It took about one half and 100 rushing yards for the mud from Patuxent High’s torn-up field to obscure the number on quarterback Tyler Crounse’s jersey. He was nearly unidentifiable on the sidelines and to the Huntingtown defenders as he outrushed both teams’ starting running backs in a 20-10 win on a rainy Friday night in Lusby.
“My mindset going into this game was to give everything I had, even if I had to be carted off the field,” Crounse said. “I had to give up my body to do whatever I needed to do. If it was running, it was running. If it was passing, it was passing.”
The junior quarterback was standing, albeit tired and teary-eyed, at the end of the Panthers’ first win against No. 13 Huntingtown since 2007. With the victory, Patuxent is the lone remaining unbeaten team in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
The rain and the Hurricanes’ defense led to four fumbles from the Panthers (6-0, 5-0 SMAC), all recovered by Huntingtown. But the Hurricanes (5-1, 5-1) could only turn those miscues into a single scoring drive capped by a field goal from Noah Reeves in the second quarter.
The game played like a “tennis match,” Patuxent Coach Steve Crounse said.
Junior linebacker Geoff Ricker played a large part in keeping that volley between the two teams going — he helped stop Huntingtown running back Arnez Bowens from gaining any significant yardage. Bowens was held to just 37 yards in the first half after shredding the Panthers for 243 yards in a win last season.
“He ran all over us last year,” Ricker said.
The Panthers struck first with a five-yard rushing touchdown from senior running back Rafiq Douglas with a little more than three minutes left in the first quarter. The Hurricanes briefly took control early in the second quarter on a pair of completions from quarterback Robbie Payne to set up Isaiah Carter for a four-yard touchdown run.
AJ Demino recovered a Panthers’ fumble later in the quarter to set up the field goal that gave Huntingtown a 10-6 halftime lead.
With about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Douglas zigzagged for an 18-yard run that set up his second touchdown of the night and put the Panthers on top 13-10.
With the Hurricanes driving in the final three minutes, Tyler Gross snagged an interception and set up Douglas’s third touchdown in the waning seconds.
That gave way to an emotional post-game celebration on the field for muddied players and neon- green clad fans who braved the downpour.
“My direction was to do whatever I needed to do for my team and to get the ‘W’ for my seniors,” Ricker said. “They’ve never beat Huntingtown before, and I told them. . . I was going to send them out with a win.”