Sophomore defensive back Brian Jones had a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown and sparked a second-half rally as visiting Old Mill came from behind to defeat Glen Burnie, 16-7, last night to earn its first playoff berth in seven years.
Jones stepped in front of split end Jim Gillis to catch Carlton Ash's pass in the right flat, and ran in untouched.
"They ran it a couple of times earlier," said Jones. "I just read it right and took it right off the bat."
The interception capped a third-quarter comeback that made the Patriots (9-1, 6-1 in the league) the Maryland Class 4A Region IV champions.
"It's an emotional one," said teary-eyed Patriots Coach Pete Regala, who will coach in the state playoffs Friday at Old Mill for the first time since his rookie season of 1983. "We've been down before, we just went after them tonight. They just didn't quit."
Last year the Patriots missed the playoffs by one victory. Last night, despite a shaky first half, they showed resilience under adversity.
Andy Baldwin rushed 22 yards and into Patriots territory. Glen Burnie's offense did falter thereafter, but their defense proved an equal match for the Patriots' ground-oriented offense.
Glen Burnie's first play from scrimmage gave an indication that the Gophers would not go down easily. Despite having no chance for postseason play, the Gophers shut down the Patriots' offense and took a 7-0 lead on Ash's 46-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Hackett with 27 seconds left in the half.
In the early going, both teams preferred to keep the ball on the ground with the Patriots' attack seeming almost one-dimensional. Regala kept the ball in the hands of senior running back William Beverly almost exclusively. In the first quarter, Beverly carried on 10 of Old Mill's 12 plays, and had 19 carries for 43 yards in the first half. However, the Patriots managed just 65 yards offense for the half.
Glen Burnie mistakes changed the momentum.
Gophers running back Andy Baldwin fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and defensive back Dackren Coleman recoverd on the Glen Burnie 40-yard line. Old Mill's ensuing march took only six plays, with Beverly scoring from the 1.
The Patriots survived a scare with the game tied 7-7 when Beverly went down with an ankle injury. But with most of its offensive threat gone, Old Mill still managed to control the ball until Jones's interception.
Steve Oliver made a 33-yard field goal to pad the Patriots' lead in the fourth quarter.