UPPER MARLBORO – With less than 20 seconds to go in the game and the ball at the one-yard line, the Riverdale Baptist Crusaders were set to complete their first comeback of the year and possibly send the season opener into overtime.
After being down by 15 points twice in the fourth quarter, Crusaders quarterback Dion Golatt quickly snapped the ball and elected to pass to surprise the defense.
However, a tip by a Bishop McNamara defensive lineman slowly disrupted the dream comeback. McNamara senior Wesley Bowers sped up the process by intercepting the tipped ball, and then he ran it back 99 yards for a walk-off touchdown as time expired. Bowers’ last-second interception return secured the victory for the Mustangs, as they defeated Riverdale Baptist 40-27 on Aug, 26.
“When I saw the ball, I was like ‘I have to go out and be a playmaker,’ and I went for the ball,” Bowers said. “God willing, the ball tipped up and I got it. I saw green grass and thought to take it to the house for us.”
“I had no doubt about (Bowers making it to the end-zone),” said McNamara’s Xavier Williams, who finished with 97 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go along with his receiving score. “I was already waiting for him to celebrate."
The game intensified in the fourth quarter, as Golatt found his rhythm, gaining 159 total yards, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Cortez Jackson, to start the Riverdale comeback.
“He was starting to get more comfortable, especially in that fourth quarter,” Head Coach Caesar Nettles said. “One thing we preach is having mental toughness. It is easy to do well when you are up two touchdowns, but it is hard to fight back when you are down two. He did a phenomenal job leading the guys on those last two drives down the field.”
As the pressure began to mount, McNamara’s junior quarterback Stanton Askew’s mouth piece popped out of his mouth before a third-down snap with less than eight minutes to go. Askew rushed to place the guard back into his mouth, snapped the ball to beat the play clock, and completed a 54-yard pass to senior Charles Kelly, who racked up 108 yards on four catches on the night. The play set up running back Kevin Byrd for a six-yard touchdown run five plays later. The score extended the McNamra lead to two touchdowns.
Askew, who was making his first start, finished the game with 64 rushing yards, including a 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He also completed 17-of-33 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns.
“For his first time playing a high school game as a starting quarterback, I thought he did a great job managing the game,” McNamara Head Coach Keith Goganious said. “There a couple of things that we are going to have to clean up, but that’s a guy playing his first game as a junior. He will get it.”
However, Riverdale Baptist would respond with Golatt’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Jackson. It was a common theme throughout the contest as the Crusaders played catch-up with McNamara by scoring on big plays.
Wide receiver Tariq Castro-Fields started the second quarter with a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown. Then, seconds before halftime, wide receiver Jordan Norris lunged himself into the endzone to make the diving catch for a 15-yard touchdown.
Williams, who was injured in the third quarter on a punt-block attempt, looked to secure the victory with four minutes to go after a 22-yard touchdown run.
Still, Riverdale Baptist continued to battle back with a quick two-minute drive that set up senior Carlos Washington, Jr. with a five-yard touchdown run, pushing the score to 34-27. After retrieving the onside kick, Golatt had a 16-yard run, but was stopped short of the endzone at the 1-yard line, setting up the scene in the final moments.
“I told our guys that this game does not define our season, win or lose,” Nettles said. “I think that we showed we can compete. We just have to do a better job of finishing and closing out. I told them tonight’s over and tomorrow we have to come out ready to play the next opponent.”
Riverdale 0 13 0 14 - 27
McNamara 7 7 7 19 - 40
BM – Xavier Williams 6-yard TD pass from Stanton Askew
RB – Tariq Castro-Fields 66-yard punt return TD
BM – Williams 10-yard TD run
RB – Jordan Norris 15-yard TD pass from Dion Golatt
BM – Stanton Askew 28-yard TD run
BM – Kevin Byrd 6-yard TD run
RB – Cortez Jackson 80-yard TD pass from Golatt
BM – Williams 22-yard TD run
RB – Carlos Washington, Jr. 5-yard TD run
BM – Wesley Bowers 99-yard interception return TD