Old Mill never came close to getting untracked last night. However, thanks to a North County offense that failed to capitalize on repeated opportunities, the second-ranked Patriots escaped with a 3-0 decision and remained the only undefeated football team in Anne Arundel County.
The difference was Steve Oliver's 20-yard field goal from a bad angle with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in the third quarter. It stood up, but barely, as fumble-prone Old Mill (4-0, 5-0) proceeded to give No. 19 North County (2-2, 3-2) two excellent chances to win.
The Knights moved to the Old Mill 15 after Bryan Hyre recovered the Patriots' third fumble of the game, but Eric Scott's fourth-and-10 pass to Damon Martin came up two yards short. That was with nine minutes to play.
But the Knights were back in business after linebacker Anthony Walker recovered Harold Peters' fumble at Old Mill's 41 four minutes later.
Runs by Mike Quarles and Walker set up a first down at the Patriot 9 yard line. But on fourth and goal from the 10 with 1:57 to play, Howard's shovel pass to Martin was stopped for a 2-yard gain by Byron Brown.
After a delay-of-game penalty against Old Mill, Eric Sheppard burst 85 yards to North County's 11, and Old Mill ran out the clock from there.
"I'm not going to make any excuses," said Old Mill coach Pete Regala. "I credit North County's defense, but we did not play well," he said. "We just got by. We have some work to do."
Losing coach Chuck Markiewicz shouldered all of the blame in defeat -- especially for the call on the late shovel pass.
"If North County had a coach who knew what the hell he was doing, North County would have won this game," he said. "That was the wrong call. It's not the kids' fault, it's mine."
And although Markiewicz added that "if people think we can't play in this league they're crazy", the fact remains that North County failed to score after taking possession at Old Mill's 35, 20 and 30 yard lines in the first half and at Old Mill's 46, 18 and 41 in the second.
That was primarily because the Knights' run-and-shoot did not produce in the clutch, squandering a fine defensive effort led by Walker and defensive end Jeff Fowler. It forced and recovered four fumbles, registered three sacks and held Old Mill to no gain or minus yardage on 12 plays.