The Atholton Raiders spent three quarters hurting themselves at Howard on Friday night, but in the end, quarterback Brian Van Deusen and his run-and-shoot offense fixed the problem.
Van Deusen completed 13 of 24 passes for 235 yards and four touchdowns. And he saved his best work for the fourth quarter, when Atholton erased a 17-14 Howard lead with two Van Deusen touchdown passes to lead the Raiders to a 28-17 victory.
Van Deusen's brilliant fourth-quarter -- he threw just two passes, both for touchdowns -- erased an evening of frustration for the Raiders.
For starters, the Raiders blew leads of 7-0 and 14-7. They were penalized 10 times for 95 yards.
They saw lineman Brandon Miller go down with a neck injury early in the second half and watched him get carried off the field on a stretcher after the game was stoppedfor 30 minutes. Miller was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where he was being examined late Friday night.
Even Van Deusen hadsome rough moments. He threw two in
terceptions in the third quarter. The second pickoff set up Guy Smith's 20-yard touchdown run thattied the game at 14 midway
through the period.
On top of all that, Atholton had two punts blocked. The second block set up a 26-yard field goal by Ben Krupka to give Howard a 17-14 lead with 32 seconds left in the third period.
Still, Van Deusen, a wiry, 6-foot-2 senior, wouldn't let the Raiders die. Barely a minute after Krupka's field goal gave the Lions their only lead of the night, Van Deusen hit wide receiver Brian Smith with a perfect 38-yard strike. Van Deusen then kicked the third of his four extra points to give Atholton a 21-17 lead with 11 minutes, 22 seconds left.
The Raiders' defense teamed with Van Deusen to put Howard away on the Lions' next possession. Howard drove 32 yards to the Atholton 30-yard line. On second down, Atholton linebacker Carlton Love blitzed from the blind side and hit quarterback Brad Stubbs, causing a fumble. Atholton lineman David Keyser recovered and ran 35 yards to the Howard 25.
Two plays later, with 6:03 left, Van Deusen hit wide receiver Brian Gick with a 23-yardtouchdown pass.
In the run-and-shoot offense, the Raiders play without a huddle and send four receivers downfield on every play. Van Deusen, who relies heavily on audibles at the line of scrimmage, must then make the proper reads of the defense before choosing a receiver.
Senior Brian Smith was his favorite target Friday night. Smith caught six passes for 152 yards, including the first three Atholton touchdowns.
"This week it was Smith. Last week it was (Bryan) Egolf. It depends on who gets open," said Van Deusen, who has already passedfor nearly 1,300 yards while leading Atholton to a 5-2 record. The Raiders moved into second place in the county standings with a 3-1 record.
Howard, which got another great game from its backfield tandem of Kirk Wise (22 rushes, 96 yards) and Smith (10 rushes, 93 yards, 2 TDs), fell to 2-2, 5-2.
"I didn't think it (the run-and-shoot) was going to be this easy," Van Deusen added. "I thought it would be more complicated. Our offensive line did a great job for me tonight."
Van Deusen got the Raiders on the board with a terrific pass late in the first quarter. He rolled to his left, double-pumped on the run, then hit Smith in stride down the left sideline for a 70-yard touchdown. Then, after Howard had driven 73 yards -- thanks largely to three costly Atholton penalties -- to tie the game on Smith's 2-yard plunge with 1:08 left in the half, Van Deusen brought Atholton back again.
In the half's last minute, he drove the Raiders 61 yards with three big passes -- a 15-yarder to Doug Schuech, a 20-yarder to Smith,and finally, an 11-yard touchdown pass to Smith that gave Atholton a14-7 halftime lead.