Late in Friday’s 4A state quarterfinal football game, things looked bleak for Broadneck.
Northwest had a six-point lead and the ball, driving inside the Bruins’ 35. A double personal foul against the Jaguars had just been reversed to offsetting personal fouls, negating what would have almost certainly been a punting situation to give the Broadneck offense the ball back. Even then, the Bruins had scuffled offensively for most of the contest.
The sideline was flat, the mood growing more desperate. It started to feel as if forcing a punt wasn’t good enough; the defense needed to make something happen to shift momentum, and now.
Two plays later, Eli Harris and Logan McGill delivered the Bruins a season-defining moment.
Harris, Broadneck’s Navy-bound receiver finding himself on defense for the first time in a long time, blitzed and got his fingertips on a third-down pass, grazing it just enough to divert it into McGill’s path. The outside linebacker did the rest, snaring the ball out of midair and racing the other way 70 yards for the game’s decisive touchdown, with Harris as his lead blocker. The extra point made it 21-20, propelling Broadneck to the state semifinals for the second season running.
Broadneck’s bench erupted during a chaotic return, but McGill had only one thing on his mind.
“Tunnel vision; I’m not looking anywhere else but at the goal line. I had to get there — no other choice,” said McGill. “We had to step up and we did. Last year I was on offense, and I got switched to defense, and I’m just excited that I could make a contribution.”
With Northwest’s defense proving as stout as advertised, Broadneck had to find another way to win the game. The Jaguars had sizeable advantages in rushing yards (194 to 14), total yards (338 to 154), and first downs (16 to 9).
But Broadneck put up 14 points from three Northwest turnovers — McGill’s pick-six and a fumble recovery by Jed Pellicano directly leading to points, and a Braden McCassie interception in the end zone turning Northwest away at the other end. Broadneck, on the other hand, took near-immaculate care of the football and didn’t turn it over once.
Special teams was the other decisive factor. After Northwest’s final touchdown, Broadneck coach Rob Harris implored his field goal unit to sell out for a block because they needed to keep that extra point off the board. The Bruins didn’t block it, but the pressure caused the PAT to sail wide right. After McGill’s interception, Broadneck was tagged with a celebration penalty that pushed their PAT back an extra 15 yards, but Christopher Coleman’s kick knuckled through the uprights. That point provided the margin of victory.
“We always have our backs against the wall,” Eli Harris said. “With everything going against us, it’s tough, but once you’re in there you have the adrenaline and you’re not paying attention to anything else. And as the coaches told us, we win these types of games.”
Harris mixed in series on defense to go with his regular position, where he continued to ascend the MPSSAA’s all-time receiving charts with another eight receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. Joey Smargissi caught the Bruins’ other offensive touchdown, with both TD passes coming from C.J. Watkins, who took all but one snap at quarterback and threw for 140 yards.
“Their defense is tremendous, and we knew it was going to be tough sledding,” Rob Harris said. “We had a ton of adversity tonight. But one of the things we’ve been saying is, there’s no more excuses, we’ve just got to deal with it. We’re either going to win or lose, and we’ve been dealing with it. We have to do everything we can to complete our mission.”
The mission continues next weekend at Churchill, where a victory would put Broadneck in the state championship game for the second time in the MPSSAA era, and the first time in 20 years. The Bruins would also be the first Anne Arundel County team to make the final since 2013.
To do that, though, they have to overcome a stiff test, though one they’re at least mildly familiar with. The two teams matched up in the state quarterfinals last season, with Broadneck prevailing 39-7 at home. This one will be on the road, though, and Churchill running back David Avit is averaging nearly 190 yards rushing per game.
“Their running back is the real deal,” said Eli Harris. “We played a great team game against them last year and that’s what we’re hoping to repeat.”
Broadneck 21, Northwest 20
Broadneck 0 14 0 7 --21
Northwest 7 7 6 0 --20
N – Idoma 3 run (McKinney kick) 6:13
B – Harris 6 pass from Watkins (Coleman kick) 10:59
B – Smargissi 11 pass from Watkins (Coleman kick) 10:11
N – Gengarella 7 pass from Vongprachanh-Nelson (McKinney kick) 0:04
N – X. Rivers 4 run (kick failed) 4:09
B – McGill 70 interception return (Coleman kick) 4:40
Rushing – Broadneck 23-14 (Mauldin 15-22, Watkins 8-(minus-8)); Northwest 38-194 (X. Rivers 14-107, T. Rivers 8-30, Nti 1-29, Bunting 1-20, Gengarella 2-9, Idoma 3-4, Vongprachanh-Nelson 9-(minus-5)).
Receiving – Broadneck 15-140 (Harris 8-83, Smargissi 4-41, Foote 2-12, Mauldin 1-4); Northwest 10-144 (X. Rivers 2-42, Jones 3-40, Nti 1-34, Mitchell 2-19, Gengarella 2-9).
Passing – Broadneck: Watkins 15-27-0-140; Northwest: Vongprachanh-Nelson 10-21-2-144.
First downs: Broadneck 9, Northwest 16.
Penalties: Broadneck 9-64, Northwest 4-25.
Sacks: Broadneck 1, Northwest 2.
Turnovers: Broadneck 0, Northwest 3.