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The Joppatowne Mariners are a win away from a third state football title after an impressive win Friday night.

The Mariners and the Allegany Campers, two teams who like to run the football, pounded the ball at each other for four quarters Friday night, resulting in a 20-13 Joppatowne win in a Class 1A state semifinal.

The Mariners, now 13-0, will meet Catoctin, also 13-0, for the 1A state title, Saturday at noon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

The Mariners were sparked to a 14-0 halftime lead, capitalizing on two costly Allegany turnovers.

After both teams went three downs and out on their respective first drives, Allegany put together a short drive that moved into Joppatowne’s end of the field.

On third and 9, however, Drew O’Neal dropped back to pass for the first time.

O’Neal’s pass was picked off by Ernest Hawkins over the middle and, with a short return, gave the Mariners possession at their own 30.

The running game, led by running back Epe Henriques, produced a first down to the Mariners 45.

Two plays later the Mariners were facing a third and 5 from their own 49 when quarterback Dominic Harper kept the ball and raced 44 yards to the Allegany six.

Henriques then went for five yards on first down, before scoring from a yard out on the next play. Harper’s conversion pass went in and out of the hands of Tony Taylor, leaving the Mariners with a 6-0 lead with 11:36 to play in the half.

The Campers got their running attack going on the ensuing possession, with J.D. Hook and Dustin Wharton, two 1,000-yard rushers.

Hook did most of the damage that moved the ball to the Joppatowne 19, while Wharton had a 16-yard burst that moved the ball across midfield.

It was Wharton, though, who mishandled a pitch from O’Neal that swung the momentum back in the Mariners’ favor.

Wharton never had full control of the ball as he was heading left on a sweep. The ball bounced off his facemask and down to the ground, where senior linebacker Jake McGinnis scooped up the ball and headed the other direction.

McGinnis rambled 64 yards before getting dragged down at the Allegany 14.

Two plays later, a scrambling Harper lofted a high floating pass toward the back of the end zone, where a wide open Hawkins pulled in the 13-yard touchdown pass.

Harper then added the two-point conversion by run, boosting the Mariners to a 14-0 lead with 7:17 to play.

Back came Allegany to the Joppatowne 19 in five quick plays, but on play six, Steffen Bennett saw his lone carry of the game result in a lost fumble, the Campers’ third turnover in as many possessions.

“The turnovers helped us,” said Mariners head coach Bill Waibel. “Anytime you can go into halftime with that kind of lead, you’re happy.”

The Mariners looked as though they might add to their lead as Harper ran 18 and 13 yards on consecutive plays to get the ball across midfield.

Allegany’s Bennett, however, atoned for his fumble, intercepting a Harper pass.

The game went to the half without any further scoring, but Waibel wasn’t counting the Campers out. “I knew by no means was the game over at halftime,” Waibel said.

It took a couple possessions and nearly nine minutes off the clock, but Allegany made a game of it.

Hook found a hole and, 86 yards later, was in the end zone. John Carpenter’s kick cut the Mariners lead in half, 14-7, with 3:15 to play in the third quarter.

A short time later, the Campers were back in the end zone. Hook capped a seven-play, 60-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown run.

The extra point to tie the game was good, but Joppatowne was flagged for offsides and Allegany, after calling a timeout, elected to go for two.

Hook got the call, but Chris Wright, a junior linebacker, stopped Hook short of the goal line and the Mariners stayed ahead, 14-13, with 9:25 left in the contest.

“That was the biggest play of the game, stopping that two-point,” Waibel said. “They would have had more momentum.”

Joppatowne responded with a time-consuming drive that stalled at the Allegany 33.

The Campers went to work with a little more than four minutes to play. A manageable third and 4 became third and 9 after a motion penalty against the Campers. The down was an incomplete pass and on fourth and 9, Wright came up big for the Mariners again.

O’Neal’s pass to Wharton made just three yards as Wright came up to make the open field tackle.

“That kind of ended it right there,” Waibel said.

The Mariners needed just four plays to get Henriques into the end zone on a 15-yard scoring run.

Henriques, who gashed the Allegany defense for 157 yards and the two scores on 29 carries, did it on the 44 super power and the 48 toss sweep.

Henriques’ insurance score came with 1:40 to play.

The Campers’ last minute efforts resulted in three incomplete passes and a three-yard pass on fourth and 10.

“I think we did a pretty good job except on two plays,” Waibel said. “It’s been a enjoyable season.”

Harper added 117 yards on seven carries and completed one of three passes for 13 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Hook finished with 193 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while Wharton added 81 yards on 15 carries.

O’Neal completed two of nine passes for six yards.

McGinnis led the Mariners’ defense with 12 tackles, while Henriques added 10 and David Miller had six.

Joel Scott, the Mariners starting fullback and cornerback, left the game in the first half with a sprained ankle. Scott did not return.


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