As a returning All-Met and perhaps the top high school running back in the Washington area, there was little Thomas Stone senior Marcus Whalen could do to surprise Chopticon Friday night. But another Marcus--Marcus Warr--found a way to deliver a shocking blow for the Cougars in their 34-22 victory.
After Thomas Stone took a 20-15 lead late in the third quarter, Warr tagged all-Southern Maryland Athletic Conference wide receiver Jamie Byroads with a punishing hit that led to a fumble and, on the next play, the Thomas Stone touchdown that put the game away.
Whalen scored the decisive blow, stiff-arming and spinning his way past five Braves defenders en route to a 29-yard score to give the Cougars a 26-15 lead with 1 minute 19 seconds to play in the quarter.
"We had been moving a little slow out there, and I knew I just needed to make something happen," Warr said. "I saw [Byroads] coming at me and I was wide open to make the hit. Those are the kinds of plays our defense is going to have to make this year."
It was opening night for both teams and for Chopticon's new stadium. For Thomas Stone, the victory avenged last season's 21-20 loss to the Braves--in which Whalen ran for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
Friday, Whalen had an even better night. He finished with 280 yards on 22 carries, an average of 12.7 yards per carry, and scored on runs of 87, 18, 29 and 45 yards. Another 43-yard touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty away from the play.
"Whalen is just Whalen," Chopticon Coach Andy Palko said, adding that his team's goal before the game was to hold Whalen under 200 yards. "We had to play tight on the line of scrimmage to try and contain him, but once he broke loose he was gone."
Though Whalen rolled, Thomas Stone Coach Richard Callahan said the play of the Cougars' young offensive line impressed him most. Four of the five players on the line were playing their first varsity game.
"For our team, it's simple," Callahan said. "I like when we can run the football and I don't like when we can't. We had a lot of young guys out there tonight on the [offensive] line that we needed to get a look at, and what we discovered is that a number of them can play on this level. Some still need some work. But having Marcus Whalen on our side sure makes life a whole lot easier."
Chopticon used a much more balanced offensive attack, led by three talented juniors: Byroads, quarterback Jamar Mason and tailback David Showalter. All of Mason's completions went to Byroads, who finished with eight receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Showalter had 93 yards on 15 carries.
"My adrenaline was high in the beginning, and I was trying to do too much," said Mason, who overthrew an open Byroads on more than one occasion in his first varsity start. "It was a learning experience. My line did a great job. Now we just get ready for next week."
THOMAS STONE 34
Thomas Stone (1-0) 6 6 14 8--34
Chopticon (0-1) 0 15 0 7--22
TS--Whalen 87 run (run failed)
TS--Farland 26 pass from Finamore (run failed)
C--Byroads 35 pass from Mason (Byroads kick)
C--Powless fumble recovery in end zone (Escolopio run)
TS--Whalen 18 run (Barnes pass from Finamore)
TS--Whalen 29 run (run failed)
C-- Mason 15 pass to Byroads (Byroads kick)
TS--Whalen 45 run (Neal run)
LEADING RUSHERS--TS: Whalen 22-280, Neal 12-43. C: Showalter 15-93, Courtney 4-29.
LEADING PASSERS--TS: Finamore 2-5-1 30. C: Mason 8-22-0 149.
LEADING RECEIVERS--TS: Farland 1-21; C: Byroads 8-149.
CAPTION: Thomas Stone's Mark Johnson puts a hit on Chopticon running back Alan Courtney during the first half of the Cougars' 34-22 victory Friday night.
CAPTION: Chopticon's Marcus Estep pursues Thomas Stone's Marcus Whalen, who punished the Braves with 280 yards on 22 carries and four touchdowns.