Last night, Old Mill sent a message to the Anne Arundel 4A League. The Patriots did so by dominating turnover-prone and host Severna Park, 17-14, in one of the most deceiving of final scores in recent county seasons.
No. 6 Old Mill (3-0) had a 10-0 lead before seventh-ranked Severna Park's (1-2) offense even touched the ball. The Patriots led, 17-0 (with a 53-19 edge in plays), before the Falcons came belatedly to life.
Severna Park scored on John Jenning's 6-yard run with 8 minutes, 46 seconds to play and on Matt Glenn's 13-yard return of a blocked punt with 23 seconds to go.
However, "we had the game won," said Old Mill coach Pete Regala, whose team defeated Severna Park for the first time since 1985. The victory, only the fifth for a county team versus the Falcons in their last 35 games, also avenged Old Mill's only loss of last year's regular season.
Was it the kind of win that could put Old Mill's program over the hump for good?
"I think so. It was one that we really needed. But even though we're 3-0, it doesn't mean everything right now," Regala said. "There's a long way to go."
Regala credited the play of his offensive and defensive lines for throttling Severna Park in what proved to be a pivotal first half.
With Izzy Deschaine, Billy Reese, Matt O'Donnell and James McAdams sparkling on defense, Severna Park was rationed to 30 total yards in the first two quarters. The Falcons had the ball for only 3 minutes, 56 seconds.
Offensively, Mike Mahoney, Melvin Dorsey, Jason Moore and Ernie Longazel led a charge that piled up 143 total yards by halftime and 225 (to Severna Park's 110) for the game.
The prime beneficiary was running back Harold Peters, who carried 18 times for 100 yards in the first half. His 1-yard plunge behind Longazel's block capped an 11-play, 73-yard march on Old Mill's first possession.
Severna Park's Travis Koballa fumbled on the kickoff -- the first of five turnovers for the Falcons -- and six plays later Steve Oliver kicked a 25-yard field goal for the 10-0 lead.
Severna Park would lose the ball on another fumble and the first of two interceptions before halftime.
"The turnovers killed us. If they score, then we score, it's a ballgame," said Severna Park coach Andy Borland. "But when they score and we drop the football, the heads start to hang."
Borland lauded his defense, which was on the field for most of the game.
"They [Old Mill] didn't do anything we didn't know about. They didn't do anything we didn't practice for," said Falcons assistant Mike McTammany. "They just slaughtered our offensive line."
The Patriots went 45 yards on nine plays with their first possession of the third quarter. Eric Sheppard, who ran well after Peters was injured slightly, gained the last five over left tackle as the winners increased their edge to 17-0.
"This meant a lot to me and to the team," he said. "We knew we could stop Severna Park from the beginning, because we have the strongest defense in the county."
"On offense, the line did a great job. If it wasn't for them, I'd never had the chances to run," Sheppard said.