Home­com­ing roy­alty

Queen Anne’s dom­i­nates all facets dur­ing blowout over the In­di­ans to keep play­off hopes alive

Record Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By AYMAN ALAM aalam@star­dem.com

The Queen Anne’s County High School 2018 Home­com­ing King Troy Ernest and Home­com­ing Queen Rachel Lee ride in the back of a con­vert­ible along the pa­rade route Fri­day evening, Oct. 19, be­fore the foot­ball game. Queen Anne’s beat Wi­comico, 35-15. Pa­rade pho­tos on pages 18 and 19.

Queen Anne’s 35 Wi­comico 15

CENTREVILLE — A play­off spot is still a mostly re­mote pos­si­bil­ity, but Has­san Big­gus, Noah Evans and the rest of the Queen Anne’s County High foot­ball team are do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to fin­ish the sea­son on a high note.

The Lions blew open a

7-7 half­time tie last Fri­day evening against vis­it­ing Wi­comico dur­ing a strong sec­ond half, re­main­ing on the pe­riph­ery of the Class

2A East Re­gion post­sea­son pic­ture with a dom­i­nant, 3515, vic­tory.

Queen Anne’s is now 4-4, in a bat­tle in the fi­nal weeks with Wi­comico, Kent Is­land, Eas­ton, North East (Ce­cil) — all also 4-4 — to po­ten­tially squeeze through the door and into the play­offs.

North Caro­line (8-0), Har­ford Tech (8-0), Elk­ton (6-2) and Park­side (6-2) cur­rently sit in the four play­off po­si­tions. Ris­ing Sun is 5-3, fol­lowed by the quin­tet of 4-4 pro­grams.

Re­al­ity, how­ever, has ap­peared to set in on the Lions’ long­time head coach.

“We fig­ured it out the other day, it’s been 17 years where we’ve been in this part of the sea­son where we weren’t wor­ried who else is win­ning, and hope this team loses, but I think it’s good,” Queen Anne’s head Donny Graef said. “It’s a lit­tle bit more of a com­fort level for these kids now, be­cause they’re not wor­ry­ing about the play­offs, they’re just play­ing foot­ball.

“We’re play­ing for pride, and we were go­ing to come out and play foot­ball on this Fri­day night and let the chips fall where they may,” Graef added.

Big­gus led all rush­ers with 75 yards on only nine touches, adding a key, third­down re­cep­tion for 24 yards late in the third quar­ter that even­tu­ally led to a 5-yard Big­gus touch­down run. He also scored on a 16-yard carry to open the game, but the Lions’ of­fense did not get into the end zone again un­til the third.

Queen Anne’s did, how­ever, eat up plenty of ground through­out, to the tune of over 5 yards per carry, fin­ish­ing with 179 yards rush­ing on 35 at­tempts. Sopho­more quar­ter­back Syrus Mcgowan also threw for 81 yards.

“It’s been a tough year,” Big­gus said. “But we just got to fin­ish the sea­son strong, and hope that some­body loses, hope­fully we can squeeze in, be­cause we came to­gether as a team tonight, and I

feel like we can make some noise in the play­offs, if we get there. We can only hope.”

Added Graef: “We’re try­ing to tell the kids, four yards, five yards, we live with that, and that’s a good play for us. It’s been tough get­ting that men­tal­ity across, be­cause we’re so used to get­ting big plays. Tonight, there were some plays where we kept the chains mov­ing, made some great blocks.”

The In­di­ans set up good field po­si­tion fol­low­ing Big­gus’ gameopen­ing TD, se­nior Ron­nie Satchell Jr. re­turn­ing the en­su­ing kick­off

34 yards to Wi­comico’s 49. The In­di­ans capped the drive — which in­cluded a fourth-down con­ver­sion and a 23-yard rum­ble by ju­nior Cameron Ko­dua — with a 3-yard quar­ter­back keeper, se­nior Khalil Evans fol­low­ing the line to pay­dirt.

Wi-hi did not score again un­til the Lions emp­tied the bench dur­ing the sec­ond-half rout. Dur­ing that stretch, Queen Anne’s de­fense stopped 10 plays at or be­hind the line of scrim­mage, in­ter­cepted Khalil Evans three times — in­clud­ing a 20-yard pick-six from se­nior Ryan Muller — and took ad­van­tage of a penalty-prone, Wi­comico block­ing game.

A goal-line stand at the end of the first half per­ma­nently handed mo­men­tum to the Lions, Queen Anne’s ju­nior Gavin Jens sack­ing Khalil Evans on a fourth-and-goal on the 4 for a 13-yard loss.

The In­di­ans fin­ished with only 188 yards on 50 plays from scrim­mage,

36 of them com­ing on a drought­break­ing, TD run by ju­nior Ed­die Hay­ward in­side the fi­nal minute.

“They have a lot bet­ter ath­letes than they have had in the past,” Noah Evans said of Wi-hi. “We had a rough start in the first quar­ter, they scored that one touch­down, but af­ter that we got our­selves to­gether, came to­gether as a team and stopped them, made some great plays. Our de­fen­sive line did a great job, get­ting the lineback­ers into the zone.”

Added Graef: “They are a scary team, be­cause they have kids that can take it to the house. John Woot­ers, he is do­ing the de­fense now, he has done re­ally well with it. John has been putting the time in, and he’s get­ting the work done.”

A siz­able home­com­ing crowd urged the Lions on at the ev­ery turn, ul­ti­mately un­nerv­ing the In­di­ans in the process. A se­ries of chippy play in the sec­ond half led to the ejec­tion of Wi-hi ju­nior Stephaun Har­ris, when he ap­peared to throw a punch at the con­clu­sion of a play that ended on the Queen Anne’s side­line.

“We do have good kids when it comes to that,” Graef said of his team keep­ing its com­po­sure. “There might be some ver­bal stuff dur­ing the game, but usu­ally they’re not so hot-headed.

“We’re try­ing to press upon them that it hurts you, ob­vi­ously, but it also hurts the team,” Graef added. “Don’t be that guy ... and put the whole team in a bind. They kept their heads, played hard, that’s all we can ask.”

Muller (68 yards rush­ing) ended the 7-7 dead­lock since the first quar­ter with a 35-yard touch­down run in the third, the third-and-2 scam­per fin­ish­ing un­touched when he turned on the jets past Satchell Jr. and ju­nior Joshua Shock­ley.

Queen Anne’s made it 21-7 only 25 sec­onds later, Muller in­ter­cept­ing Evans af­ter Lions ju­nior Xavier Jones tipped the first-down pass into the air and up for grabs. Big­gus’ 5-yard score ar­rived early in the fourth, and Dono­van Cruz capped the scor­ing for the hosts with a 1-yard plunge.

“Sec­ond half, every­body just turned up,” Big­gus said. “The of­fense came back, Ryan Muller catch­ing the two picks, he did amaz­ing tonight. We just all came to­gether.”

Sopho­more kicker Gar­rhett Richard­son con­verted all five point-af­ter touch­downs, though he did leave a 32-yard field goal well short in the sec­ond quar­ter.

“I think be­ing 4-4 as we are right now, we had a rough start to the sea­son, but I think tonight was a great win, a great team ef­fort,” Noah Evans said. “Hope­fully we can keep work­ing hard, and if some­thing crazy hap­pens, coaches have been talk­ing about, we might ac­tu­ally make the play­offs.”

The Lions host Park­side this Fri­day be­fore the an­nual Week 10 bat­tle for the Ch­e­sa­peake Cup with Kent Is­land on Nov. 2, and Queen Anne’s will have to win out and re­ceive plenty of help to re­turn to the play­offs. Graef also has the task of keep­ing his play­ers fo­cused on the Rams, rather than turn their col­lec­tive eyes to the county ri­val Buccaneers, but he said that is a non-is­sue.

There has been much hoopla in the past decade any time Queen Anne’s County and Kent Is­land square off. Some of the luster has worn off this sea­son as the two pro­grams un­dergo ros­ter turnovers, and fin­ish­ing with back-to-back wins and a 6-4 mark might be the best the Lions can ex­pect in 2018.

“It’s dif­fer­ent one of us is 8-1 and the other one is 9-0,” Graef said of the ri­valry with the Buccaneers. “But right now, we’re just try­ing to play one week at a time, and play the best foot­ball we can, be­cause we’ve been so up-and-down this year. Hope­fully we can build on this and have a bet­ter show­ing next week.” Fol­low on Twit­ter @Ay­man_s­tar­dem. Email at aalam@star­dem.com

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

PHOTO BY AYMAN ALAM

Queen Anne’s County’s Has­san Big­gus seeks an open­ing dur­ing last Fri­day’s 35-15 win over Wi­comico. Big­gus, a se­nior, rushed for 75 yards, caught a 24-yard pass and scored on touch­down runs of 16 and 5 yards.

PHOTO BY AYMAN ALAM

Queen Anne’s County’s Charle Kay is stopped a yard short of a touch­down dur­ing last Fri­day’s 35-15 win over Wi­comico.

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