The 2011 season was a large stepping stone for Digital Harbor’s football program.
Though it ended in a 36-6 loss at North Harford in the regional semifinal round of the state playoffs, a foundation was set for seasons to come.
“It’s been one hell of a ride,” Digital Harbor coach Keith Rudolph said. “It’s amazing we’re even here. From 1-9 to 7-4, we have something to look forward to.”
The Rams only had one win in 2010 and were blown out in most of those losses. This season, they improved to the point that they were competitive in every game. Even in the loss to North Harford, the Rams were down only 14-6 heading into the fourth quarter.At that point, North Harford’s size, strength and stamina wore down the Rams. The next step for Digital Harbor, Rudolph said, is to hit the gym when it’s time.
“This team right here, they beat us from January to June,” Rudolph said. “We’ve got to get in that weight room. We’re very small as a team. We were skilled. But we need to get in the weight room and really take the offseason seriously.”
North Harford got out to a fast start against the Rams, moving the ball with its option running game on its first possession. It ended with Hawks running back Eric Bayer scoring a 2-yard touchdown run. The Hawks forced a punt and scored another touchdown when Bayer scampered for a 41-yard score.
Despite being down two touchdowns early, the Rams hung tough. The defense clamped down on North Harford’s running game in the second quarter and didn’t allow any big plays. As the half was winding down, the Rams’ defense came up with a big play when linebacker Sean King flew past North Harford’s offensive line to sack quarterback Ryan Stinar and force a fumble. Linebacker Shaquille Lucas flew to the ball and recovered it, setting up Digital Harbor deep in North Harford’s territory.
The Rams converted the turnover into points as quarterback Marvin Johnson tossed a touchdown pass to cut North Harford’s lead to 14-6 before the half.
When the third quarter opened, Digital Harbor kept its momentum going as running back Marquis Walker ran back the kickoff to North Harford’s 17 yard line. But two plays later, Johnson threw a pass to Walker that was dropped, but ruled a backwards pass. A North Harford defender jumped on the ball and possession was awarded to the Hawks.
The Rams were able to force a punt, which cornerback Tyrone Williams blocked, giving Digital Harbor the ball back at North Harford’s 19 yard line. But an overthrown pass by Johnson turned into an interception, ending Digital Harbor’s chance to tie the game.
“We have to go back to the drawing board, get this offense together, continue our defensive excellence and come back out here and fight this 3A,” Rudolph said.
From there, North Harford took over the game. The Hawks reeled off 22 unanswered points in the final period to move on to the next round to face Aberdeen, a team they beat 38-12 earlier this season.
While the Rams were disappointed in losing, there’s a lot to be said about turning around a team that not many people outside of the school thought had a chance at making the playoffs before the season began.
“We’re getting a lot of support in the school,” Rudolph said. “We have a lot of kids that not only want to come to Digital but a lot of kids within the school that were hesitant want to come out and play. We should have a huge turnout so we can build this program, get solid and have some players.”
by Jason Butt