Queen Anne’s 28 — Kent County 8

CENTREVILLE — It’s not like Donny Graef to be counting wins, really at any time of the season, but a slow start to the campaign has had the longtime Queen Anne’s County High head football coach altering his perspective.

Friday night, in front of a festive homecoming crowd, the Lions took a small step toward getting back into the playoff picture, dominating visiting Kent County in a 28-8 victory.

Both teams are now 2-3, but while the Trojans are thick in the hunt of the bizarro world of the Class 1A East Region, Queen Anne’s is still on the 2A East periphery and will remain there without some help from teams ahead of them potentially beating on each other.

“We’re counting,” Graef said. “I’m not keeping check on how everybody else is doing, but we kind of figured we have to get five to get in. We hope to win every game. We’re going to do our best, try and compete.”

The Lions’ offense wasn’t particularly impressive against Kent County, but did more than enough, while the Trojans struggled mightily against Queen Anne’s defense.

Junior quarterback SyRus McGowan led the charge with 67 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns on the ground, while also going an efficient 8 of 12 passing for 81 yards. The Lions amassed 314 yards of total offense on 50 plays and led 21-0 by halftime. They were never really threatened despite leaving two goal-to-go possessions off the scoreboard.

“Even though we had a tough opponent in Kent County, and going in, their record was better than ours, so we knew we had to keep it true, handle our business,” McGowan said. “We know early that we put ourselves at a disadvantage (this season), so we were just going to come out here and ball out.”

Queen Anne’s wasted little time getting on the board, capping an opening drive lasting a shade under three minutes with a 5-yard McGowan TD carry, the possession kept alive by some strong running by senior Xavior Jones and junior fullback Gene Trice (team-high 74 yards rushing). It was 14-0 midway through the second quarter, senior back Devrin Turner cleaning up a drive spanning nearly seven game minutes by nudging into the end zone on a 4-yard carry.

Three Kent County penalties during the drive — 10 in all — kept the chains moving for Queen Anne’s, including a horse-collar tackle when senior Gavin Jens was brought down from behind on a carry.

McGowan added a 1-yard TD right before halftime, taking advantage of a lost fumble by junior Kent QB Thomas Goldsborough. McGowan hit Jens for a 35-yard pass to eat up most of the yards before the sneak. Junior Garrhett Richardson was 4 for 4 on point-after touchdowns.

“It was a good game plan,” Graef said. “Coach Moore here (longtime offensive coordinator Andy Moore), we had four possessions in the first half, scored on three of them, we were moving the ball well.”

The chemistry between the players and a little more attention to the finer details led to a near 180 from last week’s drubbing at the hands of Parkside, when the players apparently turned on each other. Graef said the coaching staff let the athletes sort it out.

“We were just playing together,” McGowan said of the team’s mindset in the two wins. “When we’re playing together, we’re a whole different team, so, when we play together, it’s going to be like that every single night. If we start bickering and let everything else get to us, then it’s going to be like Parkside.”

Added sophomore defensive lineman Peyton Gestole: “I think, seeing what we can do out here when we do work together — last week we did end up arguing and bickering and everything — now that we can see what we can do, I think we’re going to have more confidence going into other games. That’s going to make us more successful.”

Queen Anne’s defense, meanwhile, was in complete lockdown mode.

The Trojans were limited to 146 yards total offense, only 1 of it in the air, and 68 of it coming on a late burst from junior running back Tylante Wilson (6-86). That drive ended with the Trojans’ only score, a 7-yard carry by junior fullback Will Ashmore. The Lions were up 28-0 by that point, Trice adding a 10-yard run to paydirt to cap his team’s scoring.

“Coming in, we just knew that we had to do our jobs,” Gestole said. “We couldn’t focus on making every play, got to work together as a team instead of doing it for ourselves. It comes a lot easier when you work together as team.

“I think everybody was doing their jobs, getting downhill, and pushing everybody back,” Gestole added. “Every play, I saw the (Kent) offensive linemen about two or three yards back, so, everybody got their rotation. Whenever we got up, the momentum was up, too. Everybody was cheering for us. We had the stands full, we had the whole sidewalk full, everything was going well.

“Best student section on the Shore,” McGowan chimed in, Gestole agreeing.

The Lions travel to 5-0 North Caroline this Friday, while Kent County hosts Colonel Richardson.

“When you’re losing, and you’re getting beat pretty bad like we were last week, there are some kids who, maybe not point fingers at each other, but there will be some negative comments,” Graef said. “It looks now like everybody is giving 100 percent on every play.

“When you win, it’s the opposite,” Graef added. “Everybody is patting each other on the back, leaves a good taste in your mouth. Just a loss works and a win works. There’s nothing scientific about it.”

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