Catonsville High’s running game had produced over 9,300 yards rushing in the past three playoff seasons, so there was no question the Comets were going to run the ball repeatedly at Sherwood in the first round of the Class 4A North Region playoffs.
The Comets ran for 207 yards, but it was Sherwood who prevailed.
The Warriors produced four big plays, a strong interior defense and booming kicking game.
The score wasn’t indicative of how close and hard-hitting the game was between the lines.
Just ask Sherwood coach Mike Bonavia.
“That is a good team that knocks the snot out of you every play and they keep banging at you and let you know they are going to get that one long one sooner or later,” Bonavia said.
Catonsville never did get the breakaway play on offense, but they plugged away behind the running of DeAndre’ Lane (23 carries, 114 yards), Joseth Hylton (15 for 57) and Julian Singletary (12 for 49).
“We knew those three guys were there and it was tough to wear them down,” Bonavia said.
The Comets wore themselves down with a fumble on their first possession after they had gained 35 yards on seven plays.
Four plays later, Sherwood’s Jordan Larsen connected on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Loicano.
Calloway Lee blocked the extra point and the Comets trailed 6-0.
The Comets couldn’t capitalize on a fumble recovery by Cheldon Simon after a 44-yard punt by Teddy Crayton that was fumbled, because they turned the ball over on downs a yard short at the Sherwood 21.
Sherwood went on an 11-play 69-yard drive that ended with a one-yard run by Moses Vines (19 carries, 112 yards).
A 33-yard pass from Larsen to Jordan Johnson preceded the score.
Trailing 13-0, the Comets needed a momentum-changing play and they got it when Lane intercepted a pass and returned it 17 yards to the Sherwood 30 with 3:03 left in the half.
Catonsville went the 30 yards on seven running plays, culminating in Lane’s sideways twist into the end zone from six yards out with 20 seconds left.
“I had to do what I had to do,” said Lane, who thought the late score would carry into the second half. “I thought it was a turnaround for us to come back, but they just came out hard and they came out strong and they were just overpowering us and we made a lot of mental mistakes and were killing ourselves.”
Catonsville drove from its own 16 to the Sherwood 24 on its first possession off the second half after the defense forced a punt keyed by big stops from Julian Singletary, Devin Ray and TJ Henry.
But the drive stalled on downs after an illegal procedure penalty.
The defense came up big again when Adam Dye, Melvin Lambert and Henry stuffed running back Ellijah Spottswood and forced a punt.
But a 42-yard punt out of bounds, by Jake Ryder, who booted all five kickoffs into the end zone, put the Comets in a hole at the 6-yard line and they never got out of it.
A 16-yard run by Lane, his longest of the night, got them a first down at the 36, but they could only muster two yards on the next three plays thanks to stellar defense from Nick DeMarco, Jashua Yagel and Fitz Mofar.
“We can’t afford to make mistakes in the playoffs and we made some and just didn’t finish our drives,” Catonsville coach Rich Hambor said. “We had opportunities.”
They still only trailed 13-7 when Sherwood got the ball with 8:08 left in the fourth quarter, but Vines raced 61 yards on the first play from scrimmage and scored two plays later on a 10-yard run, making it 19-7 with 7:11 remaining.
Vines added a third touchdown in the waning moment.
Despite the loss, Lane, who went over 1,000 yards for the season (1,031), praised his teammates.
“This is a good team,” Lane said. “All my boys had my back and they wouldn’t let anything happen to me and I’ve got their back. We all had heart and we came to play, we just made a lot of mental mistakes.”