Moments after Severna Park’s varsity football team earned a 34-14 home victory over Chesapeake on senior night, April 16, Falcons head coach Mike Wright addressed his team for the final time this season.
“Remember, this is the group that started it all,” he told them. “You should be damn proud.”
Severna Park has long been considered an easy win on the schedule for opposing teams (coaches say the last winning season was around 2010). In 2021, the team not only won all three of their games, but the average margin of victory was more than 20 points.
On April 16, the team overcame a few early miscues to look as sharp as they have all season.
Senior captain Colin Shadowens helped cause a missed Chesapeake field goal early on. On the ensuing possession, Shadowens got to work. Following a big third-down pass that was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield, Shadowens juked two defenders to cap a big run and keep the chains moving. A 14-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Seamus Patenaude and 26-yard swing pass to senior receiver James Patz pushed Severna Park deep into Chesapeake territory.
What happened next was a thing of beauty. Patenaude looked right, saw a defender with his back turned and trusted his receiver to make a play. Senior captain Jack Peterson made an athletic grab, using his 6-foot-3 frame to pinpoint the ball in front of the defender’s face mask, turn around and then step into the end zone. Trey Smack converted the extra-point attempt, putting Severna Park up 7-0.
“We went short on the backside and I ran a go on the right side of the field because it was a one-on-one matchup,” Peterson said of the touchdown play. “Seamus threw a beautiful ball right over the defender’s head. I jumped up and caught it.”
Not to be outshined, the Falcon defense stymied the Cougars offense on the next drive. Pressure from senior Shane Snyder resulted in a safety and a 9-0 lead for Severna Park with 6:38 remaining in the first half. A Patenaude run and two catches by Patz gave the Falcons another opportunity to score, but a fumble ended the drive. Severna Park’s defense again stonewalled Cougar ballcarriers to end the half.
The Falcons stayed hot in the third quarter. Patenaude was flushed from the pocket. The poised quarterback rolled to his left and threw a strike to Patz, who got open in the end zone. Another Smack kick gave the Falcons a 16-0 lead with 4:15 minutes left in the third quarter. On their next possession, Shadowens bounced a run to the outside, picking up more than 25 yards. Patenaude scrambled left and threw on the run to James Henson III for his third passing touchdown of the game.
The lead was 22-0 with 10:58 in the fourth quarter. That’s when Chesapeake came to life.
Quarterback Nathan Rosado got the ball to Rushaun Tongue, who sprinted 50 yards past the entire Falcons defense to give Chesapeake their first touchdown. Severna Park answered the call. After Shadowens picked up a first down, Patenaude lobbed a precise pass down the left sideline and Peterson came up with his second contested touchdown catch. It was a special moment for Peterson, not only because it was his final high school game but also because he missed the prior year with an injury.
With the score 28-7, Rosado threw an impressive strike into the arms of Owen Schmidt for Chesapeake’s second touchdown. But Severna Park ended Chesapeake’s rally after that score. Rosado floated a ball into the flat to his left and senior Brett Butz made the interception, cruising into the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown.
Several other Falcons contributed to the win. To name a few, junior defensive backs Caleb Sartalamacchia and Ashton Ferrer-White, senior linebacker Braden Layne, and senior defensive lineman Kaleb Blackwell harassed the Cougars, making them earn every yard.
Blackwell and Layne both credited defensive coordinator Don Linnell for studying film and putting players in positions to succeed. Blackwell said his teammates bought into the coaching this year.
“Everybody played with their hearts,” Blackwell said. “Everybody played smart. No dumb plays. And we were undefeated, so it’s the best senior ending day ever.”
Layne said, “It means the world to go out the last high school football game as a winner and set a good, positive path forward because this is a feeling we’ll carry for the rest of our lives.”
Patenaude thanked the departing seniors for helping him develop into a dynamic quarterback.
“Coming into this season, Severna Park’s never been a huge football powerhouse, but [this game] really meant a lot to me for the seniors,” he said. “They’re my boys They helped me out freshman year and sophomore year. They’re my rock. They helped me a lot, working in the offseason; eight-on-eight football, flag football was very fun with them. [I wanted to] put everything on the line for them, making sure they went out the way they should.”
The Falcons were proud of their effort, as Wright said. Following their season, Peterson shared a message for anyone who follows football in Anne Arundel County.
“Don’t be surprised when Severna Park and Broadneck and Arundel and the Old Mills of the world are competing. This is going to be a winning culture in the very near future,” he said. “We have a great coaching staff, great young players … that are on the come-up and are going to be something to fear in the future.”
The Wright Mentality
The season was also special for Wright, a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with an infection near his heart in December.
“I had the right doctors and the right frame of mind, and they replaced the heart valve and they said six to eight months of recuperation,” Wright said. “I thought I’d be fine for next season. Next season came a lot quicker than I thought.
“Once we knew we were going to have a season, all of the support of these players and this school, and that the other coaches showed me, I just knew that had to be my goal to get back out there.”
Wright said doctors struck a nerve in his jaw during surgery, so he is still going to speech therapy and using a feeding tube. Yet, all of those setbacks did not stop him from leading a group of players that he has coached since they were eighth-graders.
“These guys bought in,” said Wright, who previously coached Severna Park’s JV team and now coaches varsity. “They know they will be remembered as the ones that made the change. We haven’t had a winning season since 2010, something like that at varsity … and even though it was a three-game season, they won all the games they played. Really proud of them. I’ve had the support of [athletic director] Mr. Kevin Rutledge and [principal] Mr. Patrick Bathras and the school and this community, and I’m really thankful to them. I’m so thankful to my coaches; they busted their butts, and with the youth on this team, the future is bright.”