Football second-round playoff preview: Cox vs. Ocean Lakes

6A South Region second-round

The matchup:

Frank W. Cox (8-3) vs. Ocean Lakes (11-0), 7 p.m. Friday at Kellam High

The Falcons come off an impressive 42-35 victory against Bayside, while the Dolphins dominated as usual in a 49-21 win over Western Branch.

Both clubs have endured changes on their coaching staff.  One day before their lone regular season game against the Dolphins (Ocean Lakes won 49-7), the Falcons learned their head coach at the time, Bill Stachelski, was suspended for the rest of the season. Brad Nelson took over the Cox sidelines.

Dolphins coach Chris Scott has coached the last six games this season after missing the first five to a suspension.

What you need to know:

The Falcons need to throw the kitchen sink and anything else lying around to try to keep the Dolphins out of their finely tuned system. No team has done so all year, with partial exception to Salem, which lost 31-14 to Ocean Lakes in the season opener. That 17-point margin was the closest any opponent has come to the Dolphins. In the other 10 games, Ocean Lakes has outscored their opponents 565-73 — an average of 49 points per game.

The defending 6A state champion Dolphins have played like a team with a chip on their shoulder all year. The boys were not pleased with the early suspension of their head coach or with any doubters of their quest to repeat as champions, and they’ve taken it out on the South Region. Currently ranked no.6 in MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national football rankings, Ocean Lakes is primed for another state title run.

Keys for Cox: The Falcons need a performance from senior quarterback Cole Johnson like the one he gave in last week’s win against Bayside, and then some. Johnson’s versatility as a dual-threat quarterback and running back Matt DeMasi’s hard-nosed attack will give Cox its best chance to dent Ocean Lakes’ defense. The Dolphins have given up a season-high 21 points to both Western Branch and Landstown in their past two games. Cox’s offense needs to exceed that mark to have a chance. Defensively, defensive end Jordan Williams needs to have his best performance against an Ocean Lakes offensive line that is solid in running and passing situations.

Keys for Ocean Lakes: Khalan Laborn. The senior running back who transferred from Cox last year is having a breakout season, averaging nearly 14 yards per carry with 29 rushing touchdowns, in addition to one punt and one kickoff return touchdown. Dolphins quarterbacks Cody Cunningham and Tyler Desue have both tossed 13 touchdowns this season, a majority of them to senior wide receiver Jermaine Trotman (12 touchdowns). Ocean Lakes’ versatile offense averages 54 points and 470 yards per game. Defensively, the Dolphins have to contain Johnson’s accuracy and mobility by forcing the quarterback into a one-dimensional role. Taking away the Falcons’ top play-maker will cause problems for Cox.

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