Football teams eliminated in playoffs
Football team eliminated by Patuxent in 2A South semis
They may still be the defending Class 2A state football champions, but as the Patuxent Panthers took the field for Friday night’s 2A South Region semifinal against the visiting Lackey Chargers there was no getting around one simple fact: Lackey shut out the Panthers when they met in the regular season.
Patuxent made sure that result was not duplicated, scoring on its first posses- sion and ultimately cruising to a 28-14 win.
The Panthers (10-1 overall) advanced to their fourth straight regional final. They will host county rival Calvert at 7 p.m. Friday with a spot in the state semifinals on the line. Patuxent defeated the Cavaliers 23-8 when the teams met on Oct. 8, while the rivals split a pair of meetings last year, with the Panthers taking a 9-7 playoff decision on the way to the state champi- onship.
Against Lackey, Patux- ent knew exactly what it was up against and was determined to avenge its only loss of the season, that a 3-0 shortcoming on a soggy Sept. 30 night.
“During practice we were very intense, very serious,” Patuxent’s Vonnie Watkins said. “We came in knowing what we had to do and we just got it done.”
That started with an ear- ly defensive stand for the Panthers.
Lackey (8-3) took the game’s opening kick and quickly moved down to the Patuxent 33-yard line. But on a fourth downand-3 play, the Panthers stopped Lackey’s Malik Burns, who surpassed the 2,000-yard plateau in the regular season, a yard short of a first down. Patuxent then got to work immediately on offense.
Tazman Davis rushed for 12 yards on the Pan- thers’ first play, setting the tone for what was to come. Nine plays later, Davis took the ball into the end zone on a 6-yard rush to end the hosts’ scoreless streak against the Chargers with 4 min- utes 36 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
“We definitely wanted to fix the mistakes we had last time. We turned the ball over a lot last time, and our offensive line stepped up really big tonight,” Patuxent quar- terback Reese Crounse said. “It definitely was [important to score ear- ly] because we didn’t score last time. That first touchdown was definitely a sigh of relief. We proved we could score.”
Lackey took the lead midway through the sec- ond quarter when Burns bulldozed his way across the goal line from five yards out to cap a 79-yard drive. The touchdown had been set up by a 69yard rush by Burns. Brett Culhane’s successful ex- tra point put the Chargers up 7-6. Unfortunately for them, the lead was shortlived.
Taking over at their own 41 to start the en- suing possession, the Panthers needed just six plays to jump back in front. Crounse scored on a 6-yard rush, while Hunt- er Youngblood booted through the extra point to give the hosts a 13-7 lead, which they took to the half.
Receiving the sec- ond-half kickoff, Patux- ent quickly added to its lead in the third quarter. Crounse hooked up with Watkins on a screen pass that turned into a 61-yard play, moving the Panthers into the red zone. After the next three plays yielded nothing, the tandem again hooked up for a 14yard gain to convert on fourth down.
Two plays later, Crounse scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard rush. The Panthers then con- verted a two-point conver- sion pass, with Joel Tor- ney on the receiving end, to run the lead out to 21-7.
Reyquon Holland added a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter for Patuxent to increase the lead to 28-7. Lackey followed with a quick touchdown, as Burns scored one final touchdown on the ground with 40 sec- onds left to close the final gap to 28-14.
Burns finished the night with 195 yards on the ground and, also tak- ing snaps through much of the game, picked up 63 yards passing on three completions. But the Chargers did not have enough to find a way past Patuxent on Friday night.
“We thought we could do some different things offensively and I thought we did it,” Lackey head coach John Lush said. “A couple of times we didn’t capitalize, but defensively we just couldn’t get off the field. That was two weeks in a row and, honestly, they took it to us physi- cally. If you can’t get off the field, it’s going to be a long night.”
Patuxent rolled up 19 first downs on Friday, rushing for close to 250 yards while also exceeding 150 through the air. That added up to an open- ing-round elimination for Lackey.
“Everybody is going to be unhappy other than one team in the state, when it’s all said and done. Our number was called this weekend,” Lush said. “It’s a tough place to play, coming down here. [Patuxent head coach Steve] Crounse does a great job and has a great program. But these seniors, where they were as freshmen to where they are now, there was incredible growth on the field and off the field. We had a lot of accolades for a lot of these kids that they didn’t see coming. They’ll be able to look back on it in a few weeks and appreciate it.”
Reese Crounse rushed for over 100 yards and completed 9 of 17 passes for 155. Watkins was on the receiving end of five of those completions, those going for 114 yards. Da- vis triggered the offense early, and finished with 81 yards on 15 carries.
“The game plan was to try to keep it balanced, so we were pretty much on pace,” Steve Crounse said. “The big thing is Tazman did a great job of run- ning the ball, getting us 5-yard runs, 6-yard runs, keeping us on schedule. We were on schedule all night. We had a false start in the beginning and that’s what we were really harping on all week. The last game it was false start, behind the sticks. Taz kept us on schedule so that our passing game was more effective. They have to play both.
“I thought Reese did a great job of managing the game. He ran the ball hard when he needed to. He’s not a breakaway kid, but he’s going to give you the physical run. But Tazman is was pretty much the catalyst on offense as far as getting those runs and keeping us on schedule. The offensive line did a great job, way more physical than they’ve been. That was kind of a point of emphasis for us this week.”
Defeating Lackey gave Patuxent the chance to play for the region crown for the fourth straight year. The Panthers won the region two of those years, winning the state championship last year while finishing as the state runner-up in 2013. In 2014 the team lost to Prince George’s County’s Douglass, which went on to win the state title. Finding redemption against Lackey was the first step of what the Panthers hope is another lengthy postseason run.
“Lackey is a tremendous team, and Burns is — he’s so much faster than people think,” Steve Crounse said. “They’ve done a great job all year and they did a great job game planning for this game. They had some wrinkles they haven’t shown all year. That’s what playoff football is all about.”
Patuxent’s Vonnie Watkins, left, tries to slow down Lackey’s Malik Burns while Patuxent’s Reyquon Holland waits to try to get in on the tackle during the teams’ 2A South playoff game at Patuxent on Friday night. Patuxent won 28-14.