Preview of the Four MPSSAA Football State Championships

Congratulations to the eight teams still vying for a 2017 MPSSAA football state championship! All state championship contests are taking place at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis.

3A State Championship:No. 2 Linganore (8-2, 9.00) at No. 1 Milford Mill (9-1, 10.80)

When: Nov. 30, 7 PM

The only match-up not featuring a 2016 state champion, Linganore and Milford Mill promises to be very even.

Linganore finished 8-2 in the regular season, which was good enough for the second spot in the 3A West region. In the playoffs, Linganore beat Blake 27-12, then Westminster 16-14 to claim a regional crown. The Lancers topped Oxon Hill in impressive fashion, pulling away to win 51-14, in the state semifinals.

Quarterback Ryan Leyh threw for over 1,000 yards during the regular season, and has continued to play at an exceptionally high level during the postseason. He only had to attempt seven passes against Oxon Hill but completed four. Three of those went for big yardage- gains of 77, 73 and 47 yards. Running back Davon Butler also had a great game against Oxon Hill, scoring three times and rushing for 105 yards. Butler was joined in the rushing attack by Ben Musselman, who added two scores and also ran for over 100 yards.

Milford Mill opened its season with a loss to Tuscarora, but hasn't faltered since. A big win for the Millers came against neighborhood rival Franklin on Oct. 14. It was Milford Mill's first win against Franklin since 2012. Milford Mill beat C. Milton Wright and Edgewood in regional play, then topped Long Reach 33-6 to qualify for the state championship.

Milford Mill has a devastating rushing attack that averages 262 yards per game. That unit is led by Troy Scott Jr., who has been sensational in the postseason. He's run for 1,134 yards and 24 touchdowns this season, while Desmond Shell has 930 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Ugo Obasi has been the main threat through the air for the Millers. He's scored 11 times and has 653 receiving yards. Quarterback Brandon Savage has thrown for 1,506 yards and 13 touchdowns.

4A State Championship:No. 3 Quince Orchard (9-1, 11.30) at No. 1 Wise (10-0, 12.23)

When: Dec. 1, 7:30 PM

A rematch of the 2016 4A state title game, Wise looks to become the first school from Prince George's County to win three straight championships, while Quince Orchard is in search of its first since 2007.

Quince Orchard finished the regular season 9-1, with its lone loss being a 42-41 overtime decision against Bullis School. Every other game the Cougars won by multiple scores, with the closest being a 38-29 decision against Northwest. In the playoffs, Quince Orchard topped Einstein 62-0, then beat Northwest for a second time to claim the 4A West championship. A 40-21 victory against North Point in the state semifinals clinched a second straight state finals appearance for Quince Orchard.

Quarterback Doc Bonner has been excellent in 2017, and he continued that terrific play against North Point by throwing and running for a combined 325 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught a pass for a touchdown on a trick play. Running back Marquez Cooper has averaged 7.12 yards per carry, and finished with 114 yards on the ground against North Point. Wide receiver Brendan McGonagle has scored in all but three of Quince Orchard's games this season.

Wise carries a 41-game win streak into this contest, which means a victory against Quince Orchard would result in third straight undefeated season. The Pumas have been dominant in their last two state championship appearances, winning by a combined score of 97-13. In the postseason, Wise beat Suitland 33-0, then Eleanor Roosevelt 34-16 to clinch the 4A South title. The Pumas then got past Howard 42-7 to book their spot at Navy.

Running back John "Moo-Moo" Oliver was sensational against Howard, scoring four times and rushing for 134 yards. Averaging 7.9 yards per carry, Oliver has run for 1,222 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2017. Quarterback Quinton Williams has thrown for 1,825 yards and 27 scores to just two interceptions. His top target is AJ Lytton, who has 472 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.

1A State Championship:No. 2 Dunbar (8-1, 9.58) at No. 1 Fort Hill (9-1, 9.59)

When: Dec. 2, 3:30 PM

Two programs with incredible histories square off for the 1A state title when Fort Hill, winners of the last four 1A championships, face Dunbar, the last team to win the 1A championship that was not Fort Hill. These two have combined to win 11 1A state titles since 2004.

Dunbar is back to competing at the 1A level after being a 2A school for the last four years. The program has traditionally excelled at this level- the Poets won seven state titles from 2004-2012. Dunbar has the most playoff wins in Maryland's history with 55. This year, Dunbar lost its opener to Allegany, but haven't lost since. The Poets beat both Chesapeake-BC and Lewis 48-0 to win the 1A North title, then got past Havre de Grace 52-27 in the state semifinals.

In Alfonzo Graham, Dunbar has a remarkably dynamic running back capable of scoring at any time. He had 12 attempts for 191 yards and two scores against Havre de Grace, but it was his defense that stood out against Lewis when he registered three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Quarterback Jared Lewis does a good job of getting multiple receivers involved in the Poets' attack. Against Havre de Grace he completed 15 of 26 passes for 268 yards and three scores, all of which were scored by different receivers. Raekwon Walker was one of those receivers. Walker's biggest impact in the state semifinal came on defense though, picking off two passes in the second quarter to help Dunbar build its lead.

Fort Hill is looking to win its fifth straight state title, a feat that has never been accomplished before. The Sentinels saw their multi-year win streak snapped earlier this year against Friendship Collegiate Academy, but have bounced back well since then. Fort Hill beat Southern Garrett 48-6 in the opening round of the playoffs, then got past Allegany 21-20 to win the 1A West title. The Sentinels needed overtime to best Lackey in the state semifinals 34-33.

Utilizing a wing-t offense, much of Fort Hill's attack is based around running the ball. Brayden Poling led the way for Fort Hill against Lackey with 12 carries for 106 yards. Poling, a sensational linebacker, made a big tackle against Allegany to help Fort Hill clinch a regional title. Troy Banks has also done well in 2017, and finished with 90 yards against Lackey. Braedon Askins also had a herculean effort against Lackey by blocking three kicks. He also came up with the tackle on Lackey's two-point attempt in overtime, which would decide the outcome of the game.

2A State Championship:No. 3 Gwynn Park (8-1, 9.50) at No. 1 Damascus (10-0, 11.80)

When: Dec. 2, 7 PM

The 2A state title game features Damascus, looking to win its third straight state championship, and Gwynn Park, which is seeking its first since 2005.

Before this season, Gwynn Park had not experienced a double digit win campaign since 2013. The Yellow Jackets' lone loss came against CH Flowers in Week 4. Gwynn Park opened its playoff run by beating Edmondson-Westside 8-2, then routing Hereford 43-0 to claim the 2A North crown. The Yellow Jackets followed up their regional title by dispatching previously unbeaten Harford Tech 16-9.

Defense has been the key to Gwynn Park's success. The Yellow Jackets allow a little under 8.5 points per game, and have registered four shutouts. Running back Terrell Lindsey has been excellent this season, and opened the scoring against Harford Tech. The team's kicker/punter Mohamad M'Baye was also crucial against Harford Tech, consistently pinning the Cobras deep in their own half with devastating punts, and also converting a 24-yard field goal attempt.

Damascus won the last two 3A state titles before getting bumped down to 2A this season. Like Wise, the Hornets have won their last 41 games, meaning a third straight undefeated season is on the line against Gwynn Park. Watkins Mill and Seneca Valley are the two teams who came closest to beating Damascus during the regular season, but both groups still lost by 24 points. Damascus opened its postseason journey with a 35-0 win against Liberty, then beat Walkersville 7-3 in a high profile match-up for the 2A West championship. Damascus then topped Glenelg 42-7.

There's lots of talent spread across the Damascus roster, but its offensive line truly stands out. The Hornets have had an impressive rushing attack all season despite having multiple runners suffering from injuries. Michael Jurgens, Jordan Funk and Matt Betterelli have all stood out, as has tight end/defensive end Bryan Bresee, a sophomore that has already gotten offers from a plethora of top Division I programs. Quarterback John Allan Ferguson has done well this season, as has running backs TD Ayo-Duojaiye, Ben Lokos and Gage Dickens.
November 30th, 2017By: Wick Eisenberg

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