Annapolis entered last night's game at North County in need of a victory to secure its third consecutive Anne Arundel County title -- and its first at the 3A level. Senior running back Rayvon Johnson single-handedly made sure the Panthers got it.

Johnson -- who set the Anne Arundel single-season record with 2,060 yards rushing last season -- ran 28 times for 336 yards to lead No. 5 Annapolis past North County, 41-24. Johnson scored on Annapolis's first four possessions, including runs of 53 and 64 yards, to give the Panthers a lead they never relinquished.

"He's like catching a gnat with a pair of tweezers," said North County Coach Chuck Markiewicz of Johnson. "When you play a game like this you need to play good defense. If you can't stop the run you're not going to win too many games against good teams."

"People have been hyping this game so much, we just went out there and tried to dominate," Johnson said, adding that surpassing last season's rushing record is not his focus. ". . . I just want to win."

Johnson got the scoring started on Annapolis's first drive, taking a pitch and sprinting 53 yards untouched for a touchdown with 9 minutes 2 seconds left in the first quarter.

North County (6-3) tied the score at 7 on a 48-yard pass from junior quarterback Mike Pfisterer to senior wide receiver Nat Randall. But the North County defense proved unable to stop the Panthers' Wing-T formation and, in particular, Johnson.

Johnson, the area's fifth-leading rusher, entered the game with 1,236 yards, and got into the end zone on Annapolis's next three possessions with running scores of 15, 64 and eight yards. In addition to his four touchdowns, Johnson had 218 yards rushing in the first half.

The second half continued like the first for the Panthers. After stopping North County at the 1-yard line, Johnson led a 99-yard drive that spanned roughly eight minutes and ended with Annapolis ahead, 33-10.

"It came down to heart tonight," Annapolis Coach Roy Brown said. "It was our [passing] style against their [rushing] style. And tonight we had it."

The loss may have ended the Knights' playoff hopes. North County entered the game 10th in the point standings with only the top eight teams advancing.

North County began the season 6-0, and making the playoffs seemed like a distinct possibility. But the Knights lost back-to-back heartbreakers the past two weeks to Old Mill and Severna Park, committing a combined five turnovers that resulted in scores. Markiewicz knew limiting turnovers and the Annapolis running attack would be the keys to a victory.

"We knew that Annapolis runs two plays. We knew what they were going to do and everyone knew what they were going to do," Markiewicz said.