No. 9 Southern of Harwood went into yesterday's game against Douglass of Prince George's County with one of the best ground games in Anne Arundel County and a 4-0 record.
Douglass came into the game with its perennially tough defense and a 3-1 record.
Chalk one up for those who say the best offense is a good defense.
The Bulldogs ran the ball effectively at times, but the Eagles' defense held up as Douglass defeated Southern, 22-16.
Corey Contee has made a name for himself by being Southern's "Mr. Outside," but Douglass' outside linebackers and cornerbacks took away that aspect of Southern's ground game.
"We knew coming into this game that Douglass had a tough defense," said Southern assistant coach Jeff Cranford. "We tried to establish the outside game early but their linebackers and corners did a good job of stepping up and stuffing the sweeps."
Its running game sputtering, Southern was forced to pass early in the first quarter, and the Eagles turned it to their advantage. Defensive back Jason Teixeira intercepted a Joe McCafferty pass at the Douglass 40 and returned it 60 yards for the game's first points. Terry Williams passed to Quentin Black for the conversion, and Douglass had an 8-0 lead.
After exchanging punts, Southern got the ball back to start the second quarter. This time, it gave the ball to "Mr. Inside," Jason Poknis, and the strategy worked. Poknis had runs of 12 and 21 yards on Southern's first two plays.
That pulled the defense in, allowing Contee to break outside for 33 yards to the Douglass 1. He finished the drive with a 1-yard dive a play later. McCafferty's conversion pass to Wayne Small tied the score at 8.
Aiding the Douglass defensive effort was the Eagles' ball-control wishbone offense, which ate up plenty of yardage and time.
Douglass retook the lead after a 35-yard punt return by Earnest Payton gave the Eagles the ball at Southern's 14. An 11-yard run by Mansoor Salahuddin took the ball to the 1, and Brannon Jones scored on a dive. A two-point run failed, but the Eagles had a 14-8 lead.
The teams played a scoreless third quarter, but a drive that started in the third clinched it for Douglass. It took 12 plays and 5:25 for the Eagles to score on a 4-yard run by Teixeira.
A two-point conversion pass gave Douglass a 22-8 lead with 8:10 remaining.
Southern went on a 14-play drive to pull to within 22-16 but the drive took too much time. The Bulldogs had first-and-goal on the 3 with more than five minutes to play, but it took them seven plays to score. They were aided by a penalty for roughing the passer, but only 2:14 remained when McCafferty hit Small with a pass for the touchdown.
An onside kick was recovered by Douglass. The Bulldogs got the ball back one more time, but only with enough time for one play, a 4-yard pass to Poknis, before time ran out.
"I'm not discouraged at all by our performance today," said Cranford.
"The kids played very hard and showed a lot of heart in coming back in the fourth quarter. We just ran into a very good football team today."