The Severna Park football program waited almost four years for a home football game, so waiting an extra 20 hours to finish one wasn’t too much.
Playing the first varsity football game on the school’s newly constructed stadium field, the Falcons overcame a lightning postponement at halftime of their season opener with North County and a stiff challenge from the Knights to secure a 34-28 win.
Jordan Hallet threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for the winning score in the fourth quarter as the Falcons christened their new turf with a victory that began on August 31 and was finished on September 1.
“These kids wanted nothing more in the world than to come out on top,” said coach Will Bell. “Our junior varsity set the tone yesterday, and we just tried to carry them through this next game. I’m glad we did. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to play here, play in front of our fans and community.”
Sweltering humidity and the threat of thunderstorms didn’t temper the Friday-night excitement as the Falcons looked to start well against the Knights, who they defeated 49-48 in a wild 2017 opener.
North County struck first, however, one of several instances when quarterback Deontez Parker and running back/wide receiver Chris Leslie linked up offensively for the Knights. Parker hit Leslie for a 40-yard reception to open the game, then handed off to Leslie for a 22-yard touchdown run to make it 6-0 with a failed extra point.
Severna Park responded immediately as Hallet took the first snap on the ensuing drive and hit Ryan Thorpe on a deep route up the right sideline, resulting in a 68-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead after Travis Victorio’s extra point.
Falcon linebacker Jake Cooley blocked a punt on North County’s next possession, Hallet passed to Garrett Edwards for a 17-yard gain, and Kerby Nulud carried for a six-yard score and a 14-6 lead. Nulud carried 12 times for 90 yards a touchdown on the day.
The Falcon defense got North County into a third-and-long situation, but Parker found Leslie on a flat route on the left sideline for an 83-yard score. Anthony Bedell caught Parker’s pass for a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14-14. Marcus Richardson caught Parker’s pass for a 55-yard score on the Knights’ next possession, and North County led 20-14.
Edwards seized the lead back for Severna Park a moment later, making an acrobatic, leaping catch of a Hallet pass at the front corner of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown that gave the Falcons a 21-20 halftime lead.
Flashes of lightning caused consecutive 30-minute delays before the game was postponed.
Defense and special teams came up big as Severna Park sought to close out the game when the teams resumed play in the third quarter on Saturday. Victorio bombed a punt to pin North County at their own 13. Cornerback Cam Bear delivered a crushing hit to break up a pass play. Anthony Persico sacked Parker. On third down, Jordan Robinson muscled through his blocker and strip-sacked Parker, and Noah Pride recovered the ball on the 1-yard line.
Deon Dorsey capitalized, punching it in for a touchdown and a 28-20 lead. Dorsey carried 17 times for 82 yards on the day.
Cooley, a senior, said it was a big moment for a defense that is communicating well.
“Defensively this year we have a new coaching staff implementing new schemes that have been working really well, and chemistry-wise it’s a group of guys that have grown up together, we’ve all been on the same Green Hornets teams, and you can really feel the chemistry this year,” he said.
The defense looked to have North County bottled up on the Knights’ ensuing drive, but Parker hit Leslie on third-and-27 for a 33-yard gain to get a first down. Parker found Leslie again on a 22-yard pass for a touchdown, and Jordan Bigby hauled in a 2-point try to tie the game at 28-28 with 10 minutes to play.
The Falcons methodically marched down the field for the winning score. Hallet passed to Thorpe for a 22-yard gain, and Dorsey made several small gains to eat up clock, including a big conversion on fourth-and-2 to keep the drive alive. A pass interference put the Falcons on the 3-yard line, where Hallet kept the ball on a run to give Severna Park a 34-28 lead with under three minutes left.
“Our guys on offense, they put that drive on their backs and said ‘We got you, coach,”’ said Bell. “They took the whole thing down and took a lot of time off the clock, and I thought that made a huge statement to our team.”
Peyton Brack caused a fumble on North County’s next possession, and Eli Hill recovered. Severna Park was able to salt away all but 10 seconds before turning over on downs, and the Knights’ desperation final pass attempt fell incomplete.
Hallet said the combination of wanting to win the first game on the new field and making the most of the seniors’ season in their new school with new weight room and new stadium is a driving force for the work they’ve been putting in.
“It was huge. We’ve had a lot of distractions here and there, and we didn’t have a field, but we always just kept the mindset of winning ball games and working hard, and today showed off what we can do,” said Hallet. “We’re striving to get better every day, and I love it.”
Bell said the team has a revamped offense and an expanded rotation of players hungry to contribute.
“We’ve taken a different approach. We’re using a lot of personnel. We have a deep team, and putting up 34 in an unorthodox game over two days, I was very happy with how those kids played,” said Bell. “For guys to step up the way they did, some guys scored their first-ever touchdown, so it was a big deal and nice to see.”
The season continues with a home showdown against Chesapeake on September 7. The Cougars put themselves on course to the 3A playoffs when they defeated Severna Park 28-14 in Week 2 of last year. Chesapeake thrashed Towson, 33-0, in Week 1.
“We started it off right, now we just have to keep going,” said Bell.
-Thorpe caught two passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Edwards had three catches for 67 yards and a score. Jeremiah Jennings had an 18-yard reception. Matt Simms had two catches for 13 yards. Mikie Harmeyer had a four-yard reception and was kicked away from in North County’s punt schemes. Brack led the Falcons defensively with five tackles, while Robinson and Gerard Green both had two solo and two assisted. Victorio averaged 37 yards on four punts.
-Parker and Leslie won’t sneak up on anyone this season. Parker was 11 for 20 passing for 309 yards with three touchdowns and also rushed five times for 13 yards. Leslie carried 14 times for 34 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.
-Hallet said the team has Kyle Lowman (SPHS ’17) in their hearts and minds. Lowman, who played football and lacrosse at Severna Park, lost his leg in a motor vehicle accident in Florida a week before the Falcons kicked off their season. “A lot of us in the senior class are very close with Kyle Lowman,” said Hallet. “He’s a really good kid. We’re all thinking about him, and we’re going to play for him this year, there’s no doubt about that.”