Nov. 11—FROSTBURG — Two area football teams meet Saturday in what could decide who makes the state championship game, and it's just a second-round playoff bout.
Thanks to the regional format, Mountain Ridge (8-1) and Allegany (7-3) — two of the top 5 remaining teams in Class 1A by point average — will battle for a spot in the state quarterfinals.
If history is any indication, the winner will be in the driver's seat for a trip to Annapolis. The loser will see their season come to an end.
History is also on Mountain Ridge's side, as the Miners have won eight straight over the Campers and 22 in a row at home. It's also made each of the past two championship games, downing Alco in the playoffs during its 2021 run.
Allegany can erase those trends tonight and forge some history of its own — a Campers victory would advance them to the state level for the first time since 2009.
If the first matchup between the Allegany County rivals is any indication — the Miners were victorious 16-13 in Frostburg — fans tonight will be in for a doozy. Kick-off in the Class 1A West Region co-final is slated for 7:30 p.m.
They just might be viewing an unofficial state semifinal game.
"It was probably the area game of the year so far," Mountain Ridge head coach Ryan Patterson said of the Week 3 meeting. "We get to run that back. They think they should have beat us. We think we should've beat them by more than we did. I guess we'll find out the truth tonight."
Allegany has had this season circled for some time, and, while the Campers haven't won as many games as they had envisioned thus far, a triumph tonight will still ensure a home state quarterfinal game.
They'll have to get by Mountain Ridge first — a program that is 31-4 and hasn't lost to anybody other than Fort Hill since the start of the 2021 season.
The Miners lead the all-time series with the Campers, 11-8.
"We're just excited to have a chance to move on and get somewhere these kids haven't been," Allegany head coach Bryan Hansel said. "We're excited to get the opportunity to compete.
"It's good to be in this moment again. People are kind of doubting us."
Tonight will mark the second time in three years Mountain Ridge hosts Allegany for a region title.
The Miners were in uncharted territory back then on Nov. 12, 2021, and they made a statement with a 35-6 rout of the Campers on their way to their first of consecutive championship game runs.
Brody Williams was the Allegany quarterback then too, and he'll be taking on Mountain Ridge for the sixth time in his four-year varsity career.
He'll be without one of his top weapons, Isaiah Fields, who was handed a two-game suspension for his role in a third-quarter skirmish with Smithsburg in Allegany's 50-14 rout in its playoff opener last Friday.
The loss of Fields is a significant one, as the senior has rushed for nearly 800 yards and nine touchdowns and is a starter in the secondary.
"It's not an excuse, we're preparing to win without him, but he's electric," Hansel said of losing Fields. "Everyone points to offense, but he's a kid that never gets off the field. He's never injured, never tired. Defense, offense, returner, he's always out there."
Offensively, Allegany will still have its leading rusher in Brett Patterson, who could go over 1,000 yards with a big night tonight, as well as Dae Dae Smith, Jacob Salonish and Jackson Resh.
Allegany will likely move Williams down from safety to play some at Fields' position at cornerback and shuffle a rotation of guys elsewhere in the secondary.
Having players in new spots could be a recipe for disaster with the area's best quarterback and an Area Player of the Year candidate, Will Patterson, on the other sideline.
The last time the duel-threat weapon took the field, he tossed a school-record seven touchdown passes in a 56-21 rout of Keyser.
For the season, Patterson has completed 104 of 161 passes for 1,181 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's also run for 900 yards and 14 scores on 120 totes.
"We relied too heavily on Will to run the ball," Ryan Patterson said of the Miners early in the season. "His growth in the offense, he has a lot of reads in our offense and there aren't too many plays where he can't keep the ball.
"We've had to work with him to see the entire field over the entire game. A lot of his success against Keyser was through his reads."
David Miller was a beneficiary of Patterson's improved progressions, as he caught eight passes for 147 yards and four scores against the Golden Tornado. Andrew Ketterman caught two touchdowns.
The Miners are gelling at the right time. Getting starting center Cooper Lindeman back from injury has played a significant part.
While Allegany was losing one of its key players last Friday, Mountain Ridge used the bye week to heal up. The break allowed the Miners to get reserve lineman Chris Baker back from a broken foot.
Patterson doesn't believe the layoff will have a hangover effect.
"At first we thought we were playing (against Hancock last Friday)," Patterson said. "Nobody was more excited than our backups because they knew they were going to get significant time.
"We went hard at it and went about like we were playing a game last Friday. Then we went right into this week. Went physical right away, and we're better for it."
In that Week 3 meeting between the two on Sept. 15, Will Patterson gained more than 300 yards of offense (165 rushing). Allegany tight end Zach Michael caught three passes for 120 yards.
Slowing down both weapons has been a point of emphasis for each side.
"We have to get off the field and limit Will Patterson," Hansel said. "Last time, I think he had 300 total yards. We're trying to hold him under 200. Their offense goes as he goes. ... If he struggles, their offense stalls."
"We need to really focus on No. 95 (Michael)," Ryan Patterson said. "He's quite the player for them. I think we might have underestimated his receiving ability the first game. We're going to need to know where he lines up at all times. He's a size mismatch, and they've been trying to flank him outside. Our corners, like a lot of teams, are smaller."
With that said, neither team is exactly the same two months later.
Patterson highlighted a defensive adjustment Allegany has made, using Smith as an overhang defender to wreak havoc on Smithsburg. He also mentioned the Campers' improved offensive line, particularly the strength of left tackle Lucas Bahrenburg (6-foot-5, 275 pounds).
Both coaches also noticed a change in each side's offenses, which have been fine-tuned in the seven weeks since.
"They've added to their run game," Hansel said. "More run plays we haven't seen in the past. Their screen game keeps getting better. They always have been a great screen team, but they're starting to perfect it."
The game was initially slated to be played on Friday night but was moved to Saturday due to a "lack of quality officials," Patterson said.
The Northern at Fort Hill game also could've been moved, but the Sentinels submitted their paperwork first to the state.
The change in date presents challenges for both Allegany and Mountain Ridge due to the soccer state semifinals that also take place today at Tuscarora High School in Frederick County.
Blake Powell, Allegany's All-Area kicker, is playing in the Campers' playoff soccer game with Perryville at noon. Fatigue could play a factor.
Mountain Ridge defensive coordinator Adam Patterson's daughter, Norah Patterson, plays on the Miners' girls soccer team, which also takes on Perryville for a spot in the title game at 2:30 p.m.
It's a case of suffering from success, and both schools have been exceedingly successful, seemingly all sports, over the last three years.
Both football teams will try to suffer a little longer with a win tonight.
Alex Rychwalski is a sports reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @arychwal.