It was a come-from-behind, last-minute score and overtime that kept the Havre de Grace Warriors undefeated through eight weeks on the gridiron.
Havre de Grace (5-0, 8-0), which struggled for much of Thursday’s homecoming and UCBAC Chesapeake Division game with visiting C. Milton Wright (3-2, 5-3), shut the Mustangs out in the second half and in overtime to win, 28-21.
“It was a tough game, came out kind of sluggish in the first half,” Havre de Grace senior Rashon Bray said. “It was a good game, good game on both sides. Everybody fought hard.”
Penalties by both teams to end each half led to scoring by both teams. It was the Warriors touchdown with 16 seconds left in the game that forced the OT.
Three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against the CMW bench played a huge role in Havre de Grace’s late score.
The Warriors, trailing 21-14, got possession at their own 35 with 1:16 on the clock. A five-yard sack, illegal block penalty and incomplete pass had the Warriors facing third and 15.
A 12-yard pass from Alex Gresock to Jordan Day set up a five-yard run by Gresock to the Warriors 48.
On first down, Gresock hit Christian Penrow for 33 yards to the CMW 19. The Warriors hustled to the line and on the snap, Gresock spiked the ball.
The CMW coaches argued that the spike wasn’t legally done. The protest drew a flag and another flag. A third flag ensued and an ejection of an CMW assistant coach.
In the process, the ball was moved from the 19 to the 2 with :16 left.
Gresock connected with Penrow for the score and Clay Harris added the kick to square the game up at 21 all.
In the overtime, Havre de Grace went on offense first and wasted no time finding the end zone for its first lead. Gresock raced straight up the middle for the score and Harris added the PAT.
CMW lost a yard on its first snap in OT and it looked like the game was over when Rashon Bray picked off the second down pass. Bray though, was flagged for pass interference and the Mustangs had three more downs to work with from just outside the Warriors five.
Three straight incomplete passes followed and the Warriors escaped with the win.
“It’s a great feeling, eight wins, zero losses. We like to think of it as zero and zero every week,” senior lineman Prince Cozart said. “Come out and get to 1-0. Just keep your head on straight, don’t let it go to your head. You gotta play the game every week, no matter what team.”
CMW led from the start. After forcing the Warriors three downs and out, the Mustangs put together an 11-play, 62-yard drive, capped by quarterback Michael Starkey passing 16 yards to James Walsh for the score. The PAT was blocked.
The Mustangs added a 20-play, 80-yard drive to increase the lead to 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Andrew Sherinsky ran two yards for the score and Starkey passed to Walsh for the two-point conversion .
The Warriors, meanwhile, had just one first down over their first five possessions.
Their second first down was a touchdown to cut the CMW lead in half. Gresock launched a pass down field to Jordan White. White made the catch in traffic and then ran away from the tacklers on an 80-yard touchdown pass and catch.
Harris added the kick and the Warriors were right back in it, down 14-7. That was, momentarily.
Aided by facemask and roughing the passer penalties, the Mustangs connected on two passes to reach the Warriors 12 yard line. Jake Hofmann ran it in from there and with :08 left in the half, CMW went back ahead by two scores, 21-7.
Late in the third quarter, Havre de Grace used another big pass play to set up the next score. Gresock passed to Penrow for 53 yards to inside the CMW one.
Gresock snuck it over the goal line from there and Harris added the kick to end the third quarter.
The Warriors drove inside the CMW 20 the next time they had the ball, but Gresock was picked off for the third time in the game at the Mustangs seven. Hofmann made the interception.
Havre de Grace had the ball back just inside the five-minute mark, but a 10-yard sack by senior lineman Nathan Grauel put the Warriors in a third-and-20 hole from the CMW 34.
Two incomplete passes turned the ball back over to the Mustangs, but they could not get a first down and were forced to punt the ball back to the Warriors, who put together the game-tying drive.
“It was a great game by both teams. Came out, started off well, 21-7 going in at the half,” CMW senior Hofmann said. “Came out, started off a little flat. It was a great effort by the Havre de Grace Warriors. Scored 21 unanswered points and they came back and got the victory in overtime. Great game by both teams, both offensively and defensively.”
Other Thursday scores
In another Chesapeake Division overtime game, North Harford (2-3, 4-4) spoiled Aberdeen’s (1-4, 3-5) homecoming with an 27-26 win.
Also in Chesapeake play, Edgewood (2-2, 5-3) rolled past host Bel Air (2-3, 3-5), 41-13, and Fallston (0-5, 3-5) was blanked at Elkton (4-1, 7-1), 41-0.
In Susquehanna Division play, Harford Tech (4-0, 8-0) pretty much locked up the division title with a 49-12 thrashing of host Perryville (3-1, 6-2).
Also, Patterson Mill (1-4, 1-7) got its first win, beating host Rising Sun (1-3, 1-7), 27-21.
Reach Randy McRoberts on twitter. @aegissports