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  • Russell Tongue (6) celebrated with teammates after a touchdown catch against Long Reach. The Cougars fell to the Lightning, 27-24, in their second playoff appearance in three seasons.
    Photo by Colin Murphy
    Russell Tongue (6) celebrated with teammates after a touchdown catch against Long Reach. The Cougars fell to the Lightning, 27-24, in their second playoff appearance in three seasons.

Chesapeake Football Ends Resurgent Season With Playoff Appearance

Colin Murphy
View Bio
December 6, 2017

As time goes on it will become clearer and clearer just how impressive the Chesapeake football team’s 2017 season was.

The Cougars’ 27-24 defeat to Long Reach in the Class 3A playoffs on November 10 was a disappointing end to a season that reasserted Chesapeake’s newfound place as a contender in a county that keeps getting stronger and more competitive. The Cougars finished the year 7-4, reaching the playoffs for the second time in three years after notching the program’s first-ever playoff appearance in 2015.

Head coach Rob Elliott saw his team fight hard against Long Reach, but the Lightning just made a couple more plays here and there to eke out a win.

“We just didn’t finish tonight,” said Elliott. “We had the lead with eight minutes left. Good team, give Long Reach credit, a very talented team, and it was a dog fight back and forth. We just didn’t execute at the end to finish it out. But I’m extremely proud to be able to say, I’ve got to find a way to get out of the first round. That’s our next goal.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Chesapeake football vs. Long Reach, 3A East playoffs, 11.10.17

That goal seemed within reach at various points throughout the game, and Chesapeake employed its trademark bruising running game and methodical attack to give itself a chance to win. The Cougars’ first scoring drive was a promising start, as quarterback Dylan Young hit Russell Tongue for a 24-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead. Colby McNulty and Tony Watkins each made big running gains on the drive, and Young extended the drive just over midfield by hitting Colton Spangler for a six-yard gain on fourth-and-1.

The Lightning scored a pair of unanswered touchdowns to lead 13-7, but Watkins capitalized on a long punt return by Hunter Davis and scored from a couple yards out to give Chesapeake a 14-13 advantage. After another score by Long Reach made it 19-14, Spangler converted a 36-yard field goal just before halftime to pull within two points at 19-17.

After halftime, Tyler Kirk made a huge interception deep in the Cougars’ own territory to end a Long Reach threat, and Chesapeake had the ball going the other way. After a 35-yard completion from Young to Kirk, Young capped a 90-yard Chesapeake drive with another touchdown completion to Tongue to give the Cougars a 24-19 lead with nine minutes to play in the game.

Long Reach came right back with a score in under four minutes and made a 2-point conversion to take a 27-24 lead. The Lightning came up with four stops on the Cougars’ next drive to take over on downs and salt away the clock.

Players were emotional in the following minutes, but coach Elliott was able to zoom out and cite positives.

“The senior class after a real bad year last year, the senior class came back, we’re in the playoffs, and hell, we’re in the game,” said Elliott. “It was a dog fight. We knew it would be. We thought it would be a one-score game either way, and we needed to execute a few more plays than we did.”

Still, Elliott noted the upward trend of the program as a whole, particularly regarding Chesapeake’s bounce-back 7-4 season after the Cougars regressed to 2-8 in 2016 following the program’s first-ever playoff berth in 2015. The team compiled seven wins in the regular season, including a shutout of Northeast in the Dena Bowl.

“We’ve changed the culture,” he said. “A lot of these guys are too young to know what the culture was. Forty-one years of football and we’re in the playoffs two of the last three years, I think we’ve got it going the right way. … I played at Chesapeake, and the reason I’m here is that, all you used to hear is Chesapeake was the worst program in the county, sometimes the worst program in the state, and I’m extremely proud that people can’t just say that now. We might have a down year here and there, but we’re in a dog fight every week with most people we play, and that was my goal. On a tough night, that’s the silver lining. We’re going in the right direction.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Chesapeake football vs. Long Reach, 3A East playoffs, 11.10.17

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