While there were heroes aplenty, with the numbers to support them, it was the entire Severna Park defensive unit carrying out its responsibilities that enabled the Falcons to stun previously unbeaten North County, 26-21, in Ferndale last night.
The host Knights came into the game at 6-0, leading the 4A East region, while the No. 14-ranked Falcons (6-1) were coming off a tough, 21-17 loss to No. 5 Annapolis and were third in the region.
It was Severna Park's second straight win over North County in as many years for head coach J.P. Hines. The Falcons took a 21-20 decision last year, but last night's was huge since Severna Park was in a must-win situation on the road.
When North County drove 64 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown on its first possession, Hines was worried, to say the least.
"When they came down and drove it down our throats the first time they had the ball, I thought, 'Oh my, goodness we're going to be in for a long night,' " said Hines, whose defense did an about-face from that point.
"The kids came through. Our defense played a lot of man-to-man and our corners, Curt Johnson and Brian Sanders, played very well. We stopped the run [the Knights had 92 yards rushing] and did what we had to do."
With middle linebacker David Wagner making 13 tackles and monster back Todd Soroka a dozen, the Falcons put a lot of people in the box, pressured quarterback Mike Pfisterer and filled up the passing lanes.
Defensive back Paul Gillette had an interception and a fumble recovery that set up a third-period touchdown that gave the Falcons a 19-7 lead.
The Falcons' victory overshadowed Pfisterer, who set a school record for career yards passing with 3,773 and tied the school record for career touchdown passes (37).
Pfisterer completed 20 of 36 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a losing cause because the Falcons' offense, led by Derek Dixon and Chris Odom, outscored them.
"When you have a horse like Dixon, you run him, and that's what they did, " said North County coach Chuck Markiewicz.
Dixon, who would rather run through defenders than around them, rambled for 168 of his career-high 198 yards on 32 carries in the second half, including a 39-yard touchdown in the third period for the Falcons.
Quarterback Odom threw a pair of touchdown passes and plunged from the one-yard line for the game-winning points with 2: 33 remaining. Odom was 9-for-18 for 178 yards in the air.
His touchdown passes went to Arthur Friday for 87 yards and to Dan Seger for eight yards. The long-distance play with Friday enabled the Falcons to tie things at 7 with 2: 23 left in the first period.
Seger's touchdown reception came after Odom and Dixon had hooked up for a 25-yarder to the Knights' eight and it gave the visitors a 13-7 lead with 2: 55 left in the first half.
Gillette's fumble recovery set up Dixon's touchdown jaunt to make it 19-7 after the Falcons failed on their second conversion.
Pfisterer, who threw TD passes to Nat Randall (8-for-166) and Jarrod Ross in the last period, completed four of six passes for 43 yards on the opening drive. He capped it with an 11-yard pass to Jimal Miller.