Last season, Long Reach won its first seven games and earned the No. 1 seed in the regional playoffs, surprising many after winning only three games and allowing 34 points per game in the previous two seasons combined.
It’s a different story this season. Senior-laden Long Reach has expectations of raising banners, and it’s clear after three weeks that they have the pieces to make it happen.
The Lightning played well in all three phases on Friday night against an emotional Wilde Lake in the Ravens RISE Showdown, as they racked up 351 yards of offense and allowed just 94 in a 21-0 victory.
It was the second straight shutout for Long Reach (3-0).
Senior running back KaDarrian Booker finished with 203 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries and set the tone as he went untouched up the middle for a 94-yard touchdown run on the Lightning’s first offensive play. Senior quarterback Tyler Moore also didn’t miss a beat, completing his last six passes and all five in the second half to finish 11-for-17 for 147 yards and a touchdown to senior wide receiver Tre’Von Morgan (three receptions, 21 yards and a TD) early in the third quarter.
“We live and die with our run game right now and our senior offensive line is playing really well for us, and KaDarrian is doing a great job for us,” said Long Reach coach Jamie Willis said. “And Wilde Lake is emotional with what happened [with the death of Wilde Lake teacher Laura Wallen]. Our condolences are with her family and the school.
“We knew they were going to come out on fire and we were trying to get a quick-hitter. I think that really zapped the energy out of them early.”
Wilde Lake coach Michael Harrison said there were no excuses for his team’s lack of production. It was held to 120 yards of offense in a 27-7 Week 2 loss at Atholton, and once again struggled to move the ball against a stout Long Reach defense. But Harrison admitted it has been an emotionally exhausting two weeks.
“We dealt with the adversity last week with [Wallen] being missing and then with the news that broke Wednesday evening, the kids loved her. I can’t tell you a person ever at Wilde Lake who ever said a bad word about Laura Wallen,” Harrison said. “She’s just a great human being and it wasn’t fair. High school aged kids have a hard time processing, they want to see everything in black and white, right and wrong. This is wrong and they struggled with it.”
After Booker’s quick strike, each of Long Reach’s next two scoring drives were long and methodical. Moore completed three straight passes to three different receivers for 34 yards to spark an 11-play, 87-yard march that started late in the first quarter and ended with Booker’s four-yard touchdown run with 7:21 left in the half and his team up 13-0. Booker carried the ball five times for 34 yards in the drive.
“We’ve all grown together and with KaDarrian being here last year and with the offensive line here last year, I think the offensive line just sets the tone. We lean on them,” Willis said. “Our philosophy is if we can run the ball then everything else we can handle.”
Long Reach essentially put the game away on the first possession of the second half, and once again it was Moore and his receivers who came up with the key plays. The first-year starting quarterback found Morgan for a 15-yard completion on a 3rd-and-5, and then moved the chains again with a 40-yard pass to Luis Gooden Jr. (four receptions, 84 yards) on a 4th-and-6 at the 49. Moore’s touchdown pass to Morgan, a jump ball in the left corner of the end zone, came on a 3rd-and-goal from the 6. Senior Quran Sims caught the two-point conversion to make it a 21-point advantage.
“We couldn’t get ourselves off the field on third or fourth down and that’s hard,” Harrison said. “If we’re struggling on the offensive end and we can’t get first downs then on the other side we can’t get off the field, it hurts. Sometimes that’s a sign of our youth.”
Long Reach failed to score again but its next drive ate nearly seven minutes of clock and lasted 13 plays. The Lightning conserved the shutout and forced a Wilde Lake (1-2) incompletion on the final play from the 2.
“We’re starting to be the defense we know we can be,” Willis said. “The first game [a 29-28 win against Oakland Mills] I think was an adjustment for us and now we’re starting to figure out who we really are. Now our defensive backs are understanding that they’re good enough.”
Willis isn’t letting his team get too far ahead of itself. They have a bye week coming up and a meeting with River Hill, which upset the Lightning in the playoffs a year ago, looms.
“Our goal is to be 1-0 each week and keep getting better and I think this was more of a full game than we’ve had in the last two weeks,” Willis said, “but our season still has a long way to go. We’re going to watch film tomorrow and get better and get ready for River Hill in two weeks.”
Long Reach (3-0) — 7 6 8 0 — 21
Wilde Lake (1-2) — 0 0 0 0 — 0
LR: KaDarrian Booker 94-yard run, Ansley Jean kick [7-0]
LR: Booker four-yard run, kick failed [13-0]
LR: Tyler Moore six-yard pass to Tre’Von Morgan, Moore to Quran Sims conversion [21-0]
To see more Howard County football results from Sept. 15, click HERE.