Maryland 4A North semifinals

Thomas Johnson moves on in 4A North Region football playoffs

By Todd McElwee
Gazette Staff Writer
Sunday, November 15, 2009; 12:46 AM

Having learned the value of patience, Thomas Johnson's Nick Forbes waited for his moment during Saturday afternoon's Class 4A North semifinal at top-seeded Urbana.

Accustomed to being a workhorse, the senior tailback was passed over for much of the first half, logging only three carries for 11 yards. But when his number was finally called, the University of California bound-athlete responded, erupting for 161 yards and a touchdown after halftime in leading the fourth-ranked Patriot to a 21-14 victory.

The Patriots will visit No. 3 Patterson next weekend in the 4A North Region final in Baltimore.

"You have to be patient," Forbes said. "You have to let the game come to you."

Forbes broke the game open with a 52-yard dash to the Urbana goal line, on his third carry of the third quarter. Following an offside penalty, Thomas Johnson (7-4) padded its 8-7 halftime lead with a six-yard keeper from senior quarterback Ryon Lynch at 4:48. Felipe Gaete added the kick for a 14-7 lead.

Approximately three minutes later, the Patriots took possession on their own 15 after forcing an Urbana punt. Two plays later, Forbes brushed aside a handful of Hawks in the open field on his way to an 87-yard score. Gaete's extra point kick proved true in helping Thomas Johnson to a 21-7 advantage with 55 seconds to go in the third.

"They're an aggressive team," Forbes said. "They were coming and sending a lot of people, so once we break that first and second line it's all open field."

Offensively Forbes's role was minimized for much of the opening half. However, he was still a contributor in other areas. He anchored the Patriots' defense and was potent as a punter, averaging 40-yards per attempt.

Urbana dominated the clock early. On their first two possessions, the Hawks produced long drives marching to Thomas Johnson's 23 and 20 respectively, but came away empty handed as 40- and 37-yard field goal attempts failed.

"We expect to be able to kick a field goal," Urbana Head Coach Joe Conner said. "Okay, so the conditions are wet, we've hit field goals from much further in a downpour."

The Hawks finally struck, capping off a six-play, 54-yard drive on a seven-yard Zach Herman push to pay dirt with 9:43 remaining before intermission. Ray Durante's extra point kick gave Urbana a 7-0 lead.

However the Hawks (8-3) failed to build on the momentum. Thomas Johnson junior De`Andre Scott burned Urbana for a 73-yard punt return touchdown less than five minutes later. Lynch added a two-point conversion as the Patriots took the lead.

"That was just a great return," Thomas Johnson Head Coach Ben Wright said. "That shows how athletic he is."

Reeling after three consecutive Patriots touchdowns, the Hawks finally found a spark in sophomore quarterback Michael Spahr late in the third quarter. Spahr, who played well against Linganore last week, finished 6 for 12 passing for 78 yards. He pulled his team within seven hooking up with starting quarterback Jesse Heon on a five-yard touchdown early in the fourth.

This story is from The Gazette group of community newspapers published by Post-Newsweek Media, a unit of The Washington Post Co.

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