Atholton coach Justin Carey was an assistant the last time the Raiders beat Wilde Lake in 2012, and he remembered the 14-12 win fondly. It was opening week and his team required a two-point conversion after a touchdown in overtime to make it happen.
Friday night’s home victory wasn’t nearly as painstaking. Atholton, a week after being shutout by its rival River Hill in a 16-0 letdown, scored on its first possession and then held the Wildecats’ dynamic running backs at bay for a 27-7 victory to improve to 1-1. Wilde Lake falls to 1-1.
“That’s a five-year hiatus and I mentioned that to the kids so we can take pride in that,” Carey said. “Wilde Lake is a good team. I just had to get our kids to rise up to the occasion and just execute. We struggled with that in the preseason and last week.”
The Raiders needed a quick start after failing to find the end zone a week ago. Wide receiver Brandon Houston hauled in a 10-yard reception on a third and 10 on the third play of the game, and Jordan Marsh followed with a 46-yard run down the right sideline to set up first and goal at the 2. Shemar Weisweaver punched it on the next play to give Atholton a 7-0 lead barely more than two minutes into the contest.
“A loss is a loss,” said Raiders sophomore Jonathan Watkins. “That’s in the past. We came out and it was 0-0.”
Wilde Lake proceeded to go three-and-out and their punt attempt was bobbled, giving the Raiders possession at the Wildecats’ 26. Though they failed to convert it into points, missing a short field goal attempt, it set Wilde Lake back in the battle of field position. Atholton started each of its fist four drives inside its own 40, and Carey said that was key with how his defense has performed.
“We wanted to make them drive 80 yards. We wanted to live in their territory,” he said. “Field position was definitely key and we tried to eat time of possession.”
Neither team generated much offensively after Atholton’s opening drive. Wilde Lake managed just two first-down conversions in the first half and 41 yards of offense, while the Raiders had 38 yards after its score.
Atholton made it a two-possession game midway through the third quarter after recovering a fumble at the Wildecats’ 32. Raiders quarterback Connor Marshall was striped from behind but Jonathan Watkins was at the right place at the right time as he scooped up the loose ball and ran 24 yards into the end zone.
“Jonathan Watkins led our team in receiving last week and played well tonight,” Carey said. “That was kind of a miracle play or a heads up play with that fumble recovery.”
The Wildecats’ best opportunity came after a recovering a fumble at Atholton’s 14, but a penalty on second down pushed them to the 23 and they managed just five more yards and turned the ball over on downs.
Atholton ensued to drive right down the field and put the game out of reach. It went 87 yards on eight plays, including a 46-yard run by Marsh and a 26-yard touchdown reception by Watkins on a slant up the middle.
“We just needed to keep running the football and hold onto the football,” Carey said. “Their coaches do a really good job of making them an opportunistic defense. ... Throughout the third quarter we knew we needed to score at least one more touchdown to kind of put the game out of reach.”
Wilde Lake’s Osita Smith caught a short pass over the middle and avoided several defenders to streak down the right sideline for a 63-yard touchdown to give his team life. The Raiders then punted on fourth and 13 to give the Wildecats the ball with about seven minutes remaining, but Wilde Lake was called for roughing the punter, which gave Atholton a first down. Another unsportsmanlike penalty on coach Michael Harrison gave the Raiders the ball at Wildecats’ 27. Melvin Brown, a junior transfer from River Hill, ran up the middle for a 27-yard score on the next play to make it 27-7 with 6:13 remaining.
“I though Saleem was blocked into the punter but [the referee] saw it a different way,” Harrison said.
Overall, it was a night to forget for Wilde Lake’s offense, which scored 27, 34, 40 and 23 points in its last four outing against Atholton. Aside from Smith’s long catch and run, it managed just 57 yards of offense.
“We struggled with the running game, which was certainly part of it, but we made some really young mistakes,” Harrison said. “We’re a young football team and young football teams make mistakes. We’re going to learn from it and we’re going to move forward. That’s all I can ask of them.”
Atholton will be at Oakland Mills on Sept. 15, while Wilde Lake will be at Long Reach.
Atholton (1-1) — 7 0 7 13 — 27
Wilde Lake (1-1) — 0 0 0 7 — 7
A: Shemar Weisweaver two-yard run, Will Looney kick [7-0]
A: Jonathan Watkins 24-yard fumble recovery, Looney kick [14-0]
A: Connor Marshall 26-yard pass to Watkins, Looney kick [21-0]
WL: Eli Fisher 63-yard pass to Osita Smith, Sam Nason kick [21-7]
A: Melvin Brown 27-yard run, kick failed [27-7]
To see scores and stats from other games around Howard County on Sept. 8, click HERE.