Reservoir football coach Bryan Cole heard from many of his coaching peers this weekend. They all had a similar question: How did that happen?
That being the performance of Gators quarterback Malcolm Brown, who put up staggering numbers in their 42-35 home loss to Oakland Mills on Friday night. The junior went 29 of 47 passing for 414 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.
It’s the most attempts, completions and yards for any Howard County signal caller in any game this or last year and tied for the most touchdown passes. The 414 yards is 162 more than Long Reach’s Jose Ribalta had last week against Marriotts Ridge, which was the most in any game since the start of 2018.
The fact that those numbers came from a Reservoir quarterback makes it all the most astonishing. Under Cole, who admitted he and everyone else knows is a “power football guy who runs the ball above all else,” the Gators have been one of the most run-heavy teams in the county — until this year.
Reservoir has yet to score a rushing touchdown this season, but Brown’s ability, mixed with the team personnel — Cole said the offensive line this year has better pass-blocking ability than run-block — has dramatically shifted the way Cole has called games this year. Brown is 65 of 135 for 767 yards and eight touchdowns and five interceptions through four games. In 10 games last year, he finished 50 of 117 for 654 yards seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“It’s different from what we’ve done, obviously, in the past, but as high school football coaches you’ve got to do what you can do well, and we’ve got a pretty good asset there,” Cole said. “I think the more he throws it, the better he is, too. It’s definitely something we think about. ... I’m not dumb. What do we do well? What are our best assets? And Malcolm had the single best performance in Reservoir history by a lot.”
In contrast to Brown’s performance was Oakland Mills’. The Scorpions (3-1) have traditionally been a pass-heavy team, but quarterback Kai Castle did all his damage on the ground, running for 310 yards and five touchdowns on 30 carries.
“We reversed roles,” Oakland Mills coach Tom Browne said. “We basically just flip-flopped.”
The new-look offense hasn’t yet resulted in a win for Reservoir, which lost to Howard, Long Reach and River Hill the first three weeks, but Cole said be believes the team is getting close to breaking through.
“You’ve got to put the pieces to the puzzle together and see what you do well. What we do well in Week 1 is not necessarily what we do well in Week 4,” he said. “Week 5 hopefully we get it all together.”
Hammond defense dons takeaway chain
Hammond defensive coordinator Earin Saunders knows defense isn’t as cool as offense in today’s era of football.
With the proliferation of spread offenses all throughout the game, kids have more opportunity to have the ball in their hands and score touchdowns.
To “bring some life” to the defensive side of the ball, Saunders introduced a takeaway chain for the Golden Bears defense. After a Hammond player forces a turnover, he gets to wear a chain around his neck on the sideline. The phenomenon started with the 2017 Miami Hurricanes and has since been used at high schools and colleges across the country.
“A lot of times kids are wanting to play more offense these days, with offenses playing spread and moving the ball all over the place. We wanted to make sure we have defense be the bedrock of what we do. We want to make defense look more attractive. It’s tough to get kids to want to play defense, especially in the era we’re in.”
Hammond had three takeaways in its 46-20 win over Southern-AA. Jahni Lawrence had an interception, George Clark recovered a fumble and Isaiah Holloway had an interception return for a touchdown. All three players donned the takeaway chain, which is the Hammond mascot with a Jason mask on a gold chain.
“The energy around playing defense at our school has been tremendous,” said head coach Will Bell. “It’s something the kids are excited about doing. It’s something coach Saunders has brought to the table, and the kids are very excited about it. They challenge themselves, and it helps us a lot with being opportunistic.”
Hammond’s defense has forced 11 turnovers so far this season, which Bell said have been key in their victories. The Golden Bears have scored three touchdowns on defense/special teams.
Hammond (2-2) has already matched last season’s win total in Bell’s first season. The Golden Bears play at Mt. Hebron on Friday.