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File Photo by Jerry BallengeeCoach Douglas Lamb helped the Chargers overcome an 0-2 start and later three forfeit losses to win the 3A South Region championship.
Chadwick led Lackey to back-to-back state finals in 2003 and ‘04, coming away with runner-up finishes each time, two SMAC crowns, a pair of 3A South Region titles and a 40-10 overall mark.
Yet, two seasons into the Lamb regime at Lackey, a climate of change has swept through the outfit to the point that the more things change, the more they are staying the same in Chargers country.
Back into the state limelight ventured Lackey this past fall, capturing its third regional championship in five years and coming one game short of playing at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium in the state final. Lackey lost to Hereford on the road in the state semifinals, 35-20.
Along the way, Lamb busted through any lingering Chadwick shadow hovering over the program while dissipating any questions about his ability to follow in the footsteps of the successful coach.
A 10-game winning streak on the field, overcoming three forfeit losses due to academic ineligibility and upsetting archrival Westlake in the regional final all played a key role in a unanimous decision by the county coaches to vote Lamb as the All-County coach of the year.
‘‘I love playing for Coach Lamb. He’s a great coach and a down-to-earth-guy,” said Lackey cornerback Darrell Givens, who has college offers in just his junior year from Virginia, Ohio State, Boston College, Akron, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and, most recently, Oregon and Tennessee. ‘‘With Coach Lamb as our head coach, we think we have a real good chance of winning a state title next year. We have a real good class of 2009 coming back, and with Coach Lamb and his coaching staff, they will put us in the right position to make plays and to use our talents.
‘‘We have a whole lot of confidence in Coach Lamb.”
What evolved into a memorable 2007 season got off to an inauspicious start. Lackey dropped its first two games by a combined 53-20 count at home to Urbana and eventual SMAC champion Patuxent.
But Lamb never panicked. Instead, he resorted to a pickaxe for motivation.
‘‘After we lost the second game to Patuxent, Coach Lamb went out and got a pickaxe and brought it to practice every day and to every game,” Givens said. ‘‘It represented how we needed to use that to dig ourselves out of an 0-2 hole that we put ourselves in.”
‘‘It was about digging ourselves out of the hole that we had dug ourselves in to,” said Lackey senior running back Michael Johnson, the team’s emotional leader with more than 1,400 yards on the ground. ‘‘We needed to get back to Lackey football, bring the hammer.”
‘‘It worked a lot,” Givens added about the pickaxe visual.
Johnson said: ‘‘That was exciting. It encouraged a lot of players to play harder. The pickaxe was a great idea.”
Johnson also gave a rousing speech during a players-only meeting after starting 0-2 that helped ignite Lackey’s season.
The pickaxe era saw Lackey win its next 10 games on the field, including a sweep of 3A state hopeful Westlake during the regular and postseasons.
The rivals matched up in the regional final for the third time in five years.
The first two clashes happened under Chadwick’s watch. But just like those previous pair of regional finals, Lackey proved to be the better team once again vs. Westlake with a state berth on the line.
Lamb and company celebrated a 17-7 victory on the road at top-seeded Westlake.
‘‘Beating Westlake twice — that was my championship,” Johnson said.
After clinching the top seed in the region and a share of the SMAC title coming out of the regular season with an 8-2 record — riding eight straight wins — Lackey was discovered to be playing with an academically ineligible player for the initial three victories of the winning streak. Those wins were turned into losses, dropping the team’s record to 5-5 at the end of the regular season. It finished 7-6 following the playoffs.
In a press release, Charles County Public Schools stated that the situation occurred due to a miscalculation of the player’s grade-point average for the fourth quarter of the last school year.
Lamb never talked about the matter publicly. All Lackey Principal Curry Werkheiser commented on was the disappointment of the news and how the school was moving on.
Lackey had to settle for the fourth and final seed in the region.
Just like the 0-2 start, Lamb remained poised to use the dilemma as a source of motivation and inspiration in the playoffs.
‘‘Basically, he just gave it to us straight,” Johnson recalled of the day Lamb informed the team of its forfeit losses from the academic ineligibility. ‘‘He told us how proud of us he was and that we were still in the playoffs. He said that’s where they messed up. They should not have left us in the playoffs.”
‘‘The way he reacted to the situation — he was never down,” Givens added. ‘‘He showed the team that we were going to get through it together.”
E-mail Dallas Cogle at firstname.lastname@example.org.