Entering the season, Harford Tech High football coach Tim Palmer figured this would be a rebuilding season for his Cobras.
Seven weeks later, with his team sitting at 3-4 and mired in a four-game losing streak, no one would have questioned the coach’s preseason assessment. But the Cobras responded, reeling off five straight wins to earn a spot in the Class 2A/1A state semifinals Friday evening.
Harford Tech’s run, however, came to an end in Southern Maryland. Patuxent jumped in front early and controlled the game throughout in taking a 43-21 decision.
“They played fast,” Palmer said of Patuxent. “They got off the ball fast. Everything they did, they moved with a lot of motivation. As we grow with this program, with this team I have here, we’ll get that eye that we had a couple years ago. We’ll get it back. We’re young. We’ll get it back. This was a good experience for the young guys.”
Harford Tech (8-5 overall) looked poised to score first Friday, driving into the red zone after receiving the opening kickoff. But after reaching Patuxent’s 20-yard line, the Harford County school turned the ball over on downs.
Patuxent (11-2) drove down to Harford Tech’s 1 on the ensuring possession before ultimately setting for a 22-yard Colin McDermott field goal. After forcing a quick three-and-out, the Panthers then made it 10-0 when Daiquan Buck capped a 59-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown jaunt, just a minute into the second quarter.
The Cobras were able to answer with a nine-play scoring drive that culminated with Donte Evans’ 3-yard touchdown reception from Thomas Smith to pull to within 10-7.
That was as good as it would get for the Cobras Friday night in Calvert County. Patuxent’s Jedidiah Lancaster scored on a 1-yard run moments later, while Asa Locks’ 39-yard interception return in the opening half’s final minute sent the teams to the half with the Panthers firmly in front, 24-7.
“I thought Harford Tech did a good job of scheming up the inside zone play,” Patuxent coach Steve Crounse said, “so we had to make some adjustments, and the kids made stops and made some big turnovers.”
Patuxent extended its lead with a touchdown drive – against capped by a Buck run – to open the second half. The Cobras responded with a series that ended Troy Wallace in the end zone to cut the gap to 30-13, but Patuxent’s Evan Jones ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run to start the Panthers’ next series to quell any Harford Tech comeback aspirations.
Evans tacked on one more touchdown run for the Cobras in the fourth quarter, while Buck capped the game’s scoring with his third scoring scamper.
The win advances Patuxent to its first state title game since 2015. The Panthers will play either No. 4 Dunbar or Southern Maryland rival Calvert for the state title, next Saturday at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
Dunbar and Calvert meet in the other 2A/1A state semfinal, Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sugar Cain Field in Baltimore.
The Cobras experienced a gamut of emotions this fall. An impressive 3-0 start was followed by a four-game skid. The losing streak then gave way to a five-game run which saw the team come painfully close to earning an opportunity to play in their first state championship.
“We got out to a 3-0 start and kind of fell into a false sense of who we were,” Palmer said, reflecting on what his team accomplished. “Then we got smacked in the face for four weeks. We had to do some rethinking and revamping and rebuilding and moving people around. We took four losses real hard and then we got it together and went on a nice little run.
I didn’t have a lot of seniors, but the seniors I had we made them go both ways and we tried to finish out something with the season and it turns out we ended up one game from the state championship. I’m proud of the season.”
CLASS 2A/1A STATE SEMIFINAL
PATUXENT 43, HARFORD TECH 21
Harford Tech 0 7 6 8 - 21
Patuxent 3 21 13 6 - 43
Patuxent – Colin McDermott 22 field goal
Patuxent – Daiquan Buck 31 run (McDermott kick)
Harford Tech – Donte Evans 3 pass from Thomas Smith (Caleb Hamilton kick)
Patuxent – Jedidiah Lancaster 1 run (McDermott kick)
Patuxent – Asa Locks 39 interception return (McDermott kick)
Patuxent – Buck 1 run (kick failed)
Harford Tech – Wallace 9 run (pass failed)
Patuxent – Jones 80 run (McDermott kick)
Harford Tech – Evans 1 run (Mateo McGraw pass from Smith)
Patuxent – Buck 6 run (kick failed)