaker to Potomac. The Eagles are a home run hitting team, meaning they score quickly rather than pounding the football. Star running back Josef Hinnant has only received more than 20 carries just once in 2011. Quarterback/free safety Taitor Reynolds is averaging 18.2 yards per completion. Just last week, Reynolds connected with DeMatha transfer, receiver Paul Harris, for a 70-yard score.
How the Panthers can win: The Panthers will go as far as quarterback Travez Lee can take them. The 5-foot-9 junior accounted for 1,738 total yards this year -- 1,056 of that rushing -- and 24 touchdowns. The real question is what will be the Panthers game plan? Lee has run the ball as many as 22 times a game or as little as just five.
Tidbits: 5-foot-9 Panther senior Collin Gant has a knack for big plays at running back and defensive back...Douglass' sneaky 5-foot-7 cornerback Marquette Moorefield has three interceptions this season...Douglass is averaging 32.1 points on offense and allowing 10.7 points on defense... Patuxent is averaging 39.1 points on offense and allowing 8.0 points on defense.
The winner will play: Either No.3 Gwynn Park (9-2) or No.2 Glenelg (8-2)
Prediction: Douglass 20 Patuxent 14
We will have more previews and features for the 3A Maryland games later this week...