Forget everything you thought you knew about the Oakland Mills football team. After back-to-back shutouts to begin this season — including a 55-0 rout of visiting Centennial (0-2) on Friday night — the 2014 Scorpions look nothing like the Scorpions who won a combined five games between 2011 and 2013.
"We've got a little more size than we've had in the past," said coach Tom Browne, who was the top receiver on Oakland Mills' state championship team back in 1998. "We have a lot of guys who have been on the varsity for a couple of years now."
Last year, Oakland Mills scored 24 points per game and went 4-6 in a turnaround season. But the Scorpions also had the second worst defense in the league, allowing 35 points per game.
"That's important. It's hard to change that culture. Everyone wants to line up and be a receiver and catch a ball," Browne said. "We want to get some kids who identify themselves as hard-hitters and defensive football players. That's been a huge difference for us."
Junior Larry Aaron, who missed last season with a knee injury, was in the Centennial backfield throughout the first half on Friday night.
"We've got kids who, for the first time in a long time, are buying into the defense," Browne said. "It's been a long time, probably since I was a kid playing here, that kids have had the defense-first mentality."
The Scorpions offense, led by senior quarterback David Pindell, has also been putting on a show.
Pindell threw three touchdown passes on Friday night — two to junior Tre Hopkins (48 and 17 yards) and one to junior Shawn Harris (14 yards) — and rushed for a fourth from 14 yards out.
"Offensively we can put up a lot of points. We have the speed and the talent to score a lot on offense. " Pindell said. "It's really fun. We came out here everyday during the summer and just got used to the (artificial turf field). We would throw and play a little 7-on-7. We would just have fun and enjoy it."
Hopkins also had a 90-yard kickoff return for touchdown to start the game, and a 72-yard punt return for touchdown to put the Scorpions ahead 28-0 with just under three minutes left in the first quarter.
"Tre Hopkins has just made such a jump. He was a good player last year, but he has jumped exponentially with his explosiveness," Browne said. "They are fun to watch. It's a good group of kids."
Pindell said that his team's turnaround didn't happen by accident.
"A lot of dedication in the weight room, to the team. A lot of hard work over the summer, a lot of running and lifting and extra dedication to this season. We all knew that this could be our season," said Pindell, who earned second-team all-county honors last fall after racking up more than 2,200 yards and 20 touchdowns combined passing and rushing. "We've got everything: kicker, receivers, linebackers, corners ... We've been telling (our fans) since last year: this is going to be the year, so just come out and watch and we're going to be a playoff team this year."
Oakland Mills, which last had a winning season in 2003, hosts undefeated Hammond next week in what should be each team's biggest test of the young season.
"We're going to have our hands full next week," Browne said. "We're just going to prep as best we can for Hammond. It should be a great game next week."
Centennial, which went 7-3 last year but graduated 29 seniors, showed signs of life in the second half on Friday.
Sophomore Mike Klein returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter 25 yards to the 30-yard line, then the Eagles got their first first down of the game on an 8-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Matt Shoenberger to senior captain Aadil Mirza, followed by a 20-yard rush by Mirza.
Mirza later collected an 11-yard reception from Shoenberger to give the Eagles, who have not yet scored this season, a second first down.
Centennial also held Oakland Mills to a three-and-out on the Scorpions' first drive of the second half, and made a stout goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter. Juniors Kyle Taylor and David Phelps both made big tackles for loss on that effort.
"We just had some goals. Lets move the sticks, lets get some first downs, lets try to get better at a few things," said coach Todd Kriner, who has only 13 seniors on his roster this fall. "We're just young. There are going to be growing pains. We have to be patient."
Oakland Mills (2-0) 28 20 0 7 - 55
Centennial (0-2) 0 0 0 0 - 0
OM: Hopkins 90 kickoff return (Zovko kick), 11:45. [7-0]
OM: Kadje 3 run (Zovko kick), 7:07. [14-0]
OM: Hopkins 48 pass from Pindell (Pindell run), 5:08. [22-0]
OM: Hopkins 72 punt return (kick failed), 2:52. [28-0]
OM: Harris 14 pass from Pindell (kick blocked), 11:11. [34-0]
OM: Hopkins 17 pass from Pindell (Zovko kick), 6:43. [41-0]
OM: Pindell 14 run (Zovko kick), :11. [48-0]
OM: Allen 59 run (Zovko kick), 4:52. [55-0]
Around the league
Glenelg 28, Wilde Lake 16
Brent Richardson continued where he left off last week, rushing for 104 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Wilde Lake.
The Wildecats played well in the loss, with Connor Robinson completing 12 of 22 pass attempts for 162 yards and two touchdowns, including five completions to Ernie Fermin for 78 yards and a score. Cuinn Mullins led Wilde Lake on the ground with 13 rushes for 69 yards.
"(We're) getting better each week," Wilde Lake coach Mike Harrison said. "(I'm) proud of how my athletes have handled playing two very good teams to open the season."
Hammond 23, Long Reach 22
The Golden Bears improved to 2-0, surviving a gutsy effort by the Lightning.
Quarterback Andrew Comeau rushed for a one-yard touchdown, threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Hamidou Mapangala, and threw a two-point conversion to Malik Wallace, who rushed for another two-point conversion in the first quarter. Wallace and defensive lineman Jalin Jackson led the Golden Bears defense with seven tackles each.
Kevin Rankine (120 all-purpose yards) accounted for Hammond's third touchdown, on an 80-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Talib Hedgepeth led Hammond on the ground with 14 carries for 90 yards.
Long Reach scored all of its points in the first half on three passing touchdowns.
Rutgers-bound Ron'Dell Carter had more than 200 all-purpose yards for the Lightning.
"We had a lot of personal foul penalites that kept our defense on the field and their drives alive," said Hammond coach Justin Carey. "We can not win like that ... Credit to Jamie Willis and his staff. Ron'Dell Carter (is a) very good player."
Howard 34, Atholton 0
The Lions improved to 2-0 with a dominant showing.
Najee Savage scored two goal-line rushing touchdowns in the first half, and added a 21-yard score in the third quarter.
Winston Delattiboudere scored on a 20-yard interception return before halftime, and Malik Anderson scored on an 8-yard rush in the fourth quarter.
Ronald Kearney caught two passes for 18 yards to lead the Raiders offensively.
Reservoir 14, Mt. Hebron 6
Reservoir quarterback Jack Barry threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Joey Janush to help the Gators improve to 2-0 with a win over a tough Mt. Hebron team.
A long Christian Lyles interception return set up Reservoir's other touchdown, on a short run by Craig Jones.
Vikings coach Phil Zacharias said that he was pleased with his team's performance after a 41-0 loss to Hammond in Week 1, and expects the upward trend to continue as his talented young athletes gain experience.
Yejun Song had a pair of sacks against Reservoir, and sophomore quarterback Rickie Williams rushed for the Vikings' lone touchdown.
River Hill 41, Marriotts Ridge 6
Jon Kanda led the Hawks to their second stright victory, rushing for 130 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries.
Mustangs quarterback Zachary Page threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Asad Dar to put Marriotts Ridge on the board, and Trayvon Delk put in a hard day's work running the ball.