Linganore holds off No. 4 Mervo for 3A state football final berth; Williams scores 3 TDs (VIDEO HERE!)
by Derek Toney
Mervo High football coach Patrick Nixon stood outside Linganore’s doors, waiting for his remaining players to come from the field after Friday evening’s Class 3A state semifinal.
Kelin Kimbrough and his fellow co-captains were the final group who made the 200-yard walk off Linganore’s turf, through a throng of fans, a parking lot, and up a grassy hill. Kimbrough walked up to his coach.
He broke down in his arms. Nixon clutched his senior quarterback, thanking him for his efforts.
The greatest season in Mervo football history ended on a chilly late November night in Frederick County as Linganore defeated the fourth-ranked Mustangs, 27-25. Matt Schiller’s 28-yard touchdown catch-and-run with 8 minutes, 11 seconds left in regulation was the difference for the Lancers (11-2 overall), who will play Montgomery County’s Damascus in the state final, Thursday evening at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
The wait continues for Mervo (12-1), which lost on “Black Friday” for the second straight season. The Mustangs lost at Southern Maryland’s North Point in the 4A semifinal a year ago.
“I got to figure out how we’re going to bounce back,” said Nixon.
The Mustangs, who moved from 4A to 3A, were among a short list of teams looking to dethrone Franklin this season. Some hoped for a November playoff date between the area public powers.
It will not happen. For the first time since 2009, the area will not have a representative in the 3A state final.
Mervo, the only area squad left in the 2019 3A field, stood until the final moments of regulation. Kimbrough’s fourth down pass was knocked away with 42 seconds remaining.
The Hillen Road school was valiant, but mistakes and penalties ultimately led to its downfall.
“Penalties have bit us in the butt all year long and we’ve been able to overcome,” said Nixon. “Tonight, against a good team like Linganore on the road, you can’t make those type of mistakes.”
“We balled out, did what we had to do,” said senior wide receiver Kyree Williams. “We had a couple of penalties mess us up. It is what it is.”
Mervo was flagged 15 times for 80 yards Friday evening including a targeting and personal foul penalty during a Linganore first half touchdown drive. The Mustangs had a red zone interception and another interception lead to a Lancer touchdown.
“You got to be disciplined. The teams are so close in terms of talent and size, discipline sometimes makes the difference,” said Nixon. “To get to a state championship you got to play your best game of the year.”
Mervo was able to neutralize its errors with explosive plays. Kimbrough (13-of-27, 220 yards) connected with Williams for a 66-yard score, and Williams hit a hole and went untouched 60 yards to end zone, giving Mervo its first lead, 18-14, early in the third quarter.
Williams (175 total yards) completed the hat trick, getting a reverse handoff and diving to touch the pylon, giving Mervo a 25-21 lead with 11:04 left in regulation. The Mustangs had Linganore in a third-and-nine, but quarterback Joey Bruscia slipped through Mervo’s front for a 26-yard gain.
Two plays later, Bruscia faked an inside handoff and found an opened Schiller across the middle. Schiller sprinted to the end zone for his second touchdown on the same play.
“That’s one of the plays I wished I had back,” said Nixon. “We went over that and I wished I recognized it. We had a ton of film on them.”
After punting the ball back to Linganore with 7:37 left in regulation, Mervo was faced with a fourth-and-1 with 2:50 left. Senior Daquan Harris shot through a gap to drop Lancer running back Xander McClure for a yard loss, giving the Mustangs the ball back with 2:46 remaining.
Three Jarrett Gasque’s runs, the latter a 15-yarder, got Mervo to Linganore’s 35 with about a minute left. Jalen England’s run put the ball at 31 and the Mustangs called timeout with 46 seconds to play.
Kimbrough’s third down pass across middle fell incomplete with 43 seconds remaining. The Mustangs drew their 11th and final flag for illegal procedure, leaving them with fourth-and-11 from Linganore’s 36.
Kimbrough’s pass to the sidelines was knocked away by Lancer defensive back Brady Domroe, and the Lancers and their faithful started celebrating a third straight trip to Navy. Linganore, ranked 12th in the state media poll, lost to Franklin in last year’s final and defeated Milford Mill Academy in the 2017 title game.
The painful reality of another missed opportunity set in on the Mustang sidelines. Mervo won the Baltimore City Division I championship, and won its first 12 decisions.
In a somber postgame huddle, Nixon told his team they will next step.
“We’re going to get over hump. I promise you we’re going to get there,” he said.
“We went at each other, but it was to make us better,” said Williams. “We had an undefeated season, but we came up short.”
CLASS 3A STATE FOOTBALL SEMIFINAL
Linganore 27, No. 4 Mervo 25
Mervo 6 6 6 7 – 25
Linganore 7 7 7 6 – 27
Linganore – Xander McClure 3 run (Ethan Thompson kick)
Mervo – Tyree Williams 66 pass from Kelin Kimbrough (kick failed)
Linganore – Matt Schiller 14 pass from Joey Bruscia (Thompson kick)
Mervo – Malik Lindsey 12 pass from Kimbrough (pass failed)
Mervo – Williams 60 run (run failed)
Linganore – McClure 16 run (Thompson kick)
Mervo – Williams 14 run (Kiran Herman kick)
Linganore – Schiller 28 pass from Bruscia (kick failed)