Some coaches don’t like to pinpoint the most important games on their schedule at the beginning of the year. They’d rather be politically correct, Lackey Coach John Lush said, and say that “every game is equally as important.”

But with one week left in the regular season, Lush is being honest about the importance of Friday’s Southern Maryland Athletic Conference game against Thomas Stone .

“I’d be lying if I wasn’t saying it was a huge game,” he admits. “This is the one last year that we knew if we had any shot at being good, they’d be good as well, and we’d need to beat them.”

Lush and his staff had circled the Thomas Stone game on the calendar even before the game became crucial for both team’s postseason appearances. The Cougars beat Lackey (7-2, 6-2 SMAC) on their homecoming last year. It was the first Lackey loss to Thomas Stone (6-3, 4-3) since a forfeit in 2007.

“It was the first time they had beaten us in a while, and it was a sign that they were moving in the right direction,” Lush said. “They’re probably as athletic of a team as we’ve seen all year.”

If Lackey can hold off quarterback Keiron Morsell and running back Juwann Briscoe, they’ll clinch the No. 2 seed in the region for their first playoff berth since 2009. If they lose and Thomas Stone isn’t knocked out by a Northern or Westlake win, the two teams might meet again in the first round of playoffs.

There’s an added connection between the Charles County schools — Thomas Stone junior two-way starter Trey Lee is the son of the quarterback of Lackey’s 1986 varsity squad, their last and only state championship team.

Lush’s team is coming off two consecutive shutouts (Bohemia Manor and Great Mills) and despite the strength of the Chargers defense, he’s not expecting another clean sheet.

“Our defense has to continue to play well, but it’s probably wishful thinking to think you can shut out a team like this,” Lush said. “We’ve got to limit touches, limit scoring abilities. If we keep it relatively low scoring, we’ve got a shot.”

Gators, Hawks jockey for playoff position

Reservoir and River Hill have identical records (7-2) but vastly different experiences in postseason football. The Hawks saw a 30-game win streak broken by upstart Hammond in Week 7. They’ve won four state championships since 2007 and the most recent 3A title came last year.

Reservoir went 6-5 last season and made the playoffs for the first time in the school’s history.

Now, the two are fighting to clinch a playoff spot in the Maryland 3A East region. The winner of Friday’s meeting will finish no lower than third in the region. But the loser could be knocked out on the basis of bonus points depending on the outcome of Digital Harbor vs. W.E.B Dubois and City vs. Poly.

River Hill is third in the region now but is only 0.11 points above Reservoir. The two losses for the Hawks (Howard and Hammond) both came against teams that the Gators beat, while the two losses for Reservoir (Centennial and Glenelg) were wins for River Hill.