It was a game won and lost on the ground. Coaches and players of both No. 7 Lake Braddock and No. 20 Robinson said so as Friday approached.
Robinson has for years been famous for running the ball, grinding out five-yard gain after five-yard gain until opposing defenses cried uncle. Lake Braddock has opted for the air.
Then senior running back Lamont Atkins arrived on campus, and Bruins Coach Jim Poythress resolved to run the ball. On Friday, Lake Braddock did, and Atkins carried the Bruins to a 36-7 win in Burke.
“He’s a big, strong kid who can roll,” Poythress said. “You miss him once, and our line is pretty good. He gets to the second level, and it’s a race.”
On Friday, no one could catch Lamont Atkins.
He ran for two 71-yard touchdowns, one in each half, to put the Bruins up 22-6 midway through the fourth quarter.
On fourth and goal from the 4-yard line, Robinson had its chance to pound back into the game. Quarterback Alex Miller rolled left and looked to throw. When Atkins and Ibrahim Mansaray denied his passing options, he tried to run.
But Bruins senior Daniel Kelly met him at the line of scrimmage to force a turnover on downs.
The next play, Atkins ran untouched for a 96-yard touchdown, an exclamation mark to his 331-yard performance.
“That’s the one that won us the game,” said senior lineman Jacob Laub , whose block opened up the hole in the Rams’ defense during the run. He threw his hands up to the sky then shot finger pistols to the sideline as Atkins crossed the goal line.
“Relief,” he said.
Lake Braddock has won three of the last four meetings with Robinson in a rivalry dubbed by locals as the “Battle of Burke.” The schools are three miles apart. Friday, they held competing pregame tailgates 300 yards away from one another in the Lake Braddock parking lot.
“It’s amazing,” Laub said of the rivalry. “Every single time.”
Bruins fans waved dismembered sheep stuffed animals on broomsticks during the game. Ram fans held decapitated teddy bears. Lose this game, Laub said, and you’ll hear about it until the teams play again.
Early, it looked as though the Rams (2-1) might take revenge after last year’s 21-14 loss. Two plays into the second quarter, halfback Roman Lowery scored on a six-yard touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead.
But Robinson’s next drive halted at midfield with a punt and four plays later, Atkins broke free for his first 71-yard score.
“First quarter we were iffy, but we got it into our mind that the tougher team would win this game,” Laub said. “We’re the toughest team.”