Indians can’t overcome turnovers in loss to Cobras
Ugly first half dooms North East as playoff picture starts to clear
BEL AIR — Thanks in large part to a stubborn defensive effort, the North East football team inexplicably trailed by only two scores after electric senior Jalen
Giles returned the opening kickoff of the second half nearly 80 yards to the end zone to cut Harford Tech’s lead to 177.
Of the Indians’ five first-half possessions Friday, three ended with a turnover deep in their own territory, while a fourth resulted in a blocked punt that gave the ball to the host Cobras at the North East 22-yard line. Despite the favorable field position, the Harford County squad could manage just two touchdowns and one field goal, including finding the end zone on a fourth-and-long play with roughly a minute remaining in the second quarter.
“Our defense did keep us in it early,” North East head coach Chris Schleich said. “But you can’t turn the ball over and win in football, and we turned the ball over tonight.”
A fourth offensive mistake, this time a fumble just three plays after the Indians recovered an onside kick in the wake of Giles’ touchdown, turned momentum back to the opposition. From there, Harford Tech raced away on the scoreboard, reaching the end zone on its next three possessions to earn a 38-7 win over North East in Susquehanna Division action.
“We weren’t playing with a lot of confidence. When you lack confidence, you get nervous and you make mistakes, and that’s just what happened,” Schleich said. “[Harford Tech] is a savvy playoff team. They’re used to coming at people hard and drilling them, and our kids kind of buckled to them.”
Following the third-quarter turnover, Cobras senior Jalen Dangerfield concluded a 10-play, 54-yard drive with a 15-yard catch and run to the paint that made the score 24-7. He later sealed the contest with an interception in the end zone on North East’s second-to-last drive of the game, returning the ball to the 25-yard line and setting up a quick, twoplay, 75-yard possession that ended with a 60-yard touchdown run by Chuckie Brown to cap the scoring.
In between, Harford Tech junior receiver Curtis McKisset hauled in a 37-yard scoring pass from Ryan Hunt that increased the advantage to 31-7.
“We knew we couldn’t underestimate them, we knew they had talent. We were a lot more unprepared than we thought we were and it showed in the first half,” Dangerfield said. “Halftime, it wasn’t a celebration, it was a focus of what we can do to become a better team because the score should have been a lot bigger than what it actually was. We came out at halftime with fire, the hurry up offense, and started playing like we know we can play.”
Giles cut into the deficit with a series of shifty moves on the game’s biggest play of the night.
Settled in near his own 20yard line, the senior fielded the opening kickoff of the third quarter on a bounce, made a defender miss and knifed across the field, before racing down the far sideline for the score.
“I came out and ran fast. I saw a hole to the left and just hit it,” Giles said. “I just took off.”
The touchdown provided a glimmer of hope for a North East squad that dug itself a major hole to open the contest.
After Harford Tech punted both its opening possessions of the first quarter, Giles fumbled a handoff that gave the Cobras the ball back at the North East 36-yard line, setting up an eventual 9-yard touchdown pass from Hunt to Jeremiah Minter to open the scoring.
North East junior Elijah Perry, making just his second start at quarterback following a standout debut a week ago against Patterson Mill, had a third-down pass on the ensuing drive tipped and intercepted, leading to an 18-yard field goal by Tyler Long.
Long then missed a 13yard field goal after the Indians defense produced a goal line stand in the aftermath of the blocked punt. The Cobras’ Laday Cooper later scored a touchdown with one minute remaining in the half after Perry turned the ball over on an interception near midfield.
“We just came out and forced turnovers and do what we do,” Dangerfield said. “The defense stepped up today.”
The Indians (3-3 overall, 2-1 division) entered vying to snap Harford Tech’s length regular-season winning streak. With the win, the Cobras (6-0, 2-0), have now won 16 regular season contests dating back to the start of last year.
Harford Tech, which advanced to last year’s 2A state semifinals, is in prime position to earn another playoff berth after it qualified for the postseason for the first time in program history in 2016.
North East, meanwhile, suffered a major blow to its postseason aspirations. With four weeks remaining, the Indians sit behind at least six other teams, including the Cobras, in the race for the 2A East’s four playoff spots.
“Coach Schleich came in and made this program way better than it was before,” Giles said. “It’s going to be hard, but if we knock the board out the rest of the season, we still might be able to go. We’re going to try our hardest.”
A group of North East players react to the score late in the fourth quarter of a 38-7 road loss to Harford Tech on Friday.