Long Reach earns title, playoff berth



With a playoff berth and a Howard County title on the line last night, coach Pete Hughes was keeping the offense conservative for seventh-ranked Long Reach, and host Mount Hebron was staying in the game.

The Vikings (5-5) drew within 14-12 in the second quarter when tailback Chris Eccleston caught a deflected pass and raced 69 yards for a touchdown. Long Reach fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but its defense stiffened and the Lightning took control after that for a 34-12 victory over the Vikings.

With the win, Long Reach (9-1) secured at least a share of the first county title in school history and clinched a Class 3A East region playoff spot.

"This game was way too important to be that close" early, said Long Reach tailback Josh Brown, who rushed for 227 yards on 24 carries. "We knew we had to step it up. This is what we worked all year for."

After the Lightning fumbled that second-period kickoff and the Vikings recovered at the Long Reach 33, the Long Reach defense sacked Mount Hebron quarterback Ricky Schultz for a loss of 10 yards, held Eccleston to a gain of 2 yards on a pass and forced Schultz to throw incomplete on third down.

The Vikings punted, and Brown then ran for a total of 46 yards on three consecutive carries, setting up a 10-yard Long Reach touchdown run by Keith Richardson. The Lightning added another touchdown by halftime.

After the game, Hughes called the defensive stand "crucial."

"That's what our defense does," Brown said. "Our defense steps it up, especially when we need it."

Long Reach scored again in the second on a 25-yard run by Brown and added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

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