St. Charles came close to its first playoff win last season — losing to Northern by a point in overtime. But on Friday, the sixth-year program claimed its first postseason victory in the first round of the Maryland 3A South playoffs.
St. Charles plays Huntingtown, the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference’s top team this year, in the second round next week. Huntingtown won the regular season meeting, 21-20, on Oct. 4.
“It’s like a dream come true,” St. Charles wide receiver Konner Blount-Foster said. This is what we wanted to do. This is like a revenge game.”
St. Charles (8-2) and Northern (5-5) have experienced similar trajectories to become SMAC contenders. St. Charles was a middling squad until Patrick Orndoff, a longtime North Point assistant coach, became the Spartans’ coach last year. In Orndoff’s first year, St. Charles achieved its first winning record.
When Steve Crounse took over Northern in 2017, the Patriots hadn’t finished with a winning record since 2010. With Crounse, Northern reached the state quarterfinals the past two years.
When St. Charles and Northern meet, they’re fighting to join the upper-echelon of their league. And their games often come down to the final play.
In the first round of last year’s Maryland 3A playoffs, Northern connected on a fourth-and-goal pass in overtime before finishing a two-point conversion for a one-point win. In September, Northern trailed St. Charles by five points when it took the ball to the Spartans’ 3-yard line with just over a minute remaining. St. Charles kept its foe out of the end zone.
Friday was another tight one.
Leading by three points, St. Charles drained the clock until it punted the ball to Northern with 18 seconds remaining.
“Get back. Don’t let them score,” St. Charles defensive back Klayton Batten thought. “Make a play — anything. Just stop them from getting to the end zone.”
The Spartans did, as Northern hardly advanced the ball.
When Orndoff took over St. Charles’s program in spring 2018, he implemented the wing-T offense that fit his players’ athleticism. That helped the program to its first playoff appearance last season, and the team continued to improve this season. It claimed a signature win last month against North Point, a perennial top SMAC team.
“We didn’t know we were going to have the success we had right away,” Orndoff said. “But it doesn’t shock us.”