Hereford running back Zac Johnson acknowledged being "a little rattled" after his first carry Saturday against a Randallstown defense that had not yielded a point this season.
Johnson fumbled on the third play of the Bulls' first drive, but Randallstown did not convert the turnover and the senior made up for his mistake on the next drive. He ran in from a yard out to score the first of his three rushing touchdowns and start visiting Hereford on its way to a 35-0 victory in a Baltimore County Class 2A-1A Division game.
The Bulls improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2007, when they finished 13-1 and reached the state title game.
Their offensive playbook hasn't change since long before then and it's not much of a secret: "We just run straight down your throat," Johnson said.
That's all the Bulls (2-0 division) did for the first 21 minutes of the game. Running behind a powerhouse line of Mike Nash, Joe Kelbaugh, Nick Greenspan, Blake Walker and Raven Albin, Hereford gained 199 of its 253 first-half yards on the ground. They led 28-0 at the break and the running clock started with a 35-point lead and 9:23 remaining in the game.
Johnson ran for 122 yards on eight carries in the first half. On his two later touchdowns, he popped through the middle to race 21 and 79 yards to the end zone. With the game in hand, he carried the ball just once for 5 yards in the second half.
"He sees the hole and he goes and that's what we like. He has one speed – hit it and go," Bulls coach Ric Evans said.
The Rams had outscored their opponents 102-0 through their first three games but they haven't beaten the Bulls since 2005. Saturday, they were overwhelmed by the more powerful Bulls line as it pushed the piles forward and opened holes for Johnson.
"I knew they were tough," Johnson said of the Rams, "but I knew we could outmuscle them on the line with Mike [Nash] and all our other big linemen and we just dug our heads deep and ran the ball."
Evans called 20 running plays before quarterback Jon Marchinek attempted a pass.
On his first pass, Marchinek connected with Joey Chestnutt for a 54-yard touchdown with 3:51 left in the first half. That boosted the Bulls lead to 21-0.
Marchinek, a senior, completed all five of his passes – four in the fourth quarter – and threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rams (3-1) have the speed to counter the Bulls' power and they moved the ball well at times, but they were too inconsistent throughout the game.
They turned the ball over twice, with Albin picking off backup quarterback Jaylen Lawson both times, and never made it inside the Bulls' 13-yard line.
Their best chance to score came on the game's opening drive. Quarterback Marcus Newton hit Montana Roberts with a 27-yard pass to reach the Bulls' 13, but a couple of previous sacks by Hereford's Troy Tuveson and Troy Gladney made it fourth-and three at that point and Newton could not connect on his next pass.
Early in the third quarter, the Rams forced a fumble and Roberts recovered on Randallstown's 43-yard line. Newton, a little gimpy after taking a hard hit in the first half, completed three passes to Christian Benford for 42 yards, but Newton was dropped for a five-yard loss and then incomplete passes by Newton and Lawson turned the ball over on downs.
A year ago, the Rams were 3-0 before they fell to the Bulls, 36-12. They didn't win another game, but coach Ray Wright thinks they can avoid the tailspin this time. He said the team chemistry is much better and that should help them rebound from a game with too little execution on offense and too many mistakes on defense.
"Just from listening to the huddle," Wright said, "the kids this year said they want to have a players-only meeting in the weight room when we get off the field. They're talking about meeting [Sunday] to look at film and talk about how we can improve and then come back on Monday to get themselves better. That's happening between the captains and the team. Last year, they would have been pointing fingers and all 'we're going out tonight.' This year, they're focused on football and competing."