When Long Reach defensive back Dane Lynch Jr. came back to the sideline after his second interception in a 20-10 win at River Hill Friday night, an assistant coach explained to him that’s why he doesn’t play running back.
All he could do was smile and nod his head in agreement after his forced turnover with less than two minutes remaining helped the Lightning seal the win and improve to 6-0, their best start since beginning the 2004 season 7-0. That was also the last year they beat the Hawks.
“Dane is a baller. He’s unbelievable,” said Long Reach coach Jamie Willis. “He’s been one of the kids in our program who has gotten better every single year since he’s been a freshman, and that’s all we stress – reaching our full potential and getting better.”
Getting better was exactly Willis’ message to the team postgame. Despite the unblemished record, the last three games haven’t been up to his standard, and with county powers Glenelg and Howard ahead on the schedule, he knows his team must improve in order to accomplish their ultimate goals.
“We know the potential we have and we know who we’ve got in front of us,” Willis explained. “We’re just getting started and I know what our goals are. Our goals are to be the best team in the county and win the state championship, and when you play games and allow teams to stay with you, it’s going to bite you in the butt at some point. That’s what we’re trying to get them to understand. ... We’re better than what we showed.”
The Lightning started a little slow out of the gates offensively but got things moving on their third drive. Quarterback Tyler Raines, who threw for 107 yards in the first half and ended the night 13-for-24 for 136 yards and played much better after a few shaky starts, according to Willis, completed both of his passes to Jalen Hall – a 40-yarder and a 6-yard touchdown – to make it 7-0.
The Hawks (3-3) answered with an 11-play drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal by Cooper McGeehan, but Long Reach’s Sheriff Kamara later blocked a punt deep in River Hill territory to give the Lightning possession at the Hawks 4. Raines scored three plays later on a 5-yard run up the middle to extend the lead to 14-3 at the half.
Lynch Jr. made the game’s biggest play on the first play of the second half. River Hill quarterback Luke Champion dropped back and threw a quick slant to the left, but Lynch Jr. jumped the route and took it 18 yards uncontested into the end zone for a 20-3 lead.
“Our defense played hard early and often and early in the game the offense moved the ball well,” Willis said. “We’ve got guys all over the place who can make plays, and that’s the great thing – you take one thing away we can hit you with something else.”
The score was big for other reasons, too. Long Reach starting running back KaDarrian Booker left the game with a leg injury late in the first quarter and never returned, which forced Greg Benton Jr. – arguably the team’s best defender – into the backfield for the majority of the offensive snaps.
“We we’re trying to figure out what to do running the ball, because we didn’t want to run Greg the whole time because he had to play defense and the defense was playing so well,” Willis said. “... The guys behind him have to step up and do better. That’s what we’re talking about – next man up. ... You have to practice like a starter.”
The Hawks didn’t go away after Champion’s pick-six. Instead, he came out firing even more and helped string together an 11-play drive that went 83 yards and ended with his 5-yard touchdown run to make it 20-10. However, the Lightning defense buckled down and River Hill couldn’t quite get another drive going until 4:26 left in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks picked up six first downs and marched to the Long Reach 9 after 16 plays, but on the 17th Champion’s quick pass to the left was picked off by Lynch Jr. and returned 64 yards to the River Hill 27 with 1:28 left.
“Game changers,” Hall said. “Absolute game changers, man.”
While the defense had three interceptions, as Luis Gooden Jr. also had one late in the first half, Long Reach’s offense controlled the clock by executing a 49-yard, 12-play drive in which Raines completed all three of his passes, including two for first downs to Derrick Noble. That forced River Hill to pick up its tempo and ultimately make the costly turnover.
“Tyler Raines played a hell of a game. ... That was a huge drive, especially when you can’t run the ball like we wanted to run the ball," Willis said. "That’s what you need of your captain and senior quarterback – to make plays.”
Hall, who had six receptions for 70 yards and a score, was in agreement with his coach after the game, saying his team hasn’t had a good practice since beating Mt. Hebron to start the season and must get better with the opponents that lie ahead.
“I’m pretty sure they game out with more intensity than us, and if we came in and did our jobs the score would have been way different,” he said. “But for us to come in at their homecoming and beat them was really important.”
Champion ran for 74 yards on 18 carries and finished 14-for-30 for 126 yards passing and three interceptions, while receivers Daniel Kelly (47 yards) and Brendan McKenna (64 yards) each had six receptions to lead the Hawks.
Long Reach (6-0) – 7 7 6 0 – 20
River Hill (3-3) – 0 3 7 0 – 10
LR: Tyler Raines 6-yard pass to Jalen Hall, Arthur Yann Nkonoandjouo kick [7-0]
RH: Cooper McGeehan 26-yard field goal [7-3]
LR: Raines 5-yard run, Nkonoandjouo kick [14-3]
LR: Dane Lynch 18-yard interception return, kick failed [20-3]
RH: Luke Champion 5-yard run, Champion kick [20-10]
Anthony Jenkins and Stanley Kirkland combine for 27 carries, 224 yards and three touchdowns to help Wilde Lake shutout Hammond, 30-0, to win its fourth straight game. TJ Lyles also had a score and 70 yards on 11 carries, and the defense got three fumble recoveries and an interception from Darius Nicholas.
Wilde Lake (4-2) – 13 0 0 17 – 30
Hammond (0-6) – 0 0 0 0 – 0
WL: Anthony Jenkins 35-yard run, Osita Smith kick [7-0]
WL: Stanley Kirkland 3-yard run, kick failed [13-0]
WL: Stanley Kirkland 5-yard run, Jason MacMillan kick [20-0]
WL: TJ Lyles 21-yard run, Kickland run [28-0]
WL: Defensive safety [30-0]
Howard (6-0) – 14 21 0 0 – 35
Centennial (1-5) – 0 0 0 0 – 0
Ho: Devin Dawkins 85-yard kick return, Michael Gillespie kick [7-0]
Ho: Dawkins 5-yard run, Gillespie kick [14-0]
Ho: Dawkins 3-yard run, Gillespie kick [21-0]
Ho: DJ Howard 47-yard run, Gillespie kick [28-0]
Ho: Robby Porter 27-yard pass to Dylan Perez, Gillespie kick [35-0]
Marriotts Ridge (3-3) – 21, Oakland Mills (2-4) – 0
Saturday, Oct. 8, 1 p.m.
Atholton (3-2) at Mt. Hebron (2-3)
Reservoir (0-5) at Glenelg (4-1)