Sunday Star

EASTON PULLS AWAY

O’Connor, Copper, Haddaway enjoy career games, defense shuts second-half door as Warriors top Seahawks to remain undefeated

- BY WILLIAM HAUFE bhaufe@stardem.com

BERLIN — It was the prize fight many thought it would be.

For 24 minutes, 19 seconds Friday night, the Easton High and Stephen Decatur football teams exchanged jabs and a few haymakers. The Warriors scored a touchdown, the Seahawks scored a touchdown. Easton delivered a twotouchdo­wn combinatio­n. Decatur countered with a two-touchdown answer.

And then the Warrior defense said enough.

Led by senior linebacker Jarin Winters, Easton didn’t surrender another point over the game’s final 23:41 whileWarri­or senior quarterbac­k Ryan O’Connor engineered three more touchdown drives en route to a 42-20 victory over the Seahawks on Robert G. Knox Field at Louis H.Taylor Stadium.

“They scored their touchdowns on big plays,” Easton head coach Pat McGlinchey said of Decatur, which had TD passes of 75, 40 and 69 yards from quarterbac­k Ashten Snelsire. “But I was proud of our defense. They (Decatur) couldn’t drive the field. The times they would drive we got a turnover, we’d turn over on downs, or have a big sack or a big tackle for a loss. Ultimately our defense was able to shut everything down but those three real big plays.”

Snelsire, who completed

17 of 38 for 309 yards, three scores and one intercepti­on, pulled the Seahawks (4-2) within 22-20 when he connected with Koby Higgins for a 69yard touchdown pass just

19 seconds into the second half.

But that would be it for a Decatur team that one week earlier had hung a

76-0 shellackin­g on James M. Bennett. On their last five possession­s against Easton, the Seahawks managed seven first downs, were just 2 of 6 on thirddown conversion­s, and 1 for 3 on fourth-down conversion­s.

“Fifteen, that Jarin Winters … unblockabl­e all night long,” Decatur head coach Jake Coleman said. “The (Kevin) O’Connor kid, unblockabl­e all night long. And that was really the biggest issue for us. And the other O’Connor boy, James, I thought he did a nice job. Ryan gets all the attention, which is well deserved, but his two brothers really showed out.”

As did Winters, who in addition to running for a touchdown and catching another, finished with five tackles, a sack, a diving intercepti­on, two pass deflection­s, and three quarterbac­k hurries.

“This team put up 76 points last week and we held them to 20 — two of them were busted plays,” Winters said. “I think our defense has grown a lot. The thing is we are a family. We trust the man next to us, so you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. If the man next to you doesn’t do it, you pick him up. We believe in each other. And the offense believes in us.”

Easton’s defense probably carries similar feelings toward the offense, especially with Ryan O’Connor at the controls. All the University of Delaware-bound quarterbac­k did Friday was complete complete 21 of 35

attempts for a career-high

332 yards and five touchdowns, which matched his career high.

“We definitely had something to prove tonight,” said Ryan O’Connor, referencin­g the social-media chatter leading up to Friday’s clash. “We’ve been hearing all week about how we were the second best passing attack in the Bayside, which they had better numbers coming in. But we wanted to prove we were the best and we’re second to none.”

Helping that passing attack again was arguably the best receiver in the Bayside Conference, senior Grant Copper, who had 10 receptions for 144 yards — both career highs — and a touchdown catch.

“He is the best receiver in this league, and the best one that’s come in a while,” Ryan O’Connor said of Copper, who over the past three seasons has totaled

105 receptions for 1,745 yards and 23 touchdowns. “I can’t speak for 15-plus years ago, but he does things nobody else can do, nobody else has done. And he makes plays that make me look good and makes everyone else look good. He’s just an absolute beast.”

McGlinchey agreed. “Grant was a man tonight,” McGlinchey said. “Grant had an amazing night tonight. He made incredible catches, a onehanded catch down here. And those continued the drive. They were on second-and-long, or thirdand-long. And that’s why we were able to move the football.”

Six of Copper’s grabs were for first downs, including three in a scoring drive that extended Easton’s lead to 22-8 in the second quarter. His sparkling 23yard one-handed snag set up Winters’ 1-yard scoring run that gave the Warriors a 35-20 lead with 5:16 left in the third quarter.

“Ryan was putting the ball in my hands and I was doing what I do best,” Copper said.

In addition to O’Connor and Copper’s career nights, Easton had its first 100yard rushing game of the season, led by Graham Haddaway, who had 15 carries for 92 yards — both career highs.

“It’s nice when you can run the ball,” McGlinchey said. “I think this is the first game we’ve been able to run the ball.”

Easton (4-0) took a

7-0 lead with 7:44 left in the first quarter, when O’Connor found Copper behind two defenders for a 28-yard scoring pass. Tristan Cassell tacked on

the extra point.

Decatur responded, as Snelsire hit Koby Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown pass, then ran in the twopoint conversion for an 8-7 lead with 8:41 to go in the second quarter.

The Warriors moved to a 22-8 lead with just under two minutes left in the half, as O’Connor hit Nate Book with a 26-yard touchdown pass, watched Haddaway run in the two-point conversion, then connected with hit Winters over the middle for another 26-yard scoring strike. Cassell again drilled the point-after kick.

But Decatur trimmed its deficit to 22-14 just 44 seconds later when Zimere Handy hauled in a 40yard scoring strike from Snelsire, whose two-point conversion pass fell incomplete.

Then just 19 seconds into the second half, Snelsire struck again, finding Higgins behind the defense for a 69-yard touchdown pass for Decatur’s final points of the game.

O’Connor and Easton weren’t quite through.

A little over two minutes after Decatur had pulled within two, O’Connor and Jonathan Pope hooked up for a 50-yard touchdown pass. Cassell’s point-after attempt banged off the left goal post, but it wouldn’t matter on this night.

Winters slammed through traffic for his

1-yard touchdown run with

5:16 left before O’Connor hit LJ Murray for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:40 left.

“I called Pat up afterwards and said, ‘You guys are the better football team,” Coleman said. “And you’re kids are stronger. We’ve been dealing with a lot of injuries all year long for key guys, but we’ve been handling it like a champ. And I think when 13 (Higgins) went down for us (in the third quarter) that was it; we ran out of steam.”

Note: O’Connor threw for five touchdowns in the

2018 season opener against Washington, and against Wicomico in the eighth game in 2019.

Cambridge-SD 54

Kent County 30

WORTON — Donald Banks and Tayon Fletcher each rushed for a pair of touchdowns as the Vikings

(5-1) scored over 50 points for a third straight game. Colonel 58, Snow Hill 20

SNOW HILL — Cameron Errickson had touchdown runs of 38, 16, 21,

19 and 29 yards as Colonel Richardson enjoyed its biggest output of the season while improving to 4-2.

Elijah Palmer returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown for the Colonels and

Cameron Lake added a 29yard touchdown run.

Boys’ Soccer N. Caroline 4 Queen Anne’s 1

RIDGELY — Luke Williams had a hat trick and set up the fourth goal Friday to pace the Bulldogs.

Jeremiah Raga had a goal and an assist for North Caroline (7-1) and Nate Sharp had an assist. Senior keeper Chris Jones made four saves.

Sharp scored a pair of goals Thursday to lead the Bulldogs to a 4-1 victory. Anthony Blottenber­ger and Raga added one goal apiece.

 ?? PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE ?? Stephen Decatur’s Luke Mergott (1) and Logan Bradshaw (6) watch Easton’s Grant Copper haul in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Ryan O’Connor during Friday’s first quarter.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE Stephen Decatur’s Luke Mergott (1) and Logan Bradshaw (6) watch Easton’s Grant Copper haul in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Ryan O’Connor during Friday’s first quarter.
 ?? PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE ?? Easton senior quarterbac­k Ryan O’Connor threw five touchdown passes in a game for the third time in his career Friday against Decatur.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE Easton senior quarterbac­k Ryan O’Connor threw five touchdown passes in a game for the third time in his career Friday against Decatur.
 ?? PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE ?? Easton’s Graham Haddaway (4) had a season-high 15 carries for 92 yards Friday against Stephen Decatur.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE Easton’s Graham Haddaway (4) had a season-high 15 carries for 92 yards Friday against Stephen Decatur.
 ?? PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE ?? Easton’s Kevin O’Connor (back) and Jarin Winters (15) converge on Stephen Decatur quarterbac­k Ashten Snelsire during Friday’s first half.
PHOTO BY WILLIAM HAUFE Easton’s Kevin O’Connor (back) and Jarin Winters (15) converge on Stephen Decatur quarterbac­k Ashten Snelsire during Friday’s first half.

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