In his two previous seasons playing football at the varsity level, Laurel High School senior wide receiver Brenden Clinton never caught a pass.
In 10th grade, he played mostly defense. In 2012, he missed a majority of the year after breaking his right shoulder. And earlier this season, he sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder — an injury which requires the continued use of a black support brace.
Through it all, Clinton still managed to catch that elusive first pass in Laurel’s inaugural win of the season against Northwestern on Sept. 21.
Roughly three weeks later, in Laurel’s second win of the year Monday against Parkdale, Clinton’s new first is likely far more memorable: his first breakout performance.
On an afternoon where Spartans quarterback Mason Duckett and Parkdale quarterback Eric Harvell combined to throw for 533 yards and 11 touchdowns, Clinton was the recipient of three touchdown passes from Duckett on a banner day for the aerial attack.
Laurel’s 48-36 victory against Parkdale — in a game that originally was scheduled for Friday but moved to Monday because of torrential rain — improved the Spartans’ record to 2-4 while the homestanding Panthers fell to 2-4 after winning two in a row.
“I usually specialize on defense, but I’ve always wanted to play offense,” Clinton said. “Finally this year I got a chance and I worked hard this offseason to show I could do it.”
Overall, Clinton caught five passes for 162 yards and touchdown scores of 18, 38 and 48 yards. In the five games prior, Clinton accumulated 163 yards receiving. His 48-yard touchdown, a slant across the middle, came with 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and sealed the victory for coach Todd Sommerville’s squad.
“I thought we played really well,” Sommerville said. “We didn’t make a lot of mistakes and offensively, we were firing on all cylinders. We executed very well.”
Duckett, who played a part in all seven touchdowns for Laurel, opened the scoring with a 3-yard run in the first quarter. That score served as the game-winner as, despite finding the end zone five times, Parkdale never took the lead away from the Spartans.
Harvell and Panthers junior wide receiver Will Massey sure did try.
The duo connected six times for a total of 205 yards and four touchdowns. Massey, quite simply, was beastly. On each of his touchdown catches (29, 28, 25, 70) he either jumped high above a defender to bring the ball down, or snatched the pass out of heavy traffic before sprinting the rest of the way into the end zone.
Parkdale’s best chance to take the lead came in a frantic third quarter. After Duckett found Clinton for his their first touchdown connection, Laurel recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. On the next play, however, Duckett was intercepted for the second time on the afternoon and Harvell found Massey on a slant for a 70-yard score. After Parkdale’s defense forced a punt that gave the Panthers the ball at their own 47, Alex Lawrence fumbled on the next play and Laurel took over. Three downs later, it was Duckett to Clinton, again, and Laurel suddenly was ahead 41-28.
“We had the momentum for just a moment, but then we had that fumble. It could have gone either way,” said Parkdale coach Chuck Pope. “It was a true dogfight.”
In five games prior, the Spartans scored a total of 59 points but the offense finished with 577 total yards in Monday’s pass-happy affair. Laurel tailback Damon Bailey gained 134 yards on 14 carries, a remarkable effort that was overshadowed by Duckett’s 301 passing yards and six passing touchdowns.
“It let me know we’re capable of more than just being out there,” said Duckett, who hurt his elbow in the first quarter, but played through the pain. “We can do a lot more as a team than just be on the field. We can actually win. It feels good.”
Both teams have a quick turnaround as Laurel is scheduled to play host to Bowie on Friday while Parkdale travels to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Laurel 48, Parkdale 36
Laurel (2-4) 7 18 16 7 — 48
Parkdale (2-4) 0 12 16 8 — 36
L — Mason Duckett 3 run (Bryan Fraley kick), 2:56
L — Cailen Walker 1 pass from Mason Duckett (Bryan Fraley kick failed), 6:19
P — Will Massey 29 pass from Eric Harvell (run failed), 2:52
L — Shaquille Griffith 6 pass from Mason Duckett (pass failed), 1:34
P — Will Massey 28 pass from Eric Harvell (Florentin Gomez-Garcia kick failed), 1:11
L — Malik Harvin 23 pass from Mason Duckett (Bryan Fraley kick failed), 0:05
P — Will Massey 25 pass from Eric Harvell (Eric Harvell run), 9:04
L — Brenden Clinton 18 pass from Mason Duckett (Cailen Walker pass from Mason Duckett), 6:16
P — Will Massey 70 pass from Eric Harvell (Eric Harvell run), 5:38
L — Brenden Clinton 38 pass from Mason Duckett (Brenden Clinton pass from Mason Duckett), 2:17
P — Akeem Okusaga 20 pass from Eric Harvell (Ron Giddings run), 3:49
L — Brenden Clinton 48 pass from Mason Duckett (Bryan Fraley kick), 0:46
Laurel — Damon Bailey 14-134, Mason Duckett 17-80, Brandon Boodie 4-31, Malik Harvin 3-21, Keyon Pannell 4-19, Justin Williams 2-(-9)
Parkdale — Eric Harvell 12-88, Will Massey 5-40, Albert McCalne 4-9, Alex Lawrence 3-7, Akeem Okusaga 1-3, Ron Giddings 1-(-1), Armani Jones 1-(-18)
Laurel — Mason Duckett 15-30-301-2
Parkdale — Eric Harvell 9-22-232-0, Tyree Winslow 0-1-0-0
Laurel — Brenden Clinton 5-162, Malik Harvin 4-91, Cailen Walker 2-28, Damon Bailey 2-8, Shaquille Griffith 1-6, Justin Williams 1-6
Parkdale — Will Massey 6-205, Akeem Okusaga 2-22, Ron Giddings 1-5