Unlike some of his teammates, Brunswick senior defensive end-outside linebacker Jacob Henderson didn’t begin playing football until he reached high school.
What made him finally decide to give the sport a try?
“Ray Lewis got me into it,” said Henderson, referring to the Baltimore Ravens Hall of Fame linebacker. “That’s why I wear No. 52.”
Lewis likely would’ve given a seal of approval to the kind of hard-hitting defensive performance the Railroaders turned in against Tuscarora on Friday.
With defenders like Henderson and Wylan Harich — a longtime quarterback who didn’t begin playing defense himself until he reached high school — making tackles for loss and forcing Titans punts, the Railroaders rolled to a 28-7 win at Linganore High School.
While Brunswick had some offensive highlights, including Harich’s 70-yard touchdown run and 36-yard touchdown pass to Josh Pratt in the first quarter, its defense prevented the Titans from mounting threats most of the night.
Tuscarora’s lone touchdown, a 1-yard run from Titans quarterback Andrew Cramer in the first quarter, came on a drive that started on Brunswick’s 32.
Even when Tuscarora ballcarriers got decent gains, they usually were taken down hard.
“Me and my linebackers and DBs, we like to get called Boom Squad,” said Harich, who plays strong safety and outside linebacker. “We call ourselves that in practice all the time and in games. We come physical against any team.”
Brunswick coach Jerry Smith said his players pride themselves on being physical in all facets of the game, and they focused even more on that style of play after suffering their lone loss to Middletown.
“This is my 21st year, and ... in the shorter season and the way it is, this is probably the most we’ve hit ever in practice,” Smith said. “We hit just about every day. We do two different tackling circuits before our games. and we are just about hitting and being physical and playing physical football.”
The Railroaders didn’t let up on Friday, either, continuing to produce defensive highlights in the fourth quarter.
On one Tuscarora possession, Harich bolted into the backfield to trip up Cramer for a sack, then drilled a receiver for a 6-yard loss.
On the Titans’ next possession, Henderson brought down Marshall Ayivon for a 1-yard loss, then sacked Cramer for a 6-yard loss.
“As soon as you bust past that tackle or that tight end, there’s no better feeling in the world than seeing just you and the ballcarrier right in front of you,” Henderson said. “Because then it’s just one on one, who’s stronger, who’s got more heart.”
Henderson thought a tweak also helped his defense.
“We started [the season] with the defensive ends outside, and we’d only come down if there was a tight end,” he said. “And then we switched up to having me and Carter Hottinger down on the line, and ever since then we’ve been unstoppable, both of us outside attacking.”
Despite its defense making things difficult for Tuscarora, Brunswick only enjoyed a 14-7 lead at halftime. Several promising drives were foiled by fumbles.
“It’s something we scouted on film, we saw some tendencies,” Tuscarora coach Curtiss Belcher said of his team’s takeaways. “Our young men did a good job of doing it, we just have to capitalize better when other teams make mistakes.”
When Brunswick fumbled near the goal line with 3:33 left in the third quarter, its defense turned in another dominant showing. Tuscarora ended up punting from its own end zone, and the kick deflected off a player to give the Railroaders possession at the Titans 11.
Two plays later, Ben Wells scored to give Brunswick a 28-7 lead.
Harich had two rushing touchdowns, the 70-yarder that saw him pull away from defenders down the right sideline and a 7-yarder in the third quarter, and his scoring toss on a slant to Pratt.
Brunswick (3-1) faces Frederick next week, wrapping up a successful mini spring season.
“It’s a little sad because it kind of shows you what we could’ve been in a regular season had we had a normal year,” Smith said. “But I’m proud of these guys, and I can’t say enough about their effort.”
Tuscarora (1-4) will conclude its season against Catoctin.
“Last week they played a very good game. This week, to be very blunt, was a bad week of practice, and it showed on the field tonight,” Belcher said. “We’re better than that, but credit to Brunswick. Brunswick made us do things we weren’t comfortable doing, and that’s because of them.”