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Football: Frederick unable to pull off upset in Class 3A playoffs

Bold play, defense help Golden Eagles battle at Lutheran

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PARKER — Knowing how the Frederick football team has operated all season under first-year head coach Matt Loyd, the decision to be bold if the game called for it was never in doubt.

That was the case in the Class 3A state quarterfinals Saturday at Lutheran High School as the No. 11 seed Golden Eagles were looking for an upset against a high-powered Lutheran squad, which held the No. 3 seed.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, sophomore quarterback Gavin Ishmael scored on a 1-yard sneak the previous play to bring the game within one point at 7-6. Frederick went for a 2-point conversion but missed.

Lutheran needed a late push, but scored twice late to seal the game in a 21-6 win to reach its second successive semifinal appearance.

“We want to try and score as many points as possible, and I learned from my mom a long time ago that two was more than one and that’s what we were gonna go with,” Loyd said after the game. “I get it, zero’s not more than one either, but the kids know that we believe in them. We had a good play called, but we still had opportunities elsewhere.”

Those opportunities arose early and often from a strong effort on defense. The Golden Eagles (8-4) got after it in the first quarter with an early block on a field goal attempt, and in the second quarter, senior cornerback and wide receiver Lafai Purcell intercepted a pass on another Lutheran drive.

“Our team, I love the way we played and I don’t think I’ve ever seen our team play that hard on both sides of the ball,” Purcell said. “We just came across a little short. These coaches teach us some schemes that no one else can; I’m excited for the program.”

Lutheran, a team which had averaged a staggering 51.8 points per game across its last six, was uncharacteristically stifled and had plenty of penalties which stalled drives.

While the team created 225 yards of total offense in the first half, the only difference at halftime came as a result of a 41-yard touchdown reception as backup quarterback Chace Sorensen found Joe Ciccio midway through the first quarter.

Ishmael knew there was plenty of football left.

“To see the defense came out and keep up with a team that is notoriously known for offense, it was amazing,” Ishmael said. “I threw a pick on the third play of the game, so I knew I had to come out and just do my thing. The defense really got us energized today.”

In the second half, both teams attempted to be methodical and move the ball steadily, as the third quarter had a total of two drives between the teams. Frederick, however, was undaunted.

Following a defensive stop, the Golden Eagles found their mojo. Ishmael mounted a 16-play drive and converted two fourth-downs in the process, while River Lakey also had a few strong runs. Frederick ate up the remaining 7:40 of the third quarter. Ishmael scored the next play to set up a frantic fourth-quarter finish.

The Golden Eagles played risky football again to their advantage as they recovered an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff. That drive however, stalled. Lutheran then marched down the field and running back Ryan Kenny scored to extend the lead to 14-6 with 4:00 left.

Frederick had a few final chances, but Lutheran’s defense locked in on Purcell on two must-convert plays and would seal the win with Kenny’s final score with 3:22 left to make it 21-6.

Lutheran head coach Stephen Robbins knew Saturday would be a fight to the finish.

“We knew they were tough and thought they should have been a higher seed if not for their late loss,” Robbins said. “We knew they were gonna be battling and figured it was gonna be like that. We’ve had some key injuries and guys out sick, so I’m proud of our guys who stepped up.”

Being bold was certainly a theme that Loyd wants to take into his first full off-season in charge of the program. Even with losing 16 seniors, the group that will be returning next season will look to be true contenders in 3A.

“I’m looking forward to the time I didn’t have with the guys in the off-season and we’re going to get after it,” Loyd said. “I promise you that.”

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