A crosstown matchup between Atholton High and Oakland Mills wasn’t the most polished affair, but the 15th-ranked Raiders came up with timely plays on both ends of the football field to emerge victorious, 16-6, in a Howard County battle Friday night in Columbia.
Running back Dillan Watkins carried most of the offensive load for Atholton, leading the way with 20 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders used Watkins and a stifling defensive effort to remain unbeaten (4-0 overall and Howard).
“We play through adversity. We had a lot going on this week and lost to this team last year,” said Watkins, a 6-foot, 210-pound senior.
“We knew what kind of game it was going to be. They were talking, we were talking, but we came out with the [W]. I just play through my teammates.”
Early on, both teams struggled offensively, combining for three turnovers in the first quarter. It wasn’t until late in the second that the Raiders seemed to find some offensive footing, relying heavily on the ground attack from Watkins.
After a 14-yard pass from Raiders quarterback Miles Scott to receiver Nico Mazzei-Williams, Watkins took the handoff and scored on a six-yard scamper through the middle to put the Raiders up with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the opening half.
Justin Soriano nailed a 38-yarder at the 6:05 mark of the third, extending Atholton’s lead to 10-0. A blocked punt by Oakland Mills linebacker Kharles Ngansi helped setup the Scorpions’ only score as Xavier Patterson caught a 16-yard touchdown throw from Cyrus Thomas-Ray with 8:44 remaining in regulation.
The Scorpions (2-2, 2-2 Howard) got the ball back with 5:15 left, but fumbled and Atholton recovered. Watkins capitalized with a 12-yard touchdown run with 4:44 remaining.
The Raiders secured the victory with an Ian Morton’s interception. Atholton forced six Scorpion turnovers Friday.
“I don’t think it was a communication issue, just ball security. They (Atholton) played really well defensively,” Oakland Mills coach Thomas Browne said. “We’ve been heavily penalized with holding calls and we turned the ball over quite a bit this year. So it’s not one individual, it’s us as a group. We gotta get better at it…I have 100 percent confidence in my kids.”
Scott was seven-of-10 for 105 yards for the Raiders, who sit atop Howard County with River Hill (4-0). Atholton plays at Hammond next Friday before hosting River Hill on Oct. 7.
“Those kids played their hind parts off tonight and I’m proud of them,” Atholton coach Eric Woodson said. “They are determined, they have no quit and they believe they are the best team out here…We’re 4-0 going into next week, and we’re rolling.”
No. 15 Atholton 16, Oakland Mills 6
Atholton 0 7 3 6 0 — 16
Oakland Mills 0 0 0 6 — 6
Atholton – Dillan Watkins 6 run (Justin Soriano kick)
Atholton – Soriano 38 field goal
Oakland Mills – Xavier Patterson 16 pass from Cyrus Thomas-Ray (kick failed)
Atholton – Watkins 12 run (run failed)