Wicomico 35 — Queen Anne’s 13

SALISBURY — Speed.

Queen Anne’s County High’s football team learned it’s a lot different during the regular season than in preseason scrimmages and workouts.

Wicomico quarterback Andre Matthews showed his speed and shiftiness Friday night, running for two touchdowns, passing for one, and returning an interception 51 yards for a fourth score, as the Indians pulled away for a 35-13 season-opening victory over the Lions at Wicomico County Stadium’s Charlie Berry Field.

“I felt good at 14-7,” Queen Anne’s head coach Donny Graef said of the Lions’ halftime deficit. “I thought at some point we’d get the ball moving, but we just never did.”

Queen Anne’s installed a new option package this preseason, giving junior quarterback SyRus McGowan multiple choices on each play. But the Lions struggled to put any sustained drives together against Wi-Hi, and didn’t score a touchdown offensively until Gavin Jens crossed the goal line on an 8-yard run on the game’s final play.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Graef said of getting accustomed to the new offense. “We’re putting a lot on SyRus’ back. He’s got a couple of options on each play, and it looks good when we run it against air. But come out here and you’re playing Wi-Hi, and those guys are 100 miles an hour, it’s a whole different story.

“I think it took us at least the first half, really the whole game, we never really caught up with that game speed,” Graef added. “We had two scrimmages, but neither one of the teams we scrimmaged was anything like that. The scrimmages were very easy for us, and I think it was a slower paced typed thing as far as our opponents in the scrimmages. And now all of sudden. ... The kids just have to understand it. I mean we try to mimic it (game speed) in practice, but it isn’t happening.”

McGowan carried 12 times for 7 yards, getting dropped behind the line of scrimmage six times. He wasn’t afforded much throwing time either, completing 9 of 24 attempts for 94 yards and three interceptions, including Matthew’s 51-yard return that gave the Indians a 35-7 cushion in the fourth quarter.

“He didn’t have a lot of time,” Graef said of McGowan in the pocket. “Like I said, maybe it was just that game speed. I don’t think the offensive line was ready for those guys coming off the edges like that either. We practice and everything is about half speed you know; three-quarters speed. It was an eye-opener for them and hopefully we’ll be better next week.”

Graef also hopes his team works on its emotional game heading into next week. Though Matthews’ 1-yard touchdown run — and Jacob Harbinson’s point-after kick — gave Wicomico a 7-0 lead with 6 minutes, 42 seconds left in the second quarter, Queen Anne’s pulled even when Louis Guarnera rumbled 62 yards with a fumble return for a touchdown with 2:21 left in the first half. Garrhett Richardson’s extra-point boot made it 7-7.

Wicomico returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, but an illegal block in the back negated the score. On the next play from scrimmage, Stephaun Harris (6 carries, game-high 96 yards) swept right and bolted 66 yards for a touchdown, a 14-7 halftime lead, and a jolt Queen Anne’s never seemed to recover from.

“Defense I thought played really well first half,” Graef said. “Little concerning, we were down only 14-7, but the whole atmosphere at halftime was just down. Really flat. Talked to the kids and they just thought some of the negative plays, and not moving the ball on offense, they thought that got to them. So it was interesting to hear them talk and get their perspective.”

Wicomico stretched its lead to 21-7 with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter, when Matthews patiently waited for an opening, picked his spot, then darted 10 yards for a touchdown. That lead was increased to 28-7 with 7:25 left as Matthews hit Joshua Shockley with a 7-yard scoring strike across the middle.

Matthews carried 11 times for 93 yards, and completed 8 of 16 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Wicomico finished with 277 yards rushing.

Queen Anne’s totaled 83 yards rushing, led by Gene Trice, who carried six times for 35 yards.

“Things didn’t work out tonight,” Graef said.

Follow me on Twitter @Bill_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@stardem.com

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