Churchill faces No. 17 Seneca Valley in battle of unbeatens; Quince Orchard meets with Northwest
By Eric Detweiler and Roman Stubbs,
Game to watch: No. 17 Seneca Valley (3-0) at Churchill (3-0), Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Through three weeks, Churchill has outscored its opponents, 90-9, but Coach Joe Allen sees plenty of room for improvement. Breaking in seven new offensive starters, the unbeaten Bulldogs are still working to cut down on mistakes heading into Friday’s nonleague game against Seneca Valley.
Senior Jonathan Lee has passed for 364 yards and rushed for 202 more with six total touchdowns in his first season leading the team, but he’s also accounted for six turnovers. Senior running back Malik Harris (288 rushing yards) was also a back-up last season, and the offensive line has only one returning starter in 6-foot-3, 340-pound senior Darrion Locke.
“We feel like we definitely have the right guys,” Allen said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to rep these plays and practice them. Eventually, we’ll become more consistent.”
Churchill (3-0) was in a similar position last season with a more veteran group and struggled in its first real test, taking a 32-6 loss at Seneca Valley. The Bulldogs rallied to win their final six regular season games before eventually falling to Quince Orchard in the final seconds of the Maryland 4A West final.
Allen said the Bulldogs won’t be too cocky this time around, though he is confident that the team’s triple-option attack can be successful against a Seneca Valley squad that has been a bit weak in its run defense.
The matchup has extra meaning for Churchill sophomore Blake Dove, who started at linebacker for Seneca Valley last season. Dove currently leads the Bulldogs with 26 tackles, including a 13-tackle effort in last week’s 23-0 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
Around Montgomery County
Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini and Northwest Coach Mike Neubeiser mutually call each other “best friends,” having grown up together in Montgomery County and coaching on the same staff for a number of years at Quince Orchard before Neubeiser peeled off. There are perhaps no two coaches in the county who know each other better, which is why when Northwest (2-1) visits Mencarini’s third-ranked Cougars (4-0) on Friday night, deception won’t be in the fold.
And with that said, both know Quince Orchard defensive end Kieran Gregory’s ability to get pressure on Northwest quarterback Matty Callahan will be paramount. Gregory, who forced two fumbles on Paint Branch quarterback Gaston Cooper in a 34-0 win last week, will be starting his 30th varsity game Friday. Callahan, who threw for five touchdowns in a 55-0 win over Magruder a week ago, has been starting at quarterback for the Jaguars since he was a sophomore, and is widely considered the best quarterback in the league. Mencarini points out that Gregory and Callahan will be just two of 22 players on the field, but will be in a chess match across the line because of the nature of their experience.
“There’s a lot of situations that [Gregory] has been in. He’s worked for everything,” said Mencarini of Gregory, who is headed to Richmond next fall. “[Callahan’s] had enough big games under his belt where he knows what he’s about to walk into Friday night. It’s not like you can rattle that guy.”
Quince Orchard has been hit hard by injuries in recent weeks, and junior quarterback Tobin Pagley will make his first varsity start Friday. Mencarini is still unsure if Pagley will have wide receiver Elliott Davis and running back Keano Wilder at his disposal after the two starters were injured last week, and running back Tyrell Williams is still out with an ankle injury suffered in the season opener against Sherwood.
Neubeiser’s team has a clean bill of health, and he said he is anxious to return to Quince Orchard to coach. It will be his first game on the visiting sideline at the school since 2001, which adds significance to the matchup against Mencarini.
“It’s difficult to coach against guys you care that much about,” said Neubeiser, who starred at Gaithersburg, where Mencarini’s father, Joe, was an assistant for two decades. “I haven’t coached there in a while. That’s going to be weird.” . . .
Einstein senior Khalil Wilson — the county’s leading rusher — goes up against one of the area’s top defenses this week when the Titans (2-1) visit No. 16 Damascus (3-0). The 5-foot-9, 215-pound back has topped the 100-yard mark in all three games this season, including last week against Rockville when he ran for 302 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Wilson has averaged more than 11 yards per carry in racking up 546 rushing yards and four touchdowns so far. Damascus has not allowed a rushing touchdown yet this season, and no individual player has gained more than 46 yards on the ground against the Swarmin’ Hornets. . . .
Paint Branch starting wide receiver Javonn Curry returns to the lineup this week against Blake after missing last Friday’s game against Quince Orchard. Coach Mike Nesmith, who said starting linebacker and starting wide receiver Andrew Martin is no longer with the team, added that Curry’s return will bring continuity to the position following Martin’s departure. Nesmith calls this week’s matchup with Blake (1-2) a “must-win,” following the 34-0 loss to Quince Orchard. . . .
Springbrook (2-1) will be without its top two wide receivers against Whitman (1-2) this week, with Isaiah Eisendorf still nursing a broken ankle that occurred in preseason camp and tight end Robert Bass, Jr. suffering a high-ankle sprain last week in a 16-2 loss to Walter Johnson.