Fa­mil­iar faces

County ri­vals Calvert, Patux­ent set to play for re­gional foot­ball crown

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @cfh­philly

Head­ing into the sec­ond week of the high school foot­ball play­off sea­son, just two South­ern Mary- land Ath­letic Con­fer­ence teams are still play­ing. It just so hap­pens that they both are from Calvert County, and both are com­pet­ing for the Class 2A South Re­gion cham- pi­o­nship and a spot in the state semi­fi­nals.

Tonight at 7, Calvert will play at Patux­ent in the post­sea­son for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive sea­son.

A year ago, the teams met at Patux­ent in the open­ing round of the play­offs with the Pan­thers com­ing out on the right side of a 9-7 de­ci­sion. Patux­ent pro­ceeded to win three more games to claim the pro­gram’s first state cham­pi­onship, and just the sec­ond state foot­ball ti­tle in county his­tory. Calvert brought home the first in 2000. Tonight, one of the two teams moves a step closer to hav­ing a chance to add an­other to the list.

“It’s def­i­nitely ex­cit­ing,” Calvert head coach Rick Sneade said. “Right now, not only are we the only two teams from SMAC, we’re both from Calvert County. That says a lot about kids down south in Calvert County and how good and how hard they play. It’s go­ing to be kind of neat. There’s no other show in town other than the one down in Lusby this week­end.”

Calvert (10-1 over­all), the re­gion’s No. 2 seed, de­feated Prince Ge­orge’s County’s Gwynn Park 42-28 a week ago to earn its spot in the re­gion fi- nal. The Cava­liers have won five straight games af­ter its only mis­step of the sea­son, a 23-8 loss to Patux­ent (10-1) on Oct. 8. The Pan­thers are on a six-game roll, hav­ing lost only a 3-0 de­ci­sion to Lackey on Sept. 30. The de­fend­ing 2A state cham­pi­ons avenged that loss in their play­off opener a week ago, de­feat­ing the Charg­ers 28-14.

The re­sults set up a sec­ond meet­ing be­tween the county ri­vals for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year. A year ago, Calvert de- feated Patux­ent 21-7 in the reg­u­lar sea­son be­fore fall­ing in the post­sea­son. This year Patux­ent will look to avoid split­ting the con­fronta­tions.

“Ob­vi­ously, they’re phys­i­cal and come off the ball,” Patux­ent head coach Steve Crounse said of the chal­lenge his team faces. “They’re tremen­dously coached. It’s like play­ing against your cousins. It’s the same story ev­ery time. They have dy­namic ath­letes, we have dy­namic ath­letes. It’s go­ing to be a war. Hat’s off to Calvert and Patux­ent, at the lit­tle small end of the peninsu- la, putting out some pretty good foot­ball teams lately. I think it’s fit­ting that the two of us are go­ing to get a chance to move on.”

The Cava­liers have chewed up over 2,600 yards on the ground this sea­son, with Shamar Gray top­ping 1,000 to lead the way. Quar­ter­back Jack Lan­ham has ex­ceeded 700 yards rush­ing, while Levi Brick­ner en­ters tonight’s game with over 650. Lan­ham has also com­pleted 41 of 77 passes this sea­son for an­other 614 yards, while Calvert’s de­fense has sur- ren­dered just 119 points through 11 games and shut out three op­po­nents.

On the other side, Patux­ent has al­lowed just 87 points on the sea­son, hav­ing al­lowed its op­po­nents to score in dou­ble fig­ures just three times. Of­fen­sively, the Pan­thers have been ex­tremely bal- an­ced through 11 weeks, hav­ing gained 2,171 yards on the ground and 2,110 through the air. Quar- ter­back Reese Crounse has com­pleted over 60 per­cent of his passes and thrown 23 touch­down passes, while Taz­man Davis has led the rush­ing at­tack with 828 yards.

“You’re play­ing down there in their en­v­i­ron- ment which is al­ways a chal­lenge,” Sneade said of what awaits his team. “They have a great com- mu­nity and sup­port with their fan base. That’s a chal­lenge in it­self. But then they have some great play­ers. Reese has just been a re­ally great as- set to their pro­gram. He’s done a great job with his lead­er­ship. Not only does he do a great job throw­ing and run­ning the ball, but his en­thu­si­asm and com- pe­t­i­tive­ness is top-notch. Then you’ve got Jae­len [Gross] and Von­nie [Wat- kins], and those two kids can make some se­ri­ous plays. The line is obvi- ously as good as it’s ever been. They coach those kids up well.”

In Calvert’s win over Patux­ent in the 2015 sea- son, the Cava­liers con­trolled the ball for vir­tu­ally the en­tire first three quar­ters. Sneade thinks it will take a sim­i­lar type of per­for­mance for his team to earn its first state semi­fi­nal spot since 2002.

“We have to go out there and play great de­fense,” he said. “Hope­fully we can go just go out there and bend, bend, bend and don’t break, make them work the whole field. We know that they’re proba- bly go­ing to score a cou­ple. That’s what they do. When you’re in the play- offs you’re play­ing teams that are pretty good, so you have to count on that.

“Of­fen­sively, we have to con­trol the clock and con­trol the ball as much as pos­si­ble, elim­i­nate mis­takes. We can’t turn the ball over and hope­fully we can get a cou­ple turnovers. I think that could be the dif­fer­ence in the game, who can pro­tect the ball bet­ter.”

Re­gard­less, one Calvert County pro­gram is as­sured of a spot in the 2A state semi­fi­nals, which is ex­cit­ing in and of it­self.

“They’re ex­cited, they’ve been there be­fore. We’re ex­cited to play our sec­ond play­off game of the 2016 sea­son,” Sneade said. “There’s not a whole lot more to say about it. Every­body is so stoked.”

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