Long Reach entered the locker room at halftime with an 0-3 record and 14 points surrendered to Atholton during their homecoming game. This was the point at which the Lightning knew, according to cornerback Brandan Barrington, that they needed to make something happen.
“For the seniors, this was our last homecoming, this was our last chance to prove what we’ve got,” Barrington said. “We had to win. There was no next play, next week—no more of that, we had to make something happen.”
It wasn’t until 8 seconds into the fourth quarter that Long Reach was able to get on the board with a 25-yard run from running back Rob Carter. The Raiders tried to gain control with an interception around the eight-minute mark, but a punt block from defensive end Troy Roundtree kept the ball at Atholton’s 25-yard line. There was a little more than 4:30 remaining in the game when Carter made another five-yard leap into the end zone, and C.J. Smalley’s connected with Barrington for the two-point conversion that gave the Lightning a 15-14 win.
Darryl Montgomery blocked a Raiders field goal attempt with 2:38 seconds remaining to preserve the lead.
“We just stayed together,” said Willis, who took over in Columbia after leading Pikesville High in Baltimore. He spent seven years prior to that as an assistant at Long Reach. “We talked at halftime that they haven’t stopped us, we’ve made stupid mistakes and we need to stay together, play together and believe in each other, and we will win.”
Willis said Saturday’s win — specifically the number of players who made an impact in the comeback — helped to show his squad how important it is to find a niche and figure out how to contribute in this year’s switch to a spread offense from the single wing.
The Lightning field a roster of 34 players and are coming off a 3-7 showing in 2012, the first losing record in school history. The 20 seniors on this year’s team were still coping last season with the March 2012 death of standout sophomore running back Eugene Swen, was scheduled to graduate with the class of 2014.
Barrington says that Swen’s memory and his commitment to the team is with the players in every game.
“That’s still with us all the time,” Barrington said. “That’s what has been said at most games when we’re down, that Eugene would keep playing.
And those other games weren’t too close. We had our chances and we didn’t capitalize on them, but we never gave up. That’s not what we do.”
The final two undefeated teams in Howard are River Hill and Howard after the Hawks beat previously undefeated Centennial, 42-7, and Howard beat visiting Mount Hebron, 35-14. Hammond suffered its first loss at Glenelg (3-1), 35-3. Wilde Lake (2-2) beat Marriotts Ridge (4-0), 28-7, and Reservoir (2-2) rolled past Oakland Mills(1-3), 49-21.