The St Frances Panthers’ five game, six week whirlwind tour to open the first half of their season came to an end after the East Baltimore program left Kahuku, Hawaii with a 22-15 come-from-behind victory. Like their season opener versus East St Louis in Canton, the Panthers needed a successful two-minute drill to escape with victory. And like the win over the Flyers, junior quarterback Michael Van Buren and his receivers delivered.
In their opening win in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, trailing 13-12 with under two minutes to play, Van Buren connected with Mekhi Workman for a 59 yard game-winning touchdown with 1:27 remaining in regulation, and the Panthers left the Buckeye State with a 20-13 victory. Friday night, or Saturday morning at 1AM on the Panthers’ Eastern Standard Time clocks, trailing 15-14, with the ball on their own 20 yard line, with 1:45 left on the clock, Van Buren led the Panthers to victory again, finding Ryan Manning four times for 90 yards, and finally Kyree Benton on a 10 yard swing pass for the game-winner with :39 remaining in regulation. The Panthers converted the two-point conversion, and held off any Red Raiders miracle finish. Van Buren connected on five of five passes for 100 yards (because of 20 yards of SFA penalties) and a score on the last minute drive.
Defense ruled throughout the game between the #3 Panthers and the #41 Red Raiders, with the Panthers offense going scoreless until the final minute, and the hosts scoring on dives of 30 yards and one yard out.
The Panthers were the first to get on the board midway through the first quarter, when Kameron Howard took a ‘pick 6’ 25 yards to give the visitors a 8-0 lead, following a successful two-point conversion. Early in the second stanza, the Red Raiders capitalized on a Panthers fumble on their own 30 yard line, with Vaaimalar Fonoti taking in a one yard plunge to even things at 8. After the two exchanged punts, the Panthers were inside the Red Raiders ‘red zone’, when Van Buren was intercepted at the six yard line. Several plays later, the Red Raiders fumbled again, but put up a goal line stand to send the game into intermission tied at 8 apiece.
In the third quarter, the Panthers again penetrated the Red Raiders ‘red zone’, before coming away with nothing. Early in the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders blocked a punt deep in Panthers territory, recovering it at the one yard line. A play later, Fonoti scored, giving Kahuku a 15-8 lead with 9:08 remaining in the game. The Red Raiders then recovered the ensuing squib kick, putting them at the Panthers 28 yard line, up seven points. On fourth and eight, the Panthers forced a fumble and LSU commit Dashawn Womack went 78 yards with the ball to cut the margin to one, 15-14, and it stayed that way after a failed conversion attempt, with 7:44 on the clock.
The Panthers had a chance for a go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter, but Van Buren was intercepted a second time, with 3:08 remaining. Like they have all year, the Panthers defense stepped up. After having to punt, the Red Raiders kicked the ball into the end zone for a touchback, giving the Panthers the ball on their own 20 yard line, trailing 15-14, with 1:45 left in the game. Then, the Van Buren and Manning heroics. Van Buren threw for 221 yards, while Manning caught eight of his passes for 176 yards. The Panthers failed to rush for 200 yards for the first time in five games, but their defense held the Red Raiders’ Fonoti to only 61 yards on 32 carries.
The Panthers have amassed more than 15,000 round trip miles in their trips to Canton, Dallas, Florida, South Carolina, and Hawaii, and will total just short of 17,000 miles after a trip to Connecticut later this month, and shorter jaunts to Gambrills and College Park. It’s been said the Panthers travel more than any FCS program, but the fact is, the Panthers will have traveled more miles this season than any FBS school other than Hawaii in 2021. The Panthers would finish just ahead of #2 New Mexico State. The Panthers have already traveled three times the distance Maryland did in 2021, in just their first five games of the season. No FBS school, other than Hawaii, took four 1,000+ mile one-way trips in 2021, like the Panthers have this year. The Panthers trip to Kahuku was 1,500 miles longer than the longest distance traveled by a FBS road opponent in 2021, when Hawaii visited Wyoming.
Not only have these Panthers displayed their talents, they’ve exhibited grit and fight, overcoming adversity for the fifth game in a row. The last minute comeback in the opener. Giving up an 87 yard kick return, and a quick score in Dallas a week later, before scoring 47 unanswered points. In Florida versus Venice, the Panthers went scoreless through one quarter, and trailed 3-0, before scoring 27 straight points. Last week, the Panthers couldn’t get on the board until the final seconds of the first quarter, but thankfully, their defense provided a ‘pick 6’ in the second quarter to pick up the slack.
MIAA A & B
Spalding posted their fifth straight victory, going to Laurel and putting away Pallotti, 29-6, as Cavaliers coach Kyle Schmitt won his 100th game. Schmitt, who went 38-9 in four seasons at Atholton, is now 62-31-1 in his tenth season at Spalding. Schmitt took over at Spalding after the Cavaliers lost their longtime coach, Mike Whittles, to pancreatic cancer in June of 2012. Whittles had built the program from a winless one into a MIAA ‘B’ power, then led the Cavs into the top division, the ‘A’, in what would be his final season, in 2011. That season, their first in the ‘A’, the Cavaliers advanced to the four-team league playoffs, and finished 7-4 after losing to #1 Gilman in the semifinals.
Since, Schmitt has built on the foundation Whittles laid, and now the Cavaliers program is considered one of the best in the state. This year’s 5-1 start follows last year’s 10-1 season, the first ten win season for the Cavaliers since joining the ‘A’ division. Whittles led the Cavaliers to two ten win seasons (‘05, ‘09), and an 11-0 season (‘06) while in the ‘B’ division.
Friday, the Cavaliers built a 29-0 third quarter lead, and cruised to victory over the Panthers. Gavin Scruggs rushed for two touchdowns, Hakim Simms ran for one, and Malik Washington connected with Max Moss for another score. The defense added a safety. Washington threw for 238 yards, with Moss nabbing three receptions for 66 yards, and Tyler Brown leading the Cavs with nine receptions for 110 yards. Sims led the Cavaliers with 77 rushing yards. The Cavaliers host Gilman on Friday.
Elsewhere last weekend in the MIAA, Mt St Joe raced out to a 28-0 halftime lead over Gilman and never looked back, settling with a 35-14 win. Junior Winston Watkins completed 21 of 32 passes for 247 yards and four touchdowns. Avery Jones caught four receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns. The Gaels move to 2-0 in league play, following their 40-0 shutout of Loyola a week ago. McDonogh took a 21-10 win over Loyola, with freshman Braeden Pallozzo completing 18 of 25 passes for 265 yards and two scores. Sophomore Jefferson Exinor caught five passes for 80 yards and one of the scores, and junior Santino Sanchech caught three passes for 76 yards and the other score. The Eagles host Pallotti on Friday, while the Dons, like Mt St Joe and Calvert Hall, have a bye week. ‘The Hall’, lost for the fourth time in five games in their 21-20 loss to LaSalle College, and will have a week of rest before going to Gilman next week.
Concordia Prep won their fifth straight game, posting a 38-18 victory over Curley, with Jordan Brooks throwing for three touchdowns, and Jaedon Alston rushing for 108 yards and two scores. The MIAA B defending champion Saints go to John Carroll on Friday, before going to St Mary’s the following week, in a battle of the league’s two best teams. St Mary’s is 5-0 for the first time since 2001, after the Saints 27-7 win over Boys Latin. Wyatt Cotton rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and Carson Petitbon rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns, and threw for 75 yards and another score.
More than 5,000 fans ventured to Hughes Stadium at Morgan University to take in the Dunbar versus Mervo showdown, and Baltimore City’s two defending state champions did not disappoint, producing the sixth one-possession margin in the last eight meetings between the two city titans. In the end, Dunbar pulled out a 24-20 victory in the Thursday night blockbuster, in a game largely dominated by the defense early, before the plethora of playmakers for both teams found some shine in the second half.
While both teams reached the others territory several times in the first half, the Poets and Mustangs defensive units made stops as the other approached their respective ‘red zone’. Late in the second quarter, with the Poets on their own 31 yard line, sophomore Savion Witherspoon’s pass went high and through his receiver’s hands into the hands of the Mustangs’ Jannard Lockhardt, who took it 46 yards to ‘the house’, to put the first points on the board. After their extra point attempt was blocked, the Stangs led 6-0, with 2:15 remaining in the first half.
Witherspoon, who had just come in for Devin Roche, after the all-state quarterback left with a foot injury, and before throwing the ‘pick 6’, bounced back brilliantly, completing four passes, with two going to Tony Hart, and two to Devin Paige, putting the Poets at the Mustangs two yard line, before Tristan Kenan punched it in to even things at six, with just :14 remaining in the first half. Then, Kenan took the snap from backfield, and ran it in for two, to give the Poets a two point edge at intermission.
In the second half, the Mustangs put together a nice drive, and had a touchdown called back due to a penalty, before missing a 31 yard field goal attempt that could have given them the lead. Still, the Mustangs had another shot at the lead when their defense forced a ‘three-and-out’, with the Stangs working on a short field at the Poets 35 yard line. Six plays later, including a defensive hold by the Poets in the end zone, Bobby Williams took it in from four yards out, and with the two points, took a 14-8 edge with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
Like they had in the second quarter, the Poets answered. The 11-time state champions put together a ten play, 65 yard drive, punctuated by Kenan’s three yard score. Kenan, who preceded his score with a 22 yard run, again took the snap in the backfield on the two-point conversion and took it to pay dirt to give the Poets a two point lead, 16-14, with :41 remaining in the third quarter. After stopping the Mustangs on the ensuing possession, the Poets put together another scoring drive, highlighted by Devin Paige Jr’s 28 yard touchdown run. With Kenan adding his third two-point conversion from the ‘Wildcat’, formation, the Poets pushed their lead to ten, 24-14, with 5:04 to play. The Mustangs fumbled on their next possession, but scored on their last offensive play on a 31 yard pass from Ray Moore III to Jaquan Rucker, to make the final score, 24-20.
It was a great atmosphere for a game between what has been the two best programs in the city over the last decade. Dunbar has been the winningest program in the MPSSAA since joining in 1993, while Mervo came into the game having won four of the last seven meetings between the two, and very well could have been five of seven, if not letting a 16 point lead slip away in the final minutes in the ‘21 48-46 affair with the Poets. Once before, two city teams met as defending state champions, in 2007, a year after the Poets would win the first three state titles, and Edmondson won its first and only state title. Ben Eaton led the Poets to the title in ‘06, before dying suddenly of a pulmonary embolism the following August. Lawrence Smith took over at Dunbar, with two more years of Tavon Austin. Edmondson was coached by former Poets star Dante Jones, who played under Eaton at Dunbar, when the Morgan State grad was an assistant with the Poets. Dunbar won the ‘07 matchup with Edmondson, 49-24.
Poly pushed to 5-0 with a 42-0 shutout win over Digital Harbor, with Tavon McGee Jr rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries. Jason Lindsey completed five of six passes for 110 yards and two scores, while adding 35 rushing yards on two carries. In 15 games, dating back to last season, McGee has rushed for 1,643 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. The Engineers host Mervo on Friday. City College won their third straight, with a 32-0 win over Patterson. The Black Knights host Dunbar on Friday. The Knights lost to Mervo, 37-0, in week two.
Milford Mill continued to demolish opponents in Baltimore County, registering a 58-0 win over Woodlawn, after mounting a 44-0 halftime lead. The Millers have scored 42 points or more in each of their five games. Junior quarterback Deshawn Purdie threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns, and Sean Williams rushed for 120 yards and three touchdowns in the Millers blowout win. Daysen Shell caught three passes for 71 yards and two scores.
Dundalk bounced back from their 17-12 loss at Ruby Field in Westminster in a 42-0 win over Towson, with Ja Bonner throwing for two scores and running for one, and Jordan Fiorenza rushing for 110 yards and a touchdown. Hereford jumped to 4-1 with a 40-0 win over Overlea, after the Bulls mounted a 30-0 halftime lead. The Bulls limited the Falcons to 93 yards of offense. The Bulls go to New Town on Friday. The Titans are also 4-1, having won four straight since losing their opener to Loyola, 48-6.
Edgewood and Bel Air remained undefeated, the last two teams in the UCBAC that are unbeaten, after Bohemia Manor was trounced by Joppatowne, 48-14. Steven Robinson rushed for 102 yards and two scores in the Mariners win, and caught three passes for 62 yards and another score. Robinson entered week five as the second leading rusher in the MPSSAA, trailing only Dunbar’s Devin Roche. Mariners quarterback Anthony Wilson completed 12 of 16 passes for 129 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. The 4-1 Mariners are averaging 41.6 points per game.
Edgewood recorded its fourth shutout in five games, blanking North Harford, 43-0. The Rams can move to 6-0 for the first time since 2006 with a win at Perryville on Friday. Bel Air registered their fourth straight shutout, with their 34-0 win over Aberdeen. The Bobcats have allowed just one score all season, that coming in their opening week 48-7 victory over Havre de Grace. The Bobcats will look to go 6-0 for the first time since 2016, when they finished 8-3. The Bobcats host Edgewood in week nine, in what very well could be a showdown between a pair of 8-0 teams.
Broadneck won its fourth straight game, with a 49-26 win over North County, the closest margin an opponent has come to the Bruins since losing to Spalding in their opener. Ian Mauldin rushed for 167 yards and four touchdowns for the Bruins, while Camrin Catterton threw for two scores and ran for another. Catterton completed 9 of 14 passes for 273 yards, with an interception. Machi Evans caught four passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, while Eli Harris added four catches for 122 yards. The Bruins host Annapolis on Friday.
Arundel jumped to 4-1 with the Wildcats 37-7 non-league win over Elkton, their third straight game of scoring 32 points or more. Ahmad Taylor rushed for a season-high 124 yards and three scores, and Chris Downs nabbed seven receptions for 122 yards. The Wildcats host Northeast on Friday. Old Mill moved to 3-2 with a 28-26 overtime win over South River, after holding off the Seahawks two-point conversion in the first overtime. The Patriots host Meade on Friday. Chesapeake is 4-1 after the Cougars 24-6 win over Perry Hall. The Cougs host Crofton on Friday, another 4-1 team, after the Cardinals 24-14 win over Northeast.
Atholton and River Hill handled their business, setting up this week’s meeting between two 5-0 teams. Atholton blanked winless Hammond, 35-0, scoring all of their points before intermission, igniting the running clock. Miles Scott threw an interception, but that was the senior’s only incompletion of the night, throwing his eight completions for 216 yards and two touchdowns. River Hill too produced a shutout on Friday, as the Hawks defense came away with a clean sheet in their 38-0 win over Reservoir. The two teams met last year in week six, with both 4-1 at the time, and the Raiders pulling out a 14-7 win.
Glenelg came from behind on the road to beat Oakland Mills, 9-7, scoring twice in the fourth quarter to move to 4-1. The Gladiators won for the 21st time in the last 22 meetings between the two, with the Scorpions lone victory coming in 2015. The Gladiators host Howard on Friday, in the 62nd edition of the Elgard Bowl, the county’s longest running rivalry between the county’s two oldest high schools. The Lions are now 4-1 after their 20-14 victory over Mt Hebron. The Gladiators have won four straight over the Lions, and five of the last six. Long Reach held off Marriotts Ridge, 7-0, to rise above .500, as did Wilde Lake, with their 28-14 win over Centennial.
South Carroll remains unbeaten after the Cavaliers somewhat lackluster 23-7 win over Thomas Johnson. The defending 2A state finalists host Winters Mill on Friday, before going on the road for their week seven showdown at Liberty. The Lions won their third game in a row by 28 points or more, with their 49-7 win over Winters Mill. Jack Pellicciotti threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns for the Lions, with Carson Struble producing six receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. Liberty is 4-1. Westminster is also 4-1, and will host Liberty in week eight.
HS Sports Analyst
Willie, a native of Chicago, and now a resident of Columbia for 40 years, is an educator at Homewood Center in Howard County, after spending 12 years as a real estate agent, following 10 years of running a small men’s retail company. Willie has contributed to Max Preps, Digital Sports, and Varsity Sports Network. Willie has produced MPSSAA top 25 rankings for both football and basketball for 15 years, across various platforms. From a large ‘sports family’, Willie’s brother Mike led Reservoir High to the 3A basketball state title game in 2018, while his nephew Anthony serves as the Indianapolis Colts College Scouting Coordinator.