HAMPSTEAD — Last month, two sets of recommendations were presented to the Carroll County Board of Education as budget solutions for the county. One of them included the potential closure of North Carroll High School.
Those throughout Hampstead have shown their support in the weeks since, creating a campaign directed at preserving their school's nearly 60 years of history.
Still, the community has been in need of some good news as of late, and on Monday in a rain-postponed matchup against Brunswick, North Carroll's football team provided just that.
Tyler Pryzbylski scored two touchdowns and amassed 141 yards on the ground, as the Panthers rolled the visiting Railroaders 30-0 at Powelson Field.
"The kids needed this. The program needed this. The community certainly … it was a big win," said North Carroll coach Todd Edmondson of the team's victory, which was its first of its season. "Now we're going to keep plugging away."
North Carroll (1-4) hadn't suffered a four-game losing skid since 2012, and after helping the program to arguably its best campaign to date last season, second-year coach Edmondson was certainly not used to the team's losing ways.
On Monday, in front of a crowd hoisting "Save NCHS/Save Hampstead" signs, North Carroll played four quarters of relatively solid football, its defense failing to surrender much all game. Points, however, were only available to the home team in the second quarter, where it scored all 30 on its way to the lopsided victory.
That scoring barrage didn't begin until nearly seven minutes into the second quarter, but once momentum shifted, it moved fast.
The Panthers' running attack, with Pryzbylski at the helm, was working for much of the game, though on the team's second possession of the quarter, it was quarterback Cooper Hastings who struck first.
The sophomore faked an inside hand-off to his running back, fooling the Brunswick defense into committing to the right. Hastings followed his bootleg to the left and found nothing but grass for 46 yards and the score.
On the following possession, Brunswick faced a first-and-10 at the North Carroll 43. Quarterback George Auel dropped back and looked over the middle for a short pass, but instead found Panthers linebacker Jake VanHorn, who took the interception nearly 40 yards the other way.
The Panthers were quickly ahead, 13-0, in less than one minute of play after being shut out for the first 17.
Brunswick fumbled the next kickoff, which gave the home team yet another chance to score in short succession. It only took five plays to follow through — this time, on a Pryzbylski 6-yard punch-in.
"O-line really came out focused tonight," said Pryzbylski, who refused to take credit for the performance. "Everyone's blocking, everyone played with all their heart. Everyone's doing their jobs."
Edmondson said his offensive attack has been about going "back to basics," and simplifying things. Though Hastings only completed one of his three attempts, the team's running attack finished with 249 yards.
Pryzbylski scored once more just seconds before the half came to a close, but not before the Panthers defense got its chance to get on the board as well.
After Brunswick was pinned on its own 2 yard-line, North Carroll linebacker Will Hastings broke through the Railroader front, stuffing running back Andrew Shaffer in the end zone for the safety.
For the game, North Carroll's defense allowed just 81 total yards — many of which came late in the fourth quarter. Connor Waskiewicz also blocked a punt that VanHorn recovered.
"I've always felt good about the defense," Edmondson said. "Defense is there. Offense is coming around. We're clicking, getting people healthy. That's the biggest thing. We've got the second half of the season left, so we're ready to go."
Because North Carroll was the lone team to move its game to Monday, the program will have a short week as it prepares to take on Liberty.
But, after securing the first win of the season, the Panthers have a chance to build off their own success while their community watches. It's what they'll focus on heading into Friday.
"It's going to be a big time mental week this week," Edmondson added. "Not a lot of physical, I can tell you that. But a lot of mental, and that's what we need right now."
Brunswick 0 0 0 0 — 0
North Carroll 0 30 0 0 — 30
NC-Cooper Hastings 46 run (Aaron Nelson kick)
NC-Jake VanHorn 60 interception return (kick failed)
NC-Tyler Pryzbylski 13 run (Pryzbylski run)
NC-Safety (Andrew Shaffer tackled in end zone)
NC-Pryzbylski 6 run (Nelson kick)
B-Dylan deSimon 2-24, Andrew Shaffer 13-25, George Auel 2-(-4); NC-Tyler Pryzbylski 21-141, Cooper Hastings 6-44, Aaron Nelson 4-30, Zach Hasson 5-17, Tristan Simpkins 3-13, Connor Waskiewicz 1(-4).
Carroll County Daily Headlines
B-Auel 5-18-1 36; NC-Cooper Hastings 1-3 0, Aaron Nelson 0-1.
B- Shaffer 3-11, Alec Lewis 1-24, James Marker 1-1; NC-Nelson 1-0.