Lions keep it basic, get second wind
Offensive line pushes Warriors around for 3 TDs in the third
CENTREVILLE — Nobody yanked down a flimsy old movie screen for a quick powerpoint session, or went diagram crazy on the chalkboard in a frantic effort to design some spurof-the-moment series of trick plays.
Instead, Queen Anne’s County High’s football team, down one point in a game that figured to shape the Class 2A East Region playoff field, shuffled into its field house at halftime and listened to some basicblocking talk.
The Lions came out of the locker room, reeled off touchdown drives on their first three second-half
possessions Friday night, but still needed Jordan Callahan’s interception with a little over a minute remaining before cementing a 26-20 victory over Easton.
“Halftime, we talked to the kids about a couple of things,” Queen Anne’s head coach Donny Graef said. “(Offensive line) Coach (Dave) Perrillo did a nice job with the offensive line, settling them down, and we came out and played better in the second half.”
Other than quarterback Mike D’Angelo’s 50-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hickman that ended a 71-yard, two-play possession, and shaved Easton’s lead to 7-6 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Queen Anne’s (5-1) managed just 40 yards on seven first-half possessions.
“I think Easton has a great defense in general,” D’Angelo said. “They defended the pass well, and their pass rush is insane, man. They’ve got a ton of athletes up there. They got good penetration.”
“They put a lot of pressure on him,” Graef said of D’Angelo, who was sacked eight times in the game. “We knew number nine (Easton outside linebacker Zack Strand) was tough coming off the edge. We had a couple of missed assignments, but they played really well on defense.”
But in the second half, center Jordan Waters, guards Chuckie Lansinger and Garrett Deese, tackles Kean Shanahan and Trent Riggs, and tight end Tyler Bonner stopped Easton’s penetration and opened lanes for D’Angelo, Jykel Garner (11 carries, gamehigh 137 yards) and Brandon Hickman (five carries, 69 yards).
“I think we just found some base plays that worked; looked at things that we had a little bit of success with in the first half,” said Graef, whose team finished with 259 yards rushing. “So we picked the four or five plays that we had a little bit of success with in the first half and we just blocked it better; stayed on our blocks.
“Nothing special. Nothing new. Nothing drawn up, or anything like that,” Graef added. “Just kept doing what we were doing well in the first half. I thought all the running backs played well the second half. Maybe we played to our strength more the second half than we did the first half.”
Queen Anne’s received the second-half kickoff and traveled 62 yards on four plays and one penalty, as D’Angelo scored on an 11-yard run. Garner was stuffed on the two-point conversion attempt — the Warriors’ second straight two-point stop — and the Lions led 12-7 with 2:14 gone in the third quarter.
After an Easton threeand-out, Queen Anne’s moved from its 32 to the Warrior 46, where Garner
was sprung on a counter for a 46-yard touchdown dash with 5:26 left in the third quarter. Luke Metrinko’s extra point made it 19-7.
“Up front early on, our D line really got some good penetration,” Easton head coach Matt Griffith said. “They run counter just as good as anybody I’ve ever seen run it. To stop counter you’ve got to have penetration. They came out, they got us in the third quarter. We were a little flat, we didn’t get the penetration up front that we needed. We were doing a good job maintaining the edge, but they were cutting it back up inside which is something they do, and they do it very well.”
The Warriors (4-2) answered with an eight-play, 76-yard march that was capped by Mason Ledford’s 23-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Nixon, drawing Easton within 19-13 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
The Lions needed 1:06 to restore their two-score cushion. Starting from the Lions’ 24, Hickman funneled his way through the middle for a 39-yard gain. Garner picked up 17 yards. Hickman’s 6-yard pickup and a facemask penalty on Easton pushed Queen Anne’s to the Warrior 7, where Hickman found a seam on the left side created by Lansinger, Riggs and Bonner for a touchdown. Metrinko’s point-after kick gave Queen Anne’s a 26-13 lead with 2:23 left in the third quarter.
“I think just the O line picked it up as a whole in the second half,” D’Angelo said. “They did a great job. Best blocking that I’ve seen all season. I think I was fortunate to find some holes in the second half, and I think the running backs as a whole were fortunate to find some holes. Again, credit to the O line for that.”
While the Lions focused on a handful of running plays in the second half, Graef said they were also playing ball control in hopes of keeping the ball out of Ledford’s hands.
After completing just 1 of 8 in poor weather conditions during last Saturday’s 22-20 victory at Kent County, Easton’s junior quarterback came out flinging against the Lions. Ledford threw on 10 of the Warriors’ first 12 plays, his 10th pass a 10-yard scoring strike to Nixon that — along with Walter Morris’ point-after kick — gave Easton a 7-0 lead with under 6 minutes left in the first quarter.
Ledford completed just 4 of 10 for 26 yards the remainder of the first half, but then heated up in the third quarter.
After the Lions extended their lead to 19-7, Ledford completed 4 of 6 on the ensuing drive that ended with his second touchdown pass to Nixon (five receptions, 102 yards).
Queen Anne’s again stretched its lead, and again Ledford drove the Warriors downfield, completing 5 of 6 in a 55-yard drive that ended with Matt Farrow (7-67) snagging a 5-yard scoring dart and Morris drilling the point after on the final play of the third quarter, pulling Easton within 26-20.
“Everything’s on the money,” Graef said of Ledford, who completed 29 of 45 for 278 yards and three touchdowns. “The ball’s out of his hand quick. He can scramble just enough to keep you honest in your pass rush and your lanes. And if he needs to pick up a few yards with his feet he can do that, too. He’s just an impressive kid. I’m sure if he stays healthy he’s going to put up some record numbers there at Easton.
Still down six with 2:37 remaining, Easton drove from its 10 to Queen Anne’s 48, where on fourth down Ledford hit Farrow, who battled his way for extra yardage on an 18-yard gain that gave the Warriors a first down on the Lions’ 30. But Ledford’s final throw of the game sailed over Nixon and into Callahan’s hands with 1:05 remaining, sealing the win.
“Mason had a great game,” Griffith said. “He did a nice job managing the offense. He took what they gave him. Didn’t force too many things. I think there may have been one in the first half where he forced the ball. Besides that, I thought he made great decisions all night long and did everything we asked him to do.”
Notes: Queen Anne’s held Easton to 32 yards rushing on 15 carries … Ledford was intercepted in the first half by Mike Clay . ... Easton’s TreQuan Thomas had 8 receptions for 89 yards and Tahjiere Nixon had eight catches for 56.
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Queen Anne’s Jykel Garner (9), who gained 137 yards on 11 carries, follows the lead of Brandon Hickman (17) during last Friday’s game against Easton.