It was a muddy celebration for the Beechcroft High School football team.
The Cougars fought off sloppy field conditions on their home field and clinched the outright City League-North Division championship with a 26-8 win over Northland on Friday, Oct. 28.
“We had to share it last year, so our focus was to win it straight out this year,” said Beechcroft coach Bruce Ward, who was doused with a bucket of Gatorade by some of his players in the waning seconds of the game. “We did a good job of taking care of business in this slop and we got it done.”
Beechcroft improved to 9-1 overall and finished 7-0 in the City-North. The Cougars wrapped up their first playoff berth in Division II, Region 7 since2008. Northland finished 4-6 overall and 4-3 in the City-North.
“We had our opportunities,” Northland coach Kevin Tooson said. “We had our opportunities all year.
“Like I told our guys, it comes down to making plays, and we just didn’t make plays. When there were opportunities to make a big sack, a big tackle, make a big run, make a big catch, we just didn’t do it.”
Both teams got off to a sluggish start in the first half, but Beechcroft got a big boost heading into halftime when quarterback Maurice Hale threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Chapple with 27.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter, putting the Cougars ahead 12-8.
Hale completed nine of 17 passes for 105 yards and rushed seven times for 79 yards.
Late in the third quarter, Hale ran for 25 yards and connected with James Duncan on a 33-yard pass before scoring on a 9-yard run. The two-point conversion -- a pass from Hale to Chapple -- put Beechcroft ahead 20-8.
“Hale and Duncan have been playing great football all season long,” Ward said. “We try to get the ball in their hands and let them do what they do best, and they make plays. They came through for us tonight.”
Shaquille Minnifield closed the scoring early in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard run before Beechcroft started turning the game over to its reserve players.
Despite the performance by Hale and the offense, the Cougars’ defense was the story of the game.
Beechcroft senior Jamar Randolph recovered two Northland fumbles and the Cougars held the Vikings to 172 total yards.
“Our defense has been playing lights out all year,” Ward said. “I don’t think a lot of people recognize that. I don’t think we’ve given up more than 14 points in the City all year. Our defense -- we pride ourselves on our defense here at Beechcroft -- and they’ve come through all season.”
Duncan opened the scoring when he returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to give Beechcroft a 6-0 lead with 9:07 left in the first quarter.
Northland answered on its next possession, though, when Marquan Barnes caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marquan Napper, who then converted the two-point conversion to give the Vikings their only lead of the game.
NORTHLAND 8 0 0 0 -- 8
BEECHCROFT 6 6 8 6 -- 26
B--Duncan 79 punt return (run failed)
N--M. Barnes 14 pass from Napper (Napper run)
B--Chapple 5 pass from Hale (pass failed)
B--Hale 9 run (Chapple pass from Hale)
B--Minnifield 7 run (kick failed)