Northern 29, La Plata 6
A.J. Brown did perhaps the toughest thing in the middle of a rainstorm Friday night -- the Northern junior just let the rain fall on him and soak his uniform. Meantime, he worried about the things he could control.
His balance was one of those things. Brown surveyed the field at La Plata during warmups and realized he had to take a certain tack running the ball.
"It's all about patience," Brown said after the Patriots' 29-6 victory in miserable conditions. "It's not about toughness, because you can't run over everything through this stuff. You have to just be careful."
Brown was careful, all right, waiting for his blockers and using his speed once he reached the sidelines, where the turf was a little harder. He ended up rushing for a season-high 176 yards and three touchdowns as Northern (4-1) scored 29 unanswered points.
"We couldn't get a clean shot on him," La Plata Coach Chris Davidson said. "He's a real hard player to figure out. He's right up there with all the best backs in the conference."
The best news for Northern, besides the victory, was just playing the game Friday night. The Patriots host undefeated Chopticon this Friday and will have a full week's rest; the Braves will be just four days removed from facing Thomas Stone. That game was among three in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference postponed from Friday until tomorrow night at 7.
La Plata (2-3) went on top 57 seconds into the game on the second play from scrimmage. Out of a four-wide receiver formation, sophomore quarterback Ross Hunsberger hit freshman Marcus Smoot on a post pattern for a 62-yard pass to make it 6-0. Those were the first points Northern had allowed in nine quarters.
But Northern came right back on the next drive, mixing in some passes despite the rain. After a 21-yard pass from Jimmy Schaefer to David Taylor on third and 15, Brown hit the right end on a counter and sprinted 34 yards for a touchdown.
Schaefer completed 5 of 7 passes for 89 yards, including a 40-yard scoring pass to Brandon Kelly late in the third quarter.
"Throughout warmups, I knew I could throw the ball," said Schaefer, who has completed 10 of 16 passes for 181 yards and no interceptions the past two weeks. "It spreads the defense out, and it definitely helps [Brown] out a lot. He's a great runner, but this helps him even more."
Brown intercepted a deep La Plata pass at the goal line with three minutes to play in the first quarter and returned it to the Northern 33. After a 22-yard run on first down, Brown scored from 45 yards out on almost the same play as his first touchdown to make it 14-6.
After both teams traded fumbles on successive possessions, La Plata embarked on a 16-play, 85-yard drive that lasted 10 minutes 13 seconds. The Warriors, however, were halted on fourth and 4 at the Northern 7 when Rick Holson and Jimmy Hicks stopped Robert Watley for a 1-yard gain.
"We should have punched it in there," Davidson said. "That was a big moment there."
La Plata held the ball for 18:01 of the first half, held a 188-154 edge in total offense, yet trailed by eight.
The Warriors struggled from there on, with minus 9 yards of total offense in the second half.
Schaefer, meantime, connected with Kelly with 1:05 to play in the third quarter to make it 22-6. Brown closed out the scoring with 5:01 left in the game on a 25-yard run on fourth and 10.