It was only fitting that “You Can’t Stop Me” by Andy Mineo blared over the speakers late in the fourth quarter of Atholton football’s game against Reservoir.
Simply put, Reservoir could not stop Raiders running back Melvin Brown after halftime of the Ravens RISE High School Football Showdown on Friday night. He ran off-tackle to the right side over and over again. Most times, a few Gators defenders would finally wrestle him to the ground. But with the Raiders trailing, 21-14, with just 41 seconds to play, Brown would not be stopped before finding the end zone.
His nine-yard touchdown run set the stage for a game-tying extra point that sent the game into overtime. Then, on the first play of the extra period, Brown barreled over a defender on his way to a 10-yard score, putting the Raiders ahead for the first time since the opening quarter.
The Gators would answer with a nine-yard pitch and catch, but instead of attempting the extra point, they decided against trying to stop Brown even one more time and opted for the potential game-winning two-point conversion. And this time, it was the Atholton defense came through with the most important stop of all. The Raiders gang tackled quarterback Malcolm Brown short of the goal line, sending the home crowd into a frenzy and clinching an improbable 28-27 win.
“Basically, just don’t give up,” senior lineman Kevin Brown said of the team’s mentality being down 14 points in the fourth quarter. “Every time Reservoir scored, everyone wanted to go down and give up and all of that. No, we can win this game. Our season is still going, we still trying to make our goals of the playoffs. We’re still trying to get there.”
Kevin Brown was one of several blockers that created running lanes for Melvin Brown throughout the night. The senior running back finished with 187 rushing yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns. All but 34 of those came after intermission.
Brown’s massive rushing performance helped Atholton (1-2 county, 1-2 overall) overcome Reservoir (1-2) despite committing three turnovers (all interceptions) and struggling to stop the Gators’ run-heavy offense.
After back-to-back punts and a turnover on downs to start the county battle, Atholton opened the scoring with an 11-play, 48-yard drive that ate up about six minutes of the game clock. With 15 seconds left in the first quarter, sophomore Khalil Tiller-Kinard capped the possession with a one-yard touchdown run.
However, the second quarter belonged to the Gators. On Malcolm Brown’s first pass attempt of the game, he found senior Isaiah Overton across the middle for what turned into a 58-yard touchdown reception with about 10 minutes to play before intermission.
That brought the Atholton offense back onto the field moments later, but its appearance was very short lived. On the first play of the drive, Kenyan Williams intercepted quarterback Aaron Billingsley and brought the ball down to the Raiders’ 25-yard line. Six plays later, Marcus Pendleton (19 carries, 93 yards) put Reservoir ahead with a four-yard touchdown run.
The Gators corralled another interception late in the first half, though they eventually turned it over on downs. It would turn out to cost them later.
“We had a couple of chances in the first half to put it in,” Gators coach Bryan Cole said. “And then when we came down to it, we couldn’t execute.”
There were only two possessions in the third quarter: a two-and-a-half minute Atholton drive and a 60-plus-yard Reservoir drive that drained the rest of the third-quarter game clock. As the fourth quarter began, the Gators had put themselves in prime position to extend their advantage.
Their immediate hopes of doing so vanished thanks to a missed 26-yard field goal, but they would not have to wait long before Atholton made another costly mistake. Billingsley was again the culprit, and this time, Darius Ellerbe took the team’s third interception all the way into the end zone to put Reservoir ahead, 21-7, with about eight minutes to play.
Sensing the need to shift momentum, Atholton coach Justin Carey and offensive coordinator Matthew Bounds dug into the bag of trick plays on the next possession. Their choice? A double reverse pass, and the Raiders executed it perfectly. Brown took the snap, flipped it to Jonathan Watkins, who then flipped it to Billingsley with wide receiver Chris Bookter running wide open downfield. The 37-yard touchdown brought Atholton within seven with 5:39 to go.
Once the Raiders regained possession, they adopted one philosophy: feed Brown. He carried the ball seven times on the drive for 61 yards, many of which came on off-tackle runs to the right side.
The play proved to be unstoppable in Atholton’s eventual come-from-behind win.
Reservoir (1-2) — 0 14 0 7 6 — 27
Atholton (1-2) — 7 0 0 14 7 — 28
A: Khalil Tiller-Kinard 1-yard run, Looney kick [7-0]
Re: Malcolm Brown 58-yard pass to Isaiah Overton, Ochoa kick [7-7]
Re: Marcus Pendleton 4-yard run, Ochoa kick [7-14]
Re: Darius Ellerbe 70-yard interception return, Ochoa kick [7-21]
A: Aaron Billingsley 37-yard pass to Chris Bookter, Looney kick [14-21]
A: Melvin Brown 9-yard run, Looney kick [21-21]
A: Brown 10-yard run, Looney kick [28-21]
Re: Brown 4-yard pass to Kenyan Williams, two-point conversion failed [28-27]