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Burned by fake punt, Old Mill loses 4A championship game to Northwest, 34-31

Old Mill won 11 straight games to advance to Friday's Class 4A state final, then ran into a hot offense and came up one win short of their third state title since 2009.

Northwest running back E.J. Lee ran for 197 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and quarterback Mark Pierce threw two touchdown passes and ran for another to lead the Jaguars to a 34-31 victory over No. 2 Old Mill at M&T Bank Stadium.

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The Jaguars won their second straight state championship and handed the Patriots their first loss since Week 2 of the regular season.

"I'm extremely proud of our football team tonight. We lost a tough football game against a very good team," Old Mill coach Chad McCormick said. "We've been fortunate to be on the other side of this twice, and this is really tough right now."

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Lee scored on runs of 35 and 59 yards and also had 55 yards on returns for 252 total yards.

"Their running back was really elusive," said Old Mill's Noah Fitzgerald, whose third-quarter interception was the game's only turnover. "Hat's off to him. Our defense did a good job containing him. He just broke free on a few plays."

Old Mill quarterback David Marrocco finished 13-for-21 for 229 yards and two touchdowns and James Venerable scored on a 62-yard run and caught a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Marrocco also converted a fourth down when he hit Camari Wilkerson for 37 yards to set up the Patriots' final score.

"We had a lot of good plays called and we made some big plays it the passing game," Marrocco said.

Donovan Franklin, who had 507 yards in Old Mill's three playoff victories, rushed for 126 yards on 29 carries and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass.

The teams combined for two touchdowns on the first six plays of the game. Old Mill got on the board first when Venerable took an inside handoff and rumbled 62 yards to put the Patriots up, 6-0. Northwest tied on its first play when Pierce hit Jamar Wilson for a 75-yard touchdown. Both teams missed extra points.

After each team punted twice, the Jaguars went ahead when Pierce scored from 10 yards out and hit Brandon Williams for the 2-point conversion to give Northwest a 14-6 lead.

Old Mill answered with a 10-play, 89-yard drive and tied the game when Marrocco hit Franklin for a 10-yard touchdown. Marrocco connected with Camari Wilkerson on the 2-point conversion to tie the game for the second time.

The Patriots converted three third downs on the drive, including a 63-yard pass from Marrocco to Venerable and Franklin's touchdown.

The Old Mill defense got a stop, but moved just three plays on its ensuing drive and gave the ball to Northwest at the Old Mill 35 after a 12-yard punt. For the second time in the game, the Jaguars needed just one play to go ahead and took a 20-14 lead on Lee's 35-yard touchdown run.

Old Mill cut into the lead just before halftime when Chris Walker connected on a 26-yard field goal to make it a 20-17 game. Franklin carried four times on the drive for 31 yards and Marrocco hit Brady Ludwig for a 33-yard gain to the Northwest 15.

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Lee broke free again and scored on a 59-yard run to give the Jaguars a 26-17 lead four minutes into the third, but the Patriots made it a one-score game on the first play of the fourth when Marrocco hit Venerable for a 15-yard touchdown that cut the lead to 26-24.

The teams traded scores over the next five minutes and Northwest held a 34-31 lead with just under four minutes left and faced a fourth-and-7 from the Old Mill 47. The Jaguars lined up in a punt formation, but Wilson took a pitch and gained 10 yards to pick up the first down.

"They've done some fake punts and we prepared for that type of stuff," McCormick said. "They definitely did some stuff that we hadn't seen. I thought situationaly there they were going to kick it and pin us deep and make us go the distance of the field. They dialed up a good play and executed it well."

After the Patriots were forced to burn their final two time outs, the Jaguars ran the clock out to clinch the victory.

Old Mill was in the state final for the third time since 2009. The Patriots won their first state championship in 2009, then won another in 2011, McCormick's first year as head coach. They won their other region title in 2005 before falling in the state semifinals.

Nikko Ware had 10 tackles, while Malik Hicks added seven tackles — including three for losses — and a sack.

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