While his teammates jumped, danced, hugged and celebrated their team’s biggest victory in many years, Richy Anderson stood on the muddy field, hugged assistant coach Darrick Scott and started bawling.
This was a moment Anderson had dreamed about, having played a significant role and scoring the first touchdown as 20th-ranked Thomas Johnson beat No. 9 Huntingtown, 12-3, in a Maryland 3A semifinal on Friday night. Anderson just wished he could have shared the night with his father, Richie, the former Sherwood High and Penn State standout who now is an assistant coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’ve gone through a hard time lately,” said Anderson, who holds a scholarship offer from Maryland. “It’s my junior year, a big year. But that’s his job. It’s what he loves.”
Anderson had a 43-yard kickoff return and a nifty 11-yard punt return in the first quarter. It was after the 6-foot, 190-pounder — who splits time between wide receiver and tailback — broke several tackles during a 16-yard run that one Thomas Johnson assistant coach turned to another and said, “Richy is on a mission tonight.”
Three plays later, Anderson took a handoff to the right and burst in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown and the Patriots had a lead they did not relinquish against the Hurricanes (11-2).
Brandan Berney rushed for 118 yards and wide receiver Nate Hairston made a juggling catch for a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Heath Dahlgren late in the third quarter. Anderson finished with 46 yards rushing and caught a 24-yard pass as Thomas Johnson advanced to the Maryland 3A final against 14th-ranked River Hill (11-2) on Dec. 3 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The victory continued a stirring run for the Patriots (10-3), who lost three consecutive games in midseason and needed help on the final day of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs. Their coach, Ben Wright, has said he will leave the Frederick school at the end of this season, his 26th at the school.
Wright said the team’s struggles were in part due to concerns over playing time and offensive touches, with a lineup full of playmakers. Those issues have been cast aside and now Thomas Johnson has one more week of practice. And Anderson had to rearrange his holiday travel plans this past week. Instead of going to Kansas City on Monday to visit his father, he plans to fly out Saturday morning for the Chiefs’ game Sunday against Pittsburgh.
“He misses him, I’m sure he does, like any kid if your dad is not there,” Wright said. “We try to love him up as much as we can.”