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Kevin Smitson delivers late to help Atholton football knock off undefeated Long Reach | Howard County sports roundup

Atholton coach Eric Woodson has a number of offensive players capable of sealing a victory.

In the Raiders’ Week 1 win over Wilde Lake, bruising running back Dillan Watkins put the game away with an 8-yard run in the final minute. In their triumph over River Hill two weeks ago, it was quarterback Miles Scott who ran for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

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On Friday against undefeated Long Reach, it was Kevin Smitson who did the honors of clinching the victory. Smitson, a wide receiver/running back, converted two third downs with 20-plus-yard runs on Atholton’s final drive to seal the 7-6 victory.

“Kevin is gritty,” said Atholton coach Eric Woodson. “He’s a throwback football player. He has heart, and he wears his emotions on his sleeve.”

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Atholton's Kevin Smitson, left, celebrates a big run for a first down with teammate Charles Decelles (5) in the final minute of play to secure the Raiders 7-6 victory during a football game at Long Reach High School on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.
Atholton's Kevin Smitson, left, celebrates a big run for a first down with teammate Charles Decelles (5) in the final minute of play to secure the Raiders 7-6 victory during a football game at Long Reach High School on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

The win over the Lightning puts Atholton (7-1) in position to earn a share of the county championship next week with a victory against Mt. Hebron. Entering the final week of the season, Atholton, Long Reach, Oakland Mills and Glenelg are all 7-1 and would earn a share of the county crown next week with a win.

The Lightning and Scorpions play each other, meaning only the victor will be crowned as co-county champs. The Raiders, meanwhile, play the Vikings, while the Gladiators host Reservoir.

“We’re focused and ready for next week,” Smitson said. “We knew this would be a big game and we showed up ready to win, and that’s what we did.”

Atholton opened the road game with a 13-play, 46-yard drive in what Woodson called the Maryland I-formation, which has three running backs in a straight line behind the under-center quarterback — one more than the traditional I-formation. However, the drive ended in a turnover on downs in Long Reach territory.

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The Raiders then forced a Long Reach three-and-out, and a bad snap on the punt gave Atholton the ball back on the Lightning 5-yard line. Long Reach’s defense held up, though, forcing a missed 22-yard field goal.

It didn’t take long for Atholton to make up for the squandered opportunity, though, as John Prajka recovered a fumble on the first play of Long Reach’s next drive. On the next play, quarterback Harrison Feldman threw a short pass to Tra Evans, who evaded three defenders on his way to the end zone for the 17-yard score.

“We hadn’t been targeting him enough, so one of our focal points was to spread the ball around,” Woodson said about Evans. “He’s probably one of the fastest kids in Howard County, and he’s got some wiggle.”

Atholton’s Max Smalls then intercepted an errant pass by Long Reach’s quarterback, giving the Raiders a short field once again. But the Raiders squandered that scoring chance, too, with another missed field goal, this one from 26 yards.

“They were on our side of the field for most of the first half, and we only gave up seven points,” said Long Reach coach Jamie Willis.

Long Reach then drove 65 yards down the field on 19 plays for its lone touchdown of the game late in the second quarter. Star running back Julius Saunders capped off the scoring drive with a 3-yard plunge. Without its starting kicker due to injury, the Lightning’s backup kicker missed the extra point, which ended up being the difference in the game.

“They’re a good football team. They played well,” Willis said. “We just have to be better. We didn’t play great, and we lost 7-6. My right guard, who is also my kicker, didn’t play, and we lost by one point.”

The Raiders held Saunders, who is one of the top rushers in the county, to 107 yards on 29 carries.

“Stop [Saunders],” said Woodson about his defense’s goal entering the game. “We knew if we limited him we’d have a good shot. You can’t really stop him. You can only contain him, and I think we did a damn good job of containing him.”

The scoreless second half saw two punts and three turnovers on downs. Long Reach had two drives that ended in Atholton territory, and both ended after incomplete passes on both third and fourth downs.

“We’ve got to complete those passes,” Willis said. “We had some opportunities, and we just missed them. We were just off a little bit.”

After Atholton forced a Long Reach turnover on downs near the red zone, the Raiders took over with about four minutes remaining.

Woodson then went back to his Maryland I-formation, which the Raiders hadn’t operated out of since the first drive. Facing third-and-6 early in the drive, Smitson took the handoff and ran for 23 yards. Then three plays later, facing a third-and-2 with about 1:30 left, Smitson bounced outside for a 22-yard first down to give the Raiders the win.

“That’s a great formation. I love that formation,” Smitson said. “I love having those blockers in front of me. I knew those would be big runs. Our guys can really block. I love them.”

“Nobody really sees that formation,” Woodson said. “I got it from Chesapeake in Anne Arundel County. I played against coach Rob [Elliott] down there, so thank you coach Rob. [Long Reach] has never seen it from us. We practiced it this week, and we decided to break it out.”

Despite the loss for Long Reach, Willis said “all of this team’s goals” lie ahead.

“We’re not happy with tonight’s result. We had a chance to go 8-0 for the first time in school history,” Willis said. “But now we have to move on, get a win next week and be able to get a tie and share the county championship.”

Atholton 7, Long Reach 6

A — 7 0 0 0 — 7

LR — 0 6 0 0 — 6

Scoring plays:

First quarter

A: Tra Evans 17-yard pass from Harrison Feldman, Benjamin Gershuny kick [7-0]

Second quarter

LR: Julius Saunders 1-yard run, kick no good [7-6]

OTHER FOOTBALL SCORES:

Reservoir 7, Wilde Lake 6

Howard 17, Hammond 14

Oakland Mills 6, River Hill 0

Mt. Hebron 34, Centennial 7

Glenelg 56, Marriotts Ridge 24


Don’t see scores or stats from your favorite team? Send results and any game information to Jacob Meyer at jameyer@baltsun.com.

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