Lions Fall Short, Finish Below .500
Biggus has huge game, but QA’S can’t edge rival Bucs, posts first losing season since 2003
STEVENSVILLE — Kent Island High’s new guard did much of the heavy lifting. The program’s old guard helped close a difficult season on a positive note.
The Buccaneers finished the 2018 high school football campaign last Friday evening by snapping a fivegame losing streak and reaching
.500, fending off forever rival Queen Anne’s County, 28-23, at a rainsoaked Andy Schipul Stadium.
With both teams eliminated from Class 2A East Region playoff contention — a rarity between the two premier football schools — the Superintendent’s Cup and splitting the
10-game slate were going to be the top prizes there for the taking.
Where previous Week 10 battles between the county foes drew big crowds and bigger postseason implications in arguably the biggest of rivalries on the Eastern Shore, the relatively modest — though spirited — gathering was nevertheless treated to a series of solid performances.
“It was a very tough season,” said Kent Island sophomore running back Ke’juan Johnson, who finished with 224 yards on 27 carries. “Tonight was all about the seniors, we wanted to work hard and make sure they leave on a good note.”
Added senior Bucs wide receiver Trequon Thomas, in unison with Johnson: “This is our championship, this is our Super Bowl. Monday at practice, first thing we said, ‘Super Bowl week, baby’. This is our best week of practice we have had. Defense was on it, we just clicked.”
Kent Island, which reached the playoffs the previous 10 seasons, saw the streak snapped with last week’s 41-6 drubbing at the hands of unbeaten North Caroline, but was completely healthy for the first time all season against Queen Anne’s.
The win was somewhat bittersweet for head coach Damian Ferragamo, who, while appreciative of the effort put forth all season by a squad nursing numerous injuries and dealing with alarmingly low turnout, had to
have been wondering ‘What if’, considering they played no more than three games with a full deck of talent.
“Absolutely, that’s part of it, everybody has had people out, for sure,” Ferragamo said. “Right now, with numbers low on our roster, it’s out No. 1 goal: to get more kids out and grown our roster so we have more options if people get banged up.
“This is a contact sport, and it’s a sport you really can’t play with a sprained ankle, not well at least,” Ferragamo added. “That kind of stuff is going to happen, and no way you can make an excuse about that.”
A steady mist turned into monsoon-type rainfall midway through the second quarter, relented during the lengthy halftime break and then the skies opened up again post intermission, turning the grounds into muddy slop across the middle of the gridiron.
Up only a point after Queen Anne’s senior Hassan Biggus broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter, Kent Island gained some separation on the ensuing drive, when Johnson bounced off left tackle and raced into the end zone for a
49-yard score, junior Joseph Garvey splitting the uprights on the point-after attempt to make it 28-20, Bucs.
A 27-yard fling from Lions sophomore quarterback Sy’rus Mcgowan to junior wideout Gavin Jens was followed by a 23-yard Biggus burst on the next drive, setting Queen Anne’s up on the Bucs’ 11. Biggus appeared to score around the right side on third down, but the play was called back on holding. Mcgowan scurried on a keeper on the next play, and the Lions elected to kick a field goal on fourth down, sophomore kicker Garrhett Richardson converting the 25-yarder to shave the deficit to 28-23 with
11 minutes left to play, bouncing back from a missed PAT after his team’s third TD.
“Kent Island is a little better than what they showed the last four or five weeks,” said Queen Anne’s head coach Donny Graef, whose team finished with a losing season
(4-6) for the time since 2003
(2-8), also the previous season neither the Lions nor the Bucs made the playoffs. “They were good, they were better than I thought.
“The crowd got into it throughout the game, it was
a good game, and everybody got their money’s worth.”
Biggus finished with 200 yards even on only 12 carries, adding a spectacular 56yard, catch-and-run from Mcgowan in the second quarter in his final game. Biggus, who transferred from North Carolina prior to his junior season, was emotional after the loss, as was classmate and captain Ryan Muller, who was bottled up by the Bucs on the ground and through the air, totaling only 8 yards offense on four touches.
“We tried our hardest, we didn’t get the results we wanted, but, at the end of the day, we left it all out there on the field, and that’s all that mattered,” Biggus said. “It was one of days, we just couldn’t get it going like we usually do. I don’t know...”
Added Muller: “In the beginning, we really struggled with our line and getting our blocks, but we really progressed and improved on that. I love my line, they really stepped it up, I owe everything to them. I love my DBS, I love them to depth, the strongest spot on this team...”
Kent Island lopped off over
7 minutes of clock on the following possession, Johnson ripping a 19-yard run on a
first-and-19 and methodically chewing up the pitch on seven other carries on a slow, steady march downfield.
A pass interference call on Lions sophomore Tre Farmerboyle, when he was draped all over Thomas on a thirdand-8 on Queen Anne’s 33, gave Kent Island a fresh set of downs. The drive ultimately ended with Garvey hooking a 36-yard field goal left. The wobbly boot landed harmlessly, leaving 3:49 for the Lions to try and tie it up.
Queen Anne’s, which scored all three of its touchdowns on huge gains, was unable to move past midfield despite a 15-yard penalty on the Bucs’ bench when an official made contact with an overzealous coach venturing outside the box. An encroachment on fourth-and-6 also allowed Queen Anne’s to move the sticks a final time following a Mcgowan keeper. But Mcgowan misfired on back-to-back passes, the second one getting nearly picked off.
The third pass, however, was intercepted by Thomas, who returned to the Queen Anne’s 40, writhed in pain from cramps after the dragdown tackle and was swiftly carried off the field by two teammates while the home crowd hooted and hollered for the turnover with only 74 seconds remaining on the clock.
“I had to be on the field tonight, I couldn’t miss this game,” said Thomas who has been dealing with leg injuries for much of the season. “The fact that we haven’t won a game in five weeks, fact that it’s Queen Anne’s, fact that it’s the seniors’ last game, we went into the game thinking, we’re savages, we’re doing everything right.
“We really did jell tonight, everything was working,” Thomas added.
Senior Chase Cooney laid a vicious block and sprung Johnson for a 29-yard touchdown to open the scoring, the drive set up an Isiah Shockley interception of Mcgowan, who finished 4-for-11 passing with 97 yards. The Lions wasted no time knotting the score, Biggus making it 7-7 just 20 game seconds later on a 59-yard jaunt past everyone on the field.
The 7-7 score held into the second quarter, and Queen Anne’s pulled ahead for the only time midway through the period on Biggus’ 56-yard catch. Kent Island made it
14-14 with 8 seconds remaining in the first half, freshman quarterback Matthew Burnside’s lone completion of the night finding Thomas in the right corner of the end zone for a 6-yard score.
Johnson added to his monster offensive outburst in the third quarter, capping a 75yard Kent Island drive by lofting a tight spiral into the hands of junior tight end Dominic Mirack, who leapt over two defenders, secured the ball and crashed to the ground for a
20-yard touchdown reception, and a 21-14 Buccaneer lead.
“This is definitely the team we could have been all season,” Johnson said. “Everybody is healed up, we had a great week of practice, a lot of energy, everyone is fired up; this is exactly how we should have been.”
Kent Island finished with
322 yards total offense on 44 plays from scrimmage, while the Lions gained 329 on 38, though only 111 on 40 snaps when Biggus’ four major gains were subtracted. Junior back Kenny Guyton added 45 yards on five runs for the Bucs, including a 36-yard scamper on third down that led to Burnside’s TD toss to Thomas.
Both teams graduate 15 listed seniors, and all potential returners and newcomers will have the onus put on them to help restore the proud programs back to the glory days, which was only a season ago but now seems like a lifetime elapsed due to the struggles endured in 2018.
The latest clash, though not necessarily a classic, certainly produced plenty of exciting moments.
“It has been a difficult season, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from these kids,” Graef said. “They battled, but just didn’t get it done tonight.
When asked what he will remember most about this team, Graef said, “The adversity they had to go through. They were grinders, and they battled.”
Added Ferragamo: “Bottom line is, our work ethic, our coaching, it was good enough for five weeks, and wasn’t good for the other five weeks. It’s the great thing about sports: you get immediate feedback. Tonight was a big night. It always sucks to tell the seniors goodbye, and on August 14 next year, there’s going to be a bunch of more seniors we know we’re going to be saying goodbye to. It’s a part of it, I’m just glad these guys went out on top.”
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Queen Anne’s County High football seniors pose with head coach Donny Graef after last Friday’s game against Kent Island.