HOWARD COUNTY, MD — One more week.
That’s been Glenelg coach Butch Schaffer’s message to his team since the start of the playoffs, and now the Gladiators will be playing one week longer than any other team in school history.
Behind a dominant all-around performance, Glenelg torched New Town, 35-0, at home Friday night in a Class 2A state semifinal to advance to the state championship game for the first time in the school’s 60-year history.
The undefeated Gladiators (13-0) had lost in its previous six trips to state semifinals, including each of the last two years and three of the last four. They will face Oakdale (13-0), which beat Elkton, 38-0, in the other semifinal, in the state championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Dec. 1.
“It’s surreal,” said Glenelg senior running back Wande Owens, who led the way with 156 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and broke his own Howard County single-season rushing record in the win. “It’s a little bittersweet, you know, our last game at Glenelg. I love playing here, but we’ve got to go get it done next week.”
The Gladiators offense scoring 35 points isn’t a surprise considering they’re averaging nearly 40 per game and have scored at least 33 in their last five contests. But the defense has suddenly made shutting out opponents a trend.
It’s their eighth shutout of the year and third in as many playoff games. Dating back to Oct. 19, they have shutouts in five of their six games and have allowed just seven points over that span.
Against the Titans, senior defensive end Elijah Deese had three sacks, Griffin Doyle had two, and C.J. Davidson, Jake Arnone and Tyler Reiff each had one. Camden Renehan and Trisden Bovello also each had an interception.
“We all just trust each other,” said senior linebacker Sam Alsheimer. “... Our defensive line did great today, eight sacks or something crazy like that. Everyone stepped up.”
But nobody had a better day than senior running back/linebacker Michael Doughty.
After Owens rushed 11 straight times for 67 yards on their first drive, Doughty caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Reiff on fourth and 9. On the ensuing New Town (10-3) possession, a bad snap on a punt allowed Alsheimer to block it, and Doughty recovered it in the end zone to give Glenelg a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“That was wild,” he said. “I didn’t even have a pass drawn up for me until a few weeks ago, so it’s crazy.”
The Gladiators extended their lead to 21-0 on their next possession by going 75 yards in 10 plays and taking nearly five minutes off the clock. Owens found pay dirt on a 3-yard run on fourth and goal for his only score of the game, and, believe it or not, his single touchdown is a season low. He had at least two scores in each of his first 12 games.
The Yale commit broke the Howard County single-season rushing record on a 39-yard scamper earlier in the drive. He had 2,504 yards as a sophomore in 2016 and now enters his final high school game with 39 rushing touchdowns and 2,577 yards on the year.
“It’s great. I can’t do it without the offensive line, of course,” said Owens, who is also second in state history with 6,251 career-rushing yards. “After 2016, I never thought I’d be in a position to break it. That offensive line was great, but this year we work really hard with coach [Tim] Cullen, we study the film and we work hard everyday in practice.”
New Town coach Mike Savage said the game plan revolved around “getting a helmet” to Owens, but he credited Schaffer and their running game afterwards for simply doing a better job.
“That’s a good ground attack,” he said. “We thought Eastern Tech had a good ground attack, but coach Butch [Schaffer] over there; he has a good ground game. That back, Owens; they’ve got a great team. I hope they win it.”
Senior wide receiver Eric Gruber made up for a dropped pass late in the first half by hauling in a 55-yarder from Reiff for a touchdown midway through the third quarter, and Doughty’s already memorable day got even better in the final quarter of his final home game.
He stripped Miller deep in New Town territory and Davidson recovered the loose ball and ran it five yards for a touchdown that started the running clock with Glenelg up, 35-0.
“It’s awesome,” Doughty said. “This is for all the people before us who got here and couldn’t get to the state championship.”
Many Glenelg seniors, including Owens, Alsheimer, Gruber and Doughty, have played together since they were 8 or 9 years old, and now they get a chance to play one final game together on the biggest stage. Alsheimer said having that senior group lead the Gladiators to their first state championship is “special.”
Schaffer agreed. This group is special.
“I love that I get a chance to work with these kids for one more week,” he said. “I look forward to each and every day, and I know we’re going to come and we’re going to play as hard as heck next week and we’ll see what happens. But this group of kids is special, and we knew it early in the year, and they’ve done it each and every week.”
No. 1 Glenelg (13-0) — 35, No. 4 New Town (10-3) — 0
G — 7 14 7 7 — 35
NT — 0 0 0 0 — 0
G: Michael Doughty 19-yard pass from Tyler Reiff, Chris Retzbach kick [7-0]
G: Doughty blocked punt recovery, Retzbach kick [14-0]
G: Wande Owens 3-yard run, Retzbach kick [21-0]
G: Eric Gruber 55-yard pass from Reiff, Retzbach kick [28-0]
G: C.J. Davidson 5-yard fumble return, Retzbach kick [35-0]