The deciding factor in the Beechcroft High School football team's 42-6 win over Mifflin in a City League-North Division game a year ago was the Punchers' inability to slow down the multi-faceted abilities of quarterback Maurice Hale.
Now a senior, Hale is wowing again with his feet and arm and figures to be one of the centers of attention when the teams meet Friday, Oct. 5, for the rematch at Beechcroft.
Hale had thrown for about 800 yards and rushed for close to 500 through four games, according to coach Bruce Ward.
Beechcroft improved to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the City-North with a 43-6 win over Linden-McKinley on Sept. 28. Mifflin is 5-1 and 3-0 after defeating Centennial 40-6 on Sept. 28.
Last season, Hale passed for 171 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 130 yards and one score as the Cougars handed Mifflin its first loss in week 7. The Punchers went on to finish 8-2.
"Independence has a quarterback who is as likely to run as he is to throw and Westland has a good quarterback," Punchers coach Gregg Miller said of his team's first two opponents. "(Hale) probably (will be the most difficult) guy to stop."
Beechcroft has won the last nine meetings between the programs, including last season when it went 9-2 and made the Division II playoffs for the first time since 2008.
After not having an opponent in the opening week, the Cougars split their two non-league games and then defeated Centennial (55-15 on Sept. 14) and Whetstone (43-6 on Sept. 21) in league play.
Against Whetstone, Hale rushed for three touchdowns and passed for scores of 43 and 19 yards to Darius Ford. The Cougars also had a defensive touchdown, as Khaleed Franklin returned an interception 37 yards for a score.
In addition to playing wide receiver, Franklin was moved from linebacker to strong safety for the Whetstone game.
Linebackers Adonis Davis and Khalor Franklin have been other standouts on defense. Davis also has seen time at running back behind an offensive line that, according to Ward, is led by Antonio Davis.
Miller hired former Brookhaven coach Anthony Thornton and former Africentric coach Glenn Blue as assistants during the offseason. Also on Ward's staff is former Mifflin coach Brian Miller.
"They got Thornton over there who wants to throw it and (Gregg) Miller who likes to run," Ward said. "Regardless of what they run, they have three former head coaches on their staff, so they're going to be well prepared."
Mifflin has three players who have been among the area's offensive leaders.
Through five games, running back Derrick Pope had rushed for 876 yards and 12 touchdowns, wide receiver Kamaron Green had 28 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns and quarterback Javonte Bing was 54-for-98 passing for 827 yards. Bing also had rushed for six touchdowns.
Green, who also plays cornerback, and linebacker Andre Richards have led Mifflin's defense, according to Gregg Miller.
'Cats girls volleyball coach stays aggressive
The Brookhaven girls volleyball team was 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the City-North before playing Columbus East on Oct. 2.
The Bearcats, who opened with a 17-25, 25-8, 27-25, 25-18 loss to Centennial on Aug. 28, fell to the Stars 25-10, 26-24, 25-16 on Sept. 27.
Brookhaven plays host to Columbus International on Thursday, Oct. 4, and travels Tuesday, Oct. 9, to Linden-McKinley. Its other loss through 11 matches came against Northland, 13-25, 25-22, 16-25, 25-17, 15-12 on Sept. 13.
The Bearcats travel to Northland in the second round of league play Oct. 16.
"We've been playing pretty well," coach Tomeka Howell said. "We're just trying to get the girls to keep their composure, trying to work situations and keep attacking. I just want them to stay aggressive for all three, four or five sets that they play."
Renee Cheeks, an outside hitter, has led a five-member senior class that also includes Meshia McCoy (defensive specialist) and Kylie Matthews (setter/middle hitter). Junior D'Ach'e Rankin is the team's other setter.
"Meshia McCoy has stepped up big for us," Howell said. "She's also improved tremendously on her serves. She's probably at about 80 to 85 percent on her serves."
Vikings boys soccer team in City title hunt
The Northland boys soccer team was 7-3 overall and 6-3 in the City League before playing Brookhaven on Oct. 2. The Vikings have league games Thursday, Oct. 4, at Centennial and Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Beechcroft.
Northland lost to Whetstone 4-2 on Sept. 27. Entering play Oct. 2, Centennial was 9-0-1 in league play, followed by Walnut Ridge and Whetstone at 7-2, International at 5-2-2 and Northland.
The top two teams advance to the league championship game Oct. 11 at Crew Stadium.
Northland lost to International 6-2 on Sept. 20 but beat Mifflin 9-3 on Sept. 25.
"It's going to come down to the last game," Vikings coach Mike McDaniel said. "International and Walnut Ridge probably have the easiest schedules the rest of the way."
Standouts for the Vikings, according to McDaniel, have included senior Martine Montero, who had 20 goals through nine games, and classmate Sheku Camara.
"We've got a bunch of players who have been coming along," McDaniel said. "We're finally getting some offense and, in the Mifflin game, it showed."