The 2017 varsity football team took another step forward in solidifying the program as one of the better ones in the area.
The Lakers, unfortunately, fell short of their expectation of returning to the championship after a tough loss last year. They were fortunate to field an extremely skilled team led by captains Brendan Crouse, Rashawn Evans, Michael O’Neill, and Justus Brown.
The Lakers, led by 17 seniors, finished with a 5-5 record. Unlike other teams in the MIAA, the Lakers really challenged themselves with their brutal out-of-conference schedule. Head coach Ritchie Schell finally got his first win against an A-conference team after beating his alma mater Loyola Blakefield 14-7 in the first game of the year.
Following the Loyola win, the Lakers suffered tough losses to an Episcopal and Landon team filled with Division 1 prospects. They walked away as a better and tougher team following the out-of-conference losses.
Schell said, “I didn’t want to play teams that I knew we could beat. There’s a reason why I scheduled teams like Landon, Loyola, and Episcopal. I’m fine with losing to really good teams.”
The Lakers had confidence entering conference play and felt prepared after the strong teams they faced in the previous weeks. They opened up MIAA play with strong wins against Curley, John Carroll, and Pallotti. The offense improved week by week and looked dangerous with Crouse, Jamie Rice, Devon Brewer, and Josh Pugh giving opposing defenses problems.
Similar to previous years, the team was built and relied on a strong defense. The senior-led defense had the luxury of playing a wide variety of guys due to the skill and capability of the sophomore and junior classes.
After heartbreaking and disappointing losses to Severn and Century, the Lakers shut out St. Mary’s who went on to win the championship. Senior captain and defensive leader linebacker Justus Brown was really confident after the dominating win over St. Mary’s 21-0. Brown also said that the Lakers made a statement with the St. Mary’s game and that they could beat anyone when the team played like that.
As always, the Lakers played rival St. Paul’s in the last regular season game of the year. This year’s game was different than previous years as it was a night game at Stevenson University’s Mustang stadium as opposed to a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at either BL or St. Paul’s depending on the year. The Lakers unfortunately did not play their best football game and lost significantly to the Crusaders 34-14.
Quarterback Brendan Crouse said, “We played really stiff and nervous, and honestly, St. Paul’s just outplayed us. I don’t think we showed up focused and ready to go. St. Paul’s had nothing to lose and our season was on the line, and I think we were maybe thinking one week ahead.”
Because the Lakers lost to St. Paul’s, their destiny lay in the hands of the Severn vs. St. Mary’s game. Unfortunately, St. Mary’s won giving Severn the tiebreaker over the Lakers. Evans, who’s a three-year starter at cornerback, was in disbelief that he was not playing in the championship game and wishes he could get back the St. Paul’s game.
Looking back on the season, the entire team can’t believe that the season is over. Many different factors attributed to the reason why the Lakers fell short of their goal of winning the championship. Regardless, the team enjoyed their time together and made everlasting relationships with each other that mean much more than the wins and losses.
Sophomore linebacker Blake Gable said, “Football here is much different than any other sport, and I’m going to miss the season and the seniors. It’s going to be weird without those guys around next year.”
Next year, the Lakers look to capture the first championship under Coach Schell in his 18th year. They will need to replace a very hardworking and extremely talented senior class. Schell said he will especially miss this senior class and is “looking forward to getting ready for next year.”