BRUNSWICK — Catoctin’s Carson Sickeri could see the momentum swinging the other way against Brunswick on Friday in the regular-season football finale for both teams.
With 31.4 seconds left in the third quarter, the Railroaders had just tied the score at 21, thanks to a 4-yard touchdown run by J.T. Harich and a successful extra-point kick from Trevor Barnhouse. And at that point, with the way things were going, Catoctin faced the possibility of losing.
Unless Catoctin wanted to head into the postseason coming off a loss to a rival, some big plays were in order — and fast.
Sickeri took charge, scoring two touchdowns in a two-minute span of the fourth quarter to break open a tight game and lead a 28-point Catoctin surge down the stretch for a 49-28 win.
“The first half was not us,” Sickeri said. “We started to come together as a team. We’re a much better team than the way we played in that first half.”
The win gives the Cougars an 8-1 regular-season record heading into next week’s first round of the Class 1A West playoffs. Catoctin will be either the No. 1 or 2 seed in the region, depending on the results of other games across the region.
All Catoctin coach Doug Williams knows is the Cougars will have a home playoff game in the first round.
Brunswick (4-5) — all but assured of its first playoff berth in seven years — awaits its first-round opponent as well.
“I won’t know anything until they hold that meeting on Sunday morning,” Willliams said of the MPSSAA football committee’s seeding meeting, which determines all of the first-round matchups.
In the meantime, Catoctin will have to figure out how to avoid what were almost disastrous results against the Railroaders.
The Cougars never trailed in Friday’s game, but the Railroaders stuck with them. Once Brunswick knotted the score at 21, closing out the third quarter, Sickeri knew Catoctin needed a big play right away.
On the Cougars’ first play from scrimmage in the fourth quarter, Sickeri turned on his speed, breaking through Brunswick’s defensive line on a power sweep, racing 53 yards for a touchdown. Simon Granados’ extra-point kick gave Catoctin a 28-21 lead, grabbing the momentum back — this time for keeps.
At the 9:41 mark of the fourth quarter, Sickeri broke loose for a 69-yard score. The Cougars got two more touchdowns in the final eight minutes of play. Travis Fields had a 51-yard run; Bronson Snurr scored from 5 yards out.
“We went back to doing what we do best, our bread-and-butter, the power runs,” said Sickeri, who rushed for 278 yards on 26 carries and three touchdowns.
The Cougars rushed for 465 yards, 323 of that in the second half, but even those big numbers almost weren’t enough to stop Brunswick, which had some big plays of its own to turn Friday’s game into a high-scoring affair.
The Railroaders contained Catoctin to a 14-6 lead at the half. A 16-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Wylan Harich to Michael Souders with 14.5 seconds left in the first half kept Brunswick within striking distance.
The Cougars made it 21-6 in the third quarter on an 18-yard run by Snurr. Brunswick answered with 15 straight points. Wylan Harich returned an interception 58 yards for a score, with J.T Harich’s 2-point conversion run cutting Catoctin’s lead to 21-14. J.T. Harich’s TD run and Barnhouse’s kick closed out the third-quarter scoring.
“We came out really slow,” Catoctin quarterback Ryan Orr said. “We underestimated them. Brunswick is a solid team. We should have respected them, but we turned it on, playing our half in the second half.”
Williams wasn’t at all fooled by Brunswick’s stubbornness.
“Man, Brunswick came to play, absolutely,” he said. “This is one of our rivals. They showed up, and I think we thought we were just gonna walk off the bus and get us a victory. But Brunswick taught us a valuable, big-time lesson in the first half.”
Wylan Harich completed 11 of 27 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. He threw one interception.
“Our kids fought hard tonight,” Brunswick coach Jerry Smith said. “The difference between them and us right now is handling the little things, handling adjustments. We’ve got to clean it up. We’ve got one more week, guaranteed, and then we’ll see where we go from there.”