- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Ousted from playoff picture, North Point beats Westlake to end season
By DALLAS COGLE
On the eve of their marquee clash Saturday night with the archrival Westlake Wolverines that was supposed to have major playoff implications, the North Point Eagles already knew their proud program had been eliminated from the postseason picture for the first time in five years.
Despite making a strong argument the final three weeks of the regular season as the team playing the best football in the highly respected Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, North Point surprisingly found itself on the outside looking in as it related to being among the top four teams that clinched playoff berths in the Class 4A East Region.
Friday victories by Anne Arundel County’s South River (8-2) and Meade (8-2) sealed North Point’s rare fate of missing the playoffs.
Nonetheless, North Point (7-3, 5-3 SMAC) continued to prove Saturday that it was as postseason worthy as any team in its loaded region, regardless of its sixth-most playoff points in the 4A East, with a 34-19 over playoff-bound Westlake in front of a big, animated crowd at the Eagles stadium, even on a cold night.
“The fact that we beat [Westlake] shows that we should be in the playoffs,” North Point junior standout running back Marquel Dickerson said after his performance of 194 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries.
He rushed for 282 yards on 34 carries two weeks earlier in North Point’s 27-18 upset of Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington, D.C.
Dickerson added, “We came out, played our hearts out and played like a playoff team. I think we could’ve made it to states, probably even won states. The way the seniors came out and played tonight, they play their hearts out. Our juniors, we would’ve done something.”
Besides bragging rights, it was Westlake (7-3, 6-2) — not North Point — which had lots on the line with a victory needed for a share of the SMAC title while trying to solidify its playoff positioning in the 3A South Region.
Though Westlake barely held onto the second seed in the 3A South in the loss — a tenth of a playoff point ahead of Potomac of Prince George’s County (8-2) to keep the Wolverines as hosts for this Friday’s regional semifinal tilt between the teams — North Point kept its familiar foe from sharing the SMAC title with Huntingtown (9-1, 7-1) and McDonough (9-1, 7-1), each top seeds in the 3A South and 2A South regions, respectively.
Just because North Point’s playoff hopes were dashed before Saturday’s kickoff, delayed 24 hours due to Charles County schools being closed the first two days last week because of Hurricane Sandy, did not mean the Eagles’ desire and intensity was stripped away.
“This is our last game and we put it all on the line. It’s a county rival, so we gave it all we had,” said North Point sophomore quarterback Brandon Battle, who ran for a touchdown and completed 7 of 19 passes for 112 yards. “[Our drive to win] was even more there since we couldn’t make the playoffs. We wanted to win this game so bad. Basically it was [an unofficial playoff game]. It’s bittersweet. We’re glad we won, but we wish we could’ve been in the playoffs.
“I think we could’ve made it to the [state] semis, I think we could’ve won states this year. This team was so motivated. We wanted it so bad. Seniors, this is their last year.”
North Point senior co-captain Alijah Robinson won the last game of his high school career.
“It was a rival team, we just wanted to beat them,” Robinson said of the motivation for him and his teammates to win with the playoffs out of their grasp by the onset of the game. “We wanted to show everybody that we can be in the playoffs and that we can it [all]. It’s disappointing a little bit [to end the season like this], but I’m happy we got the win. I wish we could be in the playoffs.”
The most painful loss this season for North Point, essentially killing its playoff chances, also showed the amazing potential of the team. North Point was dominating a talented McDonough club, 21-0, on the road before coming apart on some freak plays in the fourth quarter, yielding four touchdowns in a 28-21 costly loss.
North Point head coach Ken Lane added, “It was disappointing [to be knocked out of the playoffs]. It’s a new thing [for us to miss the playoffs]. We’ve been in the playoffs the last four years. We lost the McDonough game, which we felt like we dominated for most of the game. We lost a crazy game. To be honest with you, coming down the stretch, we felt like we were the best team in the conference the way we’re playing right now.
“Our preparation up through yesterday was full steam ahead [to make the playoffs], but that was no reason why we couldn’t finish the season up on a high note.
North Point and Westlake provided an entertaining affair that went back and forth through the first half.
Dickerson ripped off a 67-yard touchdown run on North Point’s first play from scrimmage five minutes into the contest for a 7-0 lead.
One play following a costly roughing-the-punter penalty on North Point that gave Westlake an automatic first down in the opening quarter, Darrell Reeves exploded for a 59-yard touchdown run through the middle of the line to tie the score at 7.
Reeves spearheaded a prodigious Westlake ground game with a 107 rushing yards. Westlake ran for 286 yards on 46 carries, outgaining North Point’s quality output of 209 rushing yards on 30 totes.
North Point’s ensuing possession saw Dickerson cough up the football at his own five on the first play of the drive, leading to a Westlake recovery. Westlake quarterback Antwaine Carter then scored on a five-yard keeper two plays later for a 13-7 Wolverines lead.
In the second quarter, North Point capped a 12-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown run by Dickerson on fourth down and four to tie the game at 13.
It remained a tied affair until the momentous play of the contest when Carter was hit while trying to get rid of the ball following a wild shotgun snap, causing his pass to flutter and fall into the arms of North Point junior Aaron Gibson, who easily returned the interception for a 29-yard touchdown with just 21 seconds left in the first half.
The interception gave North Point a 20-13 halftime advantage.
“I think the kids on both sides look forward to this game all year,” Lane said. “They went to middle school together, they played pound ball together. The coaches have coached together. It’s easy to get excited for the game.”
Though Westlake got to within a point, 20-19, late in the third quarter with a dazzling 44-yard touchdown run by Desmond Holley, North Point scored touchdowns on each of its first two drives of the fourth to cement the win.
Dickerson saved his most electric run for his final touchdown, going 61 yards after several elusive moves while effectively setting up his blocks, to give North Point a 27-19 lead.
Battle finished off Westlake with a five-yard touchdown run on a drive that required just three plays following a partially blocked punt by North Point.
“North Point did a great job, they had a great game. We just didn’t execute our game plan,” Westlake first-year head coach Marlon Curtis said. “We kind of took some steps back here and there. But they’re things that are fixable. We just had an accumulation of mistakes that took place that really cost us. North Point just capitalized on them.”
Taking a bit of the intensity off the ending of the game was what appeared to be a relatively serious injury to Carter.
The Westlake quarterback, trying to rally his team in the final couple minutes, ran a draw on second and goal for a yard to the North Point 6-yard line. He was hit hard on the play and stayed down. He was moving his extremities, but an ambulance and stretcher were brought out on the field as it appeared there was concern over a head or neck injury.
“I’m not absolutely sure,” Curtis said about the exact spot of the injury. “He was in the some pain and couldn’t give a definite answer of exactly where. In that scenario, you err on the side of caution just to make sure.”
If Carter is unable to play this Friday in the 3A South semifinals, backup quarterback Alexander Roddy would most likely be the starter for Westlake.