ELDERSBURG — There's a sign in the Century football locker room that players and coaches slap as they head out onto the field. It reads: "Find a way."
Late in the fourth quarter against North Carroll in the county opener, the Knights had to do just that. After a few unsuccessful visits into Panther territory that could have put things away, it was the Century defense that took put that motto into practice.
A pair of fourth quarter safeties — the second courtesy of Nate Lang, who dropped North Carroll quarterback Cooper Hastings in the end zone — helped the Knights hold off the visitors, securing the 18-12 victory.
"It's a little underdog mentality," said Century coach Jim Holzman, whose team has already surpassed its 2014 win total. "I think they are kind of taking on that mentality that we can win in tough situations. And in the last two weeks, we've proven that."
Things didn't come easy for the Knights (3-1, 1-0 county) toward the end of the game, and even after surrendering 14 points in the first quarter, the Panthers were still in contention inside the final five minutes.
Century senior quarterback Adam Lanni said his team only benefitted from having to fight through that adversity, especially in its first game of Carroll County play.
"We stick together as a family, that's who we are," said Lanni, who completed 21 of his 35 attempts through the air for 249 yards in the win. "This team is a family. Twenty-four members. We fight. We've got each other's back no matter what."
Century started the first half like it was ready to run away with things. North Carroll (0-4, 0-1) received the opening kick, though the visitors' offense couldn't muster much and had to punt.
When the Knights got possession on the Panthers' 48, Lanni's offense needed just nine plays to find the end zone — a drive that Brandon Brown finished off with a 4-yard rushing touchdown.
Another three-and-out had the Panthers punting from deep in their own territory, which Century's Joe Brosenne made them pay for.
The senior linebacker broke through the line and, after a poor snap bounced off the turf before reaching Panthers punter Connor Waskiewicz, Brosenne blocked the attempt. The ricochet bounced back toward the goal line, recovered by the Knights at the 2.
Taking things himself, Lanni punched through on the next play, giving the home team a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter.
After having difficulty getting anything going through much of the first quarter, the Panthers offense got on the board following the ensuing kickoff.
Panthers' quarterback Dixon Wiley dropped back from his own 41 and found Jake VanHorn, who found an opening in the busted coverage and made the Knights pay. His 59-yard catch-and-run score with 1 minute, 1 second left in the first ended the shutout.
North Carroll added more pressure in the third, when it needed seven plays to set up a short-yardage Tyler Przybylski score.
The Panthers recorded five takeaways on the day, which helped them stay in things until the end.
Still, it's offensive consistency that coach Todd Edmondson said needs to improve if the team is going to find its way into the win column.
"We're getting some big plays, but it's coming back because we're lined up wrong," the coach said. "And once I feel like we get a couple of big steps forward, we take a gigantic one back."
With Lanni calling the shots from under center, making completions to players such as Anthony Perrone — who caught 10 balls for 102 yards — Holzman thinks things are starting to turn around for his program.
He thinks if his players continue to look for different ways to win games, some of that experience will show itself.
"We've had a couple of rough years," he said. "We've really come together as a group, as a team this year."
North Carroll 6 0 6 0 – 12
Century 14 0 0 4 – 18
C-Brandon Brown 4 run (Christian Bergamaschi kick)
C-Adam Lanni 2 run (Bergamaschi kick)
NC-Jake VanHorn 59 pass from Dixon Wiley (kick no good)
NC-Tyler Przybilski 5 run (Conversion no good)
C-safety (Cooper Hastings sacked in end zone)
C-safety (Cooper Hastings sacked in end zone)
NC-Aaron Nelson 8-54, Connor Waskiewicz 2-28, Tyler Przybilski 10-25, Dixon Wiley 7-21, Zach Hasson1- (-1), Cooper Hastings 3- (-14); C-Jake Lettiere 13-44, Johnny Pearson 8-26, Pat Hunter 4-12, Adam Lanni 5-4, Steven Shinholt 1-4.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
NC-Dixon Wiley 1-6-1 59, Cooper Hastings 1-5 11; C-Adam Lanni 21-35-1 249.
NC-Jake VanHorn 1-59, Connor Waskiewicz 1-11; C-Anthony Perrone 10-102, Ashley Roberts 7-78, Jake Lettiere 5-40, Owen Gams 3-29.