Ellis, North County topple No. 1 Patterson

November 27, 1994|By Kevin Eck | Kevin Eck,Contributing Writer

Within 3 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter of yesterday's Class 4A state semifinal, Patterson coach Roger Wrenn experienced the gamut of emotions.

From the anger of a botched punt to the elation of a fumble recovery and subsequent go-ahead touchdown, to devastation.

The last emotion came when Topper Ellis returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown with 2:17 remaining to give the seventh-ranked North County Knights an 18-15 victory over the No. 1 Clippers.

The win propelled the Knights (10-2) into the state finals for the first time in the school's five-year history. North County will meet Largo, a 21-13 winner over Springbrook yesterday, in the championship game Friday night at Annapolis.

"Polls and all that stuff are for other people," North County coach Chuck Markiewicz said. "It was nice to beat the No. 1 team, but that really wasn't the incentive. Our incentive since we lost to Arundel in our fifth game was just to win one more game, one game at a time."

Before Ellis' touchdown, Patterson (11-1) had taken its first lead, 15-10, with 2:35 left on Ryan Lewis' 26-yard touchdown run.

North County secured the win when Mike Smith sacked quarterback Willie McGirt on fourth down at Patterson's 45 with five seconds left.

Ellis gained 122 yards on 16 carries to lead the Knights' run-and-shoot offense. North County limited Patterson -- which averaged 38.5 points per game during the regular season -- to 228 yards total offense, 66 in the first half.

Lewis, who separated his right shoulder against High Point last week, was held to 56 yards on 16 carries. McGirt rushed for 108 yards, but completed only six of 21 passes for 62 yards.

After North County took a 10-0 lead -- a 31-yard field goal by V.J. Impallaria and Earl Sewell's 1-yard run -- on its first two possessions, Patterson's defense held the Knights scoreless.

"Our comeback in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty, and it showed the class of this team," Wrenn said. "But North County is also a good program and they did what they had to do."

The Clippers' second-half surge was sparked by an opportunistic defense and a big-play offense.

North County lost three fumbles and was intercepted once in four successive drives in the second half.

The first turnover came in the third quarter on first-and-goal from Patterson's 3-yard line, when Sewell fumbled the snap and Tyrone Bailey recovered for the Clippers.

Then in the fourth quarter, Patterson's Carnest Peele intercepted Sewell at the 20.

Peele's return and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Knights gave Patterson possession at North County's 26.

On the seventh play of the drive, McGirt faked a handoff to Lewis and ran 13 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Lewis' 1-yard run pulled the Clippers within 10-8 with 9:02 remaining.

The Clippers got the ball back when Lou Brown's fumble after a 9-yard gain was recovered by Lewis at Patterson's 39.

Patterson was unable to move the ball, however, and set up for a punt.

McGirt bobbled a high snap on the punt attempt, picked up the ball and began to scramble. He threw an incomplete pass and North County took over at the Clippers' 35.

But, once again, the Knights couldn't hold onto the ball. Maurice Bowie fumbled after catching a short pass from Sewell and Patterson's Melvin Braxton recovered at the Clippers' 44 to set up the go-ahead score.

North County .. 3 ..7 ..0 ..8 ..-- ..18

Patterson .. ...0 ..0 ..0 .15 ..-- ..15

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