North County eliminates Arundel, 39-15

November 20, 1994|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Sun Staff Writer

North County coach Chuck Markiewicz learned a long time ago that attention to special teams can win big games, and the extra practice this week paid off yesterday in Linthicum.

A game-opening 93-yard kickoff return by Topper Ellis and a blocked punt by senior linebackers Gordi Richardson and Steve Tomshack (14 tackles) in the final period enabled No. 7 North County (9-2) to advance to the state 4A semifinals for the second time in three years with a 39-15 victory over Arundel (8-3).

In what was its first playoff appearance since 1985 and an Anne Arundel County second-best seventh time overall (Annapolis made eight), Arundel had won its last two games over North County.

Five-year-old North County won its first two over the Wildcats by 9-8 and 39-6, but lost last year, 20-14, and earlier this season, 28-14.

Making its fourth consecutive playoff appearance, fourth-seeded North County will play at top-ranked and top-seeded Patterson (11-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The Clippers slipped past No. 8 seed High Point (7-3) of Prince George's, 25-23.

"That opening kickoff, man" were the first words out of the mouth of Arundel coach Bill Zucco yesterday.

"I told the kids not to kick it to Ellis, but, and we didn't tackle well. It was the first play of the game and it was a big one. The blocked punt was a big one, too."

The Ellis sprint fueled three unanswered touchdowns by the Knights, who had a 19-0 lead at the end of the first period.

Ellis crashed over from the 2 and Lou Brown (four receptions for 76 yards) looked left and turned right before grabbing a 9-yard touchdown pass from Earl Sewell for the next two scores. Sewell was 11-for-22 for 156 yards in the first half and 16-for-29 for 238 yards and three touchdowns for the game.

"The kick return was huge because when something like that happens for this team, it just seems to snowball," said Markiewicz.

"At this time of the year, we put even more emphasis on our special teams than we do at the beginning."

While in the grasp of a would-be tackler, Arundel sophomore quarterback Eric Lipton somehow flipped the ball to his right and Joe Parker turned the short toss into a 16-yard touchdown. Mark Gregory booted the extra point to make it 19-7 early in the second period.

North County added another score from the 8 with 2:50 left in the half on the first of two touchdown passes from Sewell to Ryan Ross (three receptions, 64 yards). A 25-7 halftime lead looked like a knockout punch, but Arundel wouldn't go down.

After giving up 223 yards (156 passing, 67 rushing) of total offense in the first half as opposed to their own 65 (49 passing, 16 rushing), Arundel held the Knights to only 60 total yards in the final two periods.

Linebacker-nose guard John Norsworthy led a spirited Wildcats defense back into the game by limiting the Knights to eight plays in the third period and minus-13 yards rushing and 83 in the air.

Meanwhile, the Arundel offense, aided by three penalties drove 87 yards in 10 plays on its second possession of the third period with Bill Clyburn scoring from 14 yards. Clyburn took over for Lipton (6-for-13 for 49 yards passing first half).

Lipton returned for the conversion and tossed to Mike Haertel whose option pass to Casey Trout made it a game at 25-15 with 3:32 left in the third.

Arundel forced another Knights' punt and was driving around midfield with the clock winding down on the third period.

Just before the ball was snapped, Clyburn looked up at the clock to see if he could get the play off and fumbled with Jason Boyer recovering for the Knights.

North County got down to the Arundel 9 before giving the ball up on downs, but the field position was decisive. Unable to move it, the Wildcats were faced with having Trout punt out of the end zone with 6:56 left in the game.

Richardson and Tomshack crashed up the middle and buried Trout who lost the ball with Richardson falling on it in the end zone. That iced it.

"I didn't feel secure until we got that last one," said Markiewicz, explaining his decision to throw for one more score after a Cornelius Burley interception set up a 29-yard touchdown pass to Ross with only 3:23 left.

"Our offense has taken some heat and had something to prove."

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