Defense keys Bethesda-Chevy Chase in season-opening win over Churchill

September 6, 2013

Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s Marcellus Powell didn’t dance, or even strut, as he strolled into the end zone after taking an interception 43 yards for a score late in the fourth quarter Friday night against Churchill. Cramps had been snaking up his legs all game, and the physical linebacker was on the prowl, looking for a play that would put a stamp on the team’s season opener.

Powell got much more than he bargained for when he slipped into the flat on third down against the Bulldogs. He had been reading quarterback Sean Strittmatter’s eyes all night, and noticed that the sophomore signal caller was forcing the ball to the sidelines.

The final ball Strittmatter threw on the night landed in Powell’s stomach — the pivotal play during the Barons’ 25-15 win over the Bulldogs in a Montgomery 4A South contest in Bethesda.

“I’m still having trouble thinking that it actually happened,” said Powell of his first career interception return for a touchdown, which gave B-CC a 10-point lead with just over six minutes to play in the game. “There were already a few deflections that I had [earlier in the game], so I just kept reading his eyes. I knew he was going to probably throw there.”

Strittmatter completed 13 of 21 pass attempts for 155 yards and a touchdown, but three second-half turnovers proved costly for the Bulldogs (0-1, Montgomery 4A South). Churchill held a 15-12 halftime lead, but B-CC was simply more physical on both sides of the ball in the second half. The Barons (1-0, 1-0) recaptured the lead on a 43-yard touchdown run from Nana Yaw Amankwah-Ayeh and B-CC’s triple-option offense racked up much of its 191 yards rushing in the final two quarters.

The defense, however, owned the performance. Churchill was marching in the middle of the third quarter, butMason Bray’s interception inside the 15-yard-line stopped the drive. Jordan Miller picked off a pass near midfield on the ensuing possession.

“We had so many clutch stops,” Powell said.

Considered by many to be one of the preseason favorites in the 4A South, Churchill was expected to win its opener, said Barons quarterback Jack Hanifee. That wasn’t lost on the team during the last month of a grueling training camp, especially for the defense. The unit adopted the the motto “Bullies of the 4A South,” before Friday’s game — and Hanifee could only watch in admiration as the group lived up to the billing.

“I think we showed that tonight, beating up on a team . . . everyone picked them to win,” said Hanifee, “and once [Powell’s interception return] happened, I think everyone was 100 percent confident that we were going to take this game.”

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