Parkside high’s football team hasn’t been this good since 2008.
That was Brendan Riley’s first year as a head coach and the Rams had a winning streak of five straight games that year. They finished the regular season with an 8-2 record and earned a spot in the playoffs.
Against Colonel Richardson on Saturday, Sept. 25, the Rams put their perfect 3-0 record on the line and, despite some early mistakes, they improved to 4-0 with a resounding 72-36 win at Wicomico County Stadium.
A first glance at that score line would lead one to assume that this was an easy win for the Rams and that the Colonels (1-3) hardly put up a fight. But anyone who was at the cloudy contest in Salisbury would say that simply isn’t true.
“The offense was clicking at times, but I didn’t think we were as physical up front as we needed to be today,” said Colonels’ head coach Dan Mangum.
The Colonels jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the first quarter after a pair of rushing scores and an 84-yard kick return for a touchdown by A.J. Palmer. The senior offensive weapon would run back another kick return 96 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to get (special teams) fixed,” Riley said. “We’re going to watch some film and see what it is. It could be a personnel adjustment. I think our kids responded there with three or four touchbacks. (Colonel Richardson) just had a few where they got through.”
After being knocked back on their heels early, the Rams responded. Beginning with Tavon Downing’s goal line dive for a score late in the first quarter, Parkside scored 38 unanswered points to take a commanding third quarter lead at 44-21.
Downing had two touchdowns on the day and rushed for more than 68 yards on 14 carries. In total, the Rams ran for more than 400 yards and notched nine rushing touchdowns.
“Our offensive line showed up today and they were able to block extremely well,” Riley said. “We had six running backs score touchdowns today so we felt like we were able to diverse the ball today and get it out in space and really cause some problems for (Colonel Richardson) today.”
The momentum really turned in the Rams’ favor on a play late in the second quarter. It was fourth down with fourteen yards to go, but up by seven points, the Rams went for it anyways.
Quarterback Luke Pitsenbarger rolled out to his left, near the Colonels’ sideline, and looked to pass to Luke Gherig. As the pass sailed over Gherig’s head, falling incomplete, a Colonel defender made contact with Pitsenbarger and he fell.
It was a judgement call, really, but one referee saw it differently than the other officials and the coaches on the Colonels’ sideline.
A yellow flag landed on the field and roughing the passer was the call. The Rams got a fresh set of downs along with some free yards. On the next play, Trajon Branch took a handoff for 11 yards and a touchdown. The Rams led 36-21 at the half and the Colonels’ coaching staff was irate.
“Our guy was in pursuit and then (Pitsenbarger) fell down,” Mangum said. “He didn’t even touch the guy. It was a ridiculous call. That put (Parkside) in scoring position and they went up two scores. It’s just one of those things that didn’t go our way.”
The Rams would tack on a few more touchdowns before the Colonels could respond and when they finally did, Parkside followed it up with a play that would put a nail in the Colonels’ coffin. Teriq Bivens took a handoff early in the fourth quarter and, after breaking a few tackles, he raced towards the end zone. The 47 yard rush for a score pushed Parkside’s lead to three possessions and out of reach for Colonel Richardson.
Bivens finished the day with 66 yards on seven carries. Branch, who ran for 270 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ win against Wi-Hi a week ago, rushed for 124 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Colonels.
The Rams’ will look to match their 2008 win streak of five games next week when they travel to Centreville to face the Queen Anne’s County Lions (3-1).
“Queen Anne’s is a great program,” Riley said. “Basically what it’s going to boil down to is who is not going to make mental mistakes and who is going to be in a position to execute.”