On a night when the Patuxent High School football team may have gained an emotional lift early courtesy of its boisterous homecoming crowd, the Panthers got plays on both sides of the ball from Dajore Brooks en route to edging visiting La Plata, 21-14, on Friday evening in a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division contest.
Patuxent (3-2, 3-0 SMAC Chesapeake) was able to notch its third straight victory and promptly end the Warriors’ three-game win streak when Brooks opened the scoring by taking an underneath screen pass from Aidan Commodore and racing 75 yards through traffic to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. But it was a La Plata running back who gained center stage briefly.
“At halftime, I told the guys we had to stop beating ourselves,” Patuxent head coach Nick Allen said. “We had to figure out a way to limit their running game. Dajore came up with some big plays, offensively and defensively. He’s a senior captain and he wanted this one.”
Throughout the second quarter, La Plata running back Richard Tippett proved to be a genuine thorn in the side of the Panthers’ defense. On the Warriors’ first possession of the second quarter, Tippett carried four times for 51 yards and then Taylun Sanders burst through up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown run that brought the visitors to within 7-6.
After going 94 yards in just six plays on its previous possession, La Plata needed much less time to claim its first lead of the night. On the first play following a Patuxent punt, Tippett found a huge hole off right tackle and raced 79 yards for a touchdown and Jordan Lopez added the 2-point conversion to give the Warriors a 14-7 lead with 2 minutes 44 seconds left in the half.
Following a Patuxent turnover deep in La Plata territory, Tippett carried once for 12 yards then caught a screen pass from quarterback Donnie Bowman for a 1-yard gain. But as Tippett was tackled on the left sidelines, he landed awkwardly and injured his right shoulder and never returned in the second half.
On the Warriors’ first possession of the third quarter, however, Tippett’s absence was hardly noticeable. Sanders carried four times for 21 yards, Bowman ran once for nine yards and Nico Stout carried twice for another seven and the visitors reached the Panthers’ red zone. After enjoying ample success on the ground, the Warriors opted for a pass play and the course of the game changed dramatically.
On the very next play, Bowman had his pass intercepted by Brooks. Three plays later, it was Commodore who scored on an 8-yard run. Brooks’ interception proved to be the turning point in the contest as instead of yielding a touchdown and facing a two-score deficit, Patuxent was able to immediately respond.
“That was the turning point in the game,” La Plata head coach John Lennartz said. “We had some good scoring chances that we failed to capitalize on. We had some good runs from Richard, Taylun and Nico. But give Patuxent credit. They made the plays in the second half. Their defense kept us out of the end zone and they got the turnovers.”
Patuxent then promptly put together its best drive of the night that began late in the third quarter and ended just past the midway point of the fourth.
Brooks ran three times for 29 yards and Commodore connected with Brooks for 13 yards on another screen. Brooks carried twice more for eight yards, then Commodore got the final eight yards on two carries, the second of which resulted in his second touchdown of the half.
“Aidan did a great job running the offense in the second half,” said Allen, whose team hosts Northern at 7 p.m. Friday against a Patriots team that defeated Chopticon 33-12 in Week 5. “He just took what the defense was giving him. We hit a few screen passes for big plays and Aidan ran the ball well.”
La Plata marched into Patuxent territory on its final drive, converting on one fourth down play before crossing midfield. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty set the Warriors back and the drive ended with a pair of incomplete passes by Bowman.
The Warriors host Westlake at 7 p.m. Friday against a Wolverines squad that ended a three-game losing streak with a 34-6 win over Great Mills in Week 5.
“We just have to get back to work on Monday,” Lennartz said. “This was a tough loss but we’ll learn from it. We have to go back and get ready for Westlake and then turn our focus toward getting a playoff spot.”