Last year, Manchester Valley football lost five games by a touchdown or less.
The Mavericks already reversed one of those results last week with a win at Williamsport, but faced the possibility of coming up just short again Friday night against North Hagerstown. The Hubs, who beat Man Valley 35-28 last year, had trimmed a 21-6 Mavs lead to 21-20 when they were driving again late in the fourth quarter.
Senior linebacker Thomas Chenoweth made sure that didn’t happen.
He was supposed to cover the flats, but didn’t see any receivers there and decided to drop back. Manchester Valley’s defensive line was closing in on North Hagerstown quarterback Jaynaz Melendez, and Chenoweth expected him to take a gamble downfield. Melendez did just that, and Chenoweth came up with the ball and the game-saving interception.
“I ran back and saw the ball in the air and felt like it was forever coming down,” Chenoweth said. “I sat there and I was just waiting. Eventually I jumped up and came down with the ball.”
The Mavericks moved to 2-0 for the first time since 2015 with the win, which was also the last time they made the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association regional playoffs.
They’re also Carroll County’s only unbeaten team after two weeks.
Manchester Valley still has a lot of season left before another postsason berth becomes a possibility, but the two wins provide a foundation to build upon for the rest of the season.
MV coach Bernie Koontz says he tells his team adversity reveals character, and he saw a lot of character from the Mavs on Friday. After letting North Hagerstown get into the red zone only once in the first half, the Hubs offense got into a rhythm in the second, scoring on drives of 64 and 65 yards before coming up short on the final drive.
“I think the kids showed a lot of heart and grit with sticking to it and playing together until the end,” Koontz said.
On offense, senior quarterback Garrett Deltuva has taken command of the Mavericks offense in his first year under center. Deltuva finished 20-of-27 for 241 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, showing poise on all three of Manchester Valley’s scoring drives.
“I thought his decision making is helping his leadership,” Koontz said. “On and off the field he’s done a good job for us.”
Deltuva said he makes sure everyone keeps their head up when things start to go south, and had a chance to apply that himself against the Hubs. The Mavericks had the ball at North Hagerstown’s 2-yard line leading 15-0 to start the second quarter, and Deltuva threw an interception on the next play.
But after North Hagerstown scored to start the third quarter, Deltuva responded by leading a nine-play scoring drive. He finished it with a throw to Zach Bowen for a 20-yard gain, and a 23-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Chanaud.
“You have to reset yourself and flush anything bad that happens and keep pushing on,” Deltuva said. “And you have to know in yourself you can do good.”
On defense, Chenoweth says he sees “high potential,” but it has to work on finishing games. He thinks the Mavs let up against Williamsport, and then struggled to contain North Hagerstown’s Melendez when he would scramble and make plays downfield.
“We have to work on keeping the outside,” Chenoweth said. “And if we face a scrambling quarterback like we did tonight we have to focus on wrapping up.”
Even with room for improvement, both Chenoweth and Deltuva see a change in the Mavericks’ mentality this year that started in offseason workouts. They’ll need to keep that mentality against Southern High School from Anne Arundel County, who they beat 7-6 last year, before starting Carroll County Athletic League play against South Carroll, who clipped the Mavs 29-22 last year.
“We’re tired of losing,” Chenoweth said. “We wanted to come out and make a statement to the whole county that we’re here to play and it’s a different team this year.”