By a matter of inches, Patterson High’s football season will continue.
The No. 9 Clippers held off Frederick County’s Thomas Johnson, 30-27, in a nail-biting thriller in a Class 4A North Region semifinal contest at Poly’s Lumsden-Scott Stadium Friday night. Patterson will play unbeaten Urbana from Frederick County for the region title next weekend.
With help from a Patterson’s pass interference and face mask penalty, Thomas Johnson advanced the ball from its 25 to Patterson’s 22 late in regulation. On fourth and five, Thomas Johnson quarterback Brian Chase dropped back to pass.
With his receivers blanketed, Chase eluded the persistent Patterson (10-1 overall) pass rush with some nimble maneuvering and took off sprinting towards the first down marker. Chase absorbed a crushing hit very close to the Patriot 17 yard-line with 18 seconds left.
A measurement revealed that Chase was a mere few inches short, ending Thomas Johnson’s hopes. The Patriots defeated Patterson in last year’s region title game.
“Thomas Johnson is a very good team,” said Patterson quarterback Aaron Overton. “But we had a chip on our shoulder from last year when they not only knocked us out of the playoffs, they beat us pretty bad.”
The Patriots (7-4) raced out to an early 14-0 lead Friday in large part because of their defense. Their first score, a 31-yard play action pass from Chase to sophomore tight end Zack Petrill, was set up by sophomore Chris Murray’s interception of Overton.
With two minutes and 53 seconds left in the opening quarter, Thomas Johnson sophomore tackle Eugene Gorman (13 tackles in the first half before sitting out the second half due to a possible concussion) picked off another errant Overton throw at the 50 yard-line. Three plays later, junior running back Doug Sponyoe scampered 18 yards into the end zone.
“During the season, I would’ve been very upset with myself because of the early interceptions and I would have let it affect me,” said Overton. “But in the playoffs, you have to stay focused. I knew my team was going to feed off of me as the leader of the offense and my teammates stayed behind me after we fell into a two touchdown hole. They just kept telling me, ‘Shake it off, we’ll get it back.’”
The Clippers responded on the next possession with a 10-play scoring drive. The fleet-footed Deonte Winston set up his own one-yard touchdown run with a 41 yard burst through the middle of the Patriot defense a few plays earlier. The big play provided the spark that Patterson was sorely in need of.
The Clippers recovered a called onside kick and marched 50 yards downfield behind the Overton’s passing and running. His five-yard touchdown run punctuated a six-play drive that tied the score.
Patterson scored again on its next possession for first lead of the game with 1 minute, 19 seconds left in the second quarter. , culminating a 56-yard drive with Overton’s bullet pass that whizzed through a narrow corridor of defenders and into the waiting hands of junior receiver Pete Carter, culminated a 56-yard drive. Overton’s ensuing two-point conversion put the Clippers up, 22-14.
“When we were down 14-0 early, it was because of mistakes and turnovers that we made,” said Patterson coach Corey Johnson. “It wasn’t a scheme thing or that they were blowing us away. We knew that we’d been averaging 30 points a game, and Aaron (Overton), as a senior, settled down and got us right back in to the groove.”
“All year long, we’ve been one of the best comeback teams in the area,” said Overton. We came back from being down 22-0 against Poly and even though we lost that game, our only loss of the year, we fought back. We’ve shown all year that we’re a well coached team that can keep our heads when things aren’t going well.”
The Patriots answered back with their first drive of the second half with a 58-yard, eight-play series. Senior running back Eric Gross scored from 11 yards out.
It looked like Sherman Smith’s 67-yard punt return for a touchdown could be the potential nail in the coffin for Patterson, but Thomas Johnson answered on the ensuing possession. Chase connected with Anderson for a seven-yard scoring strike with 6:56 left.
But when Chase was stopped inches short of a first down with seconds left, Patterson merely took a knee. And breathe a huge sigh of relief.
“We talked about being 9-1 and how we didn’t want to go home early this year,” said Johnson, who is in his fifth season. “We came too far and won too many games. Tonight, we came in for a fight and that’s what we got. I’m so proud of my guys because we’re not the biggest team, but we bring that fight every night.”
|No. 9 Patterson 30, Thomas Johnson 27|
|TJ-Petrill 31 pass from Chase (Stetsyuck kick)|
|TJ-Sponyoe 18 run (Stetsyuck kick)|
|P-Winston 1 run (Overton run)|
|P-Overton 5 run (kick failed)|
|P-Carter 14 pass from Overton (Overton run)|
|TJ-Gross 11 run (kick failed)|
|P-Smith 67 punt return (Overton run)|
|TJ-Anderson 7 pass from Chase (Stetsyuck kick)|