North Point looks to knock off Patuxent for first time; Northwestern’s Victor scoring at will
By Greg Schimmel, Louis Nelson, Eric Detweiler and Steve Yanda,
Game to watch: North Point (3-0) at No. 15 Patuxent (3-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
North Point is 29-3 in SMAC games since 2008, but Patuxent has won all three head-to-head meetings since North Point began varsity play in 2007, including a 24-10 win last year after a two-year hiatus in the series.
Heading into Friday’s game in Lusby, North Point and Patuxent are two of the four SMAC teams who remain undefeated this year, and both sides are aware of the history.
“Our kids know [Patuxent has] been a team that’s had our number,” North Point Coach Ken Lane said. “They also know a lot of people think Patuxent is the team to beat down here, so it’s as big a game as we’ve had so far.”
While a long touchdown catch, a fumble return for a touchdown and a long kick return swung last year’s game, Lane acknowledged his teams have historically struggled to adjust to Patuxent’s unconventional single-wing offense.
The Panthers have run their system with extreme efficiency so far this season — junior running back Rafiq Douglas has rushed for 396 yards and four touchdowns and dual-threat senior quarterback Trey Lee has rushed for 293 yards and four touchdowns and thrown for 174 yards and three touchdowns in three lopsided wins — and Coach Steve Crounse said his team is also working on stretching the field with its wide receivers to become even more dynamic.
“We used to be very diverse and throw half the time, and then we went through some dry years and focused on the single wing,” Crounse said. “It turned into a big-play offense based on our athletes, but now we’re trying to get more spread and we’re starting to grow our offense.”
North Point has traditionally built itself around a power-running game, but sophomore quarterback Brandon Battle has quickly shown he can handle a more two-dimensional scheme in his first year as the starter, and has taken some pressure off junior running back Marquel Dickerson (302 rushing yards) and senior running back Alijah Robinson (183 yards and three touchdowns).
These teams feature many of the best athletes in the SMAC, and regardless of the history, Friday’s game will provide some early clarity in a very competitive league.
“I think it’s a benchmark game for us,” Crounse said. “There are big games down the road, but for now this is the biggest game of the year.”
Around Prince George’s
But when asked the likelihood of that dream coming to fruition, Victor, who has reached the end zone more often than all but one player in the D.C. area this season, grinned.
“I mean, it’s possible; we have the talent around me,” he said. “I’m ready to work, though. I’m ready to score.”
Following a junior campaign in which he tallied 1,039 yards and 17 touchdowns, Victor has recorded 463 yards and 10 touchdowns through three games this fall. He’s averaging just more than 10 yards per carry.
If Northwestern (3-0) is to contend with Flowers — whose defense has allowed 12 points combined through three games — Victor likely will need to maintain his current production level.
He did not score during Northwestern’s 14-13 loss at Flowers last year, a game in which the Wildcats at one point held a 13-0 lead.
“We have to finish our drives,” Victor said. “We get a couple first downs and sometimes we halt. We have to keep going and get some points every time we touch the ball.”
Whether he dreams about it or not, Victor knows much of that responsibility lies on his shoulders. . . .
Through three weeks, the perennial powers in Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A have taken turns beating up on each other, and the trend will continue on Saturday when Douglass hosts Potomac (Md.). With each team coming in with 2-1 records, the loser’s chances of making the state playoffs will take a serious hit, especially if it’s Douglass, which is classified in the competitive Maryland 2A South.
Potomac (2-1, 1-1) has bounced back from a disappointing season-opening loss to Gwynn Park with wins against Ballou and Friendly. Last season the Wolverines lost their first two games and then won eight straight to close the regular season and earn a spot in the 3A South playoff field.
“Just because we play those heavy hitters first, doesn’t mean much to me,” Potomac Coach Ronnie Crump said. “I just try to take the one game at a time approach to trying to make the playoffs. It was a tough stretch last year, and we got through.” . . .
Crossland — an unlikely entry at the top of the league standings with three wins to the start the season — will get its toughest test this week, traveling to Gwynn Park (2-1). Forestville — the league’s other unbeaten team — visits Largo (1-2).
Around Howard County
River Hill has scored in bunches this season. The 11th-ranked Hawks have scored 49 points or more in all three of their games this season, but it’s not the amount of points they’re scoring that’s impressive — it’s how.
The defending Maryland 3A champion has already thrown for more touchdowns this season (seven) than it did all of last season (six). The traditionally run-first Hawks (3-0) have opened their playbook this fall for senior quarterback Austin Altman, mixing in an occasional pass play to great success thus far.
“We’re not going from one extreme to another. We’re not throwing the ball 30 times a game,” River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen said. “We’re still talking usually 30-40 runs and 10 passes a game. So it’s not a big change, but last year it might have been 4-5 passes a game. When we are throwing, we’re getting some big plays out of it. One out of every three passes right now has been a touchdown. So we’re making big plays in the pass game that maybe we didn’t do as much last year.”
The Hawks’ newfound aerial attack has paid dividends in the ground game as well. Senior running back Justin Arn has five rushing touchdowns through the Hawks’ first three games this season, while fellow seniors Evan Griffin and Stephan Osong each have three. River Hill’s typical offensive formation, which features all three backs in the backfield at the start of each play, has become that much harder to defend now.
“If we’re able to throw the ball, then the defense has got to soften up their coverage a little bit,” Van Deusen said. “We’ve always been pretty much a run-oriented team and teams will try to sneak another guy in the box and get eight or nine guys up there at the line of scrimmage to stop us. Well you know, if we’re throwing the ball well, that’s tougher to do or else we’re going to get some big plays in the pass game.”
River Hill hosts Hammond (1-2) on Friday night.
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