Lions keep Bucs from reach­ing 10-0

QA’s ground game, K. Is­land’s turnovers de­cide wild Ch­e­sa­peake Cup, Bay­side cham­pi­onship

Record Observer - - Sports - By AYMAN ALAM aalam@star­dem.com

Q. Anne’s 24 — K. Is­land 14

STEVENSVILLE — Rou­tine oc­cur­rences are sel­dom present when the Queen Anne’s County and Kent Is­land high school foot­ball teams face off.

The lat­est clash for the Ch­e­sa­peake Cup el­e­vated that con­text to never-be­fore-seen lev­els.

Fri­day’s evening’s Week 10 bat­tle at Andy Schipul Sta­dium fea­tured in­ex­pli­ca­ble fum­bles, shanked punts, blocked field goals, big catches and big­ger runs in what held true as the big­gest of sce­nar­ios for the visit­ing Lions: sur­vive and lock down the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A East Re­gion play­offs.

And Queen Anne’s did just that, cap­tur­ing a topsy-turvy con­test in front of a mas­sive throng in a 24-14 fi­nal, plun­der­ing the Buc­ca­neers’ bid for a sec­ond 10-0 sea­son to close a wild and of­ten un­pre­dictable chap­ter in what is ar­guably the Eastern Shore’s great­est sports ri­valry.

“I think they know us so well, and I think we just know them so well, that it’s go­ing to be one of those type of games,” Lions head coach Donny Graef said. “You just do what you can to pre­pare for it and hope to come out on top.

“I tell the kids all the time, that when you’re play­ing a good team, three and four yards, that’s a win,” Graef added. “Com­ing of f a 7-4 sea­son last year, 9-1 sounds re­ally good, so we’ll en­joy it tonight and try and get back to work on Mon­day.”

The 2A East post­sea­son seed­ing is now set.

Kent Is­land (9-1) al­ready clinched the No. 1 spot in the re­gion prior to Week 10, and with Queen Anne’s (9-1), Elk­ton (9-1) and North Caroline (8-2) all win­ning its re­spec­tive games, the

po­si­tions were un­changed fol­low­ing the re­veal of the lat­est MPSSAA points stand­ings.

The Bucs, who de­feated the Bull­dogs in Week 3, will host Caroline in the re­gion semi­fi­nal, while the Lions will welcome Elk­ton to Centreville next Fri­day in the other semi­fi­nal.

Rav­aged by un­char­ac­ter­is­tic turnovers while feel­ing what is likely a con­sid­er­able st­ing after miss­ing out on an un­de­feated reg­u­lar sea­son, Bucs head coach Damian Fer­rag­amo laid the sit­u­a­tion out very plainly for his team.

And that sit­u­a­tion is how quickly the Bucs are able to turn the page from a de­cid­edly dis­as­trous showing in front of a pumped-up home crowd.

“We’re go­ing to find out, and hope­fully it’s real quick,” Fer­rag­amo said. “I hope it’s by the time they leave the locker room (tonight), be­cause there’s no time to feel sorry for our­selves.

“All we were try­ing to do was win a foot­ball game,” Fer­rag­amo added of the pomp and cir­cum­stance added in the county show­down. “We weren’t try­ing to go 10-0, we weren’t tr ying to beat Queen Anne’s, we were just try­ing to win a foot­ball game.”

Se­nior run­ning back Jykel Gar­ner tal­lied 115 yards on 12 car­ries for the Lions, while class­mate and quar­ter­back Mike D’An­gelo racked up a tough 98 on 17 keep­ers.

Gar­ner’s 46-yard touch­down dash in the third quar­ter where he was es­corted in the sec­ondary by three block­ers, in­clud­ing a solid push from se­nior full­back Bran­don Hick­man in the open field, broke open the 7-7 half­time tie, Luke Metrinko’s point-after kick cap­ping the drive and putting the Lions ahead to stay.

“At that point, we were just try­ing to do what­ever was work­ing for us,” Graef said. “The run­ning plays we were run­ning were work­ing, and we just stayed with that, got a feel for what we could get, what we couldn’t get.”

The Lions’ only loss this sea­son was to out-of-con­fer­ence foe Sus­sex Cen­tral from Delaware; Queen Anne’s has outscored op­po­nents 202-61 since that 2914, Week 4 set­back.

“We know we had to be mo­ti­vated, and we knew we had to face ad­ver­sity,” Gar­ner said, ad­ding about the loss to Sus­sex, “we had to learn that we had to be­come one with the team, and be­come more of a fam­ily. We had to push our­selves ev­ery week to get bet­ter.”

Added D’An­gelo: “We just came off a 49-7 win against a Wash­ing­ton team, and I think our heads were just too big against Sus­sex. I think the way we con­trolled our turnovers to­day, we played mod­estly, played hard, it made the dif­fer­ence.”

How the game un­folded just about de­fied all logic, con­sid­er­ing the two pro­grams have long been built on the fun­da­men­tals of

sound, mis­take-free foot­ball.

The open­ing pos­ses­sion ended with a punt by the Lions’ Matt Bon­ner, the fa­vor re­cip­ro­cated by the Buc­ca­neers’ Bran­don Gal­loway fol­low­ing a Kent Is­land three-and-out. Queen Anne’s, de­spite some heady run­ning from D’An­gelo (7 yards), Hick­man (8) and Gar­ner (8) on con­sec­u­tive plays, punted again fol­low­ing back-to-back false starts and a sack of D’An­gelo by Austin Ryan for 9 yards.

Kent Is­land took over on the Lions’ 42 on a weak Bon­ner punt, but the drive stalled on the Queen Anne’s 17, set­ting up a 34-yard Bert Schre­con­gost field-goal try.

The snap on the 3-pointer came in tight, and Selby Scaggs’ hold was proper, but the Lions’ spe­cial teams was al­ready in the back­field by the time Schre­con­gost wound up, and the boot was de­flected by Bon­ner and re­cov­ered by team­mate Chris Crow.

The mo­men­tum, how­ever, did not swing, as Gar­ner fum­bled on sec­ond down, and Gal­loway pounced on the ball to re­gain pos­ses­sion for the Bucs.

The za­ni­ness didn’t end there.

Pos­ses­sion changed for a third time in five snaps just two plays later.

Bucs’ se­nior run­ning back Braden Doyle broke loose of the line and headed to­ward the zone. Just as Doyle was about to break the plane, the Lions’ de­fense made con­tact, and the ball squirted loose and rolled out of the end zone for a touch­back.

“We did things in this game that you can’t do against good teams and ex­pect to win,” Fer­rag­amo said. “Most im­por­tantly, it’s putting the foot­ball on the ground, mak­ing those types of mis­takes.

“I wish I knew what was go­ing on, I’d cor­rect it real quick,” Fer­rag­amo added. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of bad luck and some­thing men­tal, but it’s all been dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions.”

An­other Bon­ner punt fol­lowed, this one tak­ing a good bounce to Kent Is­land’s 19. Ryan then gained 3 yards on a run, plus a 15yard face­mask penalty, and then shuf­fled mid­dle to left for 14. Two plays later, ju­nior quar­ter­back Jor­dan Mar­ciano found wide­out Sean Mooney on a deep fade left over Jor­dan Cal­la­han for 30 yards.

After Ryan cleared a yard on a fourth-and-inches run, he was in the end zone on the next snap, fight­ing through three de­fend­ers for the game’s first score.

The Lions got off to a poor start on the en­su­ing kick­off, as Hick­man fielded the ball right out­side his goal line and then his foot grazed the chalk on the 5; the drive went nowhere, and Bon­ner boomed a 61-yard punt to the Bucs’ 21. A 10-yard Cameron Bouie carry gave Kent Is­land a fresh set of downs, but Dy­lan Fin­lay dropped a third-down pass from Mar­ciano, lead­ing to an­other Gal­loway punt.

The kick was lofted well into Lions’ ter­ri­tory, glanced off Queen Anne’s Ryan Muller, and the Buc­ca­neers’ Jake Hipps re­cov­ered it on the Lions’ 31. Kent Is­land’s over­all good for­tunes lasted just a few more se­conds, as the first-down hand­off to Doyle was botched, and Queen Anne’s se­nior Jor­dan Wilmer scooped it and dashed un­touched the other way for a 71-yard TD.

Luke Metrinko con­verted the point-after, and de­spite to­tal­ing only 47 yards of­fense in the first 24 min­utes, the Lions man­aged to take a 7-7 tie into the locker rooms.

“We were in the game at 7-7, at half­time, and that play Jor­dan made be­fore the half was huge,” Graef said. “It gave us mo­men­tum, some­thing pos­i­tive go­ing into the locker room. That was big for us, it’s not a mis­take when he scoops and scores, be­cause he has done it three or four times for us.”

The Buc­ca­neers’ of­fense just about stalled in the sec­ond half, while the Lions’ run­ning game be­gan per­co­lat­ing.

Fol­low­ing an­other Gal­loway punt, Gar­ner capped a 3½-minute, seven-play drive with his game-break­ing 46yard scam­per to make it 14-7. Kent Is­land com­mit­ted its third turnover of the game on the next pos­ses­sion, again com­ing at the tail end of a long run, as Bouie lost the ball after gain­ing 30 yards on a run, re­cov­ered by the Lions’ Jor­dan Ben­nett.

Queen Anne’s set­tled for a 34-yard field goal by Metrinko off the turnover, but got it back again when Mar­ciano’s pass into the end zone at the con­clu­sion of an ex­tended drive was tipped by Fin­lay and the Lions’ Jor­dan Cal­la­han, lead­ing to a Mikey Mon­roe in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone.

“The points were there on all the turnovers, like throw­ing an in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone,” Fer­rag­amo said. “Those are huge plays, but Queen Anne’s made them, or we made the mis­takes, but I don’t want to take any- thing away from their vic­tory at all. They came in, and they won the foot­ball game.”

The Lions turned that mis­cue into a 50-yard C.J. Rogers TD run, who blasted through the line and was off to the races against the Bucs’ Michael Scott.

A rough­ing-the-passer penalty on third down kept Kent Is­land’s next drive go­ing, and Mar­ciano ended a Buc­ca­neer scor­ing drought — and a 24-0 Lions run — by hit­ting Mooney on a jump­ball over Muller for 28 yards and a touch­down to cap the af­fair.

Mooney fin­ished with three grabs for 78 yards, while Mar­ciano threw a late pick for the Buc­ca­neers’ fifth turnover, and ended his night 6-for-19 pass­ing and 106 yards.

“I just think we had a lot of men­tal er­rors through­out the game,” Mooney said. “We need to fix those, and if we clean those up, I feel like the score would have been dif­fer­ent tonight.

“I thought we were ready all week, and in the first half we showed it, be­cause let up zero points on de­fense,” Mooney added. “That fum­ble (Wilmer’s TD) changed the mo­men­tum of the game.”

Queen Anne’s fin­ished with 305 yards to­tal of­fense on 48 plays, while Kent Is­land mus­tered 279 on 53 snaps. Ryan’s 81 yards on 19 car­ries paced the Buc­ca­neers; Bouie to­taled 41 on only three hand­offs.

The Lions aban­doned the pass­ing game after the first half, when D’An­gelo was only 1 of 5 for 5 yards, rack­ing up 255 yards rush­ing after the break. D’An­gelo calmly ran a read-op­tion of­fense in the sec­ond half while Gar­ner and Rogers even­tu­ally found the run­ning lanes loos­en­ing up, lead­ing to the high­est point to­tal scored against Kent Is­land all sea­son.

“The line just came out with a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude in the sec­ond half,” D’An­gelo said of the turn­around. “We picked up on all our blocks and I give all the credit to them. We’ve done that through­out the sea­son, start off slug­gish in the first half, and it’s some­thing we need to work on.

“As much as the ri­valry mat­ters, and it’s a huge com­mu­nity thing, our eyes are on the play­offs,” D’An­gelo added. “Win­ning the ri­valry game is great, get­ting the Ch­e­sa­peake Cup, Bay­side cham­pi­ons is great, but, at the end of the day, play­offs are what re­ally mat­ters and that’s what we’re look­ing for­ward to.”

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Ay­man_S­tarDem. Email me at aalam@star­dem.com

PHOTO BY CHRIS KNAUSS

Queen Anne’s Gabrielle Corder, left, moves the ball up­field un­der pres­sure from Pat­ter­son Mill’s Ju­lia Frankis dur­ing a Class 1A state semi­fi­nal Mon­day evening at Broad­neck High School.

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