The magic moments of a state 4A football championship last December seemed faraway for North County last night.
The second-ranked Knights fumbled four times, threw three interceptions, couldn't stop the run and didn't look at all like the best team at the highest level of play in the state. Seldom has a defending champion been treated so rudely in a season opener.
But North County was facing an inspired Roosevelt team from Prince George's County, and the Raiders put a 58-29 beating on the Knights that left the large home crowd stunned in Linthicum.
"They kicked our butt, but we helped," said North County coach Chuck Markiewicz. "We're battered and bloody, but we'll be back. They found our weak spots, and now we know what we have to work on. We turned the ball over seven times but scored 29 points with seven juniors on offense and gave up 58 points with seven juniors on defense."
The night began with a surprise when Markiewicz started senior quarterback Maurice Bowie instead of highly regarded junior transfer Mike Evans from Glen Burnie.
"Maurice is better right now," said the coach. "Mike is not ready yet."
Even Roosevelt coach Pat McGroarty was a little surprised by the presence of Bowie in the starting lineup.
"We saw this kid [Bowie] run the option in some of their scrimmages, but we expected Jones to be the starter," said McGroarty. "We knew we couldn't hold a team like North County down on offense, so we just hoped to keep them off the field as much as possible. We won because our offense came through at key points of the game and scored touchdowns."
Bowie never really got a chance to show what he could do in a tight game situation because the Knights fell behind 39-7 with a little less than five minutes left in the first half.
Bowie, who spent most of his time catching passes last year, did come back to throw three touchdown passes and two two-point conversion passes, but also threw two interceptions.
The other touchdown for the Knights came on an 80-yard kickoff return by Kiki Ellis in the first quarter, tying the game at 7-7.
Ellis took the kick, broke wide-open at the 30-yard run and went all the way for the score, just 12 seconds after Roosevelt had gone ahead, 7-0, with a little more than five minutes gone in the game.
Roosevelt, coming off a 4-6 season and a loss to North County last year, roared back with 32 straight points for a 39-7 lead.
One of the five straight touchdowns by the visitors was a real back-breaker for North County early in the second quarter.
It came just 13 seconds after Tyrone Shelby had run 10 yards for a touchdown, giving the Raiders a 21-7 advantage.
When the Raiders kicked off to North County after the Shelby touchdown, Antwan Chambers was hit hard at his 25-yard line and fumbled. William Bowden picked up the ball and ran in for a touchdown for a 27-7 lead with 11:41 left in the first half.
North County would rally behind Bowie in the second half to draw within 45-29 with 10:05 left in the game. But Roosevelt answered with an 80-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and ended in a 12-yard scoring run by Shelby.
Shelby and Damon Jones each scored three touchdowns for the Raiders.