Mervo ends No. 8 Howard’s reign in 4A North football; Kimborough tosses 3 TDs

by Donald Daniels

The past two times Mervo High has traveled to Howard in the playoffs it ended similar and painful fashion. The third time proved to be charm as No. 14 Mustangs dismantled the host and eighth-ranked Lions 48-21 in a Class 4A North Region semifinal in Ellicott City Friday evening.

Behind a dominant performance, the Mustangs (10-1 overall) never trailed, earning a trip to the North Region final. The Baltimore City school will play at Montgomery County’s Paint Branch Friday evening for a spot in the 4A state semifinals.

Terry Jones has six receptions for 116 yards, two touchdowns and also had two interceptions in the Mustangs’ win. Corey Peterkin rushed for 115 yards, two rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown and quarterback Kelin Kimborough threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns and an interception for the Mustangs.

“I’m a historian, so I was very aware that Howard had won the previous four regional championships and what they did us during that stretch, and we just why not us,” Mervo coach Patrick Nixon said. “In order to be the best you got to beat the best.”

In 2015 , Mervo lost Howard 20-0 in the 4A North semifinals, and 42-6 in 2016 North final. The Hillen Road school flipped the scripted on the Howard County powerhouse with big plays.

Howard (9-2) got off to a rough start on their first possession going three and out that included a sack of Lion senior signal caller Jerry O’Neil which forced Howard to punt on fourth and long from their own 35. The ball sailed over the head of the punter and the Mustangs took over at the Lion 10-yard line. On the next play Peterkin found way to escape several Lion defenders who penetrated the backfield and darted his way into the endzone for a 10-yard rushing touchdown.

“Tonight was the time we had a bad snap on a punt and it came in a playoff game,” Howard coach Ross Hannon said. “This is high school playoff football and sometime it is not about you, but about the other team. They [Mervo] played a great game all night long and struggled in a three phases”

The final two minutes of the first quarter saw the Lions cut into Mustang lead, Howard running back Devin Dawkins (20 rushes, 81 yards, two touchdowns) capped off a five play, 54-yard drive, that started with a Howard fumble recovery, with a eight yard scamper. The Lions trailed by one after the Dawkins score due to a miss extra point attempt.

The second quarter belonged to the Mustangs. Kimborough threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Peterkin down the left sideline to start the period. On the ensuing drive, Jones ended a promising Lion possession by picking off O’Neil at the 20-yard line and returned the ball to midfield. Six plays later Nashon Simmons bullied his way into the endzone to extend the Mervo lead to 21-6 with seven minutes left in the half.

“When we execute and I don’t think there is anything we can’t do, we are really hitting our stride right now and I think we are as good as anybody,” Nixon said. “The sky is the limit for this team.”

Jones nabbed another interception on the next Lion possession, but the Mustangs couldn’t turn the turnover into points. With just over two minutes left in the first half Nashon Simmons threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Kennedy McKissic as the Mustang lead grew to 22 at the break.

“We just came out focused tonight,” Jones said. “During pregame we were just calm and knew that we had to do was take of business and we did that.”

Things were looking to swing in Howard’s favor at the start of the third quarter, starting at their own 17-yard line, Mervo had back-to-back plays for a loss, and on 3rd-and-13 Kimborough threw off his back foot and the pass was picked off by Richie Hall, who returned the ball 25 yards for a Lions defensive touchdown. Howard cut the Mevro lead in half when Dawkins sliced his way into the end zone on the two-point conversion, energizing the Lion faithful.

With four minutes left in the third Peterkin weaved his way into end zone for a 60-yard touchdown run to break Howard’s momentum.

“I just stayed patient and knew that I could break through hole,” Peterkin said about the big running play.

Kimborough started the fourth quarter with another big pass play, connecting with Jones for a 57-yard touchdown. Dawkins picked up another running score with a 19-yard touchdown reception from O’Neil, but Tyree Williams put the exclamation point on the win for the Mustangs with 37-yard touchdown scamper for the game’s final score.

The Mustangs, who haven’t been to a state football semifinal, will try to pull another upset Friday at Paint Branch. The Panthers routed Montgomery County foe Sherwood, 42-0, in the other North semifinal Friday evening.

“They [Paint Branch] are a very big and physical team,” Nixon said. “We are looking forward to the challenge.”

Class 4A North Region semifinal

No. 14 Mervo 48, No. 8 Howard 21

Mervo  7 21 7 13 – 48

Howard 6 0 8 7 – 21

First quarter

M: Corey Peterkin 10 run (Kieran Hermann kick)

Ho: Devin Dawkins 8 run (kick failed)

Second quarter

M: Peterkin 44 pass from Kelin Kimborough  (Hermann kick)

M: Nashon Simmons 6 run (Hermann kick)

M: Kennedy McKissic 69 pass from Kimborough (Hermann kick)

Third quarter

Ho: Ritchie Hall 25 interception return (Dawkins run)

M: Peterkin 60 run (Hermann kick)

Fourth quarter

M: Terry Jones 57 pass from Kimborough (kick failed)

Ho: Dawkins 19 pass from Jerry O’Neill  (Harrison Robbins-Green kick)

M: Tyree Williams 37 run, (Hermann kick)