The Maryland state playoffs have expanded. Instead of 16, now 32 teams will compete for a championship in each of the four classifications.
Of the 32 teams in 4A, most agree only two are legitimate title contenders: Quince Orchard and Wise.
The Pumas and Cougars have dominated Maryland 4A football for the better part of the last decade. Wise won the state championship in three consecutive years from 2015-2017, twice defeating Quince Orchard in the title game. QO got their revenge last season, eliminating the Pumas in the state semi’s en route to capturing the 2018 crown.
Neither has disappointed in 2019. Sporting matching 9-0 records and top 10 rankings, the Cougars and Pumas are each one-seeds and heavy favorites to hoist the trophy come December.
Here are four teams who could stand in their way:
South River Seahawks (12.44)
South River is the overall one seed in 4A having accumulated a total of 12.44 points. Rebounding from a 7-5 campaign in 2018, South River steamrolled their opposition on the path to a 9-0 record in 2019.
The Seahawks scored 30 or more in every game this season and only two of their victories were one-possession games. They defeated Arundel 30-22 and came from behind to knock off Broadneck 48-41.
The East bracket does not look to present much resistance as the Seahawks already defeated each of their potential playoff opponents during the regular season. With a potent offense and relatively easy path to the Quarterfinals, South River may have what it takes to make a run at states.
Northwest Jaguars (10.22)
The North West Jags are an enticing team. At 8-1, they have enough talent to compete with anyone — including QO and Wise.
The Jags are stacked at the skilled positions. Isiah Williams is a playmaker on both sides of the ball. At 6’3, 210, WR Kaden Prather is arguably the most dangerous weapon in the DMV. He has offers from Alabama, University of Maryland and Penn State. Ryan Beach operates out of the slot and is a first down waiting to happen. Quarterback Jordan Morse is fearless in the face of competition.
In week 8, Northwest went toe-to-toe with Quince Orchard. Though Northwest lost 17-7, they held their own for much of the game, including holding the Cougars scoreless in the first half.
Had it not been for a Jags’ first-quarter fumble inside QO’s 5-yard line, the complexion of the entire game may have changed.
Watch out for Northwest.
Paint Branch Panthers (10.22)
At 8-1, the Panthers pose a significant threat.
With a fast and athletic defense, Paint Branch has held 7 of 9 opponents to single digits. Their only loss came at the hands of a tough Northwest team early in the season. Since then, they have reeled off seven straight victories.
In round one they play (5-4) Dulaney and anticipate a second-round match-up with Sherwood, a team they recently defeated 28-17.
The Panthers have the kind of length and athleticism on the outside to give QO and Wise fits. If Paint Branch can keep it close heading into the 4th quarter, they have enough firepower to upset either of the favorites.
Flowers Jaguars (8.89)
If the old adage “defense wins championships" proves to be accurate, Flowers is a contender for the crown.
The Jags gave up a total of 48 points in nine games played. They pitched five shut outs and allowed only two opponents to reach double figures.
As great as their defense has played, at 7-2, Flowers has at times been an enigma. The season began with Head Coach Dameoun Powell being suspended for holding an illegal practice. The violation led to the Jags forfeiting their first game of the season — a would-be win over Oxon Hill.
Two weeks later they inexplicably lost to (4-5) Laurel. The Jags defense did its job, holding the Spartans to six points, the Flowers offense though went scoreless.
Since that defeat, Flowers has won six in a row and ultimately found consistency. On any given night the Jags defense is capable of shutting down anyone, including the Pumas and Cougars.
Maryland 4A playoffs begin Friday, November 8th. The state championship will be played on December 6th at 7:30 p.m. at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.