After Darron Showalter separated his left shoulder in a scrimmage at Howard two weeks before the start of the season, the Chopticon junior was an emotional mess. Not just because it seemed he would miss a whole season, but this season, in particular.

"I had a feeling we were going to be good this season," Showalter said. "Just a gut feeling from the way we played in practice, and I didn't want to give up on that."

While every indication (see chart) has suggested the opposite, Showalter has proven himself profoundly prophetic. The Braves are 4-0 for what is believed to be the first time in the school's 40 seasons.

Following Friday's 22-18 victory over two-time Maryland 3A finalist Lackey at the Chargers' homecoming, Chopticon is tied with No. 6 Westlake atop the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference. The two front-runners do not face each other this season, and Chopticon is on track for just its third playoff berth in school history.

"I watched the tape [Saturday] morning," said Showalter, who rushed for two second-half touchdowns and played nearly every defensive down at linebacker. "It's just a blur. I was lost for words. I couldn't believe it."

Showalter epitomizes Chopticon's unlikely success. He separated the shoulder in the 2004 season opener -- his first varsity game -- after recording his second safety in a loss to La Plata. After sitting out a month, Showalter returned wearing a brace.

He wore that same brace during that scrimmage at Howard, but the shoulder popped out again.

"I thought that was it for me," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to play again."

Showalter would not give up. Even though two doctors refused to clear him to play, he continued to work out on his own.

"He understood about sacrificing," Chopticon Coach Tony Lisanti said. "He was coming up to me, 'Coach, what do I have to do to play?' He was doing pull-ups. He was doing push-ups. He just pestered his parents to take him to doctors. He was doing everything to stay ready."

A third doctor examined an MRI of Showalter's shoulder, found no structural damage or muscle tears and cleared Showalter two days before Chopticon's season opener.

He was ready Friday, when the Braves showed they "can play with the big boys," according to Lisanti. Showalter has done that his whole life, playing behind his three older brothers, who all graduated from Chopticon.

"But now I'm doing something they never did," he said.

"I had a feeling we were going to be good this season," said Chopticon junior Darron Showalter, who scored twice against Lackey on Friday.