Josh Briscoe is either a quick learner or a slow starter. One thing is certain, however: He is fast.

Last spring, as a junior, Briscoe tried out for Lackey's track team just to satisfy his curiosity. By the end of the season, he was in the top four in the Maryland 3A South Region in the 100 and 200 meters.

"I figured I was fast, but I wanted to see how fast I was" he said. "I figured that would give me an edge" in football.

This fall, Briscoe figured to get off the bench on Lackey's football team after spending his junior season as a reserve. He played well throughout the regular season as a hybrid linebacker-safety, but when starting running back Mike Johnson injured his ankle three weeks ago, the Chargers decided to give the 5-foot-8, 165-pound Briscoe a shot at running the ball.

All he has done is become the Chargers' best offensive player the past two games and give them a chance for their third consecutive Maryland 3A South Region title Saturday at Gwynn Park.

"At practice, he was doing well," Lackey senior lineman J.B. Walton said, "but when the McDonough game started, it was like, wow, that's something else."

In his first varsity start, in Lackey's regular season finale at McDonough, Briscoe rushed for 232 yards and four touchdowns in the 52-27 victory. Last week, Briscoe rushed for 127 yards on only 13 carries in the 21-19 victory at Friendly. His 20-yard touchdown run late in the first half allowed Lackey to go into halftime tied, and his 6-yard scoring catch in the fourth quarter proved to be the decisive points.

"He put us back in the game with that [first] touchdown," said Lackey senior linebacker Bryan Gibbons.

In each of the past two postseasons, Lackey has had role players come seemingly out of nowhere with game-changing performances, and Briscoe is just the latest example.

In 2003, Mark Herbert, who did not catch a regular season pass, caught two, including the game-winning 14-yard touchdown, in Lackey's 14-13 victory over Westlake in the 3A South Region title game.

Last season, Gibbons, who caught five regular season passes, caught nine in the Chargers' first three playoff games, including two for touchdowns, as the Chargers went back to the 3A title game.

"It's always somebody every year with us," Walton said.

So why not Briscoe -- a wrestler in the winter and a sprinter in the spring -- to rescue the Chargers this season? Lackey Coach Scott Chadwick did not want many Chargers playing on both sides of the ball. Johnson was handling the running back duties just fine, so it appeared to be a perfect situation, keeping Briscoe at linebacker and Johnson on the bench during defensive series.

"With us having so many guys contributing, we wanted to limit guys from having to go both ways" Chadwick said. "Maybe we should have been using him a lot sooner."

But when Johnson's bum ankle limited him against Northern, Briscoe came in and rushed nine times for 49 yards. The next week, against the Rams, Briscoe got his chance to shine. The funny thing was, Briscoe didn't know how well he was doing because, he said, he was trying to match the Rams' A.J. Wallace (305 yards, four touchdowns) score for score.

"Eventually, I knew I was doing good," Briscoe said, "but each time I saw A.J. score a touchdown, I was like, 'Well, I've got to score another.' "

Last week, Briscoe had no basis for comparison. Six of his carries, and his one reception, went for first downs, and he has changed the complexion of Lackey's offense at a time when the Chargers may need it the most -- against a Gwynn Park team that has allowed more than seven points to just two opponents.

"Now we're a two-back threat," Walton said. "We've got power from [Johnson], but Briscoe brings a lot of speed to the team. He's a good asset to have on the team, and, boy, did he come at the right time."

Lackey running back Josh Briscoe gives the Chargers another much-needed threat against Gwynn Park on Saturday. Briscoe got a shot at running the ball after Mike Johnson was injured.