Late in the fourth quarter of Monday afternoon's football game at Parkdale High School, Laurel quarterback Mason Duckett squatted down on the visiting sideline.
He held a bag of ice firmly to his right elbow, centimeters above the protective sleeve he wears, and winced in pain.
Duckett had already thrown five touchdown passes and rushed for another score, but with two minutes remaining and his team ahead by five points, the victory was far from assured. The Spartans had the ball, too, which made things even more painful for the 6-foot-1 signal caller.
One drive earlier, Duckett watched as backup quarterback Justin Williams was sacked for a 4-yard loss on fourth down, a play that helped set up Parkdale's most recent touchdown. So Duckett re-entered the game only to hobble off the field as pain again coursed through his elbow following a hard tackle. On Laurel's next play, Williams lost five yards.
Surrounded by teammates with Duckett's best interest in mind, the quarterback sprung from his squat, snapped on his helmet and jogged toward the field.
“Don't do it Mason,” said one defensive lineman.
“It's not worth it,” said another. “Don't, Mason. Don't.”
They yelled to Laurel coach Todd Sommerville, pleading with him to not allow Duckett back into the game having seen how uncomfortable he was seconds earlier. But Sommerville was too far away to hear them and No. 14 broke Laurel's huddle on the field.
Duckett handed off to Malik Harvin on second down for a 7-yard gain. The next play call came in. Sommerville wanted to pass.
“It hurts when I bend it, but when I'm in full motion I forget about it,” Duckett said after the game, his right elbow nearly twice the size of his left when held next to one another.
So it was that on third-and-8 from Parkdale's 48, Duckett uncorked the final of his 30 passing attempts on the day — a strike across the middle to senior Brenden Clinton for the game-clinching touchdown with 46 seconds on the clock.
“I knew he could still throw the ball,” said Clinton, who scored three times. “When he came in, I was hugging him because I know we have a good chance to win the game when he's in there.”
Playing through pain for nearly the entire contest, Duckett delivered the performance of a lifetime in Laurel's 48-36 victory against the Panthers. Seven touchdowns (six passing, one rushing), 381 all-purpose yards (301 passing, 80 rushing) and one developing bruise. If those numbers seem surprising, however, they shouldn't. Duckett's been one of Prince George's County's top quarterbacks all season.
“It makes it really easy coaching when you've got a guy who understands how and when to throw the ball,” Sommerville said. “I expected good stuff out of him, but he's been well beyond my expectations.”
In six games, Duckett has thrown for 1,372 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's completed 73-of-192 passes with seven interceptions while running the ball 64 times for 260 yards and two scores. In every game this season, Duckett has thrown for at least 100 yards, four times eclipsing the 200-yard mark and twice turning in 300-plus yard performances.
“As a team, I know we're capable of so much more,” said Duckett, who also nursed a thumb injury throughout the weekend. “This effort [against Parkdale] should carry on throughout the season. If we do that every time, we're good.”
Duckett's injury Monday stemmed from a violent collision in the first quarter after he threw the first of his two interceptions. Parkdale's Will Massey, who caught six passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns, returned the turnover along the home sideline and collided helmet-to-helmet with Duckett. Massey's facemask drove directly into Duckett's forearm as the two hit the ground.
Duckett appeared sorest early in the fourth quarter when, after he was stopped for no gain on a run, he told coaches on Laurel's sideline that he couldn't run the ball anymore. Two plays later he was sacked and Williams lined up under center for the first time.
“I don't like to lose,” said Duckett, who has been playing football since he was 6. “It looked like we were off to a bad start [when I was out], so I wanted to finish the game the way we started. I wanted us to finish hard.”
A backup quarterback for the Spartans last season, Duckett didn't complete a pass, going 0-for-4 with an interception. But after a summer spent practicing and attending local camps, he's on pace to lead the county's public school quarterbacks in passing — whether he has to play hurt or not.
“He played like a warrior [Monday],” Sommerville said. “He did more than any coach could ever ask of a guy. It was phenomenal.”