When the Wildcats stopped Meade on a 4th and goal in overtime to secure a playoff berth on November 8, it seemed inevitable that the two teams would meet again for another close contest to decide who would represent the region in state tournament.
That proved to be true during Friday’s Class 4A East final, as a two-point conversion in the game’s final 48 seconds gave the Mustangs a victory and left the visiting Wildcats agonizingly short of a spot in the state semifinal.
“I don’t think the loss was about the final drive,” emphasized Arundel Head Coach Chuck Markiewicz. “It was about the four drives before that where we couldn’t get a first down. You need a first down in those situations. You can’t expect your defense to play that well for that long against this kind of team.”
The Wildcat defense was stellar in the second half, but the matchup was a shootout in the first quarter. Kyle Evans scampered for an 11-yard touchdown run on Meade’s opening possession of the game, and a 21-yard hookup between D.J. Pate and David Richards gave the Mustangs a 14-0 lead after Meade’s second offensive possession.
Just as they did last week in their thrilling comeback against Old Mill, the Wildcats showed their resiliency after trailing early. Victor Mack returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to set up Anthony Messenger for a short touchdown pass to Jordan Stewart a few plays later. Arundel forced three consecutive Meade punts, and just before the half, Messenger took advantage by hitting Don Keith for a 16-yard touchdown. A failed extra point made the score 14-13.
On their first possession of the second half, Larry Barnes took a handoff 48 yards into Mustang territory and capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Messenger used his legs to convert a two-point attempt, bulldozing two Meade tacklers at the goal line and putting his team ahead by a full seven points.
Arundel’s swarming defense shut Meade down for the majority of the second half, due in part to the performance of Andrew Cassard, who had a circus interception late in the third quarter. Backpedaling, he leaped to snare a pass with one hand and corralled the ball with his legs while falling to the ground. However, Messenger and the offense couldn’t put the game away, failing to move the chains and run out the clock.
With one final possession and two minutes to go, the Mustangs used quick passes to rack up first downs and keep their playoff hopes alive. A 29-yard strike down the middle of the field from Pate to Tyree Turner left Meade with a one-point deficit. Facing the chance of a tie game, Meade elected to go for two-point conversion and the win. That decision paid off as Jamarkeus Hammond barreled through Arundel defenders and across the goal line to finish a stunning comeback, abruptly ending a successful season for the Wildcats that resulted in nine wins and a Class 4A East Region semifinal victory.
“This kind of hurts because we had an opportunity to win and we frittered it away,” Markiewicz said. “But sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and we just lost tonight. They were a better team and they won.”
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