Ask any player on the Atholton football team. They all knew the number 12.
Twelve years in a row River Hill had made it to the playoffs, and the rival Raiders were chomping at the bit to be the ones to just about put that streak to rest.
Thanks to two touchdown catches by Kane Jackson and a blocked punt that was scooped up by Jasen Parkins for a score, Atholton beat the rival Hawks on their home field, 20-14, on a chilly Friday night to improve to 5-3 and keep its own playoff hopes alive.
“We talked about (that streak) a lot,” said Raiders coach Bruce Cummings. “This is our rivals. Who wouldn’t want to destroy their rivals’ playoff chances? That was an extra motivational tool for us to do, and 12 years – now they can’t say it anymore. We talked about these kids on the football field, they will be forever in the history books because they will always remember who stopped that team from making the playoffs.”
“This is a really big win,” Parkins said. “This stops their 12-year run of making the playoffs. We took ‘em out. ... That’s all we were preaching the whole week – to end their streak.”
Jackson caught a smoke screen to the right side on the second play of the game and took it 51 yards for the game’s first score, and Cummings knew right away that his team wouldn’t be denied.
“It was big for us because we needed that momentum,” Cummings. “Whenever you’re at an away game, you need some type of momentum on your side and just ride that wave.”
River Hill (3-5) responded with a touchdown drive of its own on its first drive of the second half. The Hawks’ drive went 73 yards on 10 plays in five minutes and was capped by sophomore quarterback Brett Shaw, who punched in a sneak from 1-yard out to tie the game at 7-7.
But the Raiders answered with authority, going 10 plays and 65 yards. Totaro completed each of his three passes in the drive, the last of which went 10 yards to Jackson, who jumped and caught the ball in the back of the endzone – “an NFL catch,” Cummings said.
“Not only did he catch it, but he had to get his toes in and everything,” he said. “That was a big catch and gave us back the momentum and gave confidence to our quarterback, who was getting rocked. ... He was able to avoid the rush, get outside the pocket and find Kane in the back of the endzone. That’s them working in practice and having that chemistry and the quarterback having confidence in Kane to throw it up, and we executed it.”
Trailing 14-7, the Hawks went three and out on their ensuing drive. River Hill’s Cooper McGeehan was back at his own 20 for the punt, but Atholton’s Sam Count came roaring up the edge and blocked the punt. Parkins scooped it up and ran it 20 yards for a touchdown that put the Raiders up 20-7 after a failed two-point conversion.
“That play was really big,” said Parkins. “It sparked our whole team.”
“That was huge,” said River Hill coach Brian Van Deusen. “You can’t give up plays like that against a good team, and that was the deciding factor at the end.”
What made the play even more interesting was that Cummings was actually asking for a timeout before River Hill snapped the ball.
“I about to call a timeout because we only had nine people on the field, and we still blocked the punt,” Cummings admitted. “Sometimes it just happens like that. ... I’ll take the touchdown.”
Though the Raiders held a 20-7 lead in the final quarter, Cummings knew it was a long was from being over.
“It’s never over facing River Hill because Brian Van Deusen is a great coach,” Cummings said. “I didn’t think it was over at all. We just had to get that score and get our defense back on the field and do what we do.”
River Hill, however, got back its offensive momentum on the next drive. It managed four first downs to in eight plays, and Shaw’s 6-yard pass to Trey Simpson cut the deficit to 20-14.
Simpson returned the Raiders’ punt four plays later 26 yards to set the Hawks up at the opposing 33, but on a fourth and long from the 30 Parkins sealed the victory with an interception in the endzone.
“It was definitely nervous, but at the same time there was some type of calm to it because we rely on our defense,” Cummings said. “We would rather have our defense in a game-winning situation, and that’s what we had in that situation. ... Jasen, that’s like his sixth interception this year. Whenever they throw it to his side, I’m pretty confident he will make a play on the ball. He’s a great ball-hawk safety, and he was able to locate the ball and high-point it.”
In the loss, Van Deusen was disappointed the program’s streak of playoff appearances was likely coming to an end, but was quick to point out how young his team is and that the future is still bright.
“It’s a tough loss. We needed this win to get back in playoff contention, and it’s one of those things – we were playing a good team, and we needed to play four quarters,” he said. “We didn’t give them four quarters, and we didn’t win the battle up front. They made some plays and they won. ... You know us. We’re the winningest program in the state. Look over the last decade – River Hill has more wins than anybody. Obviously it’s disappointing, but we’re the smallest team in the county and we’re young with eight sophomores, so it’s going to be a learning curve.”
Atholton (5-3) – 7 0 0 13 – 20
River Hill (3-5) – 0 0 7 7 – 14
A: Dominic Totaro 51-yard pass to Kane Jackson (Ben Lovera kick) [7-0]
RH: Brett Shaw 1-yard run (Cooper McGeehan kick) [7-7]
A: Totaro 10-yard pass to Jackson (failed conversion) [13-7]
A: Jasen Parkins 20-yard fumble recovery on blocked punt (Lovera kick) [20-7]
RH: Shaw 6-yard pass to Trey Simpson (McGeehan kick) [20-14]
Howard (8-0) – 7 13 13 13 – 46
Long Reach (2-6) – 0 0 6 6 – 12
Ho: Malik Anderson 4-yard run (Michael Gillespie kick) [7-0]
Ho: Donnie Place 10-yard run (Michael Gillespie kick) [14-0]
Ho: Casey Crawford 3-yard pass to Bryson Craven (kick failed) [20-0]
LR: Greg Benton 3-yard run (kick failed) [20-6]
Ho: Anderson 18-yard run (kick failed) [26-6]
Ho: Anderson 5-yard run (Michael Gillespie kick) [33-6]
LR: Tyler Raines 9-yard pass to Ryan Manusan (conversion failed) [33-12]
Ho: Vanden Vale 7-yard run (Michael Gillespie kick) [40-12]
Ho: Jermaine Whittington 30-yard run (kick failed) [46-12]
Reservoir (6-2) 39, Centennial (0-8) 0
Oakland Mills (6-2) 47, Hammond (2-6) 8
Games on Saturday, Oct. 24
Glenelg (4-3) vs. Marriotts Ridge (6-1)
Wilde Lake (3-4) vs. Mt. Hebron (1-7)