The Urbana High School football team took full advantage of its second chance Friday night against Gov. Thomas Johnson, using a late game-winning touchdown reception from senior Brendan Wharton to secure a 20-13 victory and improve to 3-2 on the season.
Down 13-12 with just over 3 minutes left in the game, Urbana running back Kevin Bettis lost a fumble on the Patriots’ 10-yard line on second down and 2 yards to go. After the Hawks’ defense forced a quick Patriot three-and-out, Urbana found itself deep in Thomas Johnson’s territory once again, this time on the 18-yard line because of a solid punt return from Darren Ambush.
Catching the Patriot defense off guard, Bettis ran the ball for 7 yards on a trap play, setting up receiver Wharton’s game-winning play with just over a minute remaining.
“After the first hurry-up play, we got right back to the line of scrimmage and I ran a hitch route,” Wharton said. “I caught the ball, made the cornerback miss, then took on the safety. I knew I wasn’t going to be stopped — I had to punch it in there.”
Quarterback Donovan Parnell stayed calm in the pocket, knowing the game was far from over when he took over with a about a minute remaining.
“We don‘t let ourselves get down,” said Parnell, referring to the earlier drive. “We knew we had to keep our heads up until the final whistle blew. Brendan and I have practiced that play on workouts and seven-on-sevens all summer. He’s a play maker.”
Wharton then capped off the impressive drive by leaping up and acrobatically catching a high lob pass from Parnell in the corner of the end zone on the two-point conversion.
“We put the game in the hands of our seniors late in the game,” Urbana coach Ryan Hines said. “They stepped up big when they needed to and won it at the end for us.”
Urbana’s aggressive defense also stepped up in the second half, allowing no points while making things very difficult for Thomas Johnson’s star running back Richy Anderson. After scoring two touchdowns in the first half, including a 19-yard run in the first quarter, Anderson was limited to only 22 yards on 10 carries after halftime.
After taking awhile to get going, the Hawks’ offense got going midway through the second quarter when Parnell found receiver Patrick Coffey for a 73-yard catch on third and 22. Coffey caught the pass around midfield and never looked back, taking it the rest of the way into the end zone and giving Urbana its first points of the game.
“It was the first touchdown of the year, so that was a good feeling,” Coffey said. “It kind of sparked the entire offense and we just took it from there.”
Thomas Johnson (2-3) now has lost two in a row, partly because of turnovers and penalties. The schedule does not get any easier for the Patriots, facing Walkersville and Middletown in their next two games.
“We’re not a very good team right now,” Patriot's coach Ben Wright sid. “It’s bad coaching on my part.”
Thomas Johnson 13, Urbana 20
Thomas Johnson (2-3) 7 6 0 0 — 13
Urbana (3-2) 0 6 6 8 — 20
TJ — Richy Anderson 19 run (Chris Sloan kick)
U — Patrick Coffey 73 pass from Donovan Pannell (Cole Burdette kick no good)
TJ — Richy Anderson 4 pass from Heath Dahlgren (two-point conversion no good)
U — Kevin Bettis 3 run (two-point conversion no good)
U — Brendan Wharton 11 pass from Donovan Pannell (two-point conversion good)
Thomas Johnson — Richy Anderson 18-56; Dallas Bowens 3-11; Kadeem Gill 3-0; Josh McClain 2-0; Heath Dahlgren 3-22; Nick Sponyoe 1-3
Urbana — Michael Dunn 9-55; Brandon Plante 5-58; Darren Ambush 3-34; Donovan Pannell 5-5; Kevin Bettis 9-46
Thomas Johnson — Heath Dahlgren 6-10-42-1
Urbana — Donovan Pannell 4-7-95-0
Thomas Johnson — Richy Anderson 2-8; Will Copeland 2-24; Josh McClain 1-5; Dallas Bowens 1-5
Urbana — Darren Ambush 2-11; Patrick Coffey 1-73; Brendan Wharton 1-11