Nelson Williams played his last game as a Catonsville High prep football player in a loss at Perry Hall on Nov. 3, but it’s most likely the game he will remember most is the one he played one week earlier on senior and homecoming night at Catonsville High.
Williams scored the first touchdown of the game for the Comets on a 29-yard reception with 1:06 left in the half.
Not only was the scoring play, on a slant pattern for Williams’ only receiving touchdown of the year, it was delivered by his younger brother, reserve junior quarterback Javon Williams.
The connection of Williams, who started in place of senior quarterback Davonta Holland (concussion), to Williams gave the Comets a 6-0 lead with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
Senior kicker Andrew Sybert tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Kenwood responded with 30 unanswered points and a convincing 30-7 victory, but Nelson Williams played hard from the opening whistle until the end.
His night began with a fumble recovery after senior Milan Pandey’s tackle forced a turnover on Kenwood’s first possession.
That turnover led to Catonsville’s only touchdown.
The fumble recovery helped Williams get the pre-game jitters out after he was recognized, along with 18 other seniors, before the game.
“They [butterflies] went away in the first quarter,” Nelson Williams said.
The 6-foot-2 wide receiver and defensive back was also asked to switch to defensive end during the game and he responded with a near sack that ended in an intentional grounding penalty on Kenwood quarterback Adam Harter own late in the third quarter.
Williams limped off with a leg injury with 5:26, left, but after consulting with trainer Terry Richter, he sought out Catonsville coach Rich Hambor and told him she said he was ready to play.
“It’s a sign of maturity for one of the players to come to us and say our trainer told me, ‘I’m ready, and I want to tell you I’m ready,’ ” Hambor said. “He’s appreciative of the effort we are putting in for him and we appreciate the effort he’s putting in for himself and for us.”
Playing defensive end instead of defensive back, he made one more impact play, on a play prior to a game-ending kneel down by the Bluebirds.
Kenwood running back T.J. Green had broken free through the middle from the 28-yard line and Williams trailed the play and saved a touchdown by tackling him at the 13-yard line.
“That’s why, when we are in a game that is already in order and people say, ‘Why aren’t your subs in,’ he needs to be in there because he deserves all the plays he can get.”
Williams didn’t play last season for academic reasons, but he was on the JV as a sophomore.
Now, he hopes to play football in college.
“I feel like I can be better,” said Williams, who mentioned Bowie State and Morgan State as schools he would like to attend. “I’m just going to keep pushing myself to be better.”
He did that in the classroom.
“I think he appreciates the fact he struggled last year academically and I think he really appreciates every play out there,” said Hambor, who teaches Williams in english class. “He’s a really hard worker and one thing I like about students of mine, regardless of what their grades are, is if they ask good questions. He asks thoughtful questions.”
On a team that won only one of 10 games, and had no returning senior starters, a lot of players were thrust into new roles.
Sybert, the kicker and punter, was one of them.
As a junior, he was a backup kicker and punter to Graham Smith.
“You don’t have a lot of teams that have backup kickers and that’s all they are,” Hambor said. “For him to say, ‘I’m happy to be here and I’m going to work hard and when I’m a senior I’m going to take advantage of it’, he’s definitely done that.”
In his final home game against Kenwood, he had punts of 44, 35 and 34 yards and kicked an extra point.
“He’s under a lot of literal pressure because teams are coming after our punts and he’s come a long way learning about getting rid of the ball quicker,” Hambor said.
Senior Mike Robinson was the featured running back this year after being a backup last year on varsity and the main running back on JV as a sophomore.
“Whatever we asked him to do, he leaves it on the field,” Hambor said. “He’s our best running back and because of his speed he was the gunner on punt team. If you could clone his attitude times 50, it would make everybody happy.”
The other seniors on the roster included: Kyle Stovall, Sam Liberto, Anthony Robinson, Ethan Johnson, Logan Mitchell, Rasheed Brown, Devante Petersen, Brandon Betters, Heath Marion, Ronnie Meghairouni, Tim Pfeifer, Sidney Mings and Ameen Kareem.
Nelson Williams will always appreciate his classmates as well as the underclassmen.
“We play hard, practice hard and on game day we try to play hard, but it’s not always the outcome that we want,” he said.
“We are really focused as a coaching staff to try and progress every week and I think we have, but our schedule got tougher as the year went on,” he said. “Our improvement just wasn’t enough to translate to wins.”