A year ago, Arundel waited to get beat. Now the Wildcats expect to win and can't wait to prove it.
No. 5 Arundel (5-0) stunned No. 10 North County, 21-14, in Ferndale yesterday to spoil the Knights' homecoming and virtually end any chances of the Knights (2-3) returning to the playoffs to defend their 4A state championship.
"This was a big, big win for us. We didn't expect to be 5-0, but we're in great position and control our own destiny as far as the playoffs are concerned," said Arundel coach Bill Zucco.
On the way to last year's state crown, the Knights eliminated the Wildcats, 39-15, in the quarterfinals. Yesterday the pendulum swung the other way in what was a delight for those who love to see the football in the air.
The two teams combined for 62 passes, 32 completions and 420 yards in the air with no interceptions, but John Norsworthy's 2-yard plunge with 1:51 remaining was the difference.
North County's attempt to send the game into overtime ended on a fourth-and-goal incompletion at the Arundel 8. A near touchdown pass to a diving Chris Mangum (six for 43 yards) on first down was ruled incomplete.
Mangum appeared to break the plane for an instant, but landed on top of the ball with two converging officials ruling no catch.
"Last year we got down when we got behind and, no, we didn't believe we could win the big games," said Arundel's junior quarterback Erik Lipton.
"This team believes it can win and loves the pressure. We got pumped up for that last drive knowing we could get it done."
North County had tied the game at 14 with 4:53 left on a 34-yard pass from quarterback Maurice Bowie (19-for-37, 243 yards) to Corey Wright (six receptions, 101 yards), who fell into the right corner of the end zone, and a V.J. Impallaria kick.
The two teams would exchange fumbles with Bowie recovering for the Knights and Joe Williams for the Wildcats. Williams' recovery after Kenny Parks took a 4-yard pass from Bowie, gave Arundel a first down at its own 45.
Lipton (13-for-23, 169 yards) hooked up with Joe Parker and Darnerian McCants, who had gone 57 yards with a Lipton pass to give the Wildcats a 12-0 lead (after Lipton's 1-yard sneak with 3:09 left in the first) in the second period, for 15- and 10-yard gains, respectively.
Norsworthy, the game's leading ground gainer with 57 yards on 13 attempts, raced 27 yards to the 2 and took it over on the next play with Mark Gregory booting the extra point.
Zucco felt his defense made the big plays. One was a safety early in the fourth period after a scoreless third quarter.
Bowie was sacked a fourth time in the game by Arundel's Parker in the end zone.
The safety came just 58 seconds into the final quarter.
Arundel had driven to the North County 17, but on fourth-and-seven, Williams' halfback option pass went sailing over the head of a wide-open Parker in the right corner of the
* Severn 23, McDonogh 20: Senior quarterback Willie Wu threw for two touchdowns to lead visiting Severn (4-1) past McDonogh (0-4).
* Randallstown 22, South River 21: Randelle Issabele and Felix Buchanan combined for two touchdowns as host Randallstown (4-1) defeated South River (2-3).
Issabele completed eight of 15 passes for 92 yards.