UPPER MARLBORO — For eight weeks, the Patuxent Panthers always found a way.
At first, after opening the football season 0-2, Patuxent’s wins were narrow. But as the wins came, one after the next, the Panthers’ confidence grew and the wins became increasingly convincing.
For eight straight weeks the Panthers won, the eighth providing the program with its first postseason win in three years. But at Wise High School on Saturday afternoon, Patuxent’s streak reached its end in the second round of the Class 2A South Region playoffs when the Panthers lost to the Frederick Douglass Eagles 14-0.
Zavier Price scored both of the game’s touchdowns, coming on the Eagles’ first possessions of each half. First, he raced 49 yards to pay dirt just 3 minutes 10 seconds into the first quarter. Later, he scored on a 31-yard run just 3:36 into the third.
Patuxent (8-3 overall) had its opportunities, but was never able to finish a drive with points. The Panthers’ offense spent most of the second half in Douglass territory, but the Eagles (11-0) were able to repel the threat on each occasion and advance to the 2A state quarterfinals where, as the No. 1 seed in the classification, take on eighth-seeded New Town of Baltimore County.
“The effort was outstanding all game,” Patuxent head coach Nick Allen said of his team. “There’s no quit in our kids and never has been. They’re a good team. They beat us up up front a little bit and that really takes us out of our game plan. Then we had some chances we didn’t convert on. I definitely made some mistakes, coaching-wise, but the kids worked their butts off the whole time. I have no complaints. Best of luck to Douglass.”
After falling behind 14-0 on Price’s second touchdown run, Patuxent seemed on the verge of shifting the game’s momentum several times. A fumble recovery at the Douglass 40-yard line with 3:07 left in the third quarter appeared momentarily to provide an opening for the Panthers. But an interception on the game’s next play gave the ball right back to the Eagles.
The ensuing possession, an errant snap on Douglass’ punt led to a kick that actually lost 10 yards, setting the Panthers up at the Eagles’ 30. Two plays later, on second down-and-11 from the 31, Patuxent quarterback Adam Commodore connected with Dajore Brooks on a 30-yard pass, leaving the team on the doorstep. But after a first-down run was stuffed, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty moved the Panthers back and short-circuited the opportunity with 9:04 remaining in the game.
Later, Patuxent again drove into the red zone, but Douglass’ Tyree Newman picked off a pass at the 7 with 3:09 left to secure the win.
The seniors on Patuxent’s team experienced some real lows when the program sunk from its winning tradition to a team that missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons, but this season that group led the way as the Panthers earned a Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division title and came within a game of the state quarterfinals.
“Starting as a sophomore two years ago in the program, we came from the dirt and brought it up,” said Patuxent senior Josiah Campbell, who caught two passes for 33 yards on Saturday. “Senior year, starting both ways again, all the youngins, sophomores, juniors, they helped us come this far. It’s been an amazing ride.”
The significance of what the team accomplished this season could not be overstated in the mind of Allen, who has been at the program’s helm for three years.
“To turn the program back around and get back on track, get back to a winning state of mind, is enormous,” he said. “It was really this senior class. A lot of them have been up since they were sophomores and they put in the work to really change this program. I’ll be forever grateful to them for that. They’ve really set the tone for years to come.”