Leonardtown football knocks off Panthers on senior night, ends season with .500 record
By AJ MASON
On Friday night, host Leonardtown accomplished its second major goal of the football season as it took on Patuxent in a regular season finale on senior night.
After reaching its first goal by winning the county championship over Great Mills last month, the Raiders pulled off a gut-wrenching 31-28 victory over the Panthers, ending the season with an overall record of 5-5 and a 5-3 SMAC record.
Being that this was the best season for Leonardtown in as many seasons, finishing .500 put the icing on the cake for the Raiders and head coach Mike Nines.
“It was great the kids played tremendous on senior night,” Nines said on the remarkable win. “It was just a culmination of all the hard work that these kids put in. Our goals were to win the county championship and go .500 and we did that.”
With the loss, Patuxent (8-2, 6-2) fell out of contention for a share of the SMAC title. With McDonough (9-1, 7-1) defeating Calvert 35-14 on Saturday, the Rams and Huntingtown each claim a share of the SMAC crown. The Hurricanes (9-1, 7-1) defeated Thomas Stone on Saturday night in a nonconference contest, 24-6. Westlake’s 34-19 loss to North Point on Saturday eliminated it from earning a share of the SMAC title.
Leonardtown took a commanding 31-14 lead with 4 minutes 34 seconds left in the fourth quarter after junior Doug Baumann’s 34-yard field goal, but Patuxent never wavered, responding with two touchdown runs from Tyler Crounse to cut the lead to three.
The Panthers got the ball back toward the end of the game, but junior Eric Chaconas missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
“The linebackers made the right reads and they played physical in our hybrid 5-4 defense,” Nines said. “We forced Patuxent to spread it out and took them out of what they wanted to do. It was very emotional after the game. I’m proud of how we were able to reach high standards this season.”
Before the missed field goal, Patuxent dropped a long pass that would have put them down on the Raiders’ 12-yard line.
“Leonardtown just outplayed us in the last eight minutes of the football game,” Patuxent head coach Steve Crounse said. “We were banged up, but it was no excuse. We didn’t do what we needed to do. Leonardtown played some inspired football and they have some kids that can play.”
Leonardtown senior Stephen Stewart, known as the “Loveville Locomotive,” continued to be vital in the team’s rushing department, racking up 198 yards on 19 carries with two touchdowns. For the season, Stewart finished with 1,420 yards and 15 touchdowns.
“We were able to dominate, but Patuxent is a great football team and a very good program,” said Nines, whose team was up 14-7 at halftime and extended the lead to 28-14 after three quarters. “We really controlled possession and Stephen had three big runs for us.”
Raiders junior quarterback Zac Sparshott completed 3 of 5 passes for 82 yards and threw a 65-yard touchdown strike to junior Cortez Bush, who had two catches for 76 yards in the game. Sparshott also added a rushing touchdown.
Defensively, Leonardtown recovered two fumbles, as junior Brandon Brock and Seth McPherson scooped up one each. It also recorded three sacks, as junior Jed Law had two and Stewart added one.
Patuxent senior quarterback Trey Lee had a seven-yard rushing touchdown and junior running back Rafiq Douglass had a 47-yard touchdown in the loss.
“It was unfortunate because we were playing for the SMAC title, but we have to focus on the playoffs now and try to give Douglass all we can handle.”
Patuxent, which looked to get the top seed with a win over Leonardtown, got the No. 3 seed in the Class 2A South Region playoffs and will travel to face No. 2 Douglass of Prince George’s County at 1 p.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year’s region semifinal contest that saw Douglass top the Panthers, 26-20.