BALTIMORE — For nearly all of their first 13 games this season, the Suitland Rams took their time getting started, their offense struggling to find its footing while their debilitating defense kept them close.
In each of those games — all wins — the Rams found their form in the second half, flying around the field for big plays and touchdowns, burying opponents with deceptive and relentless speed.
But Friday in the Maryland 4A final on the turf at M&T Bank Stadium, Suitland’s speed finally met its match, and its predictable second-half rally fell unpredictably short in a 33-16 loss to Northwest.
“I was nervous about it, because they’re a second half team,” Northwest Coach Mike Neubeiser said.
The Jaguars (12-2) looked a step quicker, or at least perfectly positioned on several key plays. Whether it was the drenching rain or the persistent presence of the Northwest defense, deep balls Wesley Wolfolk’s receivers caught to key productive second halves through 13 games bounced off their hands or flew a yard or two out of reach in the 14th.
And so Northwest frustrated Suitland’s big-play offense just enough and held off its usually reliable running attack. Wolfolk finished 18 of 42 for 218 passing yards and 49 crucial rushing yards, several of them on drive-saving late-down runs that kept Suitland within striking distance.
But as it became clear that Northwest wouldn’t relent to a Rams’ rally late in the fourth quarter, Suitland’s defense lapsed for the first time all season.
Suitland (13-1) hurt itself repeatedly with 19 penalties for 150 yards, many of which killed drives or extended Northwest possessions.
By game’s end the speedy, physical Rams defenders had yielded 33 points, more than they had in any game all season. The two touchdowns Northwest scored in the fourth quarter were more than Suitland’s opponents had scored in 10 games this season.
Those scores came in relative garbage time, when the Rams were as soaked in frustration as they were in the cold rain that poured all night. But by game’s end Suitland, which overcame size with speed and late-game grit all year, had run out of gas.
“In a state championship game, you’ve got to catch every ball, you’ve got to throw every ball, you’ve got to make every run and do every coverage,” Suitland Coach Ed Shields said. “We messed up in those areas and today was one of the first days all year we weren’t able to overcome those mistakes.
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