GERMANTOWN — The moment the ball struck Logan McGill’s hands, his world shrank to the lane of open green grass in front of him.
With the clock ticking near five minutes left in Friday’s Class 4A state quarterfinal, Broadneck yearned for an explosive play since the first half, anything that would stop Northwest’s march towards victory. Something that would assure the Bruins it was still possible.
A pick-six did the trick. Senior Eli Harris led the weakside linebacker blitz that sparked it, a play they drilled all week. Harris was aiming for a sack, but instead tipped the ball free for McGill to claim.
“Not looking anywhere else but that goal line. I had to get there. I had to,” McGill said. “No other choice.”
Defense kept Broadneck anchored in the early weeks, when the offense still ironed out its kinks. It kept Broadneck buoyed in the games where offensive touchdowns took a bye to the second half.
On Friday night, defense turned potential tragedy into a 21-20 comeback win. Now, Broadneck is one step closer to a promised land no Anne Arundel team has reached since Old Mill won the 4A state title in 2013. The Bruins will need another road win next week over Winston Churchill before they can thinking about the title game. But the kids, they picture it.
“It’s the only thing that’s been on my mind since ... ” Eli Harris trailed off as the vision of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the site of the 4A final, crossed his mind. “We’re going to get there, 100%. No doubt in my mind.”
Coach Rob Harris “knew in his blood” any of the offensive plays up his sleeve could secure his team the win. As soon as McGill marked the end of his 70-yard voyage into the end zone, there was no more need for a score. There was, however, still a need for defense.
A three-and-out stint by the Bruins offense didn’t eat enough clock. The Jaguars offense took that stroke of luck past midfield. Rob Harris praised Hayden Raymond, Caleb Callazo, and Eli Harris stepping up at safety, who, along with linebacker Braden McCassie, McGill and others, stopped Northwest’s offense short of a first down twice to maintain the win.
“We had to step up,” McGill said. “We had a terrible game if I’m being honest. We played good but had some terrible penalties that cost us. We can do better.”
An odd and disjointed second half would become the coals Broadneck would have to walk through to secure another week. But the first half set them up for overcoming it.
Big-bodied blockers and lithe receivers aside, a 7-0 Northwest advantage meant very little once the Bruins defense figured them out.
The Bruins offense fed every time its fiery defense swapped onto the sideline. Just after its defense caged the Jaguars on third down, ending the first quarter, quarterback CJ Watkins and crew glided downfield. Harris hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
But that wasn’t enough, and the energy did not deflate. Within moments of the first touchdown, the Bruins pummeled the Northwest offense, a fumble scooped up by Jed Pellicano and taken in for a touchdown.
“Defense picked us up. That’s what we pride ourselves on,” Eli Harris said.
Defense limited Northwest until the final drive of the first half. Senior Cole Friedman had his arms wrapped around Jaguars receiver Anthony Gengarella but theJaguar still pinched the touchdown pass from the air and knotted the score at 14.
Eli Harris clung to the messaging at halftime: “Broadneck always wins close games.”
But losing the lead began a demoralizing period for the Bruins. Frustration stormed through the Broadneck sidelines.
A sack ruined the Bruins’ first offensive drive of the second half. Then, the defense allowed Jaguars running backs to wriggle free, including a 53-yard run. A personal foul set up Northwest at the 5 and a go-ahead touchdown soon followed.
Now trailing 20-14, Watkins suffered a fourth sack. And then when the Bruins did seem to generate opportunities — a successful fourth-down conversion at midfield — other factors stripped them of momentum. Penalties pushed Broadneck back and forced a punt.
“There’s no excuses,” Rob Harris said. “There’s nothing else we could do. We either win, or we lose.”
The fourth quarter further devolved into chaos as penalties bumped Northwest back-and-forth on the field, time steadily ticking down with nothing to show for it — until McGill’s interception.
“Their defense is tremendous. We knew it was gonna be tough sledding that,” Rob Harris said. “But we did feel our defense matched well with them, even if they’re humungous up front. At this stage, you got to put in the right guys at the right time.”
After the pick-six, kicker Christopher Coleman booted the go-ahead point and grumbles transformed into cheers. With every stop, every sack, the defense was met by hollering approval on the sideline. Northwest’s electric offensive plays that gave it control fizzled away into a defeated drive on fourth down.
That kind of shutdown defense will been needed again on center stage at Churchill next week. The Bruins routed the Bulldogs, 39-7, in playoffs last year, and feel confident shutting down the run game will once again prove the right measure to win.