Micah Nowlin’s teammates tease him for his bad hands.
“They talk down on my hands,” Nowlin said. “They joke that I should cut off my hands, because I can’t catch a pick anyway.”
The Hammond defensive back, however, had two interceptions on Saturday, including the game-clinching takeaway late in the fourth quarter, to lead the Golden Bears to a 14-6 win over Reservoir. The homecoming victory is Hammond’s first in six years.
“Everybody today said ‘you finally caught the ball,’” Nowlin said. “... It feels so good to win on homecoming. We haven’t done it in my time here, so it feels amazing.”
Nowlin’s interceptions were two of three takeaways by a Hammond defense that is keen on causing turnovers. The unit, led by defensive coordinator Earin Saunders, has 16 takeaways this season and celebrates each one with the donning of a takeaway chain.
“Micah has been a quiet leader for us all season,” said Hammond head coach Will Bell. “Based off his play in the weeks leading up to this and how he played last week, he was named a game captain for us. He lived up to the standard that we set for him. He couldn’t have played a better game for us.”
Hammond (3-0 Howard County, 4-2) drew first blood in the first quarter. Tayshawn Yates took a sweep, spun between two defenders and ran 75 yards for a touchdown. Sam Mercedes, who ran for 99 yards on 21 carries, punched in the two-point conversion to put the Golden Bears up 8-0.
“Tayshawn has been a player who’s really coming on for us as a return man and a receiver,” Bell said. “We’re trying to find ways to get the ball in his hands. He has big play ability, and he ran the ball hard there.”
Nowlin then picked off his first pass of the game, this one on a Reservoir (0-6, 0-6) fourth down in Hammond territory. The Golden Bears then went up two scores on the next drive, with Mercedes’ legs and a 31-yard pass from quarterback Eric Grinwis to DeLayfette Burnside led the Golden Bears downfield on a 14-play, 85-yard drive. Grinwis capped off the drive with a 1-yard QB sneak.
Reservoir responded on its next drive to score right before halftime. Quarterback Malcolm Brown, who threw for 162 yards and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season, threw a dime to Jalen Jasmin for a 48-yard touchdown to reduce the Gators’ deficit to eight points at halftime.
Neither team scored in the second half, nor did they enter the opposing team’s red zone until Reservoir did midway through the fourth quarter. Brown drove the team down to the 5-yard line but was intercepted by Hammond’s Khaleb Mair, who jumped a slant route at the goal line.
“With the coverage that we had, he played it just as he should’ve,” Bell said. “The quarterback made a good throw, but (Mair) made a better play. That was the game right there. We were on the ropes, and Khaleb stepping in there was huge."
With about four minutes remaining, Hammond faced a fourth-and-one on its own 18-yard line. Bell decided to go for it rather than punt. The Golden Bears were successful on QB sneaks in the game but struggled with its previous punts.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have talked the kids out of it,” Bell said. “All 11 guys said they wanted to go for it. I will always trust our kids.”
Grinwis got the yard needed, but Reservoir head coach Bryan Cole was unhappy during and after the game that the officiating crew did not measure the spot.
“They never put the link on the chain to know where to reset it and check it,” Cole said. “That’s why they didn’t measure it. That was a key part of the game. Do we end up winning? I don’t know. But in that situation at the end of the game, to not be able to get a measurement because nobody put the chain on, it’s not nice when you’re away.”
Hammond punted later on the drive, but a Brown pass, which deflected into the air, was intercepted by Nowlin.
“We play together as a team and fight for each other,” Nowlin said of the Golden Bears defense. “No one is better than us on defense, and we play for each other. Everybody has each other’s back.”
Both teams are back in action next week. Hammond plays at Marriotts Ridge, while Reservoir travels to Atholton.
Hammond 14, Reservoir 6
Re — 0 6 0 0 — 6
Ha — 8 6 0 0 — 14
Ha: Tayshawn Yates 75-yard run, Sam Mercedes run [8-0]
Ha: Sam Grinwis 1-yard run, run failed [14-0]
Re: Malcolm Brown 48-yard pass to Jalen Jasmin, pass failed [14-6]
Atholton 56, Mt. Hebron 14
The Raiders have won two straight games after starting their season 0-4. The homecoming win is the first against a county opponent this year. Hebron fell to 0-6 with the loss.
MH — 7 7 0 0 — 14
A — 7 28 14 7 — 56
A: Jonathan Watkins 2-yard run, Joe Hobbs kick [7-7]
A: Ethan Brown 21-yard pass to Justin Jennings, Hobbs kick [14-7]
A: Brown 12-yard run, Hobbs kick [21-7]
A: Brown 26-yard pass to Watkins, Hobbs kick [28-7]
A: Brown 40-yard pass to Chris Bookter, Hobbs kick [35-7]
A: Andre Richmond 40-yard run, Hobbs kick [42-14]
A: Brown 20-yard pass to Harlem Morton, Hobbs kick [49-14]
A: Brown 30-yard pass to Morton, Hobbs kick [56-14]