Two touchdowns in the third quarter broke up a 6-6 halftime tie, and No. 4 Annapolis went on to a season-opening 28-6 victory over Meade at Al Laramore Field in Capital City last night.
A defense led by Kareem Reed and standout running backs Darren Johnson (two touchdowns) and Darius Johnson were unveiled in the absence of Eric Venerable and a host of graduates from last year's Class 3A state finalist Panthers.
Playing without Venerable, who is academically ineligible the first two weeks, the Panthers struggled offensively in the first half, but the Johnsons responded with more than 100 yards rushing apiece. Also, new senior quarterback Davon Watkins directed a strong ground attack that churned out more than 300 yards.
In Annapolis' offensive scheme, the quarterback seldom throws, and Watkins only put it up four times completing two to senior Canadian transfer Greg Powell. Powell, who had a 2-yard touchdown catch to cap the scoring, also made a spectacular diving over-the-shoulder grab to set up sophomore back Glenn Rogers' 2-yard dive into the end zone. The score gave Annapolis a 14-6 lead in the third period and the Panthers never looked back.
"Basically this is a new team, a brand new team that got behind and they reacted to gut-check time after Meade scored the first touchdown," said Annapolis coach Roy Brown.
The Panthers are seeking their fifth consecutive state playoff berth while the 4A Mustangs have not been to the postseason since the last time they scored a win over the Panthers.
Meade last beat Annapolis in 1996 under then-coach Jerry Hartman. Annapolis has dominated the Mustangs under Brown, who is 11-2 since taking the reins in 1989.
Neither team generated any offense in the first quarter, but each scored a touchdown in the second. Both extra-point attempts were blocked to send the two to intermission tied at six.
Meade's initial score was set up by a fumble recovery at the Annapolis 41. Antwan Smith completed an 8-yard pass to Rodney Jackson, and five running plays later, senior back Ricky Eder crashed in from the 6 with 8:01 left in the half.
Annapolis was penalized on the kickoff return back to its own 12, but it didn't miss a beat in marching 88 yards in 15 plays, all on the ground, to tie the score at 6-6. Senior Darren Johnson went over from the 1 standing up after a bizarre play involving Darius Johnson.
Carrying four times for 51 yards on the drive, Darius Johnson broke off tackle and burst out of a crowd from the Meade 34 and was all alone at about the 20 with nothing but open field in front of him. Suddenly, he went into a nose-dive and landed a yard short of the end zone.
Most of the Annapolis fans thought he had scored, but it was ruled first and goal at the 1. Johnson supposedly was tackled by a cramp, although no one was certain as he was helped off.
He went in on the next play.