It wasn’t Christmas, but with 10 seconds left in the first half, Towson senior Tyrell Cook got a present in the form of a fumbled lateral pass and he delivered it into the end zone.
The 83-yard return for a touchdown were the final points in the visiting Generals’ 17-14 victory over Lansdowne (0-3).
The play wasn’t supposed to happen, but a Towson penalty changed the minds of the Vikings’ coaching staff.
Lansdowne kicker Kyle Umstead was lined up to attempt a 33-yard field goal, but a Towson offsides penalty moved the ball to the 11-yard line.
Lansdowne shunned the field goal and attempted a fourth down quick screen pass to Gerald Hurt.
The ball sailed off his hands and Cook picked it up and raced 83 yards for a touchdown.
“Coaches tell me to keep my head up and stay aware on every single play and they tell me to do that on every single play, so when they threw that screen the ball was live and I just picked it up and took it back,” Cook said. “It felt great.”
The 5-foot-9 senior also scored the Generals first touchdown in the first quarter on a 40-yard reception from quarterback Roger Holcombe.
“I just got open on a corner route and the quarterback threw a good pass and I just had to haul it in,” Cook said. “That’s all it took.”
“Tyrell is really our guy,” Towson coach Chad Knippenberg said. “He will play anywhere. He’ll make anything happen for you. He’s a very smart kid. He’s a hard worker.”
Lansdowne scored a touchdown in the first quarter on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Sessoms to Jerald Hurt.
The Vikings took a 14-7 lead when sophomore Nimrod Westcott picked up a fumble and rambled in from 12-yards out with just over seven minutes left in the half.
Both defenses tightened up the rest of the way.
Andrew Dipaula’s sack and a fumble recovery by Chiebuka Ewuzi at the Lansdowne 35 set up a 24-yard field goal by Towson’s Leighton Bechdel after a drive keyed by an 11-yard run by quarterback Holcombe.
That cut the Vikings’ lead to 14-10 and set up the long fumble return by Cook.
Lansdowne tried to establish a running game early in the second half, but Towson’s stellar defensive line of nose guard Dipaula and tackles Ewuzi and Brendan Thomas stood firm.
Lansdowne’s defense, led by Tom Weedon and Westcott, was also stellar.
That defense really stepped up after a fake punt went awry and Towson got possession at the Lansdowne 35.
On third down, Keith Brown made a stop on a pass play for a loss of one and on fourth down Greg Scarborough and Phoebus Floyd broke up a long pass intended for Cook.
Floyd also made an impact offensively on the Vikings final drive of the night.
He took over quarterbacking the offense from starter Sessoms at the Lansdowne 25-yard line with 3:14 left in the game.
Floyd gained 16 yards rushing and passed to Donte White for 18 yards, but the closest they got was the Towson 38 where they turned the ball over on downs.
Knippenberg was not relaxed on the Vikings final drive as he had watched the Generals lose their opener 12-10 to Digital Harbor and lose to Patapsco 20-14 in overtime on Sept. 16.
“Your heart is in your stomach at the end,” Knippenberg said. “Sometimes you try to be optimistic and think, not again, and they didn’t, they dug their heels in and they were like, ‘No, it’s not going to happen again.’”
Cook wishes the Generals could have come up clutch in their first two losses.
“We could be 3-0 right now, but we’ve just got to keep on fighting, pick our heads up and move on to the next game,” Cook said.
“It kind of gets you over the hump, but give credit to Lansdowne, they played their tails off,” Knippenberg said. Coach [Shaun] Murphy is doing a good job. He’s got them playing really well.”
Viking coach Murphy appreciated his team’s effort.
“This is a special group,” Murphy said. “This is a great crew. They fought hard together. It is a young group. We have a couple up from JV who are starting and we are starting some sophomores and they are doing a phenomenal job.”