If there is such a thing as a must-win game in the fourth week of a season, Perry Hall faced it yesterday.
Behind the running of Mark Franklin (76 yards, 10 carries) and a stingy defense, the Gators shut down second-ranked and previously unbeaten Randallstown (3-1, 2-1), 16-7, in a Baltimore County Class 3A-4A game. A loss for Perry Hall (2-2, 2-1) almost certainly would have ended the Gators' playoff hopes.
The loss ended Randallstown's 16-game win streak, tied for the longest in the area with top-ranked Wilde Lake. The last time the Rams lost was in a playoff game at Gaithersburg to end the 1989 season.
"We weren't thinking about the winning streak; we just thought we had to win this game," said Perry Hall coach Joe Stoy. "We started out slow [with losses to Calvert Hall and Parkville], but this was a chance for us to get some respect back."
The Gators allowed Randallstown to cross midfield only three times and cross the 40 only once.
"It couldn't go on forever," said Randallstown coach John Buchheister of his team's winning streak. "They knocked us off the ball, and that's why they won."
After the Rams stopped the Gators on their opening drive, Randallstown took over at its 47 and lost 3 yards on two plays before fumbling the ball back to the Gators.
Perry Hall took over at the Rams' 44-yard line, and three plays later took the lead on fullback Franklin's 38-yard -- up the middle.
The Rams got the ball back on their 39, but managed just 8 yards on three plays before punting. That didn't work either, as Ryan Kaufman's punt was blocked by Perry Hall's Tom Mouring.
The Gators took over at the Randallstown 35, and put together an eight-play drive before settling for Rob Hamer's 18-yard field goal and a 10-0 lead with 1 minute, 5 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Rams moved the ball 12 yards on their next drive, but Brandon Holt's pass bounced off receiver Larry Sydnor and into linebacker Dave Hurt's hands to kill the Randallstown drive.
Randallstown never advanced beyond its 37-yard line on its last two possessions of the half.
The Rams finally got on the board on their second possession of the second half. Donte Boyd, who finished with 79 yards in 19 carries, picked up 46 yards and Haryn Singleton added 21, as the Rams went 82 yards to score and cut the lead to 10-7 with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Perry Hall responded on its next possession. Quarterback Dan Brown found running back Mandel Marsh for a 17-yard gain on a key third-and-five at the Randallstown 43, then spotted wide receiver Dennis Vandevender at the 1 three plays later for another 13-yard gain. Fullback John Garst scored to make it 17-6 with 5:20 remaining.
Randallstown could gain only 7 yards on its next possession before Perry Hall took over on downs. The Gators ran out the clock from there.
"We knew they were good," said Franklin, "but today we were a little bit better."