McDonough, Huntingtown share SMAC title; Atholton prepares for Reservoir
By Greg Schimmel and Louis Nelson,
Senior running back Chris Monroe rushed for 172 yards on 20 carries, and senior wide receiver James Harrell caught six passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, as the Rams beat Calvert, 35-14, to clinch their second SMAC co-championship in three seasons.
There is no tiebreaker, and the teams are named co-champions.
McDonough (9-1, 7-1) and Huntingtown (9-1, 7-1) clinched the top seed in the 2A South and 3A South regions, respectively, while Patuxent (8-2, 6-2) dropped to the No. 3 seed in the 2A South and Westlake (7-3, 6-2) remained at No. 2 in the 3A South.
No other SMAC teams qualified for the postseason.
North Point (7-3, 5-3) was eliminated from contention in the 4A East region when South River and Meade won on Friday night, but the Eagles drew inspiration from the chance to knock their neighborhood rivals out of the league’s title hunt.
Junior Marquel Dickerson rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns – finishing the season with 1,130 yards and 17 touchdowns — as the Eagles ended Westlake’s six-game winning streak.
Leonardtown (5-5, 5-3) had been eliminated from the 4A East race the week before, but senior Stephen Stewart rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the Raiders’ win over Patuxent, leading them to a .500 or better season for just the fourth time in 40 years.
Atholton brings added focus
When Atholton took on Reservoir earlier this season, the Raiders managed to escape with a 28-25 road victory. It was the second victory of a season opening three-game winning streak for Atholton, a streak that ended Sept. 21 when the Raiders fell to Long Reach for the first time since 2008.
The Raiders (9-1) will again face Reservoir, this time at home in the Maryland 3A East region playoffs, but Coach Kyle Schmitt said the Atholton team that takes the field Friday night is a far more focused and determined one than the Gators faced during the second week of the season. The Raiders are a different team, Schmitt said, ever since that loss to Long Reach, “caught their attention.”
“We’ve looked back on it and said, ‘Boy, it was a one-point loss. We win that game, we’re tied for a county championship, we’re 10-0,’ ” Schmitt said of his team’s 13-12 loss against the Lightning. “But we also look at it and say, ‘If we don’t lose that game, we might lose two others at some point down the line.’ We just think that game, it got us right. We made changes after that game. We kind of committed to changing things on offense after that game.”
Since their loss to the Lightning, the Raiders have relied more on their pistol offense to great success, scoring at least 20 points in each of their last six games, all of which have been Atholton victories. On defense, the Raiders have allowed just 52 total points during their six-game winning streak and have twice shut out their opponent.
Schmitt said the improved defensive play has come as a result of personnel changes, including senior Pat Mullens’s move from safety, where he made a game-sealing interception against Reservoir earlier this season, to middle linebacker. Junior Isaac Boateng, listed as a linebacker on the Raiders’ roster, has stepped in at nose tackle while Biran Gsell, another junior, has filled Mullens’s vacated safety spot.
“I think this one, we played so long ago, it was early September. I watched the tape from that game, and I think both teams have improved so much,” Schmitt said. “We’re just a totally different team. I’m watching some of the things we’re doing offensively and we’ve really found ourselves on offense. We’ve made ourselves a little bit on that side of the ball, on both sides of the ball really.”