A version of this article with additional exclusive photos will appear in the October issue of the Pasadena Voice, in home mailboxes Oct. 10.
Here’s an unprecedented sentence: It’s six weeks into the season, and Chesapeake football is still undefeated.
The Cougars’ latest victory may be their most impressive, as Chesapeake battled from three separate deficits on October 5 to ultimately overtake visiting South River and move to 6-0 for the first time in school history with a 28-24 homecoming victory.
Fresh off a week-five win over Landsdowne that put the Cougars at a then program-best 5-0, Chesapeake improved on its historic start by climbing out of an early 14-0 hole against South River.
Receiver/defensive back Russell Tongue had touchdown catches of 29 and 31 yards and a key fourth-quarter interception, Khalil Gary rushed for two scores, and quarterback Dylan Young threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars turned more heads as one of two remaining undefeated teams in the county along with Broadneck.
“It’s great,” said Young of passing the halfway point of the season with another win. “South River’s a great football team. This is a statement game for us.”
Beating a 4A team is never easy as a 3A school, and Chesapeake fell behind early against the Seahawks (3-3), who were firmly in the mix for a playoff berth of their coming into the game but needed to win to keep pace. The Seahawks immediately jumped in front, getting a 56-yard touchdown run by Joe Foy on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Receiver Delvin Johnson took a direct snap and scored on South River’s next drive to double the Seahawks’ lead at 14-0.
In 2017, a similarly tight contest with the Seahawks ultimately wore down the Cougars, but this year, the Cougars battled back, a sign of the resiliency they’ve shown all year, according to head coach Rob Elliott.
“We’ve been very resilient,” Elliott said. “[Against] Catonsville, the third play of the game we fumbled, they run it back for a touchdown. [Against] Landsdowne last week they run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, we’re down. This game we’re down 14-0. So just, the resiliency to deal with that really bad adversity and just keep battling is what we’ve been working on, and I’ve been working on that since I got here. I’m very proud of our growth as a team in dealing with that adversity.”
The initial comeback began with a quality drive as Young hit Colton Spangler down the right sideline for a 28-yard completion, and Gary punched in a score from the 1-yard line to make it 14-7, with Spangler hitting his first of four extra-point tries on the day.
On Chesapeake’s next drive, the Cougars again put plays together to march confidently down the field. Young found Hunter Davis for a 12-yard gain on third-and-10, with Davis impressively keeping his toes in bounds on the sideline to make the first-down catch. After a 15-yard run by Cole Foca, Young hit Tongue perfectly in stride on a corner route for a 29-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 right before halftime.
A South River field goal gave the Seahawks a 17-14 lead in the third quarter, and again Chesapeake rallied, with Davis making another crucial first-down catch on third down, and Young scrambling up the sideline for a first down. A couple pass interference penalties on South River set Chesapeake up inside the 5-yard line, and Gary rushed in his second score for a 21-17 lead.
South River responded with a big fourth-down play as quarterback David Foust hit Foy for a 10-yard touchdown, and the Seahawks led, 24-21, with over 10 minutes to play.
Undeterred by deficits twice already, the Cougars set out to reclaim the lead, stitching together a handful of short gains before taking their shot. At the South River 31-yard line, Tongue ran a corner route, and Young put his throw into space for his speedy receiver.
“It was great protection, Russell beat his man one-on-one on the corner, and I put it out there for him, and he went out there and made a play,” said Young.
Seemingly draped by two defensive backs, Tongue sped through them both to make the catch.
“I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got to make a play again,’” said Tongue. “I saw the ball coming, and I had to get that extra burst in to get that ball, and I had to score.”
He made the catch between two defenders, turned and gained another four yards to get into the end zone. Chesapeake led 28-24.
“Really we struggled to stop their offense, so we made a decision to shorten the game, try to get into field goal range and tie it, then take our shots,” said Elliott. “That was our shot play to go for the game.”
On the ensuing drive, South River’s offense made a final attempt to get the lead back as Foust launched a deep pass to Foy going for the end zone, but Tongue was there patrolling the middle of the field, and he leaped up to make the interception at Chesapeake’s 1-yard line.
Should teams try to throw over the middle with Tongue playing deep?
“No,” Tongue said, smiling and citing his jersey number. “Most teams tell me after the game that ‘We can’t throw to number 6’s side.’ I was there at the perfect time in the right place, and I’m happy I got it and made a play.”
Backed up deep in their own territory with over three minutes left, Chesapeake got a big 13-yard run by Jaylen Richardson for a first down, eating up clock and getting them clear from the danger of their own goal line. Richardson carried a team-high 12 times for 55 yards.
Gary put the nail in the coffin with a 6-yard run to get another first down, and Chesapeake took victory formation to kill the rest of the clock.
Players and coaches cited the play of the offensive line—Jadon Milton, Andrew Richardson, Brent Vogt, Deryk Croghan and Cristian Moreno, the latter of whom stepped in at left tackle to replace injured starter Matt Blades—as key to the win.
Chesapeake’s 6-0 start—wins over Towson, Severna Park, Catonsville, Glen Burnie, Landsdowne and South River—is impressive, but the Cougars have no plans to slow down.
“That feels great, because we’re the first team to go 6-0 to start, and we plan on going 10-0,” said Tongue.
Despite allowing more points than against any other opponent so far, Elliott was proud of his team to come away with a win.
But said the Cougars can’t be satisfied.
“I asked them, ‘What does 6-0 mean?’” said Elliott. “It means nothing. We haven’t secured anything. We’ve started well. We’ve got two really tough games coming up, so 6-0 means nothing, it means we’ve started well, and we’ve got to finish.”