It was early in the game, but the situation for Glenelg’s offense was fraught.
Two straight punts, one play away from another three-and-out and Howard leading by a score, the Gladiators’ offense needed a boost.
“C’mon, Bisi, make a play,” Glenelg head coach Tim Cullen said to himself, hoping his quarterback would deliver a spark.
Well, all Bisi Owens did for the rest of the game was make play after play after play.
The junior signal caller did it all in Glenelg’s thrilling 26-21 win over Howard for the Gladiators’ third straight Elgard Trophy game triumph. With his team trailing by a point with 2:30 left on the clock, Owens led an 82-yard scoring drive that ended with his own 6-yard touchdown run with only 13 seconds remaining.
“This is an amazing feeling,” Owens said. “... This is my team man. These are my guys. Everyone was supporting me so much, so I knew I had to get this victory for my team.”
The game-winning score was the fourth touchdown Owens accounted for in the contest. The lefty threw for 145 yards and a touchdown and added 82 yards and three scores with his legs. Cullen said his quarterback’s performance was even more impressive when considering it was his first time playing in the rivalry game.
“He’s a gamer,” Cullen said. “I hate to sound arrogant, but I’m not surprised. He’s phenomenal. Man, I’m glad we have him another year. He’s a leader for us, he’s always cool and he can make a play with his feet.”
Glenelg’s win in the 63rd edition of the Elgard Trophy game is the first time the road team has won the contest since the Gladiators did it in 2009. The thrilling nature of the victory also isn’t new for Glenelg (2-0), which won on a game-winning kick in 2019.
“Our kids persevered. We haven’t had a full season, and this year has been tough,” said Cullen, whose team was only playing its second game of the season due to COVID-related postponements. “This was the first real tight game we’ve been in, and our guys came through.”
The contest at Howard (3-1) got off to a slow start, as neither team scored in the first quarter.
But, just when it looked like it would be a low-scoring affair like last season’s game, Curtis Eley broke off a long touchdown for the Lions to kick things into gear. Howard quarterback Kyle Colbert threw a swing pass to Eley, who split two Glenelg defenders and sped past the secondary for a 73-yard score.
“That wasn’t even a guy missing an assignment, [we were] just slightly out of position, and he was gone,” Cullen said. “He’s tough to defend.”
Eley, who tallied 137 yards from scrimmage on the night, would go on to score two more touchdowns. In the Lions’ four games this season, Eley has racked up nine touchdowns, including scores from 77, 73, 70, 68 and 44 yards out.
“I’m glad that the rest of the world is seeing what we all know over here in Elkridge,” said Howard head coach Ross Hannon. “He’s a great football player and a tremendous talent.”
With Glenelg’s offense struggling and facing a third-and-7, Owens answered Cullen’s sideline wish for him to “make a play” with a 67-yard touchdown pass to wideout Robbie Tolbert. Owens rolled out to his left, set his feet and launched the ball 50 yards in the air to Tolbert, who caught the pass and strutted into the end zone to give the Gladiators a 7-6 lead.
“That was huge,” Cullen said. “It was nice to get that spark and get the momentum going.”
“I 100% trust my man Robbie,” Owens said. “He’s a great receiver. He had a one-on-one, and I let it fly.”
The deep pass was one of many big plays Owens made in the second quarter. After Glenelg’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, the southpaw found Liam Hayden downfield for a 44-yard gain. On the next play, Owens put Glenelg up 14-6 with a 10-yard scamper.
A few drives later, Owens intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards to Howard’s 13-yard line. The pick set up his own 1-yard QB sneak, which gave the Gladiators a 20-6 lead.
“He’s a winner, and he carries himself like one,” Hannon said of Owens.
The victory didn’t just mean a lot to Owens as a member of the Glenelg football team, he said. As the younger brother of former Glenelg phenom Wande Owens, who is the county’s all-time rushing leader and is now a running back at Yale, Bisi Owens said the win is extra special to his family.
“My brother had some crazy historic Elgard games, so it feels amazing to get this victory tonight,” he said.
Howard opened the second half with a drive into the red zone, but Colbert’s crew couldn’t capitalize and turned the ball over on downs. However, the Lions defense came up clutch, keeping Glenelg pinned inside its 5 to give Howard’s offense outstanding field position on its next drive.
Starting at Glenelg’s 23, Eley caught a 19-yard pass from Colbert and then found the end zone from 4 yards out to bring the Lions within a score. Now down eight in the second half, Hannon chose to go for two to give his team a chance to win in regulation. Eley’s run — and dive for the pylon — was successful, and Howard now trailed 20-14 midway through the third quarter.
After three straight punts, the Lions once again had excellent field position — starting their drive early in the fourth on Glenelg’s 37. A 14-yard pass from Colbert to scat back Alex Rebaza on third down kept the Lions’ hopes alive, and Eley’s 3-yard run eventually tied the game. Eley seemed to be trapped in the backfield, but he used his elite speed to get around the edge and score.
Howard’s first point after attempt was blocked, but a flag was thrown against Glenelg for illegally touching the long snapper. Camren Kovach then booted his next try through the uprights to give the Lions a one-point advantage.
Glenelg punted on its next drive and relied on its defense to get a stop. With two first downs needed to seal the win, two penalties against Howard hindered the drive and forced the Lions to punt. Eley also ran out of bounds on third down of the drive, giving Glenelg an extra 30-40 seconds of time on the clock.
With about 2:30 remaining and starting on his own 18, Owens orchestrated an 11-play, 82-yard drive, which included short and intermediate passes, multiple scrambles, a spike and a 15-yard late hit penalty against Howard.
“The coaches told me this was my team,” Owens said. “I had to bring the confidence and get the line and receivers ready. We took advantage of what they gave us and drove down the field.”
After a short completion, Glenelg was six yards away from the end zone with no timeouts. With the possibility of spiking the ball and attempting a short game-winning field goal, Glenelg offensive coordinator Hayden Yerashunas called a QB sneak on second-and-4 from the 6-yard line. Designed originally as a shotgun snap, Owens quickly went under center — after the defense had lined up — and relied on the push from his offensive line to lead the way for the rare 6-yard QB sneak.
Eley returned the ensuing kickoff to the 50, giving Colbert a chance to nearly reach the end zone on a Hail Mary. The attempt was intercepted by senior Trisden Bovello, though, leading to the Gladiators celebrating with the Elgard Trophy.
OTHER FOOTBALL SCORES:
Atholton 14, Marriotts Ridge 0
The Raiders (2-2) went on the road and handed the Mustangs (3-1) their first loss, using two second-quarter rushing touchdowns and a lockdown defensive effort to secure the victory. Kevin Smitson and Dillan Watkins accounted for the Atholton touchdowns, while the defense made big plays all evening including a forced fumble and recovery right before halftime inside its own five-yard line to keep the Mustangs off the board.
A — 0 14 0 0 — 14
MR — 0 0 0 0 — 0
A: Kevin Smitson 12-yard run, Christopher Weber kick [7-0]
A: Dillan Watkins 1-yard run, Weber kick [14-0]
River Hill 20, Mt. Hebron 0
The Hawks (4-0) stayed unbeaten with another dominant effort on both sides of the ball, holding the Vikings (1-3) scoreless with just 97 total yards for the team’s third shutout in four games.
Devron Johnson led the defensive effort with three interceptions, including one as time expired at the end of the game. As a team, River Hill recorded five interceptions and one fumble recovery. Other defensive leaders were Zach Igwebe (5 solo tackles/2 assists) and Michael Crisitello (4 solo/4 assists).
On offense, the Hawks rushed for 227 yards — spearheaded by 15 rushes for 91 yards and two touchdowns by Crisitello.
RH — 7 0 13 0 — 20
MH — 0 0 0 0 — 0
RH: Nick Laumann 1-yard run, Patel kick good [7-0]
RH: Michael Crisitello 5-yard run, Patel kick good [14-0]
RH: Crisitello 20-yard run, kick no good [20-0]
Wilde Lake 31, Long Reach 7
The visiting Lightning (1-3) got on the board first courtesy of a touchdown run from Julius Saunders, but the Wildecats (4-1) responded with 24 unanswered points before halftime to set the stage for the team’s third straight victory.
Ramal West returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including one that he took back 98 yards in the second quarter, to lead the way for Wilde Lake.
LR — 7 0 0 0 — 7
WL — 14 10 0 7 — 31
LR: Julius Saunders 4-yard run, Tarvis kick [7-0]
WL: Justin Avinger 16-yard pass from Doniele Cooper, Grant Gladden kick [7-7]
WL: Ramal West 51-yard interception return, Gladden kick [14-7]
WL: Gladden 23-yard field goal [17-7]
WL: West 98-yard interception return, Gladden kick [24-7]
WL: Sean Barnes 5-yard run, Gladden kick [31-7]
Oakland Mills 20, Hammond 12
The Scorpions (3-1) celebrated senior night with the victory over the visiting Golden Bears (0-5). With Oakland Mills trailing 12-6 in the third quarter, Antoine Holmes scored two second-half touchdowns on the ground and also added a successful two-point conversion to help complete the comeback win.
Ha — 0 6 6 0 — 12
OM — 0 6 8 6 — 20
Ha: Micah Austin 10-yard pass from Jordan Campbell, kick no good [6-0]
OM: Trevin McHargh 27-yard run, try failed [6-6]
Ha: Tim Haywood 1-yard run, try failed [12-6]
OM: Antoine Holmes 8-yard run, Holmes 2-point run [12-14]
OM: Holmes 6-yard run, try failed [12-20]
Centennial 7, Reservoir 0
The Eagles (1-3) broke through for their first win of the season by shutting out the Gators (0-3). It marks the first shutout for the Centennial program since a 48-0 win over Marriotts Ridge on Nov. 1, 2013.
Sam Bussink scored the game’s only touchdown on a run in the second quarter.
C — 0 7 0 0 — 7
Re — 0 0 0 0 — 0
C: Sam Bussink 1-yard run, Dylan Watson kick good [7-0]