The wet and sloppy field at Byrd Stadium in College Park hardly slowed the fifth-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt football team during last night's Maryland 4A final, and after the Raiders secured a 41-13 win over No. 4 Gaithersburg, the soaking wet turf provided the perfect means to celebrate.
The Raiders belly-flopped and slid around in the mud in front of 4,500 at the University of Maryland, joyously celebrating their first state title. The Greenbelt school is only the third non-Montgomery County school to capture the 4A title since 1988.
"We worked so hard to show that [Prince George's County] football is back," said Roosevelt junior running back Edwin Rios, who rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. "I'm just so happy to be here; I can't believe it. It makes me want to go get it again next year."
Roosevelt (12-1) was making its third playoff appearance; the Raiders lost in the 1996 championship to Sherwood. Last season, Roosevelt finished with a 7-3 record and missed qualifying for the playoffs by less than one power point. "It was unfinished business," Roosevelt third-year coach Rick Houchens said. "The best thing is, after coming so close last year, these kids really dedicated themselves back in the weight room. We had a grueling workout schedule through the summer, and the whole time we kept dreaming and talking about getting back to this."
Gaithersburg (11-2) played without its head coach, John Harvill, and one of its leading rushers. Junior Semaj Richardson, who had rushed for 504 yards in his past three games, sat out because of academic reasons.
Harvill, who has coached the Trojans for 43 years, watched from the fourth floor of the press box, as he was serving a mandatory one-game suspension after being ejected from last Friday's 4A semifinal victory over Severna Park. Harvill's presence on the sideline "would not have made a difference at all," Harvill said. "Sometimes you get beat by the best and you can't complain. They're a heck of a ballclub."
Roosevelt piled up 316 yards of total offense, but it was the play of the defense and special teams that gave it big plays when it needed them.
The Raiders, who allowed only 83 points during the regular season, held Gaithersburg to 115 yards of total offense and forced four turnovers. Gaithersburg senior running back Jay Colbert, the school's all-time leading rusher who had been slowed by an injured left ankle over the final weeks of the season, was held to 67 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.
On Gaithersburg's first offensive play, quarterback Ian Hamilton fumbled following a hit by Roosevelt senior defensive end Ricky Walston. Senior defensive tackle Michael Medley fell on the ball on the Trojans 21-yard line. A 20-yard run by Rios set up a one-yard touchdown run by Williams, and Roosevelt had a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes 43 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Raiders' third touchdown--a one-yard run by Rios--was set up by senior linebacker Darren Chang's blocked punt. A third-quarter interception by senior defensive back Marvin Ward set up Jermaine Ennis's four-yard touchdown reception. Roosevelt's last touchdown came in the final minutes when senior linebacker Joe Pillow recovered a botched snap that went through the legs of Gaithersburg punter Kevin Riordan and into the end zone.
Roosevelt, which entered averaging 37.8 points per game, outscored its two playoff opponents, 95-19.
"Our defense is just speed," said Rios, who also plays linebacker. "We try to play hard and see what happens. But in big games, our defense has stepped up."
Special correspondent Nathan Max contributed to this report.Results on Page D11
CAPTION: Raiders' Javon Green (24) tries to haul down Jay Colbert as Robert Petty (4) looks on.
CAPTION: Raiders' Tery Doy slips past Michael Short in first quarter. Gaithersburg was held to 115 yards on offense.