Letting it fly
Panthers cruise to win over Cougars
During the 2015 season, Jael- en Gross was a quarterback on Patuxent’s state championship team. He opened the season as the starting quarterback and started the Class 2A state championship game, sharing quarterback duties with Reese Crounse.
This season Gross transi- tioned to receiver, where he has shown to be a dangerous weapon in the Panthers’ high-pow- ered attack, with 22 receptions for 427 yards and four touchdowns. But on Friday night at Thomas Stone, Gross found himself with an opportunity to air one out again.
Taking possession at the Stone 40-yard line with 4 seconds left in the first half, Patuxent made good use of its one play, running a double pass to perfection for a half-ending touchdown. Gross, split wide right, took the initial lateral from Crounse and then fired a strike down the field to Joel Torney for the score. The subsequent point-after by Hunt- er Dixon gave the Panthers a 30-0 lead on what ended as a 43-6 win in the Southern Mary- land Athletic Conference Ches- apeake Division contest, spoil- ing the Cougars’ senior night.
“We practice it in practice all the time, just to mess around, I guess,” Gross said of the play. “I never really thought we were going to take it out of the hat, but we did and it worked.”
Patuxent (8-1, 4-1 SMAC Chesapeake) had scored just 51 seconds earlier, when Crounse hooked up with Myron Young for a 32-yard touchdown. The Panthers had taken over on that series at their own 39 with 1 minute 38 seconds left in the half and needed just four plays and 47 seconds to put the ball in the end zone. The one-two punch at the half’s end took any remaining drama out of a game that had been just 7-0 at the end of a quarter.
“I’m really proud of the two-minute drill at the end of the first half. That was a clin- ic,” Patuxent head coach Steve Crounse said. “We work on it all the time, but we don’t real- ly get to use it. We don’t really have a big enough team to be a no-huddle team. We have guys going both ways, but in that sit- uation the kids did a great job. We popped a couple of runs and made some key throws. Then I was real happy that we got Jael- en on the double pass, let him let it rip a little bit.”
Prior to the pair of touchdown drives in the half’s final minute, Crounse had thrown touchdown passes to Young and Vonnie Watkins that, combined with a 25-yard Dixon field goal, had given the Panthers a 16-0 lead.
After Crounse and Young had hooked up for their sec- ond touchdown combination to increase the lead to 23-0, Stone (4-5, 3-3) started its next series at its own 40. With just 11 sec- onds showing as the Cougars faced fourth down, they went for it and turned the ball over on downs with :04 still on the clock, giving the Panthers one shot at the end zone which ended with Torney’s touchdown reception.
“We’ve worked on it in prac- tice. It was a beautifully execut- ed play,” Torney said. “Jaelen, I saw him step back, I jogged off the line fake and ran. I just knew that I had it. It was a beautifully thrown ball. It was a good way to cap off the half.”
The Panthers received the opening kickoff of the sec- ond half and marched straight downfield, with Tazman Da- vis scoring on a 19-yard run to push the game into a running clock situation.
Stone broke up the shut- out with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter when Jonathan Harris hooked up with Taejon Gray on a 38-yard touchdown pass. But the clock was not in run- ning motion for less than half a minute, as on the next play from scrimmage Josh Capra ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run to close the game’s scoring.
The night got off to a less-than-optimal start for the Panthers as they lost fullback Yanni Gardner to injury in the first quarter, But the team’s of- fense turned in a rather prolific performance, rolling up close to 500 yards, while the defense nearly pitched its third shutout of the season. Patuxent has allowed an opposing team to score in double digits just once through nine games.
“We had some adversity early when Yanni went down,” Steve Crounse said. “That’s a fullback and D-tackle. We don’t have anybody that’s really ready to step into that spot, so that takes us out of our whole personnel package and part of the game plan. We were running the ball well early until he got hurt . ... I’m happy with the defense. [Stone] still has some athletes that were a part of those playoff teams. They run hard and they popped a couple of runs. But again, our defense stood up, made a couple of adjustments and I’m really happy with the effort.”
Stone, which had defeated Patuxent in each of the previous two years, both years in which the Cougars reached the play- offs, will close its season at Hun- tingtown at 7 p.m. Friday versus a Hurricanes team that lost 35-7 to North Point in Week 9. Stone first-year head coach Danny Ripple was looking for his team to close out the season on a pos- itive note.
“I’m proud of our guys. I thought they played hard and they were engaged and they wanted to do well all night,” he said. “I think at times they did. We have to become more disciplined. I thought penalties were an issue for us tonight. It seemed like every time we were getting a little momentum a penalty would kind of stall our momentum. You can’t do that when you’re playing a defending state champion.
“We’re moving on from Patuxent already. We’re excited to work for four days and go over and give Huntingtown a game. We can build some momentum for the offseason and send the seniors off right.”
With the win at Stone, Patuxent secured its berth in the Class 2A South Region playoffs. The defending 2A state champions Panthers still could attain the region’s top seed depending on all of the Week 10 results. For their part, Patuxent will host Westlake at 7 p.m. Friday versus a Wolverines team that lost 21-14 to Calvert in Week 9.
“Westlake poses the same problems as [Stone],” Crounse said. “They always have some kids who can run. We’re going to have to execute. [Westlake quarterback Chad] Palmer, it’s his last game and I’m sure he’s going to try to light it up. He’s a dynamic kid we can’t let get out of the pocket. He’s a great high school football player.”