When the Old Mill football team lines up on offense, defenses know what's most likely coming their way. The secret has been out for a long time: Old Mill senior running back Ryan Callahan is pretty darn good.
Callahan demonstrated his abilities once again Friday night, when Old Mill defeated Arundel, 41-14, in the season opener, Arundel's first loss at home since 2003.
Callahan rushed for 167 yards -- down a bit from his average of 191 yards per game last season -- and three touchdowns. His lofty opening-night stats were expected, considering he had 2,303 yards and 36 touchdowns last season. But what was unexpected and equally important to the Patriots' win was the balance junior quarterback Kelian Stevens brought in his first varsity start.
"He came up with some big plays," Old Mill Coach Mike Marcus said after the game. "Whenever you come with a guy who's never started before, you never know what to expect."
Callahan forced Arundel defenders to track him, loosening the defense for Stevens to make some plays of his own, including a 41-yard pass to senior receiver Steve Holmes and a 70-yard scamper the next possession.
Stevens said he wasn't sure what to expect before the game. He said he planned to "just let it happen."
"My head was spinning the first series," Stevens said later. "Once I settled down, everything went well."
The only significant error by Stevens was a fumble during Old Mill's second series. After that, Old Mill went to Callahan five straight times, establishing the run as it scored on a nine-play drive to tie the game, 7-7.
Then the team switched things up. On an eight-play drive in the second quarter, Old Mill went at Arundel with a more balanced attack. The Patriots passed three times, twice using play-action fakes to Callahan, and ran five times for 24 yards, including a one-yard touchdown run by Stevens that made it 21-7.
On the second play of the second half, Stevens hit Holmes down the middle of the field for 41 yards, then added a 70-yard run off an option on the next drive to put the Patriots on the Wildcats' three-yard line.
"I know he's an athlete," Holmes said. "What I saw was basically what I thought he would do, especially running the option. I knew he was going to break one of them."
Said Arundel senior linebacker Brandon Gonzalez of Stevens, "He was shifty, he was pretty good and he had speed."
Stevens rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown and completed six of eight passes for 93 yards. But perhaps the most important number in his stat line was zero: the number of interceptions he threw and the amount of pressure he said he felt.
Though some thought he would feel added pressure because of the winning tradition at Old Mill -- the Patriots finished 10-2 last season -- and the seniors who want a championship before they graduate, Marcus says the load should be lightened for Stevens because of the skill around him.
"I think [having Ryan Callahan] should put him a little more at ease because the pressure's not on him," Marcus said. "You have some playmakers you can work with in Holmes and Callahan. [Stevens's] job is to put it into the hands of those that can make plays. If his number happens to get called, hopefully he'll be able to make something happen, too."
Marcus added that Stevens, in just one start, has "not really proven a lot." The quarterback agrees. Said Stevens, "I don't think that one game is going to make the season."
Stevens will take the reins again tomorrow when North County, fresh off a 31-7 victory over Glen Burnie, visits Old Mill. North County Coach Gary Liddick has studied film of Old Mill's offense and thinks Stevens adds a nice dimension to Old Mill's offense that the Patriots haven't had in recent years.
"It's just a double threat," Liddick said. "It makes it very, very hard to defense against Callahan with the way this kid can roll out and run the ball. And he has a nice arm, too. . . . They lost a lot of people, but they've reloaded this year."