Oakland Mills senior Bliden Elung is new to football, but is no stranger to defense. Previously playing soccer and basketball, he’s familiar with making big stops.
Elung is a two-way starter for the Scorpions at wide receiver and defensive back in his first season playing football. Friday night in Oakland Mills’ 16-13 win against Howard, Elung’s defensive prowess was on display with a clutch interception.
Howard was down three in the closing minutes and just outside the red zone. Quarterback Tyler Sabatini pump-faked and looked for a receiver downfield. However, Elung jumped the route and picked off the pass, his county-leading fifth interception.
“I’m just looking at the quarterback and seeing what he sees,” Elung said. “Then I just try to simulate the play before it even happens. That was just me doing me.”
After the pivotal interception, Oakland Mills (4-3) leaned on its ground game to seal the win. Facing a third-and-7 at his own 12-yard line, Xavier Patterson ripped off a 38-yard gain down the Scorpions’ sideline, capping off a dominant 25-carry, 201-yard performance.
The Scorpions continued to move the ball on the ground that final drive as Trevin McHargh and quarterback Cyrus Thomas-Ray helped to ice the game.
“Football is about imposing your will and credit Oakland Mills, those kids came off the ball and played hard,” Howard coach Ross Hannon said. “Third and long didn’t matter. From third-and-1 to third-and-9 they ran power and counter. They weren’t looking to bounce anything. They were looking to stick their foot in and get upfield.”
It didn’t take long for Oakland Mills’ offense to establish a rhythm, executing a four-play, 84-yard touchdown drive on its opening possession, also adding a two-point conversion. Patterson gained 83 of the Scorpions’ 84 yards on the drive, including a 60-yard touchdown on a misdirection run.
“It gives me the space to shake and bake,” Patterson said of the outside runs. “That’s how I get open and that’s how I make the plays.”
The Lions (5-2) responded later in the quarter, orchestrating a five-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Travis Thompson capped it off with a 13-yard score, trimming the deficit to 8-7. Howard’s offense wasn’t done. On its next possession, Connor Hawkins connected with Zamir Herald for a 16-yard score, giving the Lions a 13-8 lead it held into halftime.
Continuing to display his dynamic playmaking ability, Patterson took the second-half kickoff 48 yards inside Howard territory. While the Scorpions didn’t score on the drive it gave them the jolt of energy they needed.
On their ensuing possession, Oakland Mills put together a 12-play, 64-yard drive to retake the lead. Eleven of those plays were runs as the Scorpions converted critical third-and-long and fourth-down opportunities to keep the drive alive.
Thomas-Ray closed out the series with his only completion of the night, a 13-yard pass to Elung. Patterson added the two-point conversion on a counter play, which gave the Scorpions a 16-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” Oakland Mills Tom Browne said of Patterson. “He works his but off. His eye was poked two weeks ago, he never misses a beat. He’s just a phenomenal kid.”
Not allowing more than 16 points all season, Oakland Mills stymied Howard’s offense in the third, allowing just three yards on seven plays. Leading by a field goal inside of five minutes, the defense needed to deliver one final stand.
The Lions got off to a strong start on the possession with passes from Sabatini to Hawkins and Herald, bringing it to just outside the red zone. However, when they needed to most, Oakland Mills defense shut the door with Elung’s interception.
Eight plays later, the final seconds wound off the clock as the Scorpions moved above .500 and capped off homecoming week with a win.
“For us, the biggest thing we’ve been preaching all year is don’t let OM beat OM,” Browne said. “Limit the turnovers, limit the penalties and then we can probably hang with anyone in the county. Our message is always about us. I thought we did a good job of taking a step towards cleaning it up and hopefully we can build on that and keep it going next week against Reservoir.”