In the immediate aftermath of Northern’s 30-10 win over the visiting Calvert Cavaliers on Friday night, Northern running back Keith Parks had a firm opinion of how the Patriots were able to earn their second win of the 2019 season.
“All praise to the line. It starts with them and ends with them,” Parks said. “Without them we couldn’t get any points on the board. The linemen do everything for us. We have to score to do everything for them.”
Parks was one of two Patriots to surpass 100 yards on the ground in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference nondivision game on Friday, as the team rolled up close to 300 rushing yards. Northern also exceeded 150 yards through the air in what ended a prolific offensive performance. But it didn’t start that way, as the Patriots turned the ball over on two of their first three offensive plays and did not earn a single first down in the first quarter.
On the positive side for the Patriots (2-0 overall), despite turning the ball over to Calvert deep inside their own territory twice in the first three minutes of the game, the team’s defensive stymied the Cavaliers on both occasions.
Calvert (1-1) eventually took a 3-0 lead on Robert Page’s 32-yard field goal with 9 minutes 41 seconds remaining the second quarter, but Northern took over from that point, scoring the game’s next 22 points on the way to a comfortable win over its county rival.
“We sputtered and gave them the field, but you know what, they could have easily put a couple up and we would have been chasing that,” Northern head coach Steve Crounse said. “Our defense played their tails off. When you play Calvert you’re always worried about physicality and them grinding out long drives. Our kids stood up and played great, made some great plays in the backfield.
“As our tempo worked in, we had them on their heels. We got to run the ball. We throw the ball to run the ball, and that’s what we did. We came out in the second half and our tempo, the ability of our kids to do that, paid off for us.”
After Calvert put the game’s initial point on the board, Northern responded with a five-play, 50-yard drive that culminated with Rex Fleming’s 2-yard touchdown plunge with 7:57 left in the half. After following that series up with a three-and-out on defense, the Patriots drove down to the Calvert 3-yard line but eventually turned the ball over on downs with 40 seconds remaining in the half.
Northern’s first possession of the second half would not stop short, as JP Gross scored on a 62-yard rushing touchdown on the Patriots’ first offensive play of the third quarter. Later in the period, Gross capped a 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to increase the hosts’ edge to 22-3 following Gabe Fisher’s successful 2-point conversion run.
Calvert fought back on Michael Floria’s 55-yard scoring connection with Camron Jacobs-Ramirez, trimming the deficit to 22-10 with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter. But Northern later extended the lead to 30-10 on Parks’ 57-yard touchdown sprint which was followed by Zach Crounse’s pass to Day’veon Savoy midway through the fourth.
After struggling early, Gross thought the Patriots were really able to settle in and establish themselves after the half. Gross led all rushers with 134 yards, while Parks carried the ball for another 122.
“We talked and got dialed in. Our line got together and we got some penetration up front and made some plays happen,” Gross said. “We played them last year and it was a 7-6 ballgame. ... I think we’re taking the right steps. I think there are some mistakes we need to fix and clean up. But I think we’re doing well.”
Calvert’s inability to take advantage of the early turnovers cost the team in the end, and while the Cavaliers were able to produce some big plays on offense they struggled to mount sustained drives. Calvert head coach Rick Sneade looked at it as a learning experience for his team, which is scheduled to host Westlake at 7 on Friday night. The Wolverines fell to North Point 34-21 in Week 2.
“We had an opportunity to play a good football team, and when you play football with a good team you have to play well. We made some mistakes, but Northern is polished. They’re a good team,” Sneade said. “Our kids played hard to the end, played with a lot of passion. I think they were looking within themselves tonight, trying to figure out, ‘What’s the thing we’re missing that doesn’t allow us to be as good as we’d like to be?’ That’s something we can work with now. As coaches we have to get together and figure out what it is. That’s what we’re going to do this week, try to help these guys figure out what we have to do to get better.”
The Cavaliers’ mission isn’t much different than that of the Patriots, as Steve Crounse talked of the need for his team to improve if it’s to going to progress to have a real opportunity to meet its ultimate goals.
“For us to be a championship team we have to clean a lot of stuff up,” said Crounse, whose team travels to Leonardtown for a 6 p.m. contest Thursday. The Raiders fell to Thomas Stone 38-13 in Week 2. “We’re into Week 2, there are little things that will prevent us from beating the big boys of the world. That’s where our goal is, to be that caliber of team, and we’re not there yet. We’re a good team, but we’re not big boy caliber right now and that’s what we’re working for.”