Harford Tech holds off Kenwood, moves to 3-0; Mendez shines

by Donald Daniels

Harford Tech football is banking on its senior leadership in 2019. However, in its biggest match of the season to date Friday evening, sophomore Kelvin Mendez answered the call.

The Cobras defeated Kenwood, 31-28, in a non-league contest in Baltimore County. Mendez rushed for 91 yards and scored two touchdowns for Harford Tech (3-0 overall).

The Harford County school built several double-digit advantages before fending off the upstart Bluebirds in a battle of 2-0 squads. The Cobras, who’ve made back-to-back state playoff appearances, are 3-0 for the third straight year.

The Bel Air school owes a huge debt to Mendez, who accounted for his team’s final 17 points Friday. In addition to his two rushing scores, Mendez went 4-for-4 on extra points and split the uprights for a 26-yard field goal.

“When we brought him up from JV we told him that we were going to lean on him,” Harford Tech coach Timothy Palmer said. “He is still trying to get up to the varsity speed, but when gets the ball his hand he just goes.”

“He (Mendez) is a baller,” senior Harford Tech quarterback Ryan Hunt said. “We have a lot of guys hurt and he has really stepped up, he is a big time player.”

With the Cobras up 24-20 in the fourth, Mendez pushed the lead to 31-21 with a 40-yard scamper with 6 minutes remaining in regulation. Kenwood senior Adam Harter delivered a 41-yard touchdown strike to senior Daylon Duncan, followed up by Harter to Nukama Korkpan pass for the 2-point conversion, bringing the hosts within 3.

The Bluebirds (2-1) drove to the Cobras’ 22 late in regulation, but Manuel Reyes intercepted Harter. It was the second road win for Harford Tech, which opened the season with a win at Patuxent in Southern Maryland.

“We knew that this was going to be dog fight, Kenwood is a really good team, but we fought back and showed some championship spirit,” Palmer said.

The Bluebirds punched Harford Tech immediately Friday as T.J. Brown went 50 yards on their first play from scrimmage. The Stemmers Run Road school fumbled two plays later and TJ Lowery recovered for the Cobras.

The Cobras methodically went 14 plays, ending with Hunt connecting with Jay Ross for a 4-yard touchdown reception. On Kenwood’s next play, the snap went over Harter’s head and Lowery recovered in the end zone, extending Harford Tech’s advantage to 14-0.

The second quarter belonged to Kenwood as Harter connected with Nukama Korkpan on a 4-yard pass, cap an 8-play drive with 9 minutes left. On the Bluebirds’ next possession, senior Troy Dukes went 45 yards to the end zone, pulling them even at 14.

Then it was Mendez time. He connected from 26 yards, regaining the lead at halftime for Harford Tech. Mendez opened the second half scoring with a 3-yard run, pushing the Cobra lead to 24-14.

Harter’s 1-yard score brought Kenwood within 3 in the third. Mendez capped his 25-point night with the 40-yard touchdown and extra point.

Kenwood, seeking its first 3-0 start since 2013, received three scores from Harter. The Bluebirds had a final chance, reaching the Harford Tech 22, but mishandled snap for a 6-yard loss and false start left them with 4th-and-21 before Reyes came down with Harter’s pass.

“We are a very talented team, but we have the tendency to make mental mistakes and when you play high quality opponent like Harford Tech, you just can’t afford to make mistakes,” Kenwood coach Derrick Krumholtz said.

Harford Tech 31, Kenwood 28

Harford Tech 14 3 7 7 – 31

Kenwood 0 14 6 8 – 28

First quarter

Harford Tech – Jay Ross 4 pass from Ryan Hunt (Kelvin Mendez kick)

Harford Tech – TJ Lowery 1 yard fumble recovery (Mendez kick)

Second quarter

Kenwood – Nukama Korkpan 6 pass from Adam Harter (Troy Dukes run)

Kenwood – Dukes 45 run (conversion failed)

Harford Tech – Mendez 26 field goal

Third quarter

Harford Tech – Mendez 3 run (Mendez kick)

Kenwood – Harter 1 run (conversion failed)

Fourth quarter

Harford Tech – Mendez 40 run (Mendez kick)

Kenwood – Duncan 4 pass from Harter (Korpan pass from Harter)