Northern football suffers first loss of the season
Patriots allow 24 fourth-quarter points in loss to Eagles
Through eight weeks, North Point’s football team had basically cruised through its competition without really having to overcome any adversity thrown at it by the opposition.
In rolling to an 8-0 record, the Eagles had won by double-digit margins in every game, surrendered more than seven points only twice and won by fewer than 21 points just once. So on Friday night when the Northern Patriots jumped out to a quick two-score lead on the visiting Eagles and led for the bulk of the first half, it could have sent North Point into a tailspin.
It didn’t. The Eagles withstood Northern’s barrage and then unload- ed with 24 fourth-quarter points to turn what had been a tie game entering the final period into a 45-21 rout in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Potomac Division contest that pitted the final two unbeaten teams in SMAC against each other.
“Honestly, I think it was just settling in,” North Point head coach Tom Petre said of the Eagles’ fourth-quarter performance. “I think they got a little chaotic in the first half. This was the first real adversity we’ve seen throughout the year. Northern came out hot, moving the ball, slinging it around, getting big-chunk plays. The guys just had to relax and settle in, understand it was about the next play. I think in the second half the guys settled in. They trusted each other and communicated better. We were able to come out and get some pretty good stops and come out on the better end of it.”
Northern (8-1, 4-1 SMAC Potomac) found the end zone on each of its first two possessions, scoring first on Reese Crounse’s 11-yard pass to Daniel Horak just 3 minutes 43 seconds into the game, and later on Xavier Harris’ 2-yard touchdown run with 53.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter to give the hosts a 14-0 lead.
But facing a two-score deficit less than a quarter into the biggest game to this point of the season, North Point (9-0, 5-0) answered with a 60-yard drive that culminated with a Jemichael Jones 34-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first quarter. The Eagles then intercepted a Crounse pass just 10 seconds into the second quarter and instantly capitalized on a 27yard scoring strike from Jones to Chelen Garnes, knotting the score on Evan Patterson’s extra
Not to be outdone, the Patriots hit back just two plays into their next series when Crounse connected with Horak on a 79-yard touchdown pass, putting Northern back in front 21-14 after Austin Hood’s point-after. But the Eagles pulled even late in the half when Jones hooked up with Derek Thompson on a 31-yard score, sending the teams to the half tied at 21.
“We knew it was going to be an intense game,” Jones said. “We came out ready. We were prepared and stayed focused. We pushed the ball down the field and they pushed the ball down the field. It was just a good game both ways. We just finished it off right.”
It took until the first play of the fourth quarter, but North Point finally pulled in front on Patterson’s 24-yard field goal. Then, after an interception by Braxton Brooks on the Patriots’ next series, the Eagles extended the lead to 31-21 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Malik Lawrence with 9:39 remaining.
Northern was able to drive into North Point territory on its next couple possessions, but was unable to put any points on the board. The visitors then put the game out of reach when Garnes scored on a 16-yard touchdown run with 2:19 to play. Garnes later ran an interception back for one final score to put the final touch on North Point’s impressive win.
“We actually had a rough practice yesterday and we came out a little slow,” said Lawrence, who had nine receptions for 125 yards in the game, “but we fought through and stuck together and it showed at the end of the game.”
Jones exceeded 200 yards both rushing and receiving, while Garnes scored three touchdowns — one each rushing, receiving and on the interception return. In all, the Eagles rolled up just shy of 500 yards of offense.
“We just mixed up the plays,” Jones said. “We realized we had them on passing plays and the running game. Both worked, really. We just had the mindset to keep pushing the ball downfield.”
Crounse passed for upwards of 400 yards in the loss, with Horak hauling in seven passes for 180 yards. But, despite a couple lengthy runs by Harris, the Patriots struggled to establish the run against the Eagles.
“We really had an inability to be multi-dimensional on offense,” Northern head coach Steve Crounse said. “We really couldn’t run the ball very well. A couple catches here or there could have turned the tide. They’re just relentless. They had field position in the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t finish. ... We only had three-and-a-half quarters of gas in the tank.”
Still, the game had value for the Patriots. Northern, which had not qualified for the playoffs since 2003, will be a playoff participant this year and will enter the postseason as either the No. 1 or 2 seed in the Class 3A South. Playing in a game that carried division championship significance in front of an electric, overflow crowd provided the hosts with valuable experience for what lies ahead, according to Crounse.
“I was really proud of their effort,” he said. “They fought right to the end. I don’t think the score is indicative of the type of game it was at all, but that’s a really good football team on the other sideline — big, fast athletes. Our kids stood up toe to toe, made a lot of plays and kept fighting. We had to overcome adversity with injuries at times, and adversity that they created because they’re a good football team. I was really proud. Going forward that’s going to help us in the playoffs, playing that caliber an opponent in this kind of a setting.”
Northern will close the regular season at 6 p.m. Friday at Great Mills, looking to cap the regular season with a win and possibly a top seed in its region. The Patriots will need help from North Point to make that hap- pen, as the Eagles host Chopticon at 7 p.m. Friday.
Chopticon, which defeated Great Mills 40-26 in Week 9, will occupy whichever of the two top spots in the 3A South that Northern doesn’t. If the 8-1 Braves were to knock off North Point, they would take the top seed. A North Point win coupled with a Northern win over Great Mills would hand it to Northern.
All of that aside, North Point will simply be looking to finish an unbeaten regular season, and with that ensure it will open its postseason in the 4A East at home.
“This game just showed what we’re really made of,” Lawrence said. “We’d like to keep pushing through Week 10 against Chopticon and then get a good push through the playoffs.”
Northern’s Xavier Harris carries the ball during the Patriots’ game with the visiting North Point Eagles on Friday night. Harris scored a rushing touchdown in what ended a 45-21 loss for the Patriots.