Alex Barnes had trouble containing his excitement when the Winters Mill quarterback talked a few days ago about how much he’d be using his legs on offense this fall.
Barnes showed just how pumped he was Saturday afternoon against Joppatowne — the senior took command of the Falcons’ running game and led his team to a 21-6 win, WM’s second season-opening victory over the Mariners in as many years.
Barnes didn’t need to rely on his arm too much in this one. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound quarterback took to the ground and came up big in several key moments for the Falcons.
Barnes collected more than 150 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns, the last of which ended with Winters Mill’s passer on his hands and knees. Barnes finished off WM’s final scoring drive with a 36-yard scamper — on fourth-and-2 from the Joppatowne 37 — down to the 1, then lowered his head for the short touchdown score.
Barnes celebrated, sort of, by going to the ground and emptying the contents of his stomach onto the turf.
Chalk it up to a hot, humid afternoon contest, combined with a lot of hard-earned yardage for the three-year starter.
“I feel like in years past I was just more of a throwing quarterback,” Barnes said. “Running the ball more is just as much an adjustment for me as it is for the team. I mean, I did not throw the ball well today, but I ran the ball well today. I feel like as the season progresses, being able to do both consistently will help me and the team be more successful.”
Barnes completed three of 14 passes for 24 yards and tossed a a pair of interceptions, to go with a fumble, but Joppatowne couldn’t turn the miscues into points. The Mariners cost themselves with penalties throughout the day, but made it a game in the third quarter when quarterback Alan Brown hit Shyeim Taylor on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
The two-point conversion run failed, and Winters Mill led 14-6.
The Falcons faced a third-and-10 from their own 40 when Barnes broke off a 35-yard run down the home team’s sideline to flip field position.
Winters Mill didn’t score, but it gave its defense a chance to make plays. Anthony Cegielski and Luke Profitt combined for a sack on the ensuing Joppatowne possession on a third-and-long situation to thwart the Mariners.
The score stayed the same into the fourth quarter, and WM forced a punt with 5:55 to play to begin on its own 44-yard line. Barnes faced a third-and-11 and was dropped for a loss, but Joppatowne got flagged for a personal foul to extend the drive.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-2, Barnes took the snap, darted to the left, and cut around the middle of the Mariners’ defense into open space. He headed toward the far corner of the end zone and got tackled inside the 1.
Barnes’ third rushing touchdown came with 2:37 to go, and Matheo Cuenca added his third point-after of the game to seal it.
Brown and running back Williams Harris found holes of their own to run through in the second half for Joppatowne, which gathered some momentum before its lone scoring drive. Winters Mill looked tired and a but sloppy at times, and the Mariners did their best to take advantage.
Harris ran for 23 yards on three carries, and Brown added a 4-yard scamper before tossing his touchdown pass. But the Falcons held their ground in the end, with Barnes leading the way.
The game was scheduled for Friday night until severe storms swept through the area and forced a postponement. WM coach Matt Miller said he was pleased the Falcons held onto most of that energy more than 15 hours later.
Miller also said there’s plenty to work on before Winters Mill visits Bohemia Manor next Friday.
“I’m pleased we got a win,” Miller said. “It’s always good to start 1-0 and I just told them, I don’t want to diminish that. But we need to be better.”
Joppatowne 0 0 6 0 — 6
Winters Mill 14 0 0 7 — 21
WM-Alex Barnes 5 run (Matheo Cuenca kick)
WM-Barnes 1 run (Cuenca kick)
J-Shyeim Taylor 10 pass from Alan Brown (run failed)
WM-Barnes 1 run (Cuenca kick)