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With comeback, No. 9 St. Paul's edges John Carroll, 28-27, for MIAA 'B' title

As St. Paul's went for the game-winning conversion in overtime of Saturday's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference football final against John Carroll, quarterback Anthony Pino took the snap and turned around to hand the ball to running back Dale Harris, but Harris wasn't there.

Pino didn't panic. He rolled away from the John Carroll defense and spotted Rob Suite open in the end zone. Pino hit the senior receiver in the numbers for the conversion.

Those two points gave the No. 9 Crusaders their first lead of the game, 28-27, and secured not only their first B Conference title in seven years but an 11-0 season at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Like Pino, the Crusaders, who defeated John Carroll, 34-0, during the regular season, stayed poised as the Patriots (9-3) built a 17-0 lead late in the first half. Two early St. Paul's turnovers helped the Patriots dominate possession in the first half and limited the Crusaders to just 5 1/2 minutes of possession.

"Our team is a family and to come back and win this is overwhelming," said Harris, who scored three of the Crusaders' four touchdowns and finished with 212 yards on 22 carries. "I wouldn't have a better championship either way. To win in overtime is a blessing."

John Carroll coach Rich Stichel said he didn't change anything after the two teams met on Oct. 12.

"We didn't need to change anything, we just needed to play better and we outplayed them today," Stichel said. "We were the better team today. We just didn't come out with the victory."

The Patriots' Montell Martin had an interception and a fumble recovery in the first 16 minutes and John Carroll converted both for scores. After the first touchdown, St. Paul's picked up a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, setting the Patriots up to kick off from the Crusaders' 30-yard line. The Patriots recovered the onside kick, which eventually led to a 26-yard field goal from Alex Gambrell.

By the time the Patriots took a 17-0 lead on Brandon Lewis' 15-yard pass to Austin Markley with 5:35 to go in the first half, the Crusaders had gained only 18 yards from scrimmage.

Then Harris got rolling. He scored on a 40-yard run up the middle to pull the Crusaders within 17-6 with 3:15 to go before halftime and then broke an 88-yard touchdown run to pull within 17-14 just 24 seconds into the second half.

The Crusaders' defense then did its part, stopping the Patriots with a goal-line stand. Harris, who played his freshman season at John Carroll, tackled Gus Lane on fourth-and-1 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

"That kind of put them back in the ball game there," John Carroll coach Rich Stichel said of Harris' 88-yard touchdown. "[Then] we had four plays to score from the 1 and didn't get in, and if we get in there, the game's over."

Gambrell added a 36-yard field goal for a 20-14 lead with 4:35 to go, but the Crusaders tied it when Pino hit Kaylon Johnson with a 25-yard touchdown pass 3 minutes later. On the extra-point attempt, the snap was too high and holder Suite tried to run around the left side but couldn't reach the end zone, leaving the game tied at 20.

In overtime, Paul Lorick's 10-yard run and Gambrell's extra point gave the Patriots the 27-20 lead before Harris scored on a 6-yard run and the Crusaders went for the winning two-point conversion.

"Our kids have great belief in each other and a lot of confidence, "St. Paul's coach Paul Bernstorf said. "We weren't panicking, we weren't screaming, we weren't going out of control. We knew we had some mistakes, turned the ball over twice and we didn't play as well as we could and that's the way it's going to happen in high school football."

JC 7 10 0 3 7 -- 27

SP 0 6 7 6 8 -- 28

JC—Lewis 1 run (Gambrell kick)

JC—Gambrell 26 FG

JC—Markley 15 pass from Lewis (Gambrell kick)

SP—Harris 40 run (kick failed)

SP—Harris 88 run (Carbone pass from Pino)

JC—Gambrell 36 FG

SP—Johnson 25 pass from Pino (kick failed)

JC—Lorick 10 run (Gambrell kick)

SP—Harris 6 run (Suite from Pino)

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