Patuxent 27, Huntingtown 16
From the time its talented coaching staff and experienced roster were assembled to the past three weeks of practice, Huntingtown has not talked like a raw first-year program.
In their opening 27-16 loss to Patuxent on Friday night, the Hurricanes showed they will not play like one, either.
But no Southern Maryland Athletic Conference team might benefit from game experience more than the Hurricanes will over the next month. Unlike most start-up programs, Huntingtown could not assemble until Aug. 14, the first day practices were allowed by the state, because its building wasn't completed. The school did not have a weight room, and it still doesn't have practice fields or even a track.
"Our expectations are to be successful," Hurricanes Coach Jerry Franks said. "We're a first-year school, but we can't use that as an excuse to lose."
As the game progressed against Patuxent, the Hurricanes appeared more confident and aware. When they closed Patuxent's 20-point lead to 20-16, the Hurricanes seemed to figure out how to attack a vulnerable opponent.
"We had only three weeks [to practice]. The more practice, the better you get," said Huntingtown senior quarterback Bobby Brown, who scored the program's first touchdown on a 22-yard fumble return in the third quarter. "I know we can compete in this league. We learned, though, that we've got to execute. We made too many mistakes. We could have won this game."
Patuxent Coach Steve Crounse knew that, and it concerned him. He knew Huntingtown has two experienced and successful minds running its show in Franks and defensive coordinator Jim Esposito, who was Crounse's predecessor at Patuxent.
"From a coaching standpoint, and who's on that sideline, there was a lot riding on it for us," Crounse said. "They had nothing to lose, but we had a lot to lose."
Patuxent's core players showed that they perhaps are turning a corner in their development. Its best players -- senior quarterback Delonte Janey, defensive lineman Gordon James, a senior, and defensive end Tracey Goodwin, a junior -- were at their best in crucial stages of the game.
When Patuxent lost its first three games last season -- albeit to eventual playoff teams Linganore, Westlake and Thomas Stone -- the Panthers were overwhelmed. Janey was beaten up in those games, and it took him a few weeks to regain his confidence.
Against Huntingtown, Crounse challenged Janey by giving him nearly every responsibility on the field. Janey, who rushed for two touchdowns, passed for another and intercepted a pass, came off the field only on special teams.
"At points I was real tired. I thought I wasn't going to make it," Janey said.
Crounse said: "Before the game, he was real nervous. I told him: 'Delonte, you're a great player. Everybody's looking to you.'"