Top-seeded Owings Mills (9-2) used a little luck and a lot of Marlin Matthews to advance to the state Class 1A semifinals yesterday, defeating eighth-seeded Northern (5-6) of Garrett County, 26-8, at Catonsville Community College.
Matthews rushed for 162 yards on 20 carries to lead the Eagles. It was the first win for Owings Mills in three playoff games.
Owings Mills will meet fifth-seeded Kent on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Catonsville Community College in the semifinals. Kent beat Easton, 24-9, Friday night.
Trailing, 8-7, early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles faced third-and-seven at their 46. Quarterback Eric Rumenap passed to Scott Boze at the Huskies' 44, but Boze bobbled the pass and was hit from the rear. The ball popped into the air, and Owings Mills' Marcus Gray grabbed it and ran 44 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
"It was just an alert play by Marcus," said Owings Mills coach Ray Groszkowski. "We were just trying to get the first down, but he had the presence to catch it, and there was no one in front of him."
Owings Mills ran away with the game after that, adding touchdown runs of 33 and 70 yards by Matthews.
"We got behind, but we didn't fall apart. We stay together like a family and I got excellent blocking from my line. I give the credit to them," Matthews, a junior, said.
"That one big play really killed us," said Northern coach Tom Vent. "They played a good game, and I don't want to take anything away from them, but we only had four seniors this year, so we'll be back."
The Eagles took a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes, 12 second left in the second quarter when Rumenap found Gray alone in the middle of the field for a 62-yard touchdown. Adam Scherr's extra point made it 7-0.
The Huskies took advantage of an Eagles fumble at the Owings Mills 35 early in the third quarter. Doug Brenneman carried to the 11 on a reverse on the next play. Five plays later, Northern quarterback Chad Sines scored from 2 yards out, and Brenneman's conversion run gave the Huskies an 8-7 lead.
Groszkowski said the Eagles will have their hands full against Kent.
"We've scouted them, and they have a big team with strong backs, he said. "But, who knows? This has been a year of firsts for us, and a first [appearance in the finals] wouldn't be a bad thing."