With three Top 15 teams and a couple of other historically strong teams, Baltimore County’s Class 4A-3A Division was already one of the area’s most competitive leagues, but in the past couple of weeks, two more teams have emerged as possible contenders.
Last week, Dulaney defeated Catonsville for the first time in at least 25 years. Then Saturday, Parkville pulled off a rare victory over Perry Hall, 21-14.
The Knights (2-1) hadn’t beaten Perry Hall since 2009, but senior cornerback Vernon Miller Jr. picked off a Perry Hall pass with about a minute left to seal Saturday’s victory. Miller also scored the game-winning touchdown with about nine minutes left on a 25-yard reception from quarterback Sid White.
Second-year coach Justin Payne stressed a possession offense, and the Knights defense helped by forcing four Perry Hall turnovers.
“Our game plan was to come in and possess the ball, keep the ball in our hands, move the ball down the field and keep it out of their hands,” Payne said. “They have a fast-paced offense and they’re very well coached. They’re very disciplined, so if we could maintain possession of the ball, put some points on the board, keep them off the field and then just play good defense, we’d have a chance to beat them.”
Payne, who led the Knights to a 3-9 season last fall after they finished 1-9 the previous year, also emphasized tackling in space against the Gators, who run many different plays with a lot of different formations.
Among his leaders on defense, Payne noted Miller; safety Lamontte Brown, who also had an interception; linebacker Ogechi Njikonye and defensive end Mike Stewart, who moved up from linebacker to put more pressure on Perry Hall’s quarterback.
White had a hand in all three Parkville touchdowns, throwing for two and running for the other.
The win over Perry Hall comes on the heels of a strong showing in a 21-18 loss last week to No. 9 Milford Mill, one of the division’s top contenders along with No. 11 Dundalk and No. 12 Franklin. While those three figured to battle it out for the division title, Perry Hall and Catonsville can rarely be counted out.
The close call against the Millers came a week after Milford Mill had beaten Dundalk.
“That gave us some confidence. We were playing against the No. 9 team in the area and we hung with them,” said Payne, who was pleased that his team played well but said they let the Millers off the hook giving up an interception near the end of the game.
“The fans, the parents and everybody were glad we had a close game. I wanted to win. We know they’re a good team and we didn’t come there to just hang in there with them, but we did see some of the things that made us be better than last year and we saw things that we need to work on.”
The Knights will host the other team on the rise in the division – Dulaney (2-1) – Saturday at 2 p.m. The Lions are 2-0 in the division while the Knights are 1-1.