MILLERSVILLE – Malik Pettaway enjoys talking before, during and after games.
It relaxes the Frederick Douglass High School wide receiver while dealing with tough situations on the field. However, it can backfire sometimes. After the conclusion of a play in the first quarter, defensive back Jaden Lambert connected a late hit on Pettaway after the two players were seen interacting before the snap.
“I told him ‘you’re a good corner, but you cannot check me,’” Pettaway said. “I am different.”
With less than three minutes to go before halftime on a fourth down situation, the 5-foot-9 Pettaway decided to let his play do the talking. He took an initial bump before outrunning Lambert for a 43-yard touchdown for Douglass. Quarterback Devin Harding does not mind the talk, as long as he scores.
“I like him to do the work first, then talk,” Harding said. “As long as he does the work, it is fine with me.”
Pettaway backed up his words, corralling nine catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns while Harding also started the season on the right note as Douglass shut out Old Mill 30-0 on Sept. 6.
The road win was an excellent way to kick off the Eagles season after making it to the state finals last year. It also provided an outlet to show how prepared his team is heading into this year, something that could not be seen during the preseason, according to Head Coach J.C. Pinkney.
“We were due for that,” Pinkney said. “Our preseason was a little rough and we were missing some key guys…but we had a good week of practice and we tightened up on everything. We know what we have talen but we just were not performing up to that standard in the preseason.”
Douglass ravaged the Old Mill offense throughout the game. In the Patriots’ opening drive, running back Caron Tull was stripped of the ball, causing a fumble that the Eagles recovered. The defense continued to limit its run game effectiveness, allowing Old Mill only 92 yards of total offense.
“We went over the film a lot on how they do their coverages and how they lined up,” junior Nazir Jones said. “We knew when they were going to do screens, and we knew they were going to do dives and we knew when they were going to boot out and throw the ball. So we were just in the library every day and all day before practice.”
While the defense limited the Patriots effectiveness, Douglass’ offense powered its way down the field on each drive but was unable to score until Pettaway’s second-quarter touchdown.
Senior running back Doug Lacey opened the third quarter with a 59-yard rush on their drive’s opening play. Four plays later, Jackson Jones completed the quick drive with a 1-yard touchdown.
Following a three-and-out by Old Mill, the Eagles responded with a second deep pass play between the duo of Harding and Pettaway for 63-yard catch-and-run for the third score of the evening.
“It is so much easier now that I have a year of experience,” Harding said. “Now, I just make my checks, see Malik and find the right reads to make that connection.”
Old Mill could not move the ball against the Eagles defense, surrendering two more three-and-out drives and finishing the game with only 37 passing yards.
In their first play of the fourth quarter on Douglass’ 22-yard line, Tull thought he found space between the Douglass defensive line for a huge gain. However, after another 8-yard gain, sophomore Tyree Newman wrapped his hands around the ball and snatched it out of Tull’s possession for the turnover.
“Our guys up front (on defense) are selfless,” Pinkney said. “They play grungy as we used three guys to occupy five (offensive linemen) and they do the grunt work while our linebackers and defensive backs get the glory. But it is those guys up front that make it happen.”
Douglass ran down the clock with an effective 13-play drive, lasting more than seven minutes ended with senior Zavier Price rushing for a 3-yard touchdown.
Even with the lopsided victory, Pinkney addressed his team to remind them that they have to take on Gwynn Park High School, who always provides a difficult matchup for the Eagles.
However, if they build off their intense performance, they will be a hard team to defeat come the playoffs.
“This is just excellent,” Pettaway said. “This is just one win on the road to states.”