By Mike Marcus' estimation, the Old Mill football team only made three mistakes in Friday night's Class 4A state quarterfinal game against Largo.
Normally, such a paltry total would be cause for celebration. On this night, three was plenty.
The Patriots' defensive coordinator stood in the middle of Bob Goliday Memorial Field as the players exchanged handshakes, staring straight ahead and replaying each breakdown in his mind.
Only two leddirectly to scores, but with the Patriots' offense unable to capitalize on Largo turnovers and good field position, that would be enough to decide the outcome.
"Three blown coverages, that was it. Three bad plays killed us," he said, after the seventh-seeded Lions had struggled past No. 2 Old Mill, 14-3.
Largo junior quarterback AnthonyStringfield hardly riddled the Patriots' secondary, completing just six passes under a heavy rush. But one of those, a 5-yarder to a wide-open Terry Sampson with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first half, went for the game's first touchdown.
And the only touchdown Largo would need in improving its record to 9-2. Old Mill finished at 8-3after winning its second straight Class 4A Region IV championship.
On the previous play, Patriots' defensive back Rufus Beard stopped Stringfield for no gain on a rollout to the right -- one of many clutch tackles by an Old Mill unit that was greatly undersized compared to the Lions' mammoth offensive line.
"The defense was outstanding.We contained them most of the night," said Old Mill coach Pete Regala, whose team lost to Thomas Wootton, 17-7, in last year's state quarterfinals.
"The defense played well enough to win."
Despite working behind a line that featured a pair of 250-pounders and a 280-pound guard, Stringfield spent much of the night running for his life. And being dragged to the ground.
"We weren't worried about their size," insisted Old Mill senior nose guard William Reese, who held his own at 5 feet 9, 230 pounds. "I feel proud of how we played."
After an Old Mill punt, Largo had possession on its 46-yard line late in the first half. But Stringfield was hit as he was about to pitch the ball to tailback Eric Cariaga and Patriots' senior lineman Ernie Longazel made the recovery on the Lions' 36.
An interception by Largo senior linebacker Adrian Calame stalled the drive at the 31, and Largo settled for a 7-0 halftime lead after losing a yard on two plays.
The Lions fumbled on their first two series of the second half, with Old Mill junior linebacker Brian Jones making both recoveries. The initial turnover was caused by an Eric Sheppard hit after Stringfieldhad completed a 15-yard pass to Jesse Davis.
The Patriots capitalized on the second turnover when senior Steve Oliver kicked a 38-yardfield goal, and Largo had to punt on its next possession after gaining one yard.
The score stayed 7-3 until 6 minutes, 7 seconds remained in the game, when Cariaga (126 yards) bulled his way into the endzone from 3 yards out. The most damaging play of the drive was a Stringfield 30-yard completion to Sampson on third-and-eight from the Lions' 42.
It took Cariaga three tries from inside the 5 before he finally scored, once being knocked backward by Reese.
"It's a shame, the kids tried hard," Regala said. "They did a good job. We did thebest we could with what we had."