Catoctin already had scored three touchdowns and taken an 18-point lead by the time Joppatowne ran its first play.
It was just the beginning of a long day for No. 5 Joppatowne in Saturday's Class 1A state championship game. The Mariners repeatedly stopped themselves with mistakes, and Catoctin pulled away for a 37-12 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
Joppatowne (13-1) moved the ball easily but couldn't make the big plays that Catoctin (14-0) did. The Mariners got inside the Cougars' 20-yard line five times but converted those drives into only six points.
"We kept getting inside their 20-yard line and then mistakes just kept happening and happening," Joppatowne quarterback Dominic Harper said. "We just couldn't get into the end zone today. We weren't playing like Joppatowne."
The Mariners were seeking their third state title and their first since 2003. It's the first state championship for Catoctin of Frederick County.
The mistakes came in all forms. Joppatowne couldn't handle two short kickoffs, and the Cougars turned both into touchdowns. Harper threw a pass that was deflected in the end zone and intercepted. Another time, Harper was running around the left end on fourth-and-2 from the Catoctin 4-yard line - but he slipped and fell.
That play was at the end of a 14-play drive that ate up over seven minutes to start the second half. The Mariners' top running back, Epe Henriques, sprained his ankle in the first half and played only on defense in the second half, as the Mariners needed help against a Catoctin offense that gained 404 yards.
The problems began when the Cougars scored 18 points in the first seven minutes. Catoctin's offense scored on the opening drive, and the Cougars then recovered an onside kick. The Cougars scored again and then got possession once more after Joppatowne mishandled another short kickoff, which led to a third touchdown.
"We dug ourselves into a pretty deep hole in the first quarter," Joppatowne coach Bill Waibel said. "We fought back and changed the momentum of the game ... but we just didn't finish [drives]."
Joppatowne easily moved downfield on its first drive and scored on Harper's 7-yard touchdown run. The Mariners then cut it to 18-12 on Henriques' 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and appeared on the verge of tying it when Harper fumbled a snap at the Catoctin 19.
On the next play, Catoctin quarterback Dylan May (three touchdowns) floated a short pass that Nick Nowaczyk turned into a 73-yard touchdown for a 24-12 lead midway through the second quarter. The Mariners had several good drives after that but kept coming up empty.
"We don't usually [fall behind] during games, so it was different for us," Joppatowne linebacker Jake McGinnis said. "Offensively, we were moving the ball real well; we just didn't finish. We should have finished, but we didn't." C 18 6 0 13 - 37J 6 6 0 0 - 12
C-P. Barbour 12 pass from May (pass failed)
C-E. Barbour 37 run (run failed)
C-Maxey 4 run (run failed)
J-Harper 7 run (pass failed)
J-Henriques 29 fumble return (run failed)
C-Nowaczyk 73 pass from May (run failed)
C-Nowaczyk 6 pass from May (run failed)
C-Carter 8 run (May kick)