Big plays ruled the day as the Northland and Beechcroft high school football teams competed with hardware on the line Oct. 27.
The visiting Vikings had the last three — interceptions by Mark Lee and Jesse Prewitt III and a 30-yard touchdown run by John Branham Jr. — that sealed a 39-32 victory and gave them a share of the City League-North Division championship with the Cougars and Mifflin.
It snapped a 25-game league winning streak for the Cougars and gave Northland its first win in the annual series since 2010.
“It means a lot,” said Northland junior Lavell Mitchell, who plays tight end and linebacker. “We definitely lived up to the game plan after watching a lot of film. We were strong on the defensive line and strong on the offensive line.”
After the game when Northland approached Beechcroft’s victory bell, emotions flared and police broke up a scuffle.
The win gave the Vikings a final record of 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the City-North, while the Cougars finished 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the league.
“I hate for (the victory) to have a blemish to it,” first-year Northland coach Brian Staats said. “A lot of emotions and they don’t live far apart from each other and they see each other in the neighborhood and there’s some of that that plays into it. … It’s a big deal for our kids and our program.”
The game’s first play set the tone for a matchup in which speed and athleticism stood out in what was the final game for both teams, as neither will make the postseason.
Northland’s Kalil Branham ran the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown.
After the Cougars cut it to 8-6 on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jovaughn Hill to Therron Jennings midway through the first quarter, Northland’s Mike White hit Mike Williams on a bubble pass that went 61 yards for a score to give his team a 14-6 lead.
Beechcroft’s Suliman Conteh then returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown but the two-point conversion run failed leaving the score at 14-12.
Hill hooked up with Shemar Samuel for an 80-yard touchdown pass with 1:10 to go in the opening quarter to cut Northland’s lead to 20-18, but the Vikings got what would prove to be a key score with 20 seconds to go in the first half when White hit Mitchell for an 8-yard touchdown.
In the third quarter, John Branham Jr. returned a punt 26 yards and scored three plays later on a 13-yard run to make it 33-18.
The Cougars pulled to within 33-32 on Samuel’s 2-yard touchdown run with 8:52 remaining, but Mitchell sacked Hill on the two-point conversion attempt.
Beechcroft then reached the Northland 2 with 6:55 left but was whistled for holding on the next play and eventually turned it over on downs.
“We knew they were a big-play team,” Cougars coach B.J. Queen said. “I’m really proud of our guys for fighting back. But if you can’t score from (the 2-yard-line), you’re probably not going to win a championship.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final NORTHLAND 20 7 6 6 39 BEECHCROFT
18 0 8 6 32
N—K. Branham 86 kickoff return (Dean pass from White)
B—Jennings 7 pass from Hill (run failed)
N—Williams 61 pass from White (run failed)
B—Conteh 95 kickoff return (run failed)
N—J. Branham 1 run (pass failed)
B—Samuel 80 pass from Hill (run failed)
N—Mitchell 8 pass from White (Ndiaye kick)
N—J. Branham 13 run (kick failed)
B—Henderson 14 pass from Hill (Henderson pass from Hill)
B—Samuel 2 run (pass failed)
N—Branham 30 run (run failed)