North­ern foot­ball suf­fers first loss of the sea­son

Pa­tri­ots al­low 24 fourth-quar­ter points in loss to Ea­gles

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com

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

point.

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.”

PHOTO BY AN­NIE TUIASOSOPO

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.

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