Slow start, strong fin­ish

Af­ter in­ter­cep­tion and fum­bles, Pan­thers score 26 con­sec­u­tive first-half points

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY FOOTBALL - By Rich Scherr

With his in­jured team­mate re­cov­er­ing from a spinal in­jury, St. Frances wide re­ceiver Randy Fields knew it was up to him to step up Fri­day night against top-ranked McDonogh.

In a highly an­tic­i­pated bat­tle be­tween two top con­tenders for the Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion A Con­fer­ence ti­tle, Fields didn’t just step up — he stepped into the spot­light.

Fields, tak­ing the place of stand­out re­ceiver Tyree Henry, caught four touch­down passes from quar­ter­back Isa­iah Robinson, help­ing the No. 6 Pan­thers score 26 straight points in the first half — in­clud­ing two touch­downs in a span of 11 sec­onds — in a 34-20 up­set win over the host Ea­gles.

It was an emo­tional per­for­mance for the ju­nior, who watched last week as his friend and fel­low wide re­ceiver suf­fered an un­spec­i­fied spinal in­jury against Gil­man.

“I was dev­as­tated. I didn’t know how to act. I went into prac­tice very hum­ble, and it was like ‘It’s time to work,’ ” Fields said. “We got the job done tonight.”

St. Frances coach Henry Rus­sell said of Henry: “He’s get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day. He’s at Kennedy Krieger [In­sti­tute]. He’s got a lot of work ahead of him, but he’s go­ing to be OK.”

The Pan­thers started the game slop­pily, throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion on their open­ing play and fum­bling twice in the first five min­utes.

Once the nerves set­tled, how­ever, St. Frances dom­i­nated. St. Frances run­ning back Gary Brightwell cel­e­brates his touch­down in front of McDonogh line­backer An­drew Hur­dle. Brightwell fin­ished with 137 rush­ing yards.

“These kids, a lot of them have been through so much in their lives. So when bad stuff hap­pens to them, there’s no quit,” Rus­sell said. “They just keep on com­ing.”

Robinson was a big part of the equa­tion, at one point com­plet­ing 12 straight passes against a McDonogh de­fense that seemed in­tent on stop­ping stand­out run­ning back Gary Brightwell.

“They didn’t know if we were go­ing to pass or run, so they had to pro­tect the run­ning game,” Robinson said. “They brought lineback­ers into the box, and that helped us ex­pand the pass­ing game.”

Brightwell still fin­ished with137 rush­ing yards and a touch­down.

And by the time Robinson found Fields for their third touch­down of the first half, the Pan­thers — win­ners of six straight — had built a 26-7 lead.

McDonogh (5-2, 1-1) could do of­fen­sively. lit­tle

Quar­ter­back DeJuan El­lis com­pleted just two of 11 passes in the first half, as the Ea­gles went three-and-out twice and had an­other pass picked off by line­backer Jonathan Kings­ley on the first play of an­other drive.

That play was huge for the Pan­thers, com­ing one play af­ter Brightwell’s 1-yard touch­down run that gave St. Frances a 14-7 lead. On the first play af­ter the in­ter­cep­tion, Robinson found Fields wide open on a cross­ing route for a 23-yard score.

Two touch­downs in 11 sec­onds. Just like that, the en­tire com­plex­ion of the game had changed.

KARL MERTON FERRON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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