Despite what the score may have said at the end of Friday night’s game, two yards may have been the difference between the Havre de Grace Warriors and the Joppatowne Mariners, but those two yards played out to the Warriors’ favor in their latest win, 26-12.
With Joppatowne (4-5, 2-4) trailing 20-12 in the final seconds of the third quarter, a muffed punt return put the Mariners within striking distance of the Warriors (7-2, 5-1), and four plays later, just two yards from a tied game.
But regardless of the minimum distance, or the effort it took for Joppatowne to get there, a fumbled ball left the Mariners just that short of tying the game, and possibly changing the entire outcome of their season.
“We are in a position to tie the game and have a miscue on the [two]-yard-line, which probably turned into the play of the game,” Mariner head coach Bill Weibel said, having watched the Warriors turn the fumble into a 98-yard touchdown drive to extend a 26-12 lead.
Havre de Grace senior Jordan Stallings would scored the touchdown on a 21-yard run.
“They were able to turn it into  yards and that’s a potential 14-to16-point touchdown.”
As much as that one play may have altered the course of the game, it still took 98 yards of offense to lead to the Havre de Grace score, making up just a part of the team’s 310 yards of total offense, lead by junior quarterback Darin Washington and runningback Michael Kelly.
“The line was opening up the holes real well, and on the outside, the receivers were blocking real well,” Kelly said, totaling 140 yards and a first quarter touchdown. “They were just being really aggressive.”
“That might be a lot of him, too,” Havre de Grace head coach Johnny Brooks said of Kelly, “but they line did well. People don’t realize that we have a lot of first year players here, and they are now just starting to click with each other, and hopefully it will carry over to the latter part of the season.”
Trading scores in the first quarter, Havre de Grace opened the game with a 12-play, 60-yard drive for a 6-0 lead when Washington hit senior Dayshawn Bolling on a six-yard strike, just to see it vanish with an 88-yard kickoff return from senior Keith Wilson to tie the game 6-6.
Swaping scores again on their next two drives, he Warriors again scored with a Kelly three-yard run, adding a two-point conversion run by Washington for a 14-6 lead, and denying the Mariners a two-point try after senior Chris Wright broke the goalline on a two-yard run.
“They played well,” Brooks said of his Warriors. “Joppatowne is always tough with us with the athletes they have over there. I don’t think they ever have a down year down there since they are so talented.
“They have had our number for years, and they may be down size wise a little bit, but the talent is still over there.”
That Mariner talent produced 65 rushing yards in the first half, but an inflated Warrior defense held the talent to just 33 yards on the ground in the second half, recording five sacks between seniors Monty Werts (3) and Eric Thompson (2).
“We talked about just being aggressive,” Brooks said. “Not being blocked, containing, doing your job, and I tell the team that a great pass rush makes it look like we have a good secondary, too. It was a team effort.”
“It was real good playing against this team,” Werts admitted. “I just had to go 100 percent and just hit the quarterback every time I had a chance. I had a lot to make up for from last week, and I had to show my teammates that I had their backs.”
Stalling, like he finished the Havre de Grace scoring, also scored once for the Warriors in the third quarter, handing his team a 20-12 lead.
While the win puts Joppatowne’s hopes of a post season to rest, head coach Bill Waibel still wants to end the season on a high note in their next game with C. Milton Wright.
“We haven’t won our last game of the season in quite some time because when you are in the playoffs, unless you win the state championship, you aren’t ending with a win,” Waibel said. “But this year, we will most likely not being in the playoffs, but we’d like to send our seniors off with a win.”
Havre de Grace, on the other hand, will prepare for their playoff season with their next opponent, Fallston, next Friday.
“I don’t think my kids really play attention to the regional points,” Brooks said. “They just come out and play, and I like it like that. We would love to play at home throughout the playoffs, but I don’t think it will affect us.”
Havre de Grace 26, Joppatowne 12
HDG 14 0 6 6 26
JT 6 6 0 0 12
H-Bolling 6 pass from Washington (no conv)
J-Wilson 88-yard kickoff return (no conv)
H-Kelly 3 run (Washington 2 run)
J-Wright 2 run (no conv)
H-Stallings 1 run (no conv)
H-Stallings 21 run (no conv)