By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 8, 2007
BALTIMORE, Dec. 7 -- Third-ranked Arundel seemed on the verge of wrapping up its first state title since 1975. The Wildcats led 23-7 after three quarters, their offense moving almost at will and their defense shutting down a powerful opponent.
Then something changed, and Arundel ended up going down, 36-30, to top-ranked Quince Orchard in the Maryland 4A championship game on Friday night before approximately 5,500 at M&T Bank Stadium. The sudden fourth-quarter unraveling left many players in tears afterward and had Arundel Coach Chuck Markiewicz shaking his head.
"If I had known, they wouldn't have done it," Markiewicz said. "I'm at a loss. I don't know what to tell you."
Arundel (13-1) was trying to complete the first undefeated championship season in school history. Wide receiver Brandon Johnson-Farrell provided a huge spark in the third quarter, returning a punt 76 yards for one score and catching a 20-yard pass from Nick Elko for another. It was 23-7 and the Wildcats had all the momentum.
"We figured if we had one more score or one more first down or something like that, we could put it away," said Elko, who completed 35 of 53 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions. He set state single-season public school records for completions (260), attempts (431), passing yards (3,086) and touchdown passes (43).
But as well as things went for three quarters, they quickly came apart in the final eight minutes as Arundel allowed four touchdowns. Thomas Addison burst up the middle for an 85-yard run, and a two-point conversion tied the game at 23 with 5 minutes 32 seconds left. After the Wildcats punted, their defense had 10 players near the line of scrimmage when Quince Orchard hit a 78-yard pass play for the decisive score with 1:30 left.
"They didn't do anything different; we knew it was coming," linebacker Arinze Obiako said. "We were out of our alignment a little bit and with [Addison's] speed, give him a little seam and he could take it to the house."
As Quince Orchard (14-0) celebrated its comeback and received the championship plaque, Arundel's players and coaches gathered near the stadium's north end zone, held hands and formed a circle before leaving the field.
"It was a great year, just a shame we couldn't finish like we wanted to," said Johnson-Farrell, who caught 15 passes for 136 yards and had three touchdowns. "We planned on winning this. Things didn't turn out like we planned."