- The Enterprise
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As the final moments were ticking off the clock at Calvert High School on Thursday night, Northern senior Paul Henry stood on the sidelines and announced, “It’s a good day to be a Patriot.”
And so it was. And after losing the previous two weeks, Northern needed a good night to get things turned back around.
The visiting Patriots exploded for 37 first-half points and cruised to a 44-18 win in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference 2A-3A division football contest.
“I feel like the Patriots came out and played an extraordinary game,” Henry said. “We were clicking on all cylinders. Defense made stops and the offense scored points. Special teams played a big part. We had a big kick return the first play of the game. It’s a good feeling to be back on the winning side.”
Through the season’s first three weeks, Northern (4-3, 2-2 2A-3A) boasted one of the most prolific offenses in the region, equally adept at moving the ball through the air or on the ground. But the passing game by and large disappeared in weeks four through six, and the Patriots struggled in losing two of those games.
On Thursday night, the explosive early-season offense was back, as Northern quarterback Taylor Wagner and receiver Adam Swann hooked up five times for 121 yards to again show why they looked like one of the most dangerous tandems in the state earlier in the season.
“It’s been a few weeks. It’s definitely good to get back in the passing game,” said Swann, two of whose receptions went for touchdowns. “It’s definitely the line protecting, [Wagner] got the ball there. We’ve been dealing with some rainy games, not that we shouldn’t catch the ball in that, but we were struggling. But it was good to get back on the field and get the ball back in the air this game.”
Not to be outdone, Austin Howard also rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns, passing the 1,000-yard plateau in the process.
“It’s definitely a huge accomplishment, achieving that,” Howard said. “But once again, the offensive line is working so hard. I let them do their job and they let me do my job. I feed off of them.”
His offensive line took some pride in the accomplishment, as well.
“Our offensive line comes out every day and executes every day in practice,” Northern’s Chandler Jackson said. “We execute every day in practice, grinding it out. We have to give props to [Howard], he does make some plays. But I truly believe we could be the best offensive line in SMAC right now. I would put our offensive line against any team right now.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Northern marched 60 yards in eight plays and scored the game’s first points on Howard’s four-yard touchdown run. The Patriots’ next two scores took significantly less time, as Northern’s next possession needed just one play for Wagner and Swann to hook up on a 41-yard scoring strike, while Howard ripped off a 54-yard touchdown on the first play of Northern’s third possession. With 3 minutes 52 seconds still remaining in the game’s opening quarter, the Patriots led Calvert (2-5, 0-3 2A-3A), 22-0.
“We knew we needed to come back strong after the two losses,” Wagner said. “The passing game hasn’t been too hot the last couple games. We came out strong tonight and kind of got in a rhythm, more than we have the last couple weeks. It felt nice to actually contribute to the team. The rushing game has been amazing all season, but we came back out with the passing game. Adam Swann had a great game. It was nice.”
Howard scored his third touchdown early in the second quarter, this time on a 10-yard jaunt, while Wagner and Swann connected on a 21-yard touchdown to cap the first half’s scoring and increase Northern’s advantage to 37-0 at the break.
After the disappointment of the previous two weeks, losses to Lackey and Thomas Stone, Northern head coach Darren DeMeio was relieved to see his clicking again.
“Our guys came out and had all phases of the game working,” he said. “I think we have players in all phases of the game and today we got it back together. It was a fun day.”
Bryan Rawlings scored Northern’s final touchdown on a 26-yard run in the third quarter. Calvert had previously broken up the shutout on Trayvon Chase’s nine-yard touchdown run on its first possession of the second half. Om the fourth, MJ Wallace scored on a 74-yard run, and Leslie Campbell scored the game’s final points on a nine-yard reception from Dakota Greening in the game’s final minute.
“Northern is a pretty good football club,” Calvert head coach Rick Sneade said. “Coach DeMeio has done a pretty nice job of getting that program going and it’s testament to [previous Northern] coach [A.J.] Berberian and the program he left.”
Calvert will travel to McDonough for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff Friday, squaring off against a Rams team that just earned their first win last week against La Plata.
“We’re left with no choice but to get back up and get back in the fight,” Sneade said. “That’s kind of what the kids illustrated in the second half [against Northern]. They came back out and fought. They didn’t quit. It’s testament to them and their heart.
“We’re left with the choice to get back up and get back into the fight. We’ll work one day at a time and see if we can get better for next week.”
Northern travels to Leonardtown for a 6 p.m. kickoff Friday in a game that both really needs to win to keep alive hopes for postseason qualification.
Leonardtown, a Class 4A East Region team, defeated Westlake on Saturday. With Westlake also 4-3 and in the 3A South like Northern, that outcome helped strengthen the Patriots’ hopes. But with Leonardtown, Mount Saint Joseph and Patuxent left on the dance card, Northern has an arduous road down the stretch.
“We don’t have much to think about past next week,” DeMeio said. “We have a big game next week. The focus is just to carry over what we did today.”
Northern 44, Calvert 18
Northern 22 15 7 0
Calvert 0 0 6 12
N — Howard 4 run (kick failed), 4:24
N — Swann 41 pass from Wagner (Jacobs pass from Wagner), 6:01
N — Howard 54 run (Howard run), 8:08
N — Howard 10 run (Wagner run), 2:34
N —- Swann 21 pass from Wagner (Wagner kick), 12:00
C — Chase 5 run (kick failed), 3:12
N — Rawlings 26 run (Wagner kick), 9:22
C — Wallace 74 run (pass failed), 6:42
C — Campbell 9 pass from Greening (run failed), 11:47
Northern (8 first downs, 36-172 rushing, 125 passing, 2-1 fumbles, 4-20 penalties)
Calvert (6 first downs, 33-193 rushing, 25 passing, 6-3 fumbles, 3-29 penalties)
Top individual performers
Rushing — N: Howard 16-117, Rawlings 7-45; C: Wallace 11-120, Bonner 3-35
Passing — N: Wagner 6-10-1 112, Hause 2-2-0 13; C: Bowen 0-2-0 0, Greening 3-5-1 25
Receiving — N: Swann 5-121; C: Wade 1-11