As the final seconds ticked off the clock yesterday at Milford Mill, the Dundalk football players began screaming, "The monkey's off our backs."
The Owls came from behind for a 12-7 victory over host Milford Mill, and in doing so, started the season 4-0 for the first time.
"We'd always start strong and lose in Week 4," Dundalk coach Dave Eubank said. "Milford Mill's a great team, but today, we overcame."
Senior Jaired Rose scored the game's first touchdown on a 17-yard run for a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, and quarterback Aaron Pack plowed past linebacker Jerry Harcum at the goal line for the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter.
"He rung my bell a little bit, but I would do it again if I had to," Pack said. "That's the kind of player I have to be this year. I've got to lay it all on the line for my team."
The victory raised Dundalk's record to 4-0 overall, 3-0 in the Baltimore County 4A-3A League. Milford Mill is 2-2, 2-1.
Milford Mill led 7-6 at halftime, after Julius Askins' fumble recovery set up a 2-yard run by junior quarterback Donte Smith.
And after Pack's score with 4:10 left, the Millers twice drove into Dundalk territory only to come up short.
Junior Danny Romanowski (6 feet 4, 265 pounds), junior David Smith (6-2, 275) and sophomore Mark Johnson (6-4, 265) anchored a line behind which Dundalk rushed for 232 yards, including 93 by Rose.
Defensively, Romanowski knocked down a pass and had a sack. Teammate Nick Trionfo dropped a running back for a critical loss. The Millers also were stopped short on a fourth-and-inches play near midfield late in the final quarter, setting up the game-winning drive.
"We tried to keep the points off the board and score enough to win," Romanowski said. "Everyone went hard in practice, and it showed today."
Dundalk's defensive secondary also shined at the right time.
Issachar Martin-El grabbed his third interception of the year, and Reggie Frazier and Tom Kane each had critical pass breakups late. Frazier made his deflection at the goal line, and Kane's second deflection fell into Rose's hands for a 65-yard return that quelled one of Milford Mill's final scoring chances.
"I wanted to take it all the way, but my legs started cramping up," said Rose, who was brought down at the Millers' 31. "We lost to them last year, so it wasn't just a game: It was personal."
For Milford Mill, the game ends a tumultuous week that began with Monday's arrest of starting running back Jerrard Bazemore, 18, who has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Lansdowne High graduate.
"An incident has occurred off school grounds, on a weekend, and yet the school and community name has been brought into the issue," Milford Mill principal Norman Smith said. "It's a big loss and a tragic situation, but all of us have to move on."