Ahead 21-6 just past the halfway point of the third quarter, all seemed secure for Huntingtown’s football team in its quest to keep its record spotless through five weeks.
But appearances can be deceiving, and roughly a quarter later as St. Charles lined up to attempt a 2-point conversion with 5 minutes 40 seconds remaining in regulation the outcome was very much up in the air. The Spartans’ attempt was stopped short, however, and the visiting Hurricanes managed to hold on for the narrow 21-20 victory in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Potomac Division matchup.
“Kind of like after North Point, we made a lot of mistakes in that game,” Huntingtown head coach Paul Friel said, referencing his team’s Week 3 win, “but the bottom line is we found a way to win. That’s what winners do.”
Huntingtown (5-0, 2-0 SMAC Chesapeake) had increased its advantage to 21-6 on Trent Connolly’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Dalrymple with 5:53 left in the third quarter, the second scoring connection between the two Hurricanes in the game. Given the Spartans’ struggles to score up to that point, the visitors looked to be in complete control.
But St. Charles (3-2, 1-1) responded with an 87-yard drive that culminated with Konner Blount-Foster’s 22-yard touchdown scamper on the final play of the third quarter. A 2-point run by Klayton Batten pulled the hosts to within 21-14.
Later, after recovering a fumble at midfield with 6:35 remaining, St. Charles needed just three plays to find the end zone again. This time it was Batten reaching pay dirt on a 22-yard rush of his own. But the Hurricanes stopped Batten on the ensuring 2-point attempt to preserve the lead.
“The 2-point conversion it didn’t even occur to me to do anything other than go for it,” said St. Charles head coach Patrick Orndoff, whose team has struggled mightily in the kicking game. “I put the ball in Klayton’s hands. Between Klayton and Konner and Shane [Wood] they had taken the game back. They had taken us down the field twice and scored, so we put the ball in some of our best players’ hands. ... It wasn’t even a second thought. I would have felt worse going home losing not having run one of our better players.”
The Spartans did have one more possession but did not earn a first down, turning the ball over on downs to Huntingtown with just 1:07 remaining.
Over the game’s final 18 minutes, the Hurricanes endured a bit of a roller coaster, but ultimately Friel was pleased the team found a way to gut out the victory.
“I think we kind of got out of our rhythm defensively and kind of got out of position, at times, but we’ll look at the tape and fix it,” he said. “ They found a way to stop them when we needed to, especially down here on the 2-point conversion. Offensively, we kept moving the ball even though we stumbled at times and turned it over. We found a way to score when we needed to.”
In the first half, Dalrymple had opened the scoring on a 15-yard pass from Connolly in the late stages of the first quarter.
St. Charles later answered with a 44-yard touchdown run by Wood, but failed on the point-after to leave the Hurricanes in front 7-6. The visitors then extended their lead a couple of minutes later on Connolly’s 49-yard scoring connection with Noah Kuntz. Huntingtown scored all three of its touchdowns through the air, with Connolly completing nine passes for 135 yards to account for just over half of the Hurricanes’ offense in the game.
“Looking forward to the game we knew they were going to play to our run,” said Dalrymple, who hauled in four receptions, two for scores. “We just had to air it out and make sure we could complete our passes. Just get open and it would be there. ... In close games like that we lean on our defense. It helped out a lot. We worked on it in practice. It showed and we got the win.”
“On the first drive we were driving the ball running-wise,” added Huntingtown’s Anthony Smith, who caught two passes for 48 yards. “I guess they made big adjustments to stop the run game. Coach Friel asked us what we should do and we decided we had the receiving corps to get open and get in the end zone.”
A season ago, Huntingtown — which is scheduled to travel to Chopticon for a 6 p.m. game this Friday against a Braves squad that lost 33-12 to Northern in Week 5 — lost to St. Charles in the final week and with it lost a top seed for the playoffs. The shortcoming seemed to galvanize the team, though, as it regrouped to ultimately reach the Class 3A state semifinals. Friel was hoping Friday night’s game would have a similar impact this time around.
“Once we had a tough game against these guys last year, it motivated us to really get going,” he said. “Whatever it is, the mental drive or physical drive, because they’ve been practicing hard. I’m not unhappy with practice, but maybe we’re not playing our techniques quite as well. Maybe we need need to look at film more and really tighten up on all the technique. We never really lined up wrong, but obviously they were getting inside of us and trapping people, which no one is ever able to do. For some reason they were able to and we’ll figure that out when we watch the film. ... I think they’ll use it. They’re a good group of kids. They’ll figure it out.”
For St. Charles, which featured four players rushing for over 50 yards in rolling up over 220 yards on the ground, it was a tale of two halves against the Hurricanes.
“I felt like in the second half we were really good,” Orndoff said. “We were not very good in the first half. We were missing our assignments. We weren’t doing the things we had coached all week. Offensively, defensively, we were not very good.
“I told the kids, we need to figure out what the difference was. It’s the same kids, the same team and the same play calls in the second half and we looked like a different team. It’s something to build on.”
The Spartans are scheduled to travel to Leonardtown for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Friday against a Raiders team that lost 70-6 to North Point in Week 5. After that looms a confrontation at North Point with their county rivals on Oct. 18.
“I think we’re getting better,” Orndoff said. “There still are some changes to be made. We still need to work on the little things. I think at this point of the year most teams have figured out their identity. I think we’ve figured out what our identity is. We just have to hone in on it and get better at the things we’re good at and fix the things we’re not very good at.”