- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
To put it into perspective, few, if any, of the kids on the current Leonardtown Raiders football roster were even born the last time the Leonardtown varsity football program defeated the Chopticon Braves, that coming in 1994, according to Chopticon Braves head coach Tony Lisanti.
And although few people can remember that win in 1994, many will remember the 44-21 victory that Leonardtown earned in 2012, that on Friday night at Chopticon.
A bevy of big plays for the Raiders, that included four touchdowns of 50 yards or more, allowed Leonardtown and head coach Mike Nines to turn the page of the history books.
“This is [my] best win,” Nines said. “I think it’s better than my first win. We haven’t had many [wins], I mean we had an overtime win last year at homecoming and that was really good, but this one is at the top. We’re trying to beat good teams and Chopticon is a good team.”
And as the Raiders rewrote the history books, its new page had many different authors in the forms of Raiders players.
Leonardtown quarterback Zac Sparshott found Cortez Bush for a 53-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game, giving the Raiders a 7-0 lead, and senior running back Stephen Stewart broke loose for a 76-yard rushing touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0 two possessions later.
“This is a great win for us,” Sparshott said. “The team did so well. Our defense killed it today, our offensive line killed it and everyone just performed great today. It’s been 20 years and we’ve kept hearing about it. Leonardtown hasn’t done anything in 20 years, but now, this is a good feeling.”
Stewart, a senior, led the way on the ground with 192 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts. He was smiling heavily after the contest.
“This is the biggest win I have had in a long time,” Stewart said. “This is the first time I have ever beat Chopticon, ever, and it feels amazing. I don’t even know how to explain it right now, I am just so happy.”
Junior Damien King penned his sentence in the history books when he answered a Chopticon touchdown late in the first quarter with a 73-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff and as the first quarter clock expired, taking the score to 21-7.
“I’m very excited,” said King, who also had two interceptions from his safety position. “It’s been a long time and our seniors really wanted this. We did this for them.”
After a second Chopticon touchdown, running back Brandon Dennee added to the big-play list and penned his section of the newly-written history book with his 62-yard rushing touchdown late in the first half, taking the lead to 28-13, and kicker Doug Baumann banged home a 24-yard field goal as the first-half clock expired, creating a 31-13 halftime lead.
After a scoreless third quarter and an exchange of touchdowns through the early stages of the fourth between the two teams, Bush returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 44-21 lead after the conversion attempt failed.
“This is a big win,” Bush said. “I think we did it all as a family. We have really improved over the years, became smarter, became more intense and we came out strong.”
Despite rain falling heavily throughout the second half, Nines was doused with Gatorade showers after the historic win. Leonardtown (3-2, 3-1 SMAC) won its third straight contest.
“I have been working with this group since I was an assistant coach through eighth-grade, ninth-grade and all the way up,” Nines said, “and I think tonight was just a culmination of them understanding what it takes in the offseason to win.”
Stewart also admitted that the offseason was key in a late-September win and noticed the difference in going against the Braves this season than in years past.
“We’ve had the same amount of talent, but we are a lot more focused this year,” Stewart said. “This past offseason was the hardest we have had in a long time. We were ready for this season and, this game, it’s Chopticon, that’s all that needed to be said.”
Chopticon (1-4, 1-2) had the game within one score after Kevin McVerry found Braxton Powell for a 28-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter.
McVerry accounted for all of the Chopticon touchdowns with identical one-yard touchdown runs in the second and fourth quarters.
“Well, we played pretty poorly and Leonardtown played better than us,” Lisanti said. “We’ve got a lot of issues right now, a lot of problem to fix and really simple things. I’d say our performance mirrored the [rainy] weather.”
As far as the historical perspective, Lisanti added on the game, “You have to understand we have not lost to them since 1994. In my career, it’s been a pretty rare thing. But Leonardtown was definitely prepared to turn the tide and we made far too many mistakes to be competitive with them tonight.”
Leonardtown will host Huntingtown at 6 p.m. Friday, while Chopticon travels to North Point for a 7 p.m. contest Friday.
Leonardtown 44, Chopticon 21
Leonardtown 21 10 0 13
Chopticon 7 6 0 8
L Bush 53 pass from Sparshott (Baumann kick), :15
L Stewart 76 run (Baumann kick), 7:09
C Powell 28 pass from McVerry (McVerry kick), 11:54
L King 73 kickoff return (Baumann kick), 12:00
C McVerry 1 run (pass failed), 2:23
L Dennee 62 run (Baumann kick), 9:34
L FG Baumann 24, 12:00
L Stewart 4 run (Baumann kick), 1:55
C McVerry 1 run (Kollar pass from McVerry), 3:35
L Bush 30 interception return (run failed), 6:00
L (7 first downs, 33-265 rushing, 67 passing, 5-1 fumbles, 5-49 penalties)
C (10 first downs, 32-117 rushing, 113 passing, 3-1 fumbles, 6-75 penalties)
Top individual performers
Rushing L: Stewart 26-192, Dennee 2-57; C: Taylor 5-55, Barber 20-49
Passing L: Sparshott 2-10-1 67; C: McVerry 10-24-4 104, Smith 1-1-0 9
Receiving L: Bush 2-67; C: Powell 2-28, Rhodes 2-22