It was more than homecoming at Catonsville High Friday night. It was finally a home game.
It had been almost a year since Catonsville football fans celebrated the Comets’ 19-18 win over Milford Mill on Oct. 15 of 2015.
They played their final three games of the 2015 season on the road and the first four games this year on foreign turf.
They were supposed to open the home slate on Sept. 10 against Kenwood, but the game was cancelled because schools without air conditioning were closed because of heat.
So the Comets had their home opener and homecoming on Friday night against defending Class 3A state finalist Dundalk and the visiting Owls picked up where they left off with a 71-0 victory.
The spirit of the homecoming crowd left Comet Park on the first drive of the game when the Owls went 75 yards in one play and took a 7-0 lead.
Quarterback Darrius Sample made something out of nothing when he broke a tackle in the backfield, reversed his field and went the distance.
“It was a broken play, but I’m not going to stop the play. I’m going to keep going,” Sample said. “I had an open lane and I took it to the house.”
Sample went on to run for three more touchdowns and pass for three.
“That’s the biggest game of my career at Dundalk,” Sample said. “I was just grateful that we got that.”
Senior Dennis Brown scored three times — on a 7-yard pass, 80-yard punt return and 65-yard return of a blocked field goal on the last play of the game for the Owls (5-1), whose only loss this season came against Milford Mill.
“They were state finalists last year because they have great players,” Catonsville coach Rich Hambor said.
They also play fast in a no-huddle offense.
“We emphasized all week we wanted to start quick and we wanted to start early and Darrius, on the first play of the game, he is an explosive player and he was able to find a crease and score a touchdown,” Dundalk coach Sean Sandora said.
Sample scored on runs of 75, 1, 3, and 20 yards in the first half when he piled up 194 yards rushing.
He finished with 205 yards rushing on 15 attempts.
In addition to the touchdown to Brown, he completed a 53-yard deep slant to Daquan Townes for a score.
“I read the linebacker on that one, he did a slow read, so I just laid it out there,” Sample said. “My arm can get me there.”
He capped the big night with a 26-yard touchdown strike to Tim Martin in the second half.
“We spoke all week long about trusting the system, trusting the system, trusting the players, making the reads and doing their job and Darrius did a very good job of trusting his players and executing,” Sandora said.
Catonsville trailed 48-0 at halftime after falling behind 20-7 a week earlier in a 20-14 loss to Perry Hall.
“We had a lot of guys out on defense in the first half, but we’ve just got to try to play basic football, block and tackle,” Hambor said. “It was the same story as last week in the first half. We’ve just got to get down to basics.”
The biggest play for the Catonsville offense in the first half was a 16-yard gain by Trey Glover on a dive up the middle on its first offensive play.
The Comets best chance to get in the game came after they stopped Sample on fourth and one from the 49 while trailing only 7-0.
Kenyon Webb ran for eight yards and Glover got a first down at the Dundalk 40.
On the next play, Glover was tackled for a 5-yard loss on a big hit by Jamar Simms and the drive stalled.
Dundalk scored touchdowns on its next five posessions and kicker Will Kelly made his first six extra points for a 42-0 lead.
Catonsville’s only highlights as Dundalk pulled away came on special teams.
Long snapper Ronnie Meghairouni forced a fumble on a punt return that was recovered by Sidney Mings.
Tre Hayes had several solid kickoff returns into a steady wall of hard-hitters. His longest was a 29-yarder.
Catonsville punter Graham Smith averaged 39.6 yards on six punts.
Dundalk also had a 40-yard interception return from Chrys Lane and a 34-yard field goal from Kelly.
The Owls will try and move to 6-1 on Friday, Oct. 14 when they host Woodlawn at 6 p.m.
Catonsville looks for it second victory at Milford Mill on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.
After going 7-3 last season, the Comets are just trying to get back to .500, and even though they were beaten soundly, Dundalk’s Sandora knows things can turn around.
“I have nothing but respect for coach Hambor,” Sandora said. “He runs a great program. He’s a great man. When I started coaching he helped me out a lot and I speak with him during the offseason. He’s just having a tough year, but they’ve got a pretty good jayvee team so hopefully he bounces back. Having competitive teams in Baltimore County is the key.”