Long Reach's defense has allowed an average of just eight points a game all season. It came through again last night in the pouring rain at Howard with a 20-6 victory.
The Lightning stopped a Howard offense that was averaging 31 points a game and held Howard's star running back Gerald Smith, who entered the game with 769 yards rushing, to a net 15 yards on 12 carries.
The victory improved No. 15-ranked Long Reach's record to 6-1 overall and 5-1 in the league and kept alive the Lightning's Class 2A playoff hopes. Long Reach's only loss was to unbeaten, No. 10-ranked Wilde Lake
When Long Reach's offense, which had produced a 14-0 halftime lead, fumbled four times in the third quarter, the pressure was on the Lightning's defense.
Long Reach fumbled the second-half opening kickoff at the 50-yard line. Then it fumbled at Howard's 1, ending a 48-yard drive.
Howard (4-3, 3-3) scored following the third of the four fumbles, going 30 yards on five plays with Smith scoring from 6 yards out with 1: 55 left in the period.
Following Long Reach's fourth third-quarter fumble, at its own 13-yard line, the Lightning defense held the Lions on four plays.
Long Reach also fumbled once in the first half for a total of five. Howard was not a lot more effective, committing four turnovers, including three fumbles.
The Lions also made a costly roughing-the-punter error late in second quarter. Without the miscue, they would have had the ball at the Long Reach 20-yard line.
On their next possession after that mistake, the Lions were intercepted on a play that set up a Long Reach touchdown.
Running back Devin Conwell, flanker Chris Smith and quarterback Gregg Matusewitch were the offensive leaders for Long Reach. Conwell rushed 23 times for 130 yards. Matusewitch completed seven of 12 passes for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith scored two touchdowns, one on a 14-yard catch with 14 seconds left in the first half, and one on a fourth-down 26-yard run with 5: 08 left in the game.
"On the run, we blocked perfectly, and I had only one man to beat," Smith said. "On the pass, I gave my defender a little push, and that gave me the room I needed."
Long Reach's first touchdown was set up by a Howard fumble at its own 26-yard line. Nigel Long scored on an 8-yard pass from Matusewitch.
Smith was the player who fumbled the second-half opening kickoff.
"It was real hard to hold onto the ball, and after I fumbled that kickoff, I was a little scared, but we got it done," he said.
L Howard coach Vince Parnell was happy with his team's effort.
"Long Reach played the best defense we've seen all season, and we were just a little outmanned," he said. "They beat us on two pass plays. I'm proud of our kids. We played hard and came back. Long Reach is just a good team."
Pub Date: 10/18/97