If Gwynn Park's football players learned one thing from their game against Friendly yesterday, it was that they could momentarily lose control of a game and still wind up on top.
Fullback William Little scored on a one-yard run in overtime after nearly fumbling, and Taylor Watson sealed it with the extra point as No. 6 Gwynn Park overcame three turnovers to edge out Friendly, 13-12, in a Prince George's 3A/2A game.
"You want games like this to show your character," Gwynn Park Coach Danny Hayes said. "It's not the blowout games that you look at. I don't care if it's by a half a point or three-fourths of a point, one point wins the game."
After finishing regulation tied at 6, Friendly scored on five-yard pass from Joe Haden to Vincent Hill in overtime to take a 12-6 lead but missed the point-after kick. Gwynn Park's Rashad Carmichael, who ran for a game-high 114 yards on 13 carries, then took the first handoff nine yards to set up Little's adventurous one-yard run. Little bobbled the exchange, grabbed the ball and dove across the goal line.
The Yellow Jackets (3-0, 2-0) outgained Friendly 129-18 in the first half but were stuck in a scoreless tie after the Patriots (2-1, 1-1) came up with two fourth-down stops deep in their own territory.
Haden scored on a one-yard keeper at the start of the fourth quarter to give Friendly a 6-0 lead. Gwynn Park, which had outscored opponents 71-6 in its first two games, trailed for the first time this season
But the Yellow Jackets struck back on their next possession. Quarterback Andrew Banks found Trevor Germany across the middle for a 30-yard touchdown strike that tied the score at 6.
"It was just us beating us. They weren't beating us in the first half," Little said. "There wasn't one doubt in my mind that we were going to win the game."
Payne Helps Carry Oakton
Dirt covered Oakton senior Keith Payne's uniform from his shoulder pads to his knee pads after a 28-16 victory over T.C. Williams.
But it was a play that left a Titans player covered in dust that was Payne's most impressive.
When Payne broke through a seam on a kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter, a Titans player took a perfect angle to cut Payne off, and it seemed the defender would be able to make a touchdown-saving stop. The pair met at the Titans 30 and Payne, a 6-foot-3, 222-pounder, lowered his shoulder, shrugged off the would-be tackler and ran untouched the rest of the way for an 85-yard touchdown.
The return pushed the game's margin back to 20 points, and the No. 16 Cougars coasted the rest of the way. The game was played at Edison High School in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County because of construction at nearby T.C. Williams.
"I saw the hole and I ran through it," Payne said. "Then I saw the kid. I knew it was either going to be him or me going down, so I made sure it was him. I figured I had run that far already, I might as well get in there."
As usual, the punishing play of Payne and his backfield partner, 5-10, 226-pound senior Taylor Naleppa, typified the Cougars (3-0) victory. For the third straight week, the pair combined for more than 150 yards on the ground, and they were able to break the game open in the third quarter. Payne and Naleppa twice marched Oakton down the field for touchdowns on the strength of 11 powerful carries, dirtying their jerseys in the process. Oakton's defense did its part in the quarter as well, holding the Titans to two three-and-outs.
With a win, the Titans (3-1) would have matched their victory total from all of last season, but the team showed it could stay in the game with a powerful opponent; Oakton made the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 final last fall. Titans QB DaJuan Stafford managed the offense well, but numerous dropped passes plagued T.C. Williams.