The Hawks (4-0 UCBAC Chesapeake) were absolutely dominant on the ground, led by senior running back Brandon Bayer, clearing 220 yards on the Mariners (4-3, 2-2 UCBAC) in the first half. North Harford finished six runners compiling 373 yards.
Of those runners, it was Bayer and senior teammate Ben Kenley who broke into the end zone a combined five times to post 35 points on the board for the Hawks.
“I thought the boys played really well coming off an emotional win from last week,” Hawks’ coach Ken Brinkman said, noting the 36-35 win over Fallston. “We ran the ball well, our O-line did a great job and coach [Tim] Hughes with our defense put us in a great position to get the ball back on offense.”
Doing what very few teams have done this season, the Mariners held the Hawks scoreless in their first drive, but it wouldn’t be long before Bayer would find his groove and put two touchdowns on the board in the first quarter in route to his three touchdown first half.
“I saw space because there were holes about five yards wide,” Bayer said after breaking through the Mariner defense. “I wasn’t getting touched for about five yards, and by then it was the safety because we had everyone else taken care of. It was just beautiful blocking by the line.”
Bayer’s 155-yard and three touchdown first half was mostly earned inside the tackles, but it was North Harford’s option that would help him total 51 more in the second half to allow him more than 200 yards in the game.
“I chose whether to pull or give, and when I am outside I see who is out there,” explained Hawks’ senior quarterback Cody Turner, who rushed for 59 yards on the night. “If someone comes at me, I pitch, and if someone doesn’t, I just keep going.”
The other factor on the dreaded option was Kenley, who took his intial dive plays for two touches in the game, scoring twice in four minutes to post leads of 29-8 and 35-8.
Joppatowne managed to break the 100-yard rushing barrier against North Harford by the end of the game, but also lead the game early in the first quarter.
Following Bayer’s first score, Joppatowne head coach Bill Waibel elected to go for two after senior Chris Wright scored with three minutes remaining in the quarter, and sent senior quarterback Tevin taylor over the top for the 8-7 lead.
But that would be all the scoring the Mariners would see for 38 of the remaining of the 39 minutes in the game, until junior Ronald Barclay broke the goalline for the final score with a minute remaining.
“Defensively, we didn’t see a glaring weakness,” Waibel said of North Harford. “There is no defensive star, but, at the same time, they are just fundamentally sound, tough kids from one to 11 on defense.
There wasn’t anybody to run away from, but, at the same time, there wasn’t any one place to attack.”
A big part of that tough defense is made up of the North Harford linebacking crew, who just this week added a new member.
“John Hammer actually played D-line the whole year and was a nosegaurd last year, but this week we decided to move him to middle linebacker to try and shorten up our run defense,” Brinkman said. “And for his first week, we thought he did a great job along with Marc [Anderson] and Sean Cannon.”
The junior Hammer was joined by senior teammate Vincent Culotta to obtain the only two sacks in the game, though a number of defenders applied pressure on the Mariner backfield.
Wright was the leading rusher for the Mariners with 87 yards with one touchdown, while teammate Barclay joined him in scoring.
“He is a tough kid,” Waibel said of Wright. “He is our leader, our work horse; he is a really tough kid.”
Next week, North Harford heads to Harris Stadium for a showdown with Havre de Grace for first in the UCBAC Chesapeake. Havre de Grace could be the Hawks’ final obstacle to a perfect regular season.
“We are just taking it game by game and day by day, and waiting for out chance at regional and state,” Turner said, who claims the team isn’t feeling added pressure with the perfect record.
“It has never been done in North Harford’s history,” Bayer added. “We have a good group of kids, lots of talent and good coaching.”
“If we can do some things well against this team, then we can do things well against others,” said Waibel, whose team plays Fallston next weekend. “They did some things well, but most importantly, they played hard tonight, and, as a coach, that is all you can ask for.”
(click on the related videos link at the top of the page to see video highlights and interviews)
North Harford 35, Joppatowne 16
JT 8 0 0 8 — 16
NH 15 6 8 6 — 35
NH-Bayer 34 run (Lenane kick)
JT-Wright 1 run (Taylor 3 run)
NH- Bayer 4 run (Bayer 3 run)
NH-Bayer 1 run (kick failed)
NH-Kenley 8 run (Bayer 3 run)
NH-Kenley 12 run (conversion failed)
JT- Barclay 14 run (Barclay 3 run)