Bruins Play Numbers Game To Reach Second Football State Title Game


Every time Winston Churchill running back David Avit touched the ball, there wasn’t one Broadneck defender bringing him down.

It was two, three, four, five, even seven.

Wave after wave, the Bruins threw as many bodies as they could spare at Churchill’s star. He got his yards, but in the red zone, they bowed their necks and collectively said, “No more for you.”

Broadneck’s defense played bend-don’t-break to perfection, turning Churchill away on downs twice inside the 10-yard line and forcing three more turnovers en route to a statement 31-7 victory in Friday’s 4A semifinal game, sending the Bruins to their second ever state championship game.

“We tried to tackle low and ankle-bite him a little bit. Every time a guy got to him, we needed to get everybody there to slow him down,” said Broadneck senior linebacker Braden McCassie. “It’s hard to stop him. There’s not a whole lot you can do, but we stopped him enough to win.”

Avit finished with 33 carries for 220 yards and a touchdown, which came in the game’s final minute to deny the Bruins a shutout. Otherwise, Broadneck held the rest of the Churchill offense to 16 yards.

On the flip side, Broadneck exploited Churchill’s commitment to pass defense by running the ball almost exclusively. The Bulldogs bracketed star wide receiver Eli Harris with two and sometimes even three defenders, creating a numerical mismatch in the run game.

Despite being known for creative pass plays and boasting one of the statistically greatest receivers Maryland has ever seen, the Bruins threw the ball just 13 times — and not one time in the second half.

Instead, quarterback C.J. Watkins and the offense beat Churchill on the ground. Having been minted the full-time quarterback just for the state playoffs, Watkins completed 8 of 13 passes for just 55 yards and a touchdown to Joey Smargissi, but he also ran 14 times for 72 yards and two scores.

“My coaches believe in me. I’m just cherishing the opportunity I get,” Watkins said, “They were bracketing our receivers, but we knew we could beat them with the run.”

Ian Mauldin played the other part of Broadneck’s two-headed rushing monster, carrying the ball 19 times for 80 yards and a score to keep up a personal family tradition: the only other time the Bruins played for a championship, his father was on the team.

In fact, this playoff run has brought a lot of things full circle for the Bruins. Their Thanksgiving tradition demonstrated how much the program’s progression — quarterfinals in 2021, semifinals last year, now a championship appearance — means in the Broadneck circle.

“For our Thanksgiving practice, we probably had 50 to 60 alumni show up, as old as 50 years old down to 18,” said Broadneck coach Rob Harris. “They were all there, and they all had the same wish. We have so many kids whose parents played for coach (Jeff) Herrick, and I asked a couple of them to speak. And they said, ‘I’d rather you go than our team,’ which was really cool. This means a ton to our community.”

The only thing remaining to complete the circle is to do what the 2003 team was denied: that squad lost 13-7 to Damascus. Standing in the 2023 Bruins’ way is perennial football power school Dr. Henry Wise Jr., of Upper Marlboro. They’ll square off at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium next Friday at 7:30pm.

The Bruins don’t have any football championship experience, but most of their key players — especially on the defense that has carried them this far — were on last spring’s undefeated lacrosse state championship team, and they’ll hope to draw on that experience.

“It’s a different level of excitement,” said Eli Harris, whose glittering high school career will end in the same stadium he plans to call home the next four years. “You’re only there one time, maybe two times in your life, getting that experience of playing on the big stage in front of a big crowd. We’re fortunate.”

Broadneck 31, Winston Churchill 7

Broadneck  3    14   14   0    --31

Churchill  0    0    0    7    --7

First quarter

B – Coleman 46 FG 8:11

Second quarter

B – Watkins 11 run (Coleman kick) 8:08

B – Smargissi 6 pass from Watkins (Coleman kick) 0:14

Third quarter

B – Watkins 2 run (Coleman kick) 10:42

B – Mauldin 5 run (Coleman kick) 7:20

Fourth quarter

C – Avit 11 run (Friedson kick) 0:50


Rushing – Broadneck 37-175 (Mauldin 19-80, Watkins 14-72, Foote 3-14, Hayes 1-9); Churchill 42-229 (Avit 33-220, Hersch 4-0, Zhang 2-25, Johnson 1-6, Hallas 1-(minus-9), Friedson 1-(minus-9)).

Receiving – Broadneck 8-55 (Smargissi 3-31, Foote 3-4, Harris 2-10); Churchill 3-7 (Johnson 1-4, Hersch 1-3, Wiseman 1-0).

Passing – Broadneck: Watkins 8-13-0, 55 yds.; Churchill: Hallas 3-9-1, 7 yds.

First downs: Broadneck 12, Churchill 12.

Penalties: Broadneck 9-66; Churchill 8-62

Sacks: Broadneck 1, Churchill 0.

Turnovers: Broadneck 1, Churchill 3.

Points off turnovers: Broadneck 14, Churchill 0.


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