DUNDALK — It won’t take long for the Dundalk football team to find out if it can approach last season’s 10-win record and spot in the regional championship game.
(Well, the Owls already know they won’t be playing in the regional championship game; it no longer exists. See this week’s “Bleacher Bum” column.)
After opening on the road against a Century team that reached the playoffs last season, the Owls host a private school, Concordia Prep (9-3 last season) before playing at defending Class 3A state champion Franklin.
The Indians are on a five-game winning streak against the Owls. The game likely won’t have much impact on the Owls’ playoff prospects, but could give an indication of how far Dundalk could possibly go in the new five-round playoff format.
Dundalk then hosts Frederick Douglass of Prince George’s County, the state runner-up in Class 1A last season.
“We have a very tough schedule this season,” Dundalk coach Matt Banta said. “I’m excited to play good competition and hopefully our kids will be battle-tested before the postseason.”
Dundalk will need that seasoning. The Owls return four starters on offense and five on defense.
The team is particularly untried in a spot which it has been traditionally strong: the lines.
“We have a lot of new faces in the program, especially on the offensive and defensive lines,” Banta said. “We return a lot of veteran players in the skill positions; they will be the strength of our program.”
Fortunately, the new playoff system makes life a bit less stressful in the competitive Class 3A North region.
With the top eight teams advancing to the postseason, it no longer means two losses have a team fighting for its postseason life in 3A North and three losses meaning a team is essentially eliminated.
“The new format will give opportunities to the teams that are in historically tough regions,” Banta said.