HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Oakland Mills boys basketball guard Daeshawn Eaton traded his basketball shoes for football cleats this fall, joining the school’s football team after not playing last season and serving as Wilde Lake’s junior varsity quarterback his freshman year.
After talking to coach Thomas Browne, the brother of basketball coach Jon Browne, the 6-foot-1 junior decided to suit up and play wide receiver. Ten games later, Eaton led the team with a whopping 63 receptions and had 729 receiving yards, good for second behind basketball teammate Ke’Von Simpson.
Jon Browne admitted his captain has been rusty since returning from the gridiron — “he hasn’t been Daeshawn” — but Eaton showed no ill effects from his absence in Oakland Mills’ season-opening victory at Catonsville on Tuesday.
Eaton, who averaged 10.0 points per game last winter, exploded for 28 points to help the Scorpions erase an early double-digit deficit.
“He came out of his shell tonight,” Browne said after the 50-40 triumph. “That’s the player I was hoping I was going to see when I said he was a player to watch for us.”
Eaton said he hasn’t shot the ball as well since returning to the court, so he relied on his driving ability to get into an offensive rhythm Tuesday. In the second quarter alone, he sliced through the defense for four layups. When Catonsville made him earn his points at the foul line, he made four of his free throws.
His 12 second-quarter points provided more than enough scoring production for Oakland Mills (1-0), which upped its intensity after an abysmal opening period to get back into the game.
But early on, it appeared Catonsville would run away with both teams’ season opener. The Comets sped up Oakland Mills, which committed nine turnovers and dug itself an 18-4 hole by the end of the first quarter. Senior Matthew Chambers (11 points) outscored the Scorpions by himself.
“They came out and stuck it to us,” Browne said. “They hit a lot of threes, and we were lethargic in our man defense.”
Browne added his team was “sleepwalking” and “going through the motions,” the same words he used to describe his players’ pregame warmups. It wasn’t until they went down double-digits that the Scorpions starting playing their style of basketball.
“The key to the game was we started slowing down, we started playing at our pace,” Eaton said. “And things started clicking on our end.”
Oakland Mills also switched defenses, from man-to-man to zone, and implemented a full-court press that forced Catonsville into turnovers or rushed possessions. By halftime, the Scorpions had crawled within 26-21 and seized momentum that translated into a dominant third quarter.
Ten seconds into the second half, Eaton sliced into the lane for a lefty layup. He scored a layup from the right side less than a minute later, and Simpson added a bucket 40 seconds after that to Oakland Mills ahead.
After senior Robert Burgess (nine points) hit one of two shots from the charity strike, Eaton possessed the ball on the left wing. He still lacked his usual long-range shooting confidence because of his practice layoff, but Eaton hoisted the 3-pointer anyway, and it swished through the net. He then returned to his comfort zone with a layup on the next possession, capping a 12-0 run.
“We have to learn to take punches from teams,” Catonsville coach Teron Owens said. “When teams have their runs, we have to learn how to come back from that.”
As the referee blew his whistle, signaling a Comets timeout with Oakland Mills up, 33-26, Eaton displayed a small grin and gave his teammate a low-five before returning to the Scorpions bench.
While football occupied Eaton’s life the past several months, he hasn’t seemed to miss a beat.
Oakland Mills (1-0) — 50, Catonsville 40
OM — Eaton 28, Burgess 9, Gaymon 5, Simpson 4, Chance 2, Brown 2.
Catonsville — Wagstaff 13, Chambers 11, Owens 9, Jones 5, Guadeloupe 2.
Half: 26-21, Catonsville
Other Howard County scores:
River Hill (1-0) — 77, Tuscarora 56
River Hill opened its season on a high note by running away from Tuscarora in the second half to secure a 77-56 victory.
The Hawks received solid production from their senior starters. Guards Jaden Martin and Jacob Krause combined to score 39 points, while forward Dylan Daniels also finished in double figures. Guard Luke Champion added 8 points.
Tuscarora battled with the reigning Howard County champs for two quarters but couldn’t hang around after intermission. Holding a 27-23 halftime lead, River Hill increased their advantage to double digits before the final period and cruised from there.
RH — Krause 20, Martin 19, Daniels 12, Champion 8, Okojie 7, Mann 6, Krakat 3, Hirsch 2.
Half: 27-23, RH
Largo 74, Reservoir (0-1) — 51
Re — Okolo 12, Soto 11, Barrett 7, McCallum 5, Odunowo 4 Toler 2, Diarra 2, Saunderson 2, Moore 2, Adubi 2, Harrison 1, Mattocks 1.
Half: 31-26, Largo
Century 64, Glenelg (0-1) — 56
Laurel 68, Wilde Lake (0-1) — 52
WL — Keys 22, Hunter 16, Van Tassel 4, Joseph 4, Greene 2, Will Zimmerman 2, Kamara 2.