This is what you get for being one of Severn's best football players:

"Cramps and bruises," said running back and cornerback Deon Peters. "You feel sore all the time."

"A badly sprained ankle," said linebacker and fullback Duke Gibbons. "You never get much rest."

"Just tired and hurt all the time," said quarterback Jamal Jones. "Basically, it's exhausting."

Peters, Gibbons and Jones make up one of the most formidable trios in Anne Arundel County. They're the most reliable on Severn's defense; they're the most exciting on Severn's offense. Typically, they play for almost the entire 48 minutes -- on offense, defense and special teams -- and they're paying for it.

During a hard-fought game against powerhouse McDonogh on Saturday, all three ended up doubled over in pain on the sideline. And Severn, one of the area's strongest teams despite a roster of only about 25 players, fell with them, losing, 24-14.

"Basically, we ran out of players," Severn Coach John Beckman said. "By the second half, we were just so tired and exhausted. They outlasted us, I guess. We only had so much in us."

What Severn had, though, often looked spectacular. After running for 160 yards and three touchdowns on just five carries against Reginald Lewis (Baltimore) last week, Peters turned his focus to defense against McDonogh. He covered receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, one of the area's top prospects, and came away with four pass deflections and an interception.

Peters, who's being recruited by Penn State and Marshall, seemed just as comfortable with the ball. On one run in the second quarter, he broke away from three tacklers and outran two others, gaining 40 yards. He slowed late in the third quarter, when his legs started to cramp. "I felt like a couldn't move them," Peters said.

"Playing with some pain, he did an excellent job covering a great receiver," Beckman said. "We asked him to cover one of the best guys around, and he did. He didn't look hurt."

Neither did Gibbons, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior who's started on varsity for three seasons. Gibbons sprained his right ankle in a preseason game and missed the opener. He swore he wouldn't miss two games, though, so he wrapped an inch-thick layer of tape around his right ankle, took a few pain killers and made a dozen tackles.

"It hurts," Gibbons said. "But I'm a senior, I'm a leader and I'll play through anything. I'm not going to sit out if I don't have to. I can hurt a little bit."

Perhaps Jones suffered the most. Against a stingy McDonogh defense, he completed fewer than half of his passes. A relentless rush often forced him to spin out of the pocket and throw the ball away.

In the fourth quarter, Jones hobbled to the sideline and collapsed because of cramps in his legs. Two trainers massaged him while he gritted his teeth in pain.

"So many cramps, so many health issues," Beckman said. "It's a tough situation to be in, it really is. Somehow, we need to find a way to keep these things kids healthy. Otherwise, injuries and exhaustion will keep holding us back. That's the main thing we're fighting."

Above, Severn's Deon Peters shows the form that has attracted college recruiters. Left, teammate Zack Holbrook is pursued by a McDonogh defender. Severn's defense includes Todd Heffner, left, and Pete Dunigan. They are two of about 25 players on the roster.