Northern High School running back Donte Hurley was supposed to be a decoy Friday night against Leonardtown. Instead, he was the hero.
Hurley, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, carried the ball 30 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots won their first game of the season, 21-6, before an estimated homecoming crowd of 1,100. The game was twice delayed for 30 minutes because of lightning.
Northern improved to 1-7 overall, 1-6 in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. Leonardtown fell to 0-8, 0-6.
"We've been having some success lately throwing the football, so we were going to use the run to set up the pass," said Northern Coach Duane Atherton, whose team led at halftime, 13-0. "But the running game was working tonight, so we stayed with it."
Northern, which scored a combined 32 points in its first seven games, took the opening kickoff and marched 74 yards in 13 plays to take a 7-0 lead. Hurley did most of the damage, carrying the ball nine times for 65 yards and a touchdown. Danny Ripple kicked the extra point.
Hurley continued his ground attack in the second quarter, ripping off a 40-yard run and scoring from four yards out to give the Patriots their biggest lead of the season, 13-0.
Leonardtown answered with an impressive 11-play, 62-yard drive. But on third and goal from the 4-yard line, Alan Dyson fumbled a pitch and was tackled for an 18-yard loss. Jason Schacter's pass was incomplete on fourth down and Northern took over.
The Raiders regained the momentum in the third quarter, taking the kickoff and marching 65 yards on seven plays. But after a lightning delay, which both teams spent in the locker room, Dyson was stopped by Hurley on fourth and goal from the Northern 4.
Hurley gained 167 yards on 28 carries in the first half. On defense, he made several solo tackles throughout the game, including one that saved a touchdown, and broke up two passes. "Our defense played great," Hurley said. "The line stepped up and made plays. The whole team was pumped up."
Following another half-hour lightning delay, Leonardtown recovered a fumble on the Northern 36. Four plays later, Jason Schacter threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Davis to cut the lead to 13-6 with 2 minutes 54 seconds left in the game.
But just as Leonardtown was gaining momentum, Northern quarterback Danny Terracciano scored on a 34-yard quarterback sneak, putting the game out of reach and setting off a rain-soaked celebration.
"We knew we had a better shot at winning this week," Atherton said. "We just finally played against a team that was equal to us, and we were fortunate enough to come out on top."