- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The past few football seasons have been rough on the Lackey Chargers.
Long a football powerhouse in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, Lackey has not qualified for the postseason since 2009, and has not finished with a record above the .500 mark since 2008.
But assembled on their sideline at Northern High following Friday night’s game against the Patriots, the mood was markedly different than in seasons past as Lackey head coach John Lush addressed his team following its convincing 31-6 victory in a 2A-3A division matchup.
The Chargers are determined to reclaim the program’s spot amongst the conference’s elite teams, and if they were flying under the radar prior to Friday night’s game, that is likely no longer the case.
“[Northern] is a playoff-caliber team. We haven’t beat a playoff-caliber team since 2008,” said Lush after his team ran its record to 4-1 overall, 2-0 in division play. “That’s a testament to the kids’ work ethic. We have a lot more challenges. There is a lot of parity in the league this year.”
Northern’s offense, one of the most prolific in the conference this year prior to Friday night’s game, moved the ball at times but was unable to put any points on the board until late in the third quarter.
Through the season’s first three weeks, Patriots quarterback Taylor Wagner and receiver Adam Swann were amongst the most lethal tandems in the state, but against Lackey, Swann had just one reception — that coming on Northern’s final possession in the final moments of the game — and Wagner completed just three passes.
“My main job all week was just to shut down [Swann],” Lackey defensive back Lucas Ethington said. “We just didn’t want him to get the ball. My job was to stay on him and make sure he didn’t catch the ball.”
Northern (3-2, 1-1 2A-3A) received the game’s opening kick and promptly marched from its own 20-yard line to the Lackey 16. But the Chargers ultimately forced a turnover on downs, with Dejon Marshall sacking Wagner on a fourth down-and-five play to prevent Northern from taking an early lead.
“We’ve been talking about adversity all season, since last year, how we’re going to recover from it,” Lackey lineman Mike Laury said. “I think we did pretty well in adverse situations after they had a good drive.”
“I think that first series was huge for us,” Lush added. “Our backs were against the wall and the kids started making plays. Our DBs really took an interest — [Swann] is a great player. He’s probably one of the top players in the state. They accepted the challenge.”
Lackey built off of the momentum created by its defense with a quick 75-yard drive that took just four plays. Quarterback Joseph Beckford capped the drive with a 34-yard touchdown scamper down the right sideline and into the end zone for the game’s initial score.
Lackey’s defense followed by forcing a Northern three-and-out, and the Chargers offense followed that up with another quick drive to pay dirt. This time, Eriq Fadahunsi scored on a 44-yard jaunt, capping a five-play, 59-yard drive.
Cortrelle Simpson got in on the act in the second quarter, returning a punt 78 yards for a score and an 18-0 Lackey lead, while Richard Lyons scored on a two-yard run with 4 minutes 50 seconds remaining in the opening half to send the teams to the break with Lackey in firm control, 24-0.
Lackey did not let up coming out of halftime, scoring on the first possession of the second half on Fadahunsi’s two-yard run. That, and the first successful point-after of the night, made it 31-0 barely three minutes into the third quarter.
Northern was able to avoid the shutout on Wagner’s four-yard touchdown run with 4:57 left in the third quarter, but that was all it was able to muster.
“A lot of credit goes to Lackey. They had a great game plan today and their kids did a great job executing. Our kids didn’t execute. A lot of plays were there for us, we just didn’t execute,” said Northern head coach Darren DeMeio, whose team entered the game riding a three-game win streak. “I think there’s a lot we can learn. We’ll see what we can learn and how we can adjust and come back. It’s one game, so I think we can get back on track.”
Austin Howard rushed 24 times for 134 yards to lead Northern’s offense. The Patriots are scheduled to host Thomas Stone (3-2, 1-0 2A-3A) at 7 p.m. Friday to open the second half of the season in what becomes a key game towards qualifying for the Class 3A South Region’s playoff field.
Defeating Northern allowed Lackey to take a big step towards making a long-awaited return the playoffs. With the season moving to the sixth week, the Chargers are in the thick of the race, currently in the No. 2 position behind only Huntingtown. Northern, Westlake, Thomas Stone fill the three through five slots. Of those, at least one will be without a playoff chair when the music stops.
Against Northern, Fadahunsi led the Chargers rushing attack — which churned out 236 yards — with 109 yards on 14 carries. The Chargers are slated to host the still-winless McDonough Rams at 6:30 p.m. Friday in what will be their first home game of the season. Lackey’s only other scheduled home game to this point was Week 2 against Westlake, which Lackey won without playing due to a Westlake forfeit.
The last time the Chargers played on their home field, they were on the way to finishing a 3-7 2012 season. On Friday night, they enter on a two-game winning streak and looking like a contender as the regular season has passed its halfway point.
“That’s one thing that’s been motivating us. We’re always known as the underdog,” Ethington said. “We’re here to prove people wrong.”
“A lot of teams didn’t expect us to come this far. We just had to come up from the bottom. Now we’re here,” added Marshall. “This makes a very big statement. It says Lackey’s here, and we’re not backing down from anything.”
Before the contest with the Rams, Lackey High School will hold a pregame ceremony at 6 p.m. to dedicate its sports stadium to former athletic director David Anderson.
Anderson was Lackey’s athletic director for 32 years before passing away at the beginning of last school year on Sept. 2 due to what his widow, Garnet, said was a brain aneurism. He was 65 years old.
firstname.lastname@example.org Staff writer Dallas Cogle contributed to this report.
Lackey 31, Northern 6
Lackey 12 12 7 0
Northern 0 0 6 0
L — Beckford 34 run (kick failed), 5:35
L — Fadahunsi 44 run (kick failed), 9:41
L — Cortrelle Simpson 78 punt return (run failed), 4:56
L — Lyons 2 run (run failed), 7:20
L — Fadahunsi 2 run (Thomas kick), 3:02
N — Wagner 4 run (pass failed), 7:03
Lackey (10 first downs, 39-236 rushing, 37 passing, 1-1 fumbles, 5-42 penalties)
Northern (14 first downs, 30-157 rushing, 36 passing, 1-0 fumbles, 3-24 penalties)
Top individual performers
Rushing — L: Fadahunsi 14-109, Beckford 9-56, Corte. Simpson 7-26, Lyons 1-2; N: Howard 24-134
Passing — L: Beckford 3-5-1 37; N: Wagner 3-21-1 36
Receiving — L: McMillan-Kenney 2-32; N: Swann 1-20