Patriots use size advantage to overpower the Knights on both sides of the ball to advance to the 4A state semifinals

by Gary Adornato

Junior Joey Graves (left) rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns behind an Old Mill offensive line anchored by senior center Nate Fleming.

The Parkville football team proved it has plenty of heart and a lot of fight, but the No. 15 Knights came up short in the size department, Friday night, as a stronger, more physical Old Mill squad came up from Anne Arundel County and overpowered the previously undefeated Knights, 34-13, in a 4A state quarterfinal playoff game played at Perry Hall High School.

No. 17 Old Mill (10-2) also benefited from outstanding field position, especially in the first half as they built a 20-7 lead.

The Patriots scored on their first possession when a 25-yard punt return by junior Caron Tull set them up at the Parkville 39 yard line. Even with the short field, Old Mill still ran 11 plays and ate more than six minutes of clock on the drive. Joey Graves did most of the heavy lifting, carrying eight times for 30 yards on the march, with sophomore Chris Booze paying it off with a 5-yard touchdown run.

Another nice punt return by Tull gave the Patriots the ball at the Parkville 30 to start the second quarter and this time there was no long drive. Graves, on the first snap, broke through the left side of the line and raced 25-yards for a score. It was the first of two touchdowns in the contest for Graves, who ran 18 times for 80 yards.

“The offense flowed well, but if it was not for the offensive line, the guys up front, none of that would be possible,” said Graves. “I give a huge shoutout to my o-line. Every day, they’re working hard in the weight room, getting stronger. Five offensive linemen made All-County, so a huge shoutout to the offensive line.”

Later in the second, Old Mill went up 19-0 with a nine play, 68-yard drive.Tull was the feature back in this possession, carrying the ball four times for 39 yards, including the final nine for a touchdown.

Parkville (11-1) stayed in the game with a late first half score as sophomore quarterback Kevin Smith scored on a 5-yard scamper. Old Mill tried to counter before intermission, scampering downfield in the final 1 minute, 4 seconds, but Jackson Burleson missed on a 26-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Old Mill punted on its first possession of the second half and Parkville marched to the Patriots’ 38 before turning the ball over on downs. On the first snap of their next series, however, the Patriots ripped a big gash in the Parkville defensive front and senior Tra Thomas burst through it for a 62-yard touchdown run that stretched the lead to 28-7.

According to senior center Nate Fleming, Old Mill knew it had a size advantage, but the team made sure not to take anything for granted.

“We noticed that on film, but we underestimated size already once this season and it was always bad, so we couldn’t underestimate them because of their size,” said Fleming. “We knew what we were getting in to coming in.

“I’m proud of my guys. This offensive line, we bonded so much this off-season. Just lifting and bonding with the running backs and the whole offense. We all love each other and connect with each other. I think that is what’s helping as we’ve been pushing through. We’ve been through the thick and thin this season and right now we’re rolling.”

Old Mill coach Chad McCormick agreed.

“It did help us out a little bit,” said McCormick of his team’s size advantage over the Knights. “We haven’t been bigger than most of the teams in Anne Arundel County. We’ve been pretty even with them, but we have a pretty veteran offensive and defensive line and I think that’s what helped us out a lot tonight.”

Graves capped off Old Mill’s scoring with a 20-yard touchdown run, later in the third quarter, and Smith added a second 5-yard scoring run for the Knights, in the fourth quarter.

“Our defense did an excellent job,” added McCormick. “What was really a benefit for us, our scout offense did a great job trying to replicate their offense as best we could. They did a great job helping us prepare. Credit to Parkville. What a good football team, what an awesome season they had and they were a very tough opponent, very deserving of being in this level of football.”

The Old Mill defense did a great job taking away the big play from the Parkville offense and the combination of the Patriots physical defense and some untimely penalties by the Knights kept the Parkville offense from ever getting fully on track.

“Part of the issue with our offense and the things we run, you can’t start negative,” said Parkville head coach Justin Payne. “When you’re playing against a great football team, and they are, Old Mill has a great tradition, a great football team, to put yourself in a hole to start off drives, it hurt us today.”

In the aftermath of the season ending loss, Payne was suffering right along with his players, but he did not lose sight of the accomplishments of the first team in school history to post an undefeated regular season and the first one to win a state playoff game.

“I feel for these kids,” said Payne. “They fought their butts off for the entire year and they’ve done everything I have asked them to do. I am so thankful for them allowing me to be a part. And, it’s a tough one. Sometimes guys line up a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger. The thing I appreciate about these kids today is that they fought. They fought all the way til the end. They didn’t give up and that’s the way they’ve been. I’m ever so grateful to be a part of this historic Parkville football team.”

Old Mill now moves forward to the 4A state semifinals where it will face Prince George’s County super power Henry Wise High School next Friday. According to Graves, the Patriots will prepare to win.

“We know Wise is a good team, but anything is possible,” said Graves. “All we have to do is work hard all next week, show up Friday and we can’t be scared because of who they are. We know they are a good team so we have to bring it.”

His coach explained the formula for success.

“We’re going to have to do all the little things correct,” said McCormick. “We’re going to have to take care of the football. We’re going to have to stay on schedule with our offense. We have to tackle well on defense and our special teams has to be really solid.”

Pictured above: Old Mill used its size advantage to wear down the Parkville defense and open running lanes for the Patriots’ backs in Friday’s 4A state quarterfinal.


OM 7 13 14 0 — 34
PK 0 7 0 6 — 13

OM – Chris Booze 5 run (Jackson Burleson kick)

OM – Joey Graves 25 run (kick failed)
OM – Caron Tull 9 run (Burleson kick)
PK – Kevin Smith 5 run (Matt Oliveira kick)

OM – Tra Thomas 62 run (Moe Jackson pass from Graves)
OM – Graves 20 run (kick blocked)

PK – Smith 5 run (kick blocked)