On a night when the Catonsville High and Arbutus football communities came together to honor the late Nick Tasker, it was fitting that the Comets used a pass his father, Richard, used to catch for the Comets to clinch a 34-16 victory over Randallstown on Friday night.
Nick Tasker played football for the Arbutus Golden Eagles and was diagnosed with Stage 4 Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, when he was 8 years old. He passed away in June 2017 at the age of 9. This would have been his freshman year at Catonsville.
Catonsville honored him with Nick Tasker night and will dedicate one game every season to him for the next four years.
Current Arbutus Golden Eagles mingled with Catonsville fans and celebrated an entertaining victory for the home team. The win was in doubt, even after Tyler Boyd (14 carries for 98 yards) scored on a 37-yard run, giving the Comets a 24-16 lead with 5:19 left in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Comet offensive coordinator John Youngberg called a play-action pass play for the two-point conversion. It was a play they used when Catonsville head coach Jaren Maybin was a running back and a teammate of Richard Tasker.
Quarterback Ja’von Cole-White hit tight end Mike Owens in the corner of the end zone to make the lead 26-16.
“It’s interesting because back when I played, coach Youngberg was the offensive coordinator and we ran the ball a ton and our tight end was always open for the play-action pass,” said Maybin, the Comets’ all-time leading rusher with 3,870 yards. “It just so happens that it was Nick Tasker night and Richard Tasker was one of those tight ends, and he used to catch passes and I think he scored about seven touchdowns our senior year on that very pass.”
Cole-White, who rotated with Gunnar Gemmell at quarterback, only completed one other pass on the night, but was confident that it would work.
“That was a designed play,” he said. “We saw they were crashing and coming down and they weren’t worried about the pass at all, so it was a great call by coach Youngberg on the play-action pass to the corner.”
The Comets didn’t expect it to be that close after a dominating first half when they held the Rams to just 10 total yards of offense and 2 yards rushing while building a 12-0 halftime lead.
The Comets had six tackles for loss with Owens, Mason Ritter, Zion Adams (sack), Nazie Buckson, Karon Pearson and Hikeem Ferguson all enjoying times in the Rams backfield. Ferguson also had a fumble recovery in the first half.
Catonsville’s best drive of the game was its first, when they marched 69 yards on 14 plays. Karon Pearson’s 3-yard TD run ended the drive and the extra point was blocked.
Running backs Boyd and Carlito Jones (16 carries for 89 yards) did most of the damage in the first half when they combined for 81 yards rushing on 14 carries. Catonsville finished with 234 yards rushing.
Catonsville’s second score came on a 2-yard run by Anthony Cruz.
The extra point was wide, but the Comets extended their lead to 18-0 early in the third quarter when an interception by Chris Heffern set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jones.
The Rams rallied in the third quarter, thanks to strong running from sophomore Elijah Lee and Comet penalties. Lee had 58 of his 73 yards rushing in the second half.
“He puts it all out on the field, which is why you saw so much emotion out there,” Randallstown coach Marvin Davis said.
Lee’s two-point conversion run made it 18-8 with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
With 10:21 left in the fourth quarter, quarterback Jose Tutt connected with Winston Okeke for a 31-yard touchdown and Lee’s conversion run made it 18-16.
Two plays later, the Rams recovered a fumble at the Catonsville 28, but the Comets got a big defensive play, Isaiah Briscoe stopping Lee for a loss and the Comets held the Rams on downs.
On Catonsville’s next possession, Cole-White ad-libbed on his biggest run of the night. On first down from the Catonsville 41, he turned a broken play into a 15-yard gain.
“It was a busted play, the linebacker backed down and got in the way of the running back, so I just took the ball in my own hands and took off with it,” he said. “I was supposed to hand it off, but it didn’t work out.”
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The play is something Maybin expects from the senior signal-caller.
“Both quarterbacks are great and they both do different things well, but when things break down, we know that he has the ability to make something happen and he did that tonight,” he said.
Boyd’s 37-yard touchdown came on the next play and the clinching conversion followed.
Catonsville added a late score when Buckson returned a fumble seven yards. It gave Maybin a chance to relax, but he knows his squad needs to play four quarters.
“It was a little disappointing in the third quarter, just being undisciplined and those are the things we are going to really work on at practice this next week and hopefully we have a different result for all four quarters, but in the first half I think our defense was playing lights out,” he said. “They were putting all kinds of pressure on the quarterback and they had all kinds of penetration in the backfield and were busting up plays. They did a great job in the first, second and fourth quarters.”
Davis, whose squad was 1-8 last season, was excited to see his team rally, but knows they have to grow up in a hurry with only three seniors on the roster,
“Right now, we just have to mature fast,” he said. “We are not looking for anybody to pat us on the bat and cuddle us. I told these guys, it is what it is at this point. We are doing the best we can to put a winning product on the field every week.”