Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer has a long memory.
He remembers Oct. 28, 2016, when the Gladiators ended Howard’s 32-game county winning streak with a 25-20 victory to bring the Elgard Trophy back to western Howard County for the first time in two years. He also remembers Sept. 2, 2017, when the Lions pounded Glenelg in a 34-0 shutout, its first time failing to score in a game since the 2014 playoffs.
But Schaffer won’t soon forget the time the Gladiators turned the county football landscape on its head and made a statement heard across the state of Maryland. On Friday night, Glenelg dominated Howard, 42-14, in a way the Lions haven’t experienced in years against a Howard County opponent.
Afterward, Schaffer credited his team’s defensive performance led by senior linebacker Sam Alsheimer and two-way stars Tyler Reiff and Wande Owens. He also reminded everyone that the Elgard Trophy is home.
“Elgard is home where it belongs,” Schaffer said, “and we’re going to keep it for a little bit.”
Owens, a Yale commit who put the Gladiators on the scoreboard with a 95-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the first quarter, also doesn’t forget.
He remembers being held to 39 yards in last year’s meeting and watching the Offensive Player of the Year award he earned in 2016 go to Howard running back Devin Dawkins last season. This time, however, Owens reverted back to his 2016 ways and finished with 199 rushing yards on 18 carries and touchdown runs of 13, 82 and 72 yards. He played nearly every snap — he’s also the punter, punt returner and kick returner — until the late stages when the game was decided.
“Wande is a big-time player,” Schaffer said. “He’s the kind of kid who is going to give you everything he’s got on every play, and you can see he’s playing on offense, he’s playing on defense, he’s playing on special teams and he’s the ultimate team player. Not only is he a great football player, he’s even a better person.”
Reiff, meanwhile, accumulated stats more often seen during the playing days of NFL legends Chuck Bednarik and Sammy Baugh. He went 1-for-3 passing for 10 yards, ran six times for 35 yards and a touchdown, had a smothering sack in the third quarter and returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Reiff and Owens were Glenelg’s co-MVPs for the game.
They’re not the only two-way players for the Gladiators either. Just about the entire offensive line, which opened huge holes for Owens on his long scoring runs, plays on the defensive line as well.
“Our guys understand we have to play a lot of football,” Schaffer said. “They work extremely hard in the offseason because we know we’re shorthanded. We’re a small school playing a lot of big schools and that takes its toll. It takes a lot of toughness, both mental and physical, for our kids.
“I can’t say enough about the defensive staff’s performance tonight. They just did a phenomenal job planning to take their weapons away.”
While Reiff and Owens earned the spotlight with big performances on both sides of the ball, they couldn’t have done it without the dominating play of Alsheimer in the middle of the field. The senior linebacker recovered a fumble at their own 8-yard line on Howard’s opening drive and was tasked with slowing Dawkins, who ran 21 times for just 45 yards — 40 of which came in the first quarter.
Alsheimer also remembers. The state-finalist wrestler broke his leg against Howard in last year’s game and missed the rest of the season and nearly his entire wrestling season as well. Reiff calls Alsheimer one of his best friends and a fantastic guy off the field. On the field, though, Reiff says he “turns into an animal.”
“He’s ‘Mean’ Joe Greene,” Reiff said, referencing the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame defensive tackle. “The guy is insane on the field. Not like out of his head crazy, but he’s aggressive as heck and one of the most powerful kids I know and one of the most passionate kids I know. Watching him sit on the sideline last year hurt so much.”
Glenelg won by 28 points but the game wasn’t decided until late. Howard tied the score at seven on the first play of the second quarter when quarterback Jerry O’Neill hit John McGuire over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass.
Glenelg held a 14-7 halftime lead after Owens capped a five-play, 52-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, and he extended the lead to 21-7 with his 82-yard run down the left sideline midway through the third quarter.
The Gladiators pulled away in the fourth quarter. Darren Cleary intercepted an O’Neill pass and returned it to the 2-yard line, and Reiff scored on the next play to put Howard in a 27-7 hole with about 11 minutes remaining.
The Lions answered when Dawkins caught a 25-yard pass and juked several defenders en route to the end zone to make it 27-14, but Owens got loose again on the first play of the ensuing drive and rumbled for a 72-yard score. Reiff’s pick-six made it 42-14.
Howard coach Ross Hannon doesn’t believe the score resembles how the game played out. He said two red zone turnovers on their first two drives and numerous penalties, including one that negated a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dawkins to start the game, were too much to overcome.
“Red zone turnovers are crucial early on, penalties, emotional game, you know?” he said. “We just didn’t make the plays that were there to be made.”
The 28-point deficit is the largest in a Lions loss since a 55-20 defeat against River Hill on Nov. 2, 2012. It’s also the most points they’ve allowed in a regular season game since that same night in Clarksville.
Glenelg (2-0) — 7 7 7 21 — 42
Howard (1-1) — 0 7 0 7 — 14
G: Owens 95-yard interception return, Chris Retzbach kick [7-0]
Ho: Jerry O’Neill 15-yard pass to John McGuire [7-7]
G: Owens 13-yard run, Retzbach kick [14-7]
G: Owens 82-yard run, Retzbach kick [21-7]
G: Tyler Reiff 2-yard run, kick blocked [27-7]
Ho: O’Neill 25-yard pass to Devin Dawkins, Harrison Robbins-Green kick [27-14]
G: Owens 72-yard run, Ritchie Hall run conversion [35-14]
G: Reiff 38-yard interception return, Retzbach kick [42-14]