The Joppatowne football team's offensive game plan isn't a very complex one. Coach Bill Waibel's teams like to control the ball and the clock, don't pass much and try to dictate the tempo.
That formula paid off handsomely again Nov. 21, when the visiting Mariners defeated Havre de Grace, 26-0, in the Class 1A East regional final. A snow squall hit the Havre de Grace area late in the afternoon and left the field half- covered with snow that iced over. It resembled a skating rink.
It was hard to make cuts and turns, which played right into Joppatowne's hands and hurt the Warriors, who like to throw. The Mariners consistently moved the ball and gained 293 yards total offense - all on the ground - on 54 plays. They controlled the ball for long stretches, enabling them to advance to the Class 1A state semifinals earlier this weekend.
"That's what we strive to do," Waibel said. "We strive to control the ball."
The Mariners opened the third quarter with a 16-play drive that ate up nine minutes, 45 seconds. Havre de Grace (11-1) stopped them on fourth-and-goal at the 6.
The Warriors decided to fake a punt and throw on the first series of the fourth quarter, despite going into a stiff wind. The pass fell incomplete, giving Joppatowne (8-3) the ball.
Epe Henriques ran for a 7-yard touchdown three plays later to make it 12-0. Three plays after that, Dominic Harper scored on a 44-yard interception return. Harper also ran back an interception for a 77-yard first-half touchdown. Henriques scored again on a 7-yard fourth-quarter run to lock it up.
He finished with 130 yards and made a number of tough runs to extend drives.
The Joppatowne defense also came up big, slowing a potent Havre de Grace offense time and again. Hakeem Hines was the county's leading rusher, but the Joppatowne defense held him to 61 yards and often forced the Warriors into throwing situations that were tough because of the weather.
"Our first goal was to shut down the running game," Waibel said. "Our defense is very good, and they showed it in this game."
The defensive line of Roge s Butler, Jules Forney, David Miller and Manny Ezedike turned in a dominating performance, holding Havre de Grace to just 129 yards total offense - 42 in the second half - and three first downs.
Joppatowne also got a big boost in the second quarter when a Hines touchdown was wiped out by a penalty, and Harper scored on his first interception return on the next play for a 6-0 lead.
"That kind of switched the momentum," Havre de Grace coach Johnny Brooks said. "I don't think we ever really got over that."
Fallston's big season ends
The Fallston football team experienced some big firsts this season, including getting into the state playoffs for the first time and even hosting a postseason game. But on Nov. 21, the Cougars had no answer for a tough Wilde Lake team and suffered a 39-15 loss in in the Class 3A East regional final. Coach Dave Cesky's team made the playoffs for the first time in the program's 31-year history and routed Stephen Decatur the week before.
Still, it was a banner season for Fallston (8-4) , which has dealt with a number of tough breaks over the years. The Cougars now have to see if they can progress to a new first -- making the playoffs for two years in a row, something they'll try for next fall.