The Aegis

Stephen Kelley II leads Harford Tech football to 27-20 win over Bel Air: ‘He’s just scratching the surface’

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Harford Tech quarterback Stephen Kelley II threw for 133 yards and three touchdowns in the Cobras' 27-20 win over Bel Air.

Stephen Kelley II sat comfortably at the 15-yard line with his legs stretched out and his back to the end zone as he fit his mouth guard into his helmet. He earned the right to revel in the moment.

The sophomore quarterback had just manufactured his most impressive drive of the night, the eventual difference maker in Harford Tech’s 27-20 win over Bel Air.


“I was just thinking, ‘We definitely need points here,’” said Kelley, who is only three games into his varsity career. He was referring to the sand slowly slipping through the Cobras’ fingertips as their 21-6 halftime lead was cut to nine, then Kelley threw an interception that was waived off.

Harford Tech’s Kelley-led offense converted a crucial fourth-down with a 25-yard pickup down the left sideline. Then, the rising star scrambled out wide to his right, turned as his jersey was tugged from behind and somehow delivered a ball on target through traffic to Trenton Wrzosek in the front of the end zone.


“That was one where I was looking for my drink my mouth was so dry,” Harford Tech coach Brad Hunt said. “Little bit of head-scratching stuff. ... I coached him last year as a freshman and you can see that he sees the game a certain way. He’s just scratching the surface but definitely have all the confidence in the world in him.”

Kelley finished 11-for-16 for 133 yards and three touchdowns. Although, he was far from flawless. At times Kelley was more blithe on the run but made the plays that counted.

Part of his maturation at quarterback will be his continued adjustment to the speed of the game, coming from JV a year ago.

Harford Tech (3-0) was in a similar position last week against Elkton, where it jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter then watched it slip away as the offense stalled. But the Cobras squeaked out a 27-25 win then, and in a similar position were able to close out another win with a one-week-more relaxed quarterback.

“I was just trying to stay focused and keep the team in it,” Kelley said. “As a quarterback, you gotta be the leader of the team. I’m only a sophomore, so I’m kind of new to it but it’s nothing I can’t handle. Just trying to keep us in it and stay positive and that’s why we caught the W.”

Hunt was able to let out a sigh of relief after the second-straight narrow victory for his undefeated Cobras. His main takeaway was watching how his team responds to adversity.

“I’ve been part of teams here where we rolled through the regular season and the first time we saw adversity in the playoffs we folded,” Hunt said. “Our guys showed a little bit of toughness, a little bit of grit ... That’s all I can ask for. ... I’m glad we’re learning early.”

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Bel Air coach Eric Siegel walked off the field drawing a similar conclusion. Friday night offered a look into how his team did, can and will handle adversity.


The Bobcats (2-1) hung around on the scoreboard but repeatedly kicked itself.

First, it was a 70-yard touchdown run from JT Ouandji Nana on the Bobcats’ first drive that was negated by a holding call. Later, more laundry on the field reverted a 30-yard gain across midfield, again from Ouandji Nana, that hindered a potential game-tying drive. They had a tipped punt that handed favorable field position to the Cobras, who quickly took advantage with a touchdown. Even the Bel Air interception against the sideline that was closely called out of bounds gave way to Kelley’s impressive final scoring drive.

“Leading is easy when you’re winning two-straight games,” Siegel said. “My 8-year-old kid can lead a team at that point. Who are you when you lose a game or when you’re down? That’s where character and leadership are shown. ... It’s about who comes back tomorrow morning.”

Those moments certainly showed in fits and starts for the Bobcats.

Quarterback Patrick Sullivan played a crucial role in keeping the game competitive. After a missed opportunity to put points on the board, it was two of his teammates, Aiden Valentin and Matthew Valente, who lifted Sullivan’s head up.

“We played what came close to Bel Air football in the second half,” Siegel said. “But you can’t do those penalties in the first half and you can’t allow our emotions to get ahead of ourselves. You can’t make stupid mental mistakes, that’s what is gonna lose football games.”