Early in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Atholton held a 7-0 lead and possessed the ball around the 25-yard line. But the Raiders offense had gone stagnant since scoring on their first possession, and their defense had been on the field for almost the entire third quarter. All Glenelg needed was one big run to knot the score.
Then, in just two plays, the Gladiators’ chances of winning all but vanished.
Quarterback Aaron Billingsley hit Shemar Weisweaver on a quick slant route, and the senior wide receiver shed a tackler before sprinting downfield for about a 60-yard gain. A penalty moved the Raiders back 15 yards, but the miscue didn’t stop senior Jordan Marsh from running for a touchdown on the next play. The score served as what Marsh called “the dagger” in Atholton’s 14-0 victory, their first over Glenelg since 2012.
“I saw the hole, and I just cut up, and there was no one there,” Marsh said. “The offensive line, they were blocking hard all day.”
The Raiders (5-1, 5-1) caused a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, putting them in a position to add another score before the final whistle. They couldn’t punch it in, but their offense had already done enough to secure their fifth straight victory.
On defense, Atholton performed as they have all season. Carey said his team leads the 3A East region in points allowed, and they’ll continue to do so after shutting out their first opponent of the year. Despite winning the possession battle, Glenelg (4-2, 4-2) never moved the ball inside the Raiders’ 25-yard line.
As he’s done all season, Carey credited defensive coordinator Earin Saunders for the unit’s effort.
“He really gets out kids going, and our kids are really feeding off his energy,” coach Justin Carey said. “He really gets them to buy in, and they’re playing tremendously fast for him.”
In Saturday’s game, Saunders’ group benefitted from having a lead before stepping onto the field. The Raiders took the opening kickoff, drove into Gladiators territory and scored on Billingsley’s 32-yard pass to sophomore Jonathan Watkins.
Atholton was up a touchdown less than three minutes into the contest, and the Glenelg never responded.
“We didn’t show up to play,” coach Butch Schaffer said. “I give them a lot of credit for how well they played.”
Without star running back Wande Owens, who remains sidelined with a leg injury, the Gladiators averaged 3.7 yards per carry on 38 rushes. They punted several times and turned the ball over on downs their other possessions.
Schaffer’s team was able to string together positive plays at times, especially in the third quarter.
It ran 20 plays in the period compared to five for Atholton. On the first drive, the Gladiators progressed to their own 48 before having to punt. On the next one, they moved the ball inside the Raiders’ 30-yard line. But after a delay of game on second down and a short rush after that, back-to-back incompletions from junior quarterback Tyler Reiff gave the ball back to the Raiders.
Reiff threw another third-down incompletion early in the fourth quarter, forcing Glenelg to punt again despite moving into Atholton territory.
And this time, the Raiders wasted little time moving down the field to seal the triumph.
“We’re what, 5-1?” Marsh said after the game. “We’re one of the best teams in the county.”