Atholton senior quarterback Luke Casey knew there was still much left to play for on Senior Night. Entering Friday’s football game against visiting Glenelg, the Raiders were already assured a home playoff game next week, but Casey and his teammates were holding on to the chance of repeating as county champs.
“We’re a team that always wants to win and it was Senior Day for us, so we didn’t want to go out with a loss,” Casey said. “If we had won this game and River Hill had lost, we would have been county champions. So there was no doubt in our minds that we (were) going to come out and win this game.”
It wasn’t meant to be, however, as River Hill earned the title outright after beating Howard in the regular season finale. Atholton didn’t know that at the time, and took care of business by downing the Gladiators, 28-14, to lock up the second seed Class 3A East Region.
“I told them that we only get 10 (regular season games), so we’re going to play hard in all of them,” Atholton coach Kyle Schmitt said. “We treated this game like the first round of the playoffs and they did a great job.”
Casey made sure that his final regular season game was a memorable one. The senior signal caller rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score as the Raiders came from behind to earn the victory.
Glenelg (6-4) marched its first possession down the field and scored on an eight-play, 45-yard drive that was capped by quarterback Mark Darden’s one-yard dive up the middle. All of the plays were on the ground, led by senior back Nick Crabill (13 carries, 57 yards, TD).
The lead didn’t last long as Atholton (9-1) responded on the ensuing possession.
Halfback Isaac Murray carried the Raiders’ offense on that drive with six carries for 40 yards, including a 14-yard run to the outside that set up a first-and-goal from the five.
Casey scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns on a sweep to the left side to even the score at 7-7 late in the opening quarter.
“Our offense has continued to work hard at trying to be great,” said Murray, who ran for a game-high 165 yards. “We knew coming into the game that they had good running backs and could score, so we didn’t want to let them hang around.”
Neither team was be able to break the stalemate before halftime, but the Raiders came out on fire offensively in the second half.
On the first possession of the third quarter, Casey kept the ball on an option play and broke it for a 42-yard touchdown run.
As time ran out on the quarter, Casey threw a wide receiver screen to Marquise Findlay-Smith for a 10-yard score to push Atholton’s lead to 21-7 entering the fourth.
“We started off a little tight and Glenelg is a good team, but we loosened up and that’s when the offense started clicking,” Casey said. “We’ve been down by more than seven before, so it was nothing for us. We knew once we clicked everything would open up.”
The Raiders defense limited the Gladiators to 157 yards on the ground, and held them scoreless for 42 straight minutes while building a three-touchdown lead. Graham Kantor, Brandon Anthony and Cody Stolar each had a sack.
“Our defense played a heck of a game. They played excellent in the second half,” Schmitt said. “Getting the ball back in good field position was key. We made some adjustments and started slowing down their running game a bit.”
Glenelg cornerback Luke Cheswick picked off Casey with just over 10 minutes remaining, but the offense couldn’t capitalize and went three-and-out.
Cheswick’s second interception late in the quarter set up Crabill’s five-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left, but it was too late to mount a comeback.
“Atholton is a very tough team,” Crabill said. “This was our last game of the season and we wanted to end it with a bang, but I guess they wanted it more today.”
G (6-4) 7 0 0 7 - 14
A (9-1) 7 0 14 7 - 28
G: Darden 1 run (Brister kick), 6:33. [7-0]
A: Casey 5 run (Butts kick), 3:48. [7-7]
A: Casey 42 run (kick failed), 6:52. [7-13]
A: Findlay-Smith 14 pass from Casey (Mullens pass from Casey), 0:00. [7-21]
A: Casey 3 run (Butts kick), 7:18. [7-28]
G: Crabill 5 run (Brister kick), 0:27. [14-28]
G: Crabill 13-57, TD; Brookhart 7-36; Jacoby 6-26; Team 36-162, 2 TD.
A: Murray 23-165; Casey 15-126, 3 TD; Team 40-307, 3 TD.
G: Darden 2/6, 6.
A: Casey 3/16, 42, TD.
G: Crabill 2-6.
A: Pinnock 2-28; Findlay-Smith 1-14, TD.