As Long Reach's football team walked off the field following its 41-0 victory over Reservoir on Saturday, players realized they had taken a step closer to the state record book.
The Lightning posted its fifth consecutive shutout, three away from a new Maryland public school record for consecutive shutouts. The record of seven shutouts is shared by four teams -- Allegany (1926), Seneca Valley (1977), Cambridge-South Dorchester (1979) and Wicomico (2001). Seneca Valley holds the most shutouts in a season, keeping 11 of its 12 opponents scoreless in 1977.
"You guys are two away from becoming a part of history and three away from having the record all to yourself," Coach Pete Hughes told his team after the game. "You guys have proven you know what it takes to keep a team off the scoreboard, and now you just have to keep it going."
Long Reach, which posted four shutouts to end last season, this week faces Wilde Lake, which may have a more potent offense than the Lightning has seen since the streak began on Oct. 18, 2003, with a 27-0 win over Hammond.
"They've never shut us out before, so I like our chances," Wilde Lake Coach Doug DuVall said. "I think we're a pretty good football team right now."
Wilde Lake has won seven of the eight meetings, including a 6-0 victory last season. The Wildecats are coming off a 47-8 victory over Centennial in their season opener in which five different players reached the end zone. Senior running back Nate Yarborough led the offense with 154 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
However, the strength of Wilde Lake's offense -- its running game -- will be up against the strongest part of Long Reach's defense. The Lightning has allowed just one player to rush for more than 100 yards since the beginning of last season. The team's speedy linebackers -- seniors John Montgomery and Brian Taylor -- back up a defensive line anchored by senior end Eugene Lightfoot.
"We expect every offense we see from here on out to throw everything they've got at us to break our streak," said Montgomery, whose team plays at Atholton on Sept. 18 and hosts Hammond on Sept. 25. "We have the chance to make history and be one of the best defenses ever."
Though Hughes has discussed the record at every practice, Long Reach's biggest goal involves something later this season.
"We want to see our team make the playoffs, because that's how you prove you are a great team, by making the playoffs," sophomore cornerback Keith Richardson said. "But making history would be nice."
Long Reach's defense, which did not allow a first down Saturday, was not the only county defense with an impressive opening day.
Mount Hebron and Wilde Lake each allowed just eight points, and River Hill blanked Atholton, 17-0, despite fielding a defense that featured nine first-year starters.
"Our defense was a big concern because we are very inexperienced; we have a whole new line and a new secondary," River Hill Coach Brian Van Deusen said. "We also have a faster defense this year, and I think we play a little more aggressive, too, but it's good to come out and get a shutout early because it gives your team a lot of confidence."