- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Jimmy Lee knew exactly what was on the line on Friday night when he and his Patuxent teammates hosted the Patterson Clippers in a Class 2A state football semifinal.
A win meant a trip to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to play for a state title in what would be the first such opportunity for the Patuxent program since it finished as the state runner-up in 2001. A loss meant the season would have reached its end. While cognizant of that fact, Lee never gave it a second thought.
“We weren’t going to lose,” the senior lineman said. “We had a mindset that we were going to win. We’ve worked too hard. We just exploded off the ball and they couldn’t hang with us.”
Explode, Patuxent’s offense did, scoring 21 first-quarter points against a team that had not allowed a touchdown since Week 7 to quickly turn the state semifinal into a rout.
The Panthers proceeded to defeat the Clippers from Baltimore, 42-8, to advance to the 2A championship game on Saturday. Patuxent will play two-time defending champion Middletown of Frederick County at 3:30 p.m.
A week after playing in a drama-filled regional final against Gwynn Park, the state semifinal was relatively drama-free for Patuxent (13-0 overall). The Panthers received the opening kickoff and promptly drove 45 yards for the game’s initial touchdown on Rafiq Douglas’ 19-yard run.
Patterson (9-4) had not surrendered a touchdown in its previous five games. Patuxent needed just 2 minutes 40 seconds to put one on the board. It was just the beginning.
The Panthers scored on their next two possessions — first on Douglas’ second touchdown of the night on a 28-yard run, then on Tyler Crounse’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Laron Gross — to push the lead to 21-0 with 1:38 still remaining in the first quarter.
Patterson finally earned its first first down with 57 seconds remaining in the opening quarter and eventually drove down the field to score on Atif Ali’s 1-yard run just over two minutes into the second period. The score plus a successful two-point conversion cut the deficit to 21-8. It was all downhill from there for the visitors.
Douglas’ 38-yard touchdown run, his third scoring jaunt of the night, increased Patuxent’s edge to 28-8 before halftime. Daequan Chapelle caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Crounse early in the fourth quarter, while Mike Caputo capped the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown run with 5:31 left to play.
“Our game plan was to exploit their spread defense and three-deep corners,” said Douglas, who rushed for 131 yards in the first half alone before finishing the game with 143 yards on 14 carries. “We were doing our same thing, running the ball hard like we’ve been doing all year.”
Crounse added, “We saw things through film that scheme-wise we thought we could exploit by the way they were lined up. In that first quarter, we kind of spread them out. I started running the ball and then we kept running power and Rafiq finally just kept busting them and breaking tackles.”
Crounse and Douglas have combined to rush for over 3,000 yards on the season. After missing the season’s first three games due to injury, Douglas has rushed for over 1,200 yards, while Crounse sits just 30 yards short of 2,000 heading to the state final. The junior quarterback has also passed for 1,200 yards and completed over 50 percent of his passes.
“We have some dynamic kids,” Patuxent head coach Steve Crounse said. “The one-two punch of Douglas and Crounse poses problems for people.”
The problems grew exponentially for Patterson given the battle in the trenches.
“I didn’t really know how good our D-line was this year,” Patterson head coach Larry Mitchell said. “I couldn’t figure it out, but I said this game would tell us how good we were up front.”
Close to 280 Patuxent rushing yards later the answer was obvious: The Clippers were not as good as the Panthers.
“They were going to crowd the line of scrimmage. Our kids just got hat on hat, throwing people off the ball,” Steve Crounse said. “Once you get Rafiq to the secondary, he’s dangerous.
“The game plan worked to perfection. I can’t speak highly enough of the defense. [Patterson running back Sherrod] Hawkes is a legitimate talent. But we face great backs week in and week out and we were prepared. Our defense getting us the ball back in the first half and letting us get up on them took them out of their comfort zone.”
Hawkes did stand out as a bright spot on the Clippers’ tough night, grinding out 124 yards on 24 carries. But ultimately Patuxent was not going to let the opportunity it had slip by.
“They’ve been focused all year,” Steve Crounse said. “I have a great senior class, great leadership. I can’t really say enough about them. We’ve been together a long time. Even back when they were lifting in middle school we dealt with a lot of personal tragedies and issues we had to deal with together as a family. To have this be the culmination of their high school careers is just fantastic.”
Douglas added, “I’m so excited, so happy. Every high school player dreams of making it to the state championship game, and we made it. We made it.”
Already having made some history with its first regional championship in 12 years, the Panthers now look to bring home the program’s first state championship. No Patuxent boys program has ever won a state championship in the school’s history. A state title would also be the first for a Calvert County football program since Calvert won the 3A crown in 2000, still the only state football championship in the county’s history.
“It’s unbelievable. Me and my father have been watching state championships since I was a little boy,” Tyler Crounse said. “We’ve always been watching them critiquing each team, saying like, ‘When we get there, when we get there, when we get there.’ Finally, it’s here. This is reality. It’s just great. I get to go with him and I’m the quarterback that took him there.”
Patuxent 42, Patterson 8
Patterson 0 8 0 0
Patuxent 21 7 0 14
Pax — Douglas 19 run (Chaconas kick), 2:40
Pax — Douglas 28 run (Chaconas kick), 4:07
Pax — L. Gross 23 pass from Crounse (Chaconas kick), 10:22
Pat — Ali 1 run (Forrest run), 2:10
Pax — Douglas 38 run (Chaconas kick), 9:01
Pax — Chapelle 28 pass from Crounse (Chaconas kick), 2:46
Pax — M. Caputo 5 run (Chaconas kick), 6:29
Patterson (11 first downs, 47-164 rushing, 19 passing, 1-0 fumbles, 7-80 penalties)
Patuxent (14 first downs, 37-277 rushing, 107 passing, 2-2 fumbles, 6-35 penalties)
Top individual performers
Rushing — Pat: Hawkes 24-124; Pax: Douglas 14-143, Crounse 18-90,
Passing — Pat: Pugh 2-11-1 19, Forrest 0-1-0 0; Pax: Crounse 6-12-0 107
Receiving — Pat: Rivera 1-16; Pax: Chapelle 2-40, L. Gross 2-36