In an unusually well-played opening-day battle between two teams hoping to win the Class 3A state title, the ability to convert extra points proved decisive for No. 2-ranked Randallstown in a 22-18 victory over No. 3 Wilde Lake.
The visiting Rams scored twice on two-point conversions; Wilde Lake failed on all three of its attempts.
Twice a wide-open Grant Hardrich dropped passes on would-be Wilde Lake conversions. A bad snap on a kick attempt spoiled the third conversion.
"It's early yet, and we don't quite have everything together," said a disappointed Maryland-bound Mario Merrills, who rushed 14 times for 93 yards. He had a touchdown run of 49 yards, threw a 26-yard halfback option pass to Curtis Gore for Wilde Lake's third score and ran 75 yards to score on a 79-yard hook-and-ladder play.
"Lord have mercy, that Mario Merrills can run," Randallstown coach Anthony Knox said. "This game took 10 years off my life, but I told my team it would be won in the trenches and it was. Our offensive line was the key."
That line consisted of Darian Williams, Wilbert Epps, Randy Vince, Keith Purnell, Reginold Trusty and Rodney Williams.
Randallstown's Davon Johnson, Tyese Ademluyi and Robert Taylor ran behind it for a combined 133 yards on 32 carries. Quarterback Tyrell Brown, starting his first varsity game, completed five of 13 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another while being sacked just twice.
Brown put Randallstown on the scoreboard first with a 36-yard pass to Taylor on Randallstown's first possession.
Wilde Lake roared back on a 49-yard touchdown run by Merrills early in the second period, and then the 26-yard pass from Merrills to Gore gave the Wildecats a short-lived 12-8 lead.
Randallstown drove 60 yards and scored on a 33-yard pass play to Gary Bates, who used his height superiority to beat Gore. Randallstown missed its conversion but led 14-12 with 5:16 left in the first half.
An interception by Blake Crosby at the Randallstown 48-yard line two plays later set up another Rams touchdown, scored on Brown's 11-yard run with 59 seconds left in the half for a 22-12 lead.
Wilde Lake employed a hook-and-ladder play to go 79 yards on the last play of the half. Merrills took a lateral from Brandon Moore and ran 75 yards with two seconds left in the half.
Wilde Lake's last-minute bid to win ended when its final drive ended at the Randallstown 13.