Lackey 38, Thomas Stone 23

Nobody has played more games in Maryland the past three seasons than Lackey's senior class. After two seasons that ended in the 3A title game, the Chargers figure to have experienced just about everything on the field.

But Friday night at Thomas Stone, they saw something big and ugly for the first time -- a 17-0 deficit a minute before halftime.

"We were worried about what might happen to us," Lackey quarterback Aaron Smith said.

What happened was the Chargers (5-2) drew upon the veteran leadership that had not been apparent for much of the season as they rallied for a 38-23 victory. Their primarily quiet and introverted senior core made play after play in the second half, and Lackey scored on its first four possessions after halftime.

"We looked at this as an opportunity to do something special," Lackey Coach Scott Chadwick said.

The Chargers had a little momentum heading into the second half. With 57 seconds left, they recovered a fumble at the Thomas Stone 36, then scored on the next play -- a pass from Smith to Dante Page, who had missed nearly the entire first half with a shoulder injury suffered on the first play.

"When we were down like that, all we needed was one big play to spark us," Page said. "After that play, the sideline got into it, the crowd, the team, they all came back to life and we carried that into the second half."

Chadwick made sure his players did so by calling his five key seniors -- Smith, Page, Bryan Gibbons, Greg Bowman and J.B. Walton -- aside at halftime.

Said Gibbons: "He told us, 'You're the key players. You have to make key plays.' "

Gibbons took that to heart, and he caught four second-half passes for 72 yards, including touchdowns of 8 and 48 yards. He also finished the second half's opening drive with an 8-yard scoring run to cut the Cougars' lead to 17-15.

"All Bryan Gibbons does is make big plays in big games," Chadwick said, "and he did it again."

Even after Thomas Stone (4-3) stretched its lead to 23-15 on its subsequent possession, Lackey didn't fret. Smith projected a calm demeanor as he completed 5 of 7 second-half passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

"As a quarterback, you see it all the time, you hear it all the time," Smith said. "You want to do something just like that situation."

Smith directed a drive that ended with Mike Johnson, who had 152 rushing yards, scoring on a 20-yard run to tie the game at 23. Then he threw two fourth-quarter scoring passes to Gibbons for the decisive points.

"I think they never gave up," Thomas Stone quarterback David Brunson said, "and that was the biggest thing."

Thomas Stone defender Willie Milhouse takes a stiff-arm from Lackey running back Mike Johnson, who was called for a face-mask penalty on the play.Lackey fullback Bryan Gibbons runs for a touchdown in the third quarter. He also caught two passes for scores in the fourth quarter.