Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Tom Green’s assessment that his team “came out flat” Saturday at Bowie may have been an understatement. The Raiders tallied four penalties and gave up a sack on their first offensive possession, leading to 30 lost yards and a punt. On their first try on defense, the Raiders gave up a 26-yard touchdown pass on fourth and five.
After the Raiders scored their first touchdown, they missed the extra-point attempt. After they scored their second touchdown, they allowed Bowie to return the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown.
“To be honest, I thought [Bowie] should have won the game,” Green said Monday in a telephone interview. “They played better than we did.”
But Eleanor Roosevelt’s defense — shaky as it was at times — produced enough big plays to lead the Raiders (2-0) to a 22-21 victory.
Green said his team’s tackling was poor Saturday, so much so that he felt he had no choice other than to load the box with eight defenders to try to stop the run and essentially leave his defensive backs all alone in man coverage for much of the game.
“They hit a couple of deep balls on us, but I kind of felt like I had more faith in our defensive backs that when we needed to that they could make plays,” Green said. “As opposed to not having eight guys in the box and letting them run the ball down our throats.”
Senior free safety Justin Brown rewarded his coach’s faith by recording a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. The Raiders went for two and converted, which proved to supply the winning margin. Brown finished with two interceptions on the day.
While content with the victory – if not with the manner in which it was achieved – Green said if his players think they can perform the same way Saturday at Wise (2-0) and come away with a win, they are mistaken.
“We can’t play Wise the way we played Bowie and have any success,” Green said. “They’re too fast, they’re too physical, and if we play as poorly as we did last week, we might get blown out of the park.”
Through two games, Suitland senior Taivon Jacobs has recorded touchdowns in a variety of ways. He has tallied scores rushing and receiving, as well as returned a punt and an interception into the opposing end zone.
That last means of crossing the goal line is significant because while Jacobs – who orally committed to Ohio State this summer – is well known for his skills as a wide receiver, he is growing adept at locking down opposing receiving threats, too.
Jacobs is “just a dynamic football player; it really doesn’t matter what side of the ball he’s on,” Suitland Coach Ed Shields said Monday in a telephone interview. “The thing about it is while he’s not that big, he tackles with the best of ’em.
“Everybody’s aware of his running, and a lot of people can run, but he can play football. It just so happens that he can run, too. And there’s a difference with that. . . . That’s what separates him from so many others.”
Last season marked Jacobs’s first experience at free safety, and Shields said Jacobs now is much more comfortable making the calls and setting the defense into proper alignment. Shields said Jacobs’s range and athleticism helps Suitland — which has yet to allow a single point this season — prevent opposing quarterbacks from “just throwing it up for grabs.”
“If he gets it, there’s a good possibility he’s going to make it six” points, Shields said. “He helps take away our deep middle and allows us to do some things that maybe you couldn’t do if you didn’t have somebody with his football ability back there.”
During Suitland’s season-opening 40-0 win over McKinley, Jacobs returned an interception 76 yards for a touchdown. And while Jacobs didn’t have an interception during Suitland’s 56-0 victory Saturday over Oxon Hill, he served as enough of a deterrence in the secondary to be effective.
“I won’t say yet that we’re taking [Jacobs’s versatility] for granted, but I’m sure at some point you do,” Shields said. “Our biggest thing is we still have to get him the ball more. We’re looking for ways to do that even more, because he’s really a threat with it in his hands.”
At the end of a practice two weeks ago, Friendly offensive coordinator Darrell Dreher surprised Coach Peter Quaweay when he told his players he had one more play to try before they finished for the day. The second-year assistant lined the offensive starters up in a funky formation he called “get back,” a modified version of the swinging gate with the guards and tackles positioned 15 yards wide of the center on either side.
Dreher, who Quaweay jokingly calls “a little crazy”, had been inspired by watching film of that week’s opponent, Thomas Johnson, using a swinging gate formation on its conversion tries. After being frustrated for three-and-a-half quarters by Gwynn Park’s defense on Friday night, Friendly turned to Dreher’s gimmick for a spark.
The Patriots operated almost exclusively out of the formation on their final offensive drive, setting up junior Khaylen Rouse’s one-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal with less than a minute left. Rouse then caught the ensuing two-point conversion pass from senior Thomas Corbett, securing Friendly’s unlikely 8-6 upset victory over the Yellow Jackets.
“We had no choice,” said Quaweay of his team’s unique offensive adjustment. “Our backs were against the wall and we’d tried everything else, so this was our last option.”
Queaway never expected to actually use the set. Friendly (2-0, 1-0 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) had lined up in the formation on the first play of each of its first two games.
In a 20-13 win over Thomas Johnson, the Patriots shifted back into a conventional alignment before the first snap and never employed it again. Against Gwynn Park, a player didn’t line up correctly before the first snap, leading to an illegal formation penalty.
But when it counted, Friendly executed to perfection, showing the ability to run and pass out of the set with Corbett and senior Dajahn Lowery doing most of the damage on the ground.
“We’d never really practiced it before,” Corbett said. “It was just us playing football.”
Facing fourth and goal just off the goal line, Friendly went back to a power formation with Corbett under center. The signal-caller was supposed to fake a handoff to his fullback and then follow him across the goal line, but he was met by a wall of defenders at the line of scrimmage. Before Corbett tumbled down, he had the presence of mind to pitch it out to Rouse, who caught it going left and scored easily.
On the conversion, the Patriots went to “get back” again and Corbett fired a slant pass to Rouse, who was lined up as a slot receiver this time. Gwynn Park (1-1, 1-1) had a defender in position, but Rouse reached around him and came up with the ball to provide the game-winning points.
A year ago, Friendly, which has just 22 varsity players, lost its first four games, scoring a total of eight points along the way. Now the Patriots are unbeaten through two weeks with victories against the defending 3A runner-up and a perennial league power, thanks to a large assist from Dreher’s unconventional play-calling.
“I never really doubted my coaches,” Corbett said. “If they say do it and it’s getting us yards, I won’t be the one to complain.”
While the formation became a last-resort option Friday, Quaweay said he doesn’t expect it to become a regular part of his team’s attack.
“That’s been hung up,” Quaweay said. “We don’t plan to ever use it again. We might line up in it some time to see if they can adjust to it just for giggles, but I don’t think we’d use it like that. It’s a gimmick, and the gimmick worked. I don’t think you build a season off gimmick formations.” . . .
Douglass beat Largo, 26-0, on Saturday with Tennessee recruit Paul Harris on the sideline, nursing a sprained right ankle. Harris, a senior starter at wide receiver and safety, sustained the injury in a season-opening win at Spalding.
Harris caught two touchdowns against the Cavaliers and finished out the game, but he was limited in practice last week. Even though he was feeling better by Saturday, Coach J.C. Pinkney made the game-time decision to keep Harris on the sideline except to handle the team’s punting duties.
The Eagles (2-0, 1-0 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) travel to rival Gwynn Park on Saturday.
“He was good to go,” Pinkney said, “but I didn’t want to risk anything because we’re going into the meat of our schedule the next couple weeks.”