To say that Brooke Point senior quarterback Jeff Tate had the game in his hands last night at Osbourn Park would be a bit of an understatement.
Tate, who had license to audible depending on the Yellow Jackets' defensive alignment, kept the ball himself 21 times and scored twice in a 20-0 win that was a mere one-touchdown game early in the fourth quarter.
Tate had just two runs longer than seven yards, and with a couple of sacks factored in, he totaled a modest 62 yards. But the small gainers, most of them up the middle, sustained drives and chewed clock. And his productivity could end up taking heat off potentially overworked tailback Larry Smith.
"Coach [Tom Berry] gave me the responsibility to call what I see on the field, and I did it," said Tate, a first-year quarterback who had carried 18 times through the Black-Hawks' first two games.
"We knew they were going to be [plugging the outside], so the only one left to tackle me was the linebacker, and we were ready to take that chance."
"We determined last week [in a 21-14 overtime loss to Potomac] that Jeff needs to get in the play a lot," said Berry, whose top four backs coming into the season were untested sophomores and juniors. "We have to keep the ball in his hands a little more."
Thanks to a roughing-the-punter penalty that sustained a 7-minute-35-second Brooke Point drive, a five-yard Tate keeper late in the first quarter gave Brooke Point a 6-0 lead. That margin could have seemed much flimsier than it actually was.
In the first half, Osbourn Park took possession three times in Black-Hawks territory--at the 40, the 48 and the 38. For those three possessions, the Yellow Jackets gained one yard and threw a first-down interception snared inside the 5 by--who else?--Tate.
But an even more crucial defensive stop came less than two minutes into the fourth quarter when, on fourth-and-6 from the Brooke Point 21, Osbourn Park senior quarterback Frankie Hogan dumped a pass to sophomore fullback Derek Shifflet, who was stopped just shy of the marker by sophomore defensive back Juan Parker.
Parker is listed as a 155-pounder. He was giving up 40 pounds to Shifflet.
"I don't think Juan weighs more than 135 pounds soaking wet," Berry said with an appreciative shake of his head.
"When the wide receiver went out, I just had to come down and fill it up and make the play like I'm supposed to do," said Parker, whose defensive mates senior end Vinnie Stewart and senior middle linebacker Jack Burner figured prominently in the shutout. The Black-Hawks allowed just three first downs.
Three plays after that fourth-down stop, Smith took a pitchout 78 yards down the Brooke Point sideline, pinballing off a couple tacklers along the way. He was just a foot or so shy of being knocked out of bounds. With the Yellow Jackets trying to clog Tate on the inside, Tate was anxiously awaiting a chance to break Smith outside.
"They kept pinching their tackles like that, and they basically picked their own poison," Tate said.
"If they weren't going to pinch them, I was going to kill them, and if they pinched them, Larry was going to take it to them."
Brooke Point used almost five minutes before turning over the ball on downs at the Osbourn Park 2-yard line with 2:22 left in the game. The Black-Hawks then pressured Hogan into intentionally grounding the ball while in the end zone, which gave Brooke Point a safety and 14-0 lead.
Junior Ben McKeon recovered the subsequent onside kick to set up a short drive that yielded another Tate touchdown run.