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