It takes some guts to tease 6-foot-4, 220-pound Darius Powell. Yet, everyone, from friends around Charles County to old youth league coaches, can get under the Westlake senior's skin with just one word: Lackey.
No. 8 Westlake has gone 19-1 the past two seasons against everyone but the Chargers. Lackey has beaten the Wolverines four times -- twice to end both regular seasons (and give the Chargers the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference titles), and two more times in the Maryland 3A South Region final. Is there a jinx?
"Sometimes I feel like that," Powell said. "They're not doing anything we can't stop. So what else can it be?
"It really does get annoying. We keep hearing, 'You'll never beat Lackey,' or 'It's gonna be a long time before you beat them.' But I can't say anything until we beat them."
Why should tonight's game at No. 13 Lackey end any differently that the previous four? Westlake has three players who have committed to ACC schools -- Powell, who will play for North Carolina, and perhaps the state's best backfield in Aaris Reed (North Carolina) and Pha'Terrell Washington (Maryland). They key an offense that is averaging 11.3 yards per play and has outscored its opponents by a combined 89-6.
Lackey, meantime, is getting accustomed to a pass-oriented offense, after reaching consecutive 3A title games on the strength of a stellar running game. The Wolverines know it's an advantage to face Lackey early in the season, before the Chargers can get their offense down pat.
"We do put a lot of pressure on this game," Westlake junior linebacker Kahlil Permenter said, "because of all the times they've beaten us."
Lackey has plenty of other history on its side; the Chargers have won 17 straight home games (dating from 2002) and 18 in a row at home against SMAC opponents (since 2001).
"I think, in the beginning, it's going to be in the back of their head, and when [the game] starts, that's when it comes out," Lackey senior linebacker Bryan Gibbons said. "It's a big part of the game. I know they want to be the ones who want to beat Lackey."
Thanks to Westlake's first-half dominance, Reed and Washington have been on the bench by the third quarter of both games. While also 2-0, Lackey, meantime, struggled against a young Calvert team last week, before breaking open a halftime tie en route to a 32-14 victory.
"This is the best team I've been on," said Reed, who is the only current Wolverine to have beaten Lackey -- 23-6, in 2002, when he was a freshman reserve. "I can't wait to play what is supposed to be the toughest opponent for us.
"I keep telling everyone on the team that if it's going to happen, it's going to be this year. It's enough, already. It's time to get that 'W.' "