Wildcats take a slower pace and Spraggins leads an inspired defensive effort
by Pat O’Malley
Coaches rarely take points off the board for another play and a chance at more points. It can pay dividends or zilch.
It took the dean of Anne Arundel County coaches and a member of the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame to prove it can work as he turned three points into six points and a HUGE victory Friday night at Arundel High School.
Playing at the school’s Carroll Field at Puglise Stadium in Gambrills, the home team coach Chuck Markiewicz took three points on a 15-yard field goal against Old Mill off the scoreboard in exchange for a first-and-goal at the four-yard line with 47 seconds left in the first half.
Old Mill roughed Arundel freshman Clint Mills, after he booted a 15-yard field goal, to give Arundel a first-and-goal at the 4 (half the distance from the 8 on the penalty). Darius Hunter then crashed into pay-dirt for six points, his second TD of the game, to give the Wildcats a 12-7 lead that would stand up as the final score as neither team scored the rest of the way.
“I don’t think I have ever taken points off the board,” said Markiewicz, Anne Arundel County’s all-time winningest football coach in his 31st season with 242 career victories, the most of any active coach in the state of Maryland.
Grant it, Arundel could have won 9-7, but Old Mill has a very good kicker in senior Joey Mason and the Pats were in field goal range at the Arundel 12 with about three minutes left in the third period but elected to go for it on fourth down and three and came up short. Old Mill had driven 63 yards on that possession.
What was the 5th straight victory for the VSN’s 19th-ranked Wildcats (7-2) put them in position to likely clinch a playoff berth in the highly competitive Class 4A East region with a victory at Severna Park (1-8) next week in the final regular season game. Arundel has gone 7-3 over the last two seasons and has not qualified for post season after 12 consecutive years in the show.
No. 11 Old Mill (6-3) may have had its string of 20 straight years in the playoffs terminated with the loss. A victory at South River next week will give the Patriots a 7-3 mark that probably won’t cut it. Going at least 8-2 usually qualifies teams for post season.
No. 3 Broadneck (9-0) and North Point (9-0) of Charles County will likely be the top two seeds followed by Arundel and No. 10 Meade (7-2). The latter Mustangs have to win at Glen Burnie (3-6) next week.
“I thought we could run the ball four yards after the field goal and Darius did,” said Markiewicz. “We’ve had some big wins in the past, but this ranks up there. Since we started (2-2), the kids were hard to get to, but they have bought into what we want to do.”
Each of the two teams scored on its initial possession of the game and Hunter’s touchdown at the end of the first half were the only other points. It would turn out to be an uncharacteristic low scoring Arundel/Old Mill encounter in front of a rare low populated attendance for the two.
Arundel opened by driving 65 yards in 13 plays as Hunter scored from the 6-yard line but the point-after failed. Old Mill answered with a 13-play drive of its own going 74 yards capped by a one-yard plunge from quarterback Markus Thompson. Joey Mason’s kick gave the Patriots a 7-6 lead.
Wildcat senior cornerback Ephraim Moore returned an interception 61 yards for an apparent TD midway through the second period, but the score was called back for an illegal block on the return. The Cats ended up with a first down on their own 35 and once again they would drive 65 yards, this time on 14 plays for what proved to be the winning score.
There were no long plays on the drive, but the Ryan Sedgwick-led offense was consistent and error-free despite the fact that it all started with sophomore center Hunter Renner. Renner filled in for injured junior center Collin Holmes and did a remarkable job in anchoring the Wildcats’ front.
“I thought Hunter and our entire offensive line did a great job tonight,” said veteran Wildcat offensive coordinator, Dave Doy, who has been on the Markiewicz staff for 19 years, the first two years at North County and last 17 in Gambrills.
Hunter was flanked on both sides by senior guards Casey Clemens and Anthony Carr and tackles, senior Cameron Chewning and junior Colin Tracy. The Arundel interior reeled off 62 plays with no costly mistakes.
“We didn’t play our normal fast paced and up-tempo offense,” said Doy, who has never gone after vacant head coaching positions around the county because he proudly points out his four children deserve his attention and that being a head coach would command too much of that attention. “We just grinded it out tonight.”
Sedgwick completed 13-of-19 passes for 88 yards with senior wide-receiver Marcus Abrams catching 9 of those passes for 53 yards.
The Wildcats also got two key punts from junior Chaz Goodman in the second half, the key one a 64-yard line drive that took a Wildcat bounce with 4:59 left in the game from the Arundel 16 down to the Old Mill 20. The Pats would give it up on downs with 2:08 remaining.
Defensively, Arundel got outstanding efforts from junior linebackers Gereme Spraggins and Will Oliver, each of whom was in on several tackles, and senior cornerbacks, Moore and Derrick Corley. Freshman defensive back Devaun Nevils picked off an Old Mill pass deep in its own territory with 1:39 left in the battle to seal the victory.
“We were really focused on this game and it feels really good,” said Spraggins.
NO. 19 ARUNDEL 12, No. 11 OLD MILL 7
OLD MILL (6-3) 7 0 0 0 – 7
ARUNDEL (7-2) 6 6 0 0 – 12
A – Darius Hunter, 6-yard run (kick failed)
OM – Markus Thompson, 1-yard run (Joey Mason kick)
A – Hunter 4-yard run (kick failed)