In a contest between two Southern Maryland Athletic Conference football teams accustomed to being on opposite ends of the spectrum, North Point topped Leonardtown last Friday night in a 4A/3A East Region opening round game, 34-21, on the Eagles’ impromptu senior night.
North Point (6-3) earned the right to face top seed Severna Park in a region semifinal this Friday, Nov. 12, while Leonardtown delivered a gritty effort in defeat in the first playoff game in program history. In a bizarre scoring sequence, North Point posted the game’s first 34 points, while Leonardtown responded with 21 points in the last 152 seconds of play.
“I liked the way that we came out fast and stayed aggressive on offensive,” said North Point coach Tom Petre, whose team will travel to Severna Park. “The last time we played them we came out fast, but then we kind of let off the gas a little bit. But they’re a good team. We couldn’t get anything going in the second half last time we played them. Tonight we had a really good first half and we did not let up in the third quarter.”
Leonardtown had defeated North Point, 14-13, six weeks earlier on a night when the Eagles jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead. North Point wasted little time gaining a similar advantage on Friday as senior Michael Craig scored from 37 yards out on the Eagles’ second play from scrimmage for a 7-0 lead.
North Point forced Leonardtown to punt on its ensuing possession and the Eagles, against primarily riding on Craig, went 62 yards in six plays and pushed the lead to 14-0 when quarterback Ade Olanegan connected with Arnell Heathington on a 24-yard scoring strike with 4:37 left in the first quarter.
In the previous meeting between the two teams in September, Leonardtown had weathered the early storm and then mounted a second half rally. But last Friday night the Eagles continued to add to their advantage. Craig capped a 70-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run for a 20-0 lead then on the Eagles’ next drive Olanegan connected with Rasheed Sourls on a 20-yard strike for a 27-0 halftime lead.
“The last time we played them we were down 13-0 at halftime and we came back to win,” said Leonardtown coach Justin Cunningham. “So, tonight when we down [27-0] at halftime I told the guys to stay positive. We just dug ourselves too big a hole tonight. But North Point has come a long way since we played them last time. My guys never gave up.”
North Point stretched the lead to 34-0 midway through the third quarter on a three-yard run by Craig. Facing almost certain defeat, the Raiders hardly relented. Tyler Weeks appeared to score on a fumble return that was nullified by a penalty, but the Raiders finally got on the board when Dreylen Howard connected with senior Nick Stearns on a 27-yard strike with 2:32 remaining.
On its next possession, Leonardtown used a trick play to find the end zone. Howard tossed the ball backward to freshman Zach Meade who connected with Syndey Roberson on a 74-yard scoring strike to trim the gap to 34-14. Leonartown then successfully converted an on-sides kick when Stearns recovered the ball at the Eagles’ 25 yard line.
On the very next play, Leonardtown resorted to the same trick play with the same result as Meade connected with Roberson on a 25-yard strike to narrow the gap to 34-21 with five seconds remaining. Kicker Samantha Abell, whose on-sides kick set up the final touchdown, capped a perfect season on extra points when she converted her third of the night.