Few high school football games are so meaningful this early in the season, but No. 4 Old Mill's 30-20 win at No. 3 Meade Friday night gives the Patriots a considerable edge on their top county competition.
The visiting Patriots used big plays to power their victory and avenge last season's loss in the regional final. Noah Fitzgerald had an interception and a fumble recovery, Devin Salisbury returned a punt for a 60-yard touchdown and Marcus Hicks ran for touchdowns of 35 and 44 yards.
"It's week three, but to be 3-0 right now with the schedule we face, it's a huge win," said Patriots coach Chad McCormick, whose team is the only one still unbeaten in Anne Arundel County. "I'm not going to sugar-coat it. It's a huge win, but it's only week three. Next week's game is just as big a game for us."
Still, wins over Arundel and Broadneck – two of their toughest opponents in the county and in the Class 4A East region – could look very big when the postseason rolls around.
"It's a great win," Fitzgerald said. "Meade's a great opponent, very mobile, a very athletic team, one of the best competitors in the county the last couple years. This is a really big win for me and my team."
Salisbury got it started for the Patriots on his punt return touchdown with 6:22 left in the first quarter. Fitzgerald, a junior linebacker, then got his hands on a short pass for the interception and Hicks ran it in from 35 yards out on the next play for a 14-0 Old Mill lead with 6:16 left in the first half.
The Mustangs (1-2) then got their offense going behind senior running back Kyle Evans, who gained 58 of the 75 yards in the next Meade drive and finished it off with a six-yard scoring run to pull within 14-7 with 4:05 left in the half.
Brady Hannon's 32-yard field goal for the Patriots and Marcus Smith's 9-yard touchdown run for the Mustangs made it 17-14 Old Mill before Fitzgerald recovered a fumbled snap that set up 10-play, 53-yard drive capped by Donovan Franklin's 2-yard scoring run.
In the final three minutes, the Mustangs staged another scoring drive, gaining big ground on Smith's 34-yard pass to David Richards and his 20-yard pass to Khaliq Wilson. Smith, a senior, finished off the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tyree Turner. The extra point was blocked, leaving Old Mill with a 24-20 lead.
The Mustangs then tried an onside kick, but Old Mill recovered. Hicks all but sealed the Old Mill win with a 44-yard touchdown run two plays later.
Meade coach Rich Holzer, whose team beat the Patriots in the playoffs last year for the first time since 2001, said the Mustangs just made too many mistakes. They struggled to get their running game going before the drive Evans scored on late in the second quarter and they continued to be inconsistent on offense.
"It was mistakes that I have no idea where they came from," Holzer said. "The good thing is we can fix those. It's not an effort thing. It's not a talent thing. It's just mistakes."
OM 7 7 3 13 -- 30
M 0 6 7 7 -- 20
OM—Salisbury 60 punt ret. (Hannon kick)
OM—Mar.Hicks 35 run (Hannon kick)
M—Evans 6 run (kick failled)
OM—Hannon 32 FG
M—Smith 9 run (Ogo kick)
OM—Franklin 2 run (Hannon kick)
M—Turner 6 pass from Smith (kick failed)
OM—Mar.Hicks 44 run (kick failed)Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun