Despite the fact that Eleanor Roosevelt junior inside linebacker Sammy Raymond logged extensive playing time on the team’s junior varsity squad in 2011, the Raiders coaching staff was not convinced entering this fall that Raymond possessed the skill to fill one of the many vacancies in the varsity starting lineup, according to Coach Tom Green.
But six games into the season, Roosevelt is 5-1 and its defense has demonstrated dramatic improvement in recent weeks, and Green said that Raymond is a significant factor in that development.
“Earlier in the year, just being able to do what the coaches expected him to do, it was just a little tough for him,” said Green, who lost 22 starters off of last year’s 10-1 squad to graduation. “But he’s getting better at it now, so it’s working out.”
Raymond is tied for the team lead in tackles entering Saturday’s crucial matchup at C.H. Flowers (4-2), which is essentially a must-win for both programs as they look to stay alive in the hunt for one of the four Maryland 4A South Region playoff spots.
Of the six teams in playoff contention, Roosevelt and Flowers are the only squads that have more than one opponent remaining on their respective schedules with a record above .500. Including Saturday’s contest, three of Roosevelt’s four remaining opponents (Flowers, DuVal and Suitland) fit that description. A loss Saturday would eliminate any breathing room for the Raiders.
As for Flowers, the Jaguars already have lost to Northwestern and Suitland this season. A third loss likely would prove crippling, especially considering Flowers also has to host undefeated Wise (6-0) later this month.
Offensively, Flowers relies heavily on its rushing attack – Green said the Jaguars run the ball “75-80 percent of the time.” – which means Raymond and his defensive teammates will need to react quickly against Flowers’ trapping offensive linemen and tackle soundly.
Raymond, Green said, has grown more adept as the season has progressed at aligning the defense properly and is second-guessing his decisions less frequently, all of which gives the coach greater confidence.
When asked whether Saturday’s game qualified as “must-win”, Green replied: “Without a doubt. We’ve played one team over .500 this year, and we lost [at Wise, 39-0]. I don’t know that we’re talented enough to look past anybody.”
A quarterback since age 7, Antonio Washington of Potomac (Md.) was working to refine his throwing motion in August 2010 when he felt a snap unleashing a pass. The broken elbow sidelined Washington for his sophomore year, but he’s shown no lasting effects from the scary injury as the starter for the Wolverines the past two seasons.
With 1,004 passing yards and nine touchdowns in six games, Washington has been among the top passers in Prince George’s County during his senior season. In fact, Potomac Coach Ronnie Crump said the 5-foot-11, 170-pound quarterback has come to trust his arm to a fault, at times.
As Potomac (4-2, 2-2 PG 3A/2A/1A) prepares to host upstart Largo (4-2, 4-1) on Saturday, Washington has been focusing on cutting down his turnovers and not forcing passes when the play breaks down. Half of Washington’s 10 interceptions came in the Wolverines’ two losses this season, and Crump said he takes time each week while watching film to point out situations where Washington should be looking to run rather than trying to make an ill-advised play downfield.
“He is a pocket quarterback, but he can run more if he has to,” Crump said. “I tell him, ‘If it’s not there, just don’t sit there and take a sack — continue to be a quarterback and make a play.”
Washington’s injury left the Wolverines with a unique situation at quarterback. Aaron Williams replaced Washington as the starter under center in 2010 when the team won six games, but he became the backup upon Washington’s return.
Instead, Williams, now a senior, has taken on a valuable utility role, logging time as a wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner. The versatile 5-foot-9, 165-pounder leads the team with 15 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns, and he flashed his throwing arm in the team’s season-opening 35-19 loss to Gwynn Park with an 88-yard touchdown pass on a trick play.
Crossland (3-3, 1-3) has not scored an offensive touchdown since starting the season with three straight wins. The Cavaliers — who host Surrattsville (4-2, 2-2) on Saturday — have been shut out twice, and senior Alvin Jackson scored their only touchdown on an interception return in a 12-8 loss to Forestville on Sept. 29.