WEEK 12

Dorchester Star - - Sports -

state’s sin­gle-game record for point-after kicks last year against Snow Hill. His 12 PATs in as many tries in that 84-6 blowout high­lighted a 57-for-59 year con­vert­ing after team touch­downs.

Hard­ing and his team­mates are pre­par­ing for Kent County as dili­gently as their guests, he said.

“We think they’re go­ing to try to stop some of the things they do with the run, so maybe it’ll open up the pass for us,” Hard­ing said. “Our coaches usu­ally pull out the right plays when we need to.”

The streak of 25 wins, Hard­ing says, im­presses him about as much as any­one. “Ev­ery time we play Kent County, I don’t know what it is,” Hard­ing said. “We seem to have some­thing ex­tra for them... some ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion to play bet­ter.”

The Vik­ings had a few hic­cups last week, even though they de­feated Per­ryville 37-7, run­ning the slaugh­ter clock for al­most the whole fourth quar­ter. “We had some is­sues with penal­ties,” Hard­ing said. “We’re go­ing to be sharper on de­fense this week, I think. Our of­fense should be crisper.”

Though he has one more year of play left, Hard­ing isn’t go­ing to wait un­til next sea­son vol­un­tar­ily, he said, adding that los­ing “would be a big deal. if we can make a deep run in the play­offs, that’s what we want . ... Los­ing rel­a­tively early in the play­offs, it would be bad for the se­niors in par­tic­u­lar after all their work . ... We’re go­ing to try to be smarter this week. [We] don’t want to lose be­cause of penal­ties, ex­tend­ing one of their drives or cut­ting one of our drives short.”

Un­der cen­ter, Hard­ing has thrown for 795 yards, 14 touch­downs, and an NFLsys­tem passer rat­ing of 98.5; when one re­mem­bers that C-SD av­er­ages just un­der four pass at­tempts a game, one sees how solid these num­bers ac­tu­ally are. Only three times this year has Hard­ing been called to throw more than five passes.

One rea­son is the skilled sta­ble of backs be­hind him, pow­ered by senior Tre’ Lake, who leads the Bay­side Con­fer­ence this year with 26 touch­downs in 11 games, as well as 1,598 rush­ing yards. Join­ing him are Taj Molock (978 yards, 11 touch­downs, 14.7 yards per carry), and C. J. Brum­mell (321 yards, seven touch­downs, 10.7 per carry).

Greene also has got­ten by with a lit­tle help from his friends, like Takai Caulk (6.6 yards per carry; 349 yards rush­ing) and Si­las Phillips, who’ve each scored on the ground three times. Ar­ling­ton John­son and Tra Wright, with a pair of rush­ing scores each, also av­er­age five or more yards per touch.

Dashawn Lis­ter, run­ning routes down­field, av­er­ages 29.9 yards per re­cep­tion and has scored three times by air. The Tro­jans also look good at keep­ing con­trol of the ball; the team’s stats list only two lost fum­bles in 11 games.

No mat­ter the out­come Fri­day in Cam­bridge, Greene’s per­sonal Holy Grail quest will have reached its cli­max. A win by the Tro­jans would avenge not only his, but the pro­gram’s frus­tra­tion after two long decades.

The 1A East cham­pi­onship kicks off at 7 p.m. Fri­day at Vik­ing Sta­dium. Oh, and they have, quite pos­si­bly, the best con­ces­sion stand menu in the con­fer­ence. Hon­estly, I’ve heard from sev­eral peo­ple that they come for the food al­most as much as the foot­ball.

In the Class 2A East fi­nal, kick­ing off at the same time in Ce­cil County, there’s an­other mas­sive game. North Caro­line, fresh off a road win over top seed Kent Is­land in the semi­fi­nals, vis­its Elk­ton — putting the last two teams to de­feat Kent Is­land in the post­sea­son against each other for a berth in the state semi­fi­nals.

The third-seeded Golden Elks (10-1), whose only loss was to Kent Is­land in midSeptem­ber, have reeled off nine straight vic­to­ries now, in­clud­ing a 12-0 blank­ing of No. 2 Queen Anne’s last week. Play­ing a suf­fo­cat­ing de­fense, Elk­ton got just what it needed from the guy who’s been do­ing it for a long time last Fri­day — Rai­quan Estep.

Estep has been a key com­po­nent in the Elks’ most re­cent suc­cesses, and the Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Ath­letic Con­fer­ence has learned to fear him. A pow­er­ful, fast work­horse of a back, Estep had 28 car­ries last week for over 160 yards and scored all of the game’s points.

Then there’s quar­ter­back Jack­son Ar­goe, who pro­vides a di­men­sion to Elk­ton’s of­fense that few Bay­side teams of­fer: a strong passer. Ar­goe threw for four touch­downs, and ran for a fifth, two weeks ago in his team’s 48-6 reg­u­lar-sea­son-end­ing drub­bing of North East-Ce­cil. He airs the ball out rather reg­u­larly, a wrin­kle only a hand­ful of Bay­side pro­grams have shown ef­fec­tively in the last decade.

Against these of­fen­sive stars will be a Bull­dog de­fense that has held op­po­nents to two scores of less in eight of the last nine games. North Caro­line, which de­feated Elk­ton last year for the 2A East ti­tle, hopes to match or ex­ceed its 2015 show­ing, in which it made the state tour­na­ment for the first time since the school opened its doors dur­ing the Eisen­hower Ad­min­is­tra­tion. And then there’s Baby Bo. David Bai­ley, whose nick­name came sev­eral years ago be­cause of how his physique and per­for­mance re­minded coaches of two-sport star Bo Jack­son, leads a strong cast that’s look­ing to re­peat, and per­haps ex­ceed, last year’s deep play­off run. Work­ing on a 1,500-plus-yard, 20-touch­down sea­son, Bai­ley’s height, speed, and agility are mak­ing him a Di­vi­sion-I col­lege prospect. He also plays bas­ket­ball and runs track, keep­ing busy year-round.

Week 12 could be the best one yet this year; for two teams it will be the last. Fri­day’s Games Game of the Week 1A East Fi­nal (4) Kent Co. (6-5) at (2) C-SD (8-3) Hon­estly, I’ve men­tally pic­tured vir­tu­ally ev­ery pos­si­ble score within three touch­downs ei­ther way for this one. But the gnomes in the base­ment were adamant, and said... (Ra­dio: WCEM-AM 1240, pregame 6:45 p.m.) — Vik­ings, 28-27.

2A East Fi­nal (4) N. Caro­line (9-2) at (3) Elk­ton (10-1) Go­ing home team here, but that meant noth­ing last week in this re­gion. The vis­i­tors were 2-0 in this re­gion’s semi­fi­nals. (Ra­dio: 94.3 WINXFM, pregame 6:40 p.m.) — Golden Elks, 24-21. Last Week: 2-2. Sea­son: 62-12 (.838). Ca­reer: 849-178 (.827). Fol­low me on Twit­ter: @ Davetalkss­ports.

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