Parkville's offense took a while to get rolling Saturday, but thanks to defensive backs Vernon Miller and Lamontte Brown, that didn't matter much.
Miller and Brown each returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half to spark the Knights to a 19-16 victory over Dulaney in a Baltimore County Class 4A-3A Division game.
The host Knights led 19-0 at halftime before Dulaney rallied to within three points on a pair of Ty Woodard touchdown passes. The Lions had a chance to win it in the final minute, but Parkville linebacker Tyson Gross batted down Woodard's final attempt on fourth down with 40 seconds remaining.
"That was a good football team we just beat," Parkville coach Justin Payne told his players after the game, "but this is a good football team right here. We've shown it. We've shown it to the county now. Now they have to pay attention to what's going on over here on Putty Hill [Avenue]."
The Knights (3-1 overall, 2-1 in the division) and Lions (2-2 , 2-1) made the rest of the county take notice over the past few weeks, upsetting a pair of perennial contenders. The Knights defeated Perry Hall for the first time in seven years and the Lions beat Catonsville for the first time in more than 25 years.
But Saturday in the rain, neither team's offense got off to a good start. The Lions like to pass and the Knights like to mix it up, but both teams were slipping, and passes were hard to hold onto. Dulaney turned over its first two possessions and had three turnovers in the first half.
On the first drive of the game, Miller picked off Woodard and raced 65 yards to the end zone.
"That was a lot of motivation," Miller said. "It gave us a lot of adrenaline and we used that."
Brown's pick six came just 35 seconds before halftime on a Lions drive that had started at their 1-yard line. He returned the interception 15 yards for a 13-0 Knights' lead.
Early in the third quarter, the Knights scored the first offensive touchdown of the game on Brown's 3-yard run to grow the lead to 19-0. They would need it all, because Woodard, who was 7-for-24 passing for 144 yards, got Dulaney's offense going on its next drive.
Woodard, who had thrown 11 touchdown passes in the past two games, took the Lions 55 yards in less than a minute and a half, hitting Jaylin Byers with a 30-yard touchdown pass. The junior quarterback added the conversion run to pull within 19-8 with 5:04 left in the third quarter.
After Dulaney's Vernon McBride recovered a Parkville fumble midway through the fourth quarter, Woodard led them 70 yards, scoring on a 54-yard pass to Tyreek Henderson. Woodard then ran in two more points to cut Parkville's lead to 19-16 with 5:15 remaining.
He had the Lions driving again in the final four minutes and got them to Parkville's 30-yard line with a 20-yard completion to Kenard Lee. But penalties for a false start and lining up in the neutral zone set them back. Woodard, under pressure, scrambled and aimed for the end zone on fourth down, but Gross was in his face by then.
"It was dicey," Payne said. "We went to a little bit of a prevent [defense], a Cover 2 with a man underneath and that allowed him to get some running space underneath, the quarterback being a good athlete. They did some draws, moved the chains but we buckled in at the end, stayed focused and then we just made sure we didn't get beat deep."
Dulaney coach Daron Reid was proud of how his team came back, saying they knew the rain would give their passing attack trouble and that Woodard held the ball longer than usual to try to make sure his receivers could get to their spots — which threw off the timing. The penalties on the final drive, he chalked up to nerves.
"I think it was just nerves in that situation, trying to be too perfect on every play and not being relaxed," Reid said of the final minutes of the game. "Mental errors just got us and instead of playing relaxed were too tight."
Parkville 19, Dulaney 16
P 7 6 6 0 – 19
D 0 0 8 8 – 16
P—Miller 65 int. return (Morales kick)
P—Brown 15 int. return (kick failed)
P—Brown 3 run (kick failed)
D—J.Byers 30 pass from Woodard (Woodard run)
D—Henderson 54 pass from Woodard (Woodard run)