Lackey football takes giant step with win over Patuxent
Chargers are a field goal better than Panthers
Malik Burns took the handoff and ran straight into the pile. The Lackey senior could have gone down after just a short gain, as had been the general rule on the rainsoaked field at Patuxent on Friday night, but he didn’t.
Burns kept his legs churning, turning a short gain into a first down and eventually into a 26-yard run, easily the longest play for either team in the critical Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division football contest.
While the first-down run, which originated from the Patuxent 39-yard line with 2 minutes 17 seconds left in the game, did not end with six points or guarantee the hosts would not get the ball back, it did effectively put one final stamp on a significant night for the visiting Chargers, who defeated Patuxent 3-0.
“That was our game plan,” Lackey head coach John Lush said of riding his senior running back, who carried the ball 42 times for 165 yards in the game, essentially accounting for all of the team’s offense. “They have a lot of big-play potential. We thought if we could take some snaps away from them, we’d be better off in the end. They all bought into the game plan and he just kept running his legs and running his legs.”
The pile-moving run advanced the ball to the Patuxent 13. Lackey (4-1, 2-0 Chesapeake) eventually turned the ball over on downs at the 7 with just over half a minute to play. But with no timeouts left and having been unable to get much of anything going consistently on offense, Patuxent (41, 1-1) never threatened to author a dramatic finish. After a 7-yard run by Tazman Davis on first down, two incomplete passes and a sack later, the ball was back in Lackey’s hands for one kneeldown and a huge victory.
“It’s a great team win,” Lush said. “All year our offense has played really, really well. Defensively, we’ve had a bend but don’t break mentality. Our DBs haven’t played very well all year. We knew we had a big challenge this week. They answered the call and took a step forward.”
Entering the game, Patuxent quarterback Reese Crounse had passed for close to 1,000 yards through four games to lead an explosive multi-dimensional attack that had rolled up 166 points. But in the tough, soggy conditions on Friday night, the Panthers had just three complete passes and gained less than 100 yards of total offense.
We watched film, and this week made progress,” Lackey cornerback Jordan Carter said. “We had to key on key players and lock them down like we did tonight.”
In the first quarter, a 13yard run by Crounse, followed by a Dwayne Smith rush and a Crounse completion to Myron Young earned the Panthers two quick first downs on their first possession. But, with the ball sitting across midfield on the Lackey 49, the Panthers quickly moved backwards with a pair of penalties and a sack. It turned out to be a theme, as the hosts moved the ball in small chunks at times, but were never able to drive deep into Lackey territory.
As it turned out, the only points the Panthers’ offense was able to contribute to were the three that Lackey scored. A fumble deep in their own territory was recovered by Lackey’s Nathan Proctor at the Patuxent 22. Two plays later, a 12-yard Burns rush took the ball down to the 11 and well into comfortable field goal range. Brett Culhane later converted his 24-yard attempt with 6:12 remaining in the first half to account for what ended up being the game’s only points.
“Everyone was doing their job. I don’t necessarily need to score every play to do my job, to do my best for the team. The defense did their thing. I give it out to the defense tonight,” Burns said. “This is a big win. Everybody doubted us and they have doubted us since Day 1, for years. It’s great to say we overcame it. It’s progress.”
Aside from the field goal, Patuxent’s defense stood every bit as firm as Lackey’s. On the losing end of the field position battle much of the night, the Panthers were even able to fend off a Lackey first-and-goal sequence from the 1. But ultimately the hosts were never able to kick their offense into gear on Friday.
“We challenged our kids to get tough. This was really our first physical test of the year. Lackey, I think is one of the most big, strong and physical teams in the league. We challenged our kids and I thought that they stood up. Our defense really held Burns in check and didn’t really let them get going,” Patuxent head coach Steve Crounse said. “A night like this turns into a field position game, and you get towards the end of the game and you have to start taking some shots and they weren’t working out for us.
“I’m proud of my kids. They fought. Hat’s off to Lackey. They did what they had to do to win the game. Defensively they pose a lot of problems. They have a lot of great athletes running around out there and they put a lot of pressure on you. It’s going to make us a better football team.”
Patuxent is scheduled to travel to Calvert in another critical matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Cavaliers went to 5-0 overall after a 36-12 win over Leonardtown on Monday night.
The Cavaliers and Panthers split two meetings a year ago, with Calvert defeating Patuxent in the regular season and Patuxent winning the regional semifinal round of the Class 2A South playoffs. Patuxent proceeded to win three more games and the state championship. This year, the teams, along with Lackey, are again jockeying for position for a spot in the crowded four-team regional playoff field.
“The whole season for us comes down to these two weeks,” Crounse said. “Calvert’s a rivalry game. They’re explosive. They’re well-coached. They come off the football and are one of the most physical teams in the league. It’s going to be a test for us to get up off the mat and come back, see how resilient our kids are.”
On the other sideline, Lackey’s win put it squarely in the midst of that race for the playoffs. The Chargers are scheduled to host Westlake, another 4-1 team in the 2A South Region, on Friday night in another critical game. The Wolverines shut out McDonough on Saturday, 30-0. Lush was looking for his team to take another step forward after taking a huge step at Patuxent.
“We always talk about taking the next step as a program. We definitely took a step tonight,’ he said, “but make no mistake, [Patuxent is] going to make the playoffs. We hope to make the playoffs, so we probably have a chance to see them again.”
Lackey’s Brett Culhane prepares to kick a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter of the Chargers’ game at Patuxent on Friday night. The kick was good and accounted for the game’s only points in Lackey’s 3-0 win.
Lackey’s Nathan Proctor recovers a Patuxent fumble deep in Patuxent territory to set up a Chargers’ field goal in Lackey’s 3-0 win at Patuxent on Friday night.