- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Standing under the lights following his team’s 24-14 win over the visiting North Point Eagles on Saturday night, Northern senior wide receiver Adam Swann tried to find something to compare the victory to.
The closest thing was the Patriots’ win over Westlake two years ago — a big win over a perennial power from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
Yes, the win over North Point in a contest made up Saturday after weather postponed it just before the scheduled kickoff on Thursday was the same, except that it was completely different.
“My 10th-grade year I was on the team, but I was just going one way. I wasn’t doing too much,” said Swann, who caught five passes for 133 yards in the win over the Eagles, his second consecutive game surpassing 100 yards receiving. “This year it’s huge to know that all the work we’ve put in is finally paying off. You get tingles. It’s exciting to win.”
And whereas the 2011 win over Westlake stood as a huge upset and was the program’s first win ever over the Wolverines, it ultimately was just an upset. It did not lead to anything more, be it a run for the playoffs or change in the culture.
Northern’s win over North Point, which was the first for new head coach Darren DeMeio, comes in the second week of the season, just a week after the Patriots (1-1) had a chance to beat defending Class 3A South Region champion Huntingtown, which reached the 3A state final in 2012.
But now, the attitude surrounding the team is different. There are eight weeks to play, and Northern intends to be a factor in the whole season’s narrative this time around.
“That showed us that we’re one of the best,” Swann said, referencing his team’s overtime loss to Huntingtown in the season’s first week. “Huntingtown went to states last year. To go toe-to-toe with them and be an extra-point snap away from beating them just showed that this year we’re here to play, and we can play with anyone.”
North Point (0-2) opened the game in fine fashion, chewing up the game’s first 6 minutes 31 seconds with a 13-play, 72-yard drive that culminated with senior running back Marquel Dickerson’s five-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles the early 7-0 lead.
The drive gave the impression the visitors were going to have their way with the Patriots defense, but it turned out to be the only scoring drive North Point’s offense could muster.
After taking the ensuing kickoff, Northern answered with a long, time-consuming drive of its own. The Patriots drove down inside the North Point 10-yard line, but settled for a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Josh Singshinsuh to cut the deficit to 7-3.
The score stood until just over five minutes remained in the third quarter, when North Point sophomore defensive back Perrin Turner snagged a deflected pass from Northern senior quarterback Taylor Wagner and sprinted 20 yards back to the end zone for an Eagles touchdown.
The extra point put North Point up 14-3 with 5:09 left in the quarter, and left the Eagles in position to even up their record after their first-week loss at Patuxent.
Northern had other plans. The Patriots followed with an 86-yard drive that finished with Wagner’s 31-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Josh Jacobs. Wagner hit Jacobs in stride across the middle and the tight end rambled untouched into the end zone to pull the Patriots to within four.
“My quarterback, best quarterback in SMAC, no doubt,” Jacobs said of the scoring play. “I just ran the route. He threw the pass, made the play perfect..”
North Point took possession the following series at its own 10, but Northern senior Austin Howard promptly pushed them back to the 1 with a sack of Eagles junior quarterback Brandon Battle. After two more plays, the Eagles punted and Northern took over at the North Point 31.
Howard then made an offensive impact as well, finishing off the subsequent series with an 18-yard touchdown run to put the Patriots in front for the first time, 17-14. Then, to put one further stamp on the night, Howard picked off a Battle pass in the next series to give the Patriots the ball back in North Point territory and just 9:58 remaining in the game.
Northern’s offense, in the position to put the game away, followed with a five-plus minute drive that included a clutch fourth-down conversion pass from Wagner to Jacobs, and concluded with Wagner calling his own number on a five-yard touchdown run that gave the Patriots a comfortable two-score advantage and essentially put the game away.
“I’m feeling great. The last three years we haven’t done too well. New coach, new intensity, we’re playing amazing and I couldn’t love my team more than I do right now. It’s a family,” said Wagner after passing for 231 yards and a touchdown to go along with the rushing score. “We knew we had the talent and skill to beat this team. We just had to make sure we got rid of the mistakes we had last week and just come out and execute. That’s what we did tonight and why we got the win.”
Though North Point had some success offensively — Dickerson rushed for a game-high 138 yards on 22 carries — it struggled to put the ball in the end zone. After the touchdown on the game’s opening series, the Eagles had a field goal attempt blocked and were thwarted on another series when Northern junior Mazzi Bunn intercepted a Battle pass in the end zone.
“We’re just not executing well right now. We haven’t executed well the first week or this week, on either side of the ball,” North Point head coach Ken Lane said. “Too many mental breakdowns, physical breakdowns, opportunities present themselves and we’re just not making plays. We’re just not doing very well as a coaching staff or as players.”
North Point opens a season with two losses for the first time in the program’s history. It will attempt to rebound and earn a much-needed win at home against Lackey at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
“We have to get better every day,” Lane said. “Work hard and get better every day otherwise we’re going to feel like this more weeks. We need to execute better. We have some returning guys on offense, but we’re really young on defense. It’s a learning process, but it’s on the job.”
DeMeio mentioned that his team’s final practice before the game was the best of the season. And when the chips were down with the team trailing in the fourth quarter, the Patriots seniors led the way.
“In high school you like to have a lot of seniors. Those are the kids you rely on,” DeMeio said. “Tonight we had a lot of seniors step up and play big.”
Northern is scheduled to host Chopticon at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re soaring right now, Saturday night big win,” Swann said, “but come Monday we need to get back to work and get ready for our next game.”
Northern 24, North Point 14
North Point 7 0 7 0
Northern 0 3 7 14
NP — Dickerson 5 run (James kick), 6:31
N — FG Singshinsuh 23, 3:18
NP — Turner 20 interception return (James kick), 6:51
N — Jacobs 31 pass from Wagner (Singshinsuh kick), 11:24
N — Howard 18 run (Singshinsuh kick), 1:40
N — Wagner 5 run (Singshinsuh kick), 7:38
North Point (10 first downs, 29-127 rushing, 107 passing, 2-0 fumbles, 9-60 penalties)
Northern (14 first downs, 36-107 rushing, 231 passing, 1-0 fumbles, 8-55 penalties)
Top individual performers
Rushing — NP: Dickerson 22-138; N: Howard 19-85
Passing — NP: Battle 6-19-2 107; N: Wagner: 11-25-2 231
Receiving — NP: Dickerson 3-22, Watts 1-38, Hodge 1-35; N: Swann 5-133, Jacobs 4-76