Marcus Hicks and his Old Mill football teammates have been teasing senior defensive back Aqeel Mooring recently that he can't catch, but Mooring proved them wrong Friday afternoon.
After No. 11 Arundel pulled within 17-14 of the No. 4 Patriots with 2:42 left in their Anne Arundel County league game, the Wildcats booted an onside kick. Mooring never broke stride as he scooped it off the turf and took it to the Wildcats' 29-yard line.
Two plays later, Hicks ran 25 yards for a touchdown to all but seal the host Patriots' 24-14 victory over one of their toughest county rivals.
"I don't even know how I did it to tell you the truth," said Mooring, who also had an interception. "I just seen the opportunity and took it with the help of my teammates. I was going to cradle the ball but I picked it up. I never went down. I just kept my feet moving."
Hicks, who was in and out of the game, as he suffered from repeated cramping, also scored the Patriots' first touchdown on a 6-yard run late in the first quarter.
His last carry, however, was a critical blast up the middle of the line.
"The line got a better push," said Hicks, who is also an All-Metro defensive back. "We're not going to change our game plan no matter what happens to anybody, so we just kept pushing, and pushing, and pushing, and finally hit one for a long run."
Before that run, the big offensive play for the Patriots (2-0, 2-0 league) came on a 63-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, when sophomore quarterback David Marrocco spotted Devin Salisbury open downfield. That gave Old Mill a 14-0 lead with 3:27 to go until halftime in a game that was postponed one day because of thunderstorms.
Marrocco, who made his first varsity start when junior Brady Ludwig did not play for reasons coach Chad McCormick did not disclose, was 4-for-9 passing for 154 yards. Salisbury caught three passes for 115 yards.
While Salisbury's long touchdown was the result of an apparent blown coverage by Arundel's defense, the unit did a good job against the Patriots' running game, as demonstrated by Hicks' 36 yards on 20 carries. The Wildcats defense just spent too much time on the field thanks in large part to five turnovers.
The Wildcats (1-1, 1-1) had just 80 yards of offense in a first half that coach Chuck Markiewicz called the worst half of football played at Arundel since he arrived in 2000.
"I told them 'I don't care what happens, I don't care what the score is, but we've got to have a little more guts than that (in the second half),'" Markiewicz said. "And they came out and they competed and that's all I want. If we don't put all that pressure on the defense…"
In the second half, the Wildcats started moving the chains on their first drive, culminating in a 3-yard touchdown run by Diondre Wallace that closed the gap to 14-6. The Patriots then had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Brady Hannon to cap their next drive, making it 17-6 in the third quarter.
Old Mill's Josh Piper recovered a fumble to end Arundel's next drive, but the Patriots couldn't convert. The Wildcats' next drive ended when Noah Fitzgerald intercepted junior quarterback Anthony Messenger (17-for-29 for 128 yards, three interceptions), but the Patriots turned the ball over on downs.
Arundel would cut the lead to 17-12 when Larry Barnes broke through a pair of tacklers for a 6-yard touchdown run. Messenger then faked the handoff and ran around the right end untouched for the conversion, bringing the Wildcats within three, 17-14, with 2:42 remaining. Arundel then tried the onside kick that Mooring recovered.
McCormick said his experienced defense deserved credit, too. Malik Hicks had an interception and Allen Johnson recovered a fumble.
"Our defense did an excellent job," McCormick said. "Arundel's the type of team that can score a lot of points. Last year, we gave up 66 points, and in the past we've give up 55, so to come out here and give up 14 points against a great football team, that's a great job."
A 0 0 7 7 -- 14
OM 7 7 3 7 -- 24
OM—Mar.Hicks 6 run (Hannon kick)
OM—Salisbury 63 pass from Marrocco (Hannon kick)
A—Wallace 3 run (kick failed)
OM—Hannon 23 FG
A—Barnes 6 run (Messenger run)
OM—Mar.Hicks 25 run (Hannon kick)