Panthers get off to a fast start
Gross scores twice in first 5 minutes of delayed opener
It took four extra days, but the wait was worth it for Trey Gross, Cameron Hough and the Annapolis football team.
Gross returned a fumble and an interception for touchdowns in the game’s first five plays from scrimmage, and Hough rushed for118 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries as the Panthers got their season off to a quick start with a 52-7 victory over Meade on Tuesday.
Ahmon Middleton had an interception and a rushing touchdown, Nyonjae Spriggs had an interception and a fumble recovery, and DJ Turner blocked two punts for Annapolis (1-0), which took a 31-0 lead on three turnovers and a blocked punt in the first 12 minutes.
“As a coach, and as a coaching staff, it is always very rewarding when we see the stuff we work on in practice carry over into the game,” Annapolis coach Nick Good-Malloy said. “There were a number of situations where guys were doing what they were taught to do at a very high level. We got off to an extremely fast start.”
Nobody got out faster than Gross, a towering, hulking 6-foot-3 presence in the Panthers’ secondary. After waiting four extra days to play, on the second play from scrimmage, he stripped Amari Sims and scampered 6 yards into the end zone. Three plays into Meade’s next possession, he intercepted Elijah Smith (10-for-22, 62 yards) and returned the ball 19 yards for the score. He followed those take-aways with a series of hits that made his presence felt all game.
“It is all about hit or be hit, and we wanted Annapolis’ Ahmon Middleton returns an interception as Meade’s Kyle Rowden tries to bring him down in the second quarter. Middleton also had a rushing touchdown. to impress that on them the whole game,” Gross said. “It is hard work over everything and doing your job, and we really wanted to carry that intensity from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.”
The Mustangs roster is stockpiled with juniors, many making their first varsity appearance. That lack of game time showed, particularly onoffense, as Meade(0-1) hadfive possessions in the first quarter, none of which lasted more than five plays.
“I think, especially with the young kids coming up from JV, it is about getting those jitters out,” Mustangs coach Albert Jones said. “We knew there was a chance we were going to falter at the beginning, so it was just about staying focused on the task and the next play, and that is what we are going to continue to preach.”
Justin Williams threw for 38 yards, in- cluding a13-yard touchdown pass to Omar’od White, and ran for 73 yards and another score, as the Panthers led at the half, 38-7.
Meade responded well in the second quarter, however, turning Annapolis over twice. Uvel Paul Jr. recovered a fumble that led to a 5-yard touchdown run by Smith, and Anthony May had an interception.
The teams were originally scheduled to play Friday, but the game was postponed because of concerns about the health of Meade players.