Maryland State Playoffs Semifinals-
Bayside Conference Picks:
And then there were just two. Stephen Decatur and Cambridge advanced in their 2A and 1A Quarterfinal matchups respectfully while Kent Island’s season came to an end at the hands of Huntingtown in their 2A Quarterfinal matchup in Stevensville last Friday.
*Some info courtesy of Bill Haufe and The Star-Democrat and The Baltimore Sun
(Number is Playoff Seeding):
#2 Stephen Decatur (12-0) hosting #3 Milford Mill (9-2)-6:30pm-This is rematch of one of last season’s State 2A Semifinal matchups only this time Decatur is hosting the game in Berlin where Milford Mill was the home team last season. Here is a recap of last year’s game courtesy of the MD Coast Dispatch (12/01/2022 | Seahawks’ Magical Run Ends with Late Loss | News Ocean City MD (mdcoastdispatch.com)
The Seahawks have rolled through the playoffs the way they did through the regular season. No doubt this will be their toughest test of the season as last year’s matchup against Milford Mill was as well. The Millers two losses are to two Top 25 teams in the state. The first one went right down to the wire with them losing to Oakdale (Frederick) Week #1 and then they blew a lead late and lost to Perry Hall (Baltimore County) late in the season. The Millers have been slow starters at times this year but that was not the case last week as they jumped on Potomac (the program Decatur defeated in the Quarterfinals on the road last season) early and cruised to victory. Coming off last year’s championship win the Millers have not always lived up to their potential, maybe the effects of a championship hangover. It’s happened before to teams. The points scored this season compared to last are down by half but they have given up less points. That said don’t be fooled their numbers this year are still impressive. But at this point I can’t imagine a hangover is an issue any longer with them being one game away from returning for a chance to win back-to-back 2A State Titles. The Millers did lose RB Sean Williams and ATH Daysen Shell to graduation. Both were big time offensive players for them last season. However, they did return 14 players in total this season, 7 on offense and 7 on defense including a huge key returner in QB Dashawn Purdie who’s headed to Charlotte. RB Keion Sutton and WR Josh Pearson have at least in part filled the shoes of Williams and Shell. Both had big games in last week’s win. This Millers team is a good deal like last year’s team personnel wise.
The Seahawks had to retool the offensive line this season but brought back several skill players including their QB Brycen Coleman. Getting this game at home and having played this team last year and taken them to the wire has to have its benefits coming into the game. For the players who played in this one last year they can’t get last year’s loss back, but they get a second chance to do what they came so close to doing but were unable to do last season. That likely is in the mindsets of the returning players which will keep them even more focused on the task at hand. Getting this far in back-to-back years is very tough to do and for the Seniors this is their last chance. For the rest of the squad there are no guarantees of the seasons to come. The time is now. I think it will be key for Decatur to get out to a fast start on offense as they did last year but unlike last year try to get some distance between them which means the defense needs to get some early stops. The more success early on you can get the better and the more doubt you can put in the Millers mind early on the better as well. With the long bus ride and the Millers propensity to get off to slow starts that opportunity might be a little easier to accomplish.
Both Decatur lines will be tested although they have faced big teams in the trenches several times already this season, which is certainly some help. They will have to be good tacticians upfront on offense and fast and smart on defense. Nothing new for them. The defense needs to limit the big plays and make them earn every yard. They also need to tackle well in space. Offensively they had success last season, they just need to keep doing the things that they do well and be themselves. First down efficiency is always key. The WRs may get an occasional jump ball, one on one situation where they will need to be strong and physical and come down with the ball. Decatur is good at spreading the ball around and getting contributions from a lot of their guys. I think a game like this is where a player like Careen Boldin really comes in to play with his playoff experience with Seaford last season. This is also where having one of the better coaching staffs in the state is a big benefit.
This game could go either way and Milford Mill is more than capable of winning this game. Decatur with a strong home field advantage, having remained focused all season, with another opportunity to get to the State Finals, with key skill guys returning, having faced this Milford Mill team before will pull this one out at home.
Bonus Content: The Baltimore Sun’s Preview on Milford Mill prior to the season:
3. Milford Mill
Coach: Reggie White Last season: 14-0, No. 4 Postseason: Class 2A state champion…Outlook: Bringing seven starters back on both sides of the ball from the program’s first undefeated season, the Millers are primed to keep rolling. Quarterback Deshawn Purdie leads a dynamic and balanced offense, while lineman Dashawn Fields, linebacker Malach Barnes and safety Cameron Jefferson give the defense game-changers at every layer.
#4 Cambridge-SD (10-2) at #1 Ft. Hill (11-0)-6pm-The Vikings have had a great season and a big bounce back from back-to-back 4-5 campaigns in ’21 and ’22. Those are not the norm for this storied program. However in both those seasons the Vikings played well in the playoffs pulling off an upset win and hanging tough in the two losses. This season things have all come together. One of their two losses was to 2A North Caroline and the other was by 1 point at Colonel Richardson, a game they had a chance to win literally on the very last play of the game. Cambridge finished the regular season strong and has rolled through the playoffs with three convincing wins. The Vikings are back on track and back in the Semifinal for the first time since 2019. Cambridge (as they usually are) is talented with athleticism, skill, and speed. Their line play has improved as well. That all said this will be by far the toughest game they have played this year. Ft. Hill is ranked in the Top 15 in the state of Maryland and has defeated teams from four different states this season. They may be 1A but they can compete with teams in any classification in the state this season. The Sentinels have won back-to-back 1A titles and are trying for their eighth state title in 10 years. While I will certainly be rooting for the Vikings this is going to be too tough a task, especially on the road to accomplish. Forget the history and tradition of Ft. Hill in the past, this 2023 team is very good all by itself. They continue to be a top notch 1A program. I am going with the Sentinels to win this one.