Jake Thomas, Gaithersburg secondary stifle Wootton’s passing attack in win

The Trojans defeat the Patriots in a close homecoming game to remain undefeated. (Terence McHale/The Washington Post)
October 4, 2013

Leading up to Friday’s game against Wootton, Gaithersburg’s coaching staff placed an emphasis on the secondary’s need to make plays.

What the Trojans coaches got were three interceptions and a slew of forced incompletions in a 20-14 victory in Gaithersburg.

Gaithersburg’s defense understood what it was going against, an up-tempo attack that wanted to spread the ball around. To prepare, the Trojans practiced like they were in a passing league during the week, running seven-on-seven drills to get accustomed to the speed with which Wootton runs plays.

That practice paid off as the Trojans (5-0) limited one of the area’s most explosive passing attacks to just 168 yards of total offense.

“Our mentality is to shut down their offense and let our offense win the game,” Trojans safety Jake Thomas said.

Da'Shawn Hand and the Woodbridge Vikings cope with tragedy off the field by coming together for a win on it. (Brad Horn and Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)

Thomas led the secondary with two interceptions, the first a perfect read on a deep pass down the left sideline. His second interception came during a pivotal point in the third quarter with the Trojans clinging to a 17-14 lead.

Wootton (3-2) drove to the Gaithersburg 16-yard line, threatening to score. On a pass thrown over the middle of the field, Thomas broke on the ball and dove to secure the interception and preserve the lead.

“Our defense played great. Everybody did their part to shut down that offense,” Thomas said. “The DBs had to do a better job to shut down that passing offense.”

Thomas’s two interceptions almost weren’t enough. A Gaithersburg field goal from Luis Vigil put the Trojans up 20-14 with 2 minutes 20 seconds left in the game, enough time for Wootton to fire back with some quick plays and a potential go-ahead touchdown.

But Gaithersburg got yet another big play from the secondary, with defensive back Evan Barnes recording the defense’s third interception of the night.

“They had threats all over the place,” Barnes said. “We had to stay humble and be on it.”

Wootton standout sophomore wide receiver Trevon Diggs finished with seven catches for 54 yards, and Jibri Woods caught four passes for 99 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown in the first quarter, for the Patriots.

Wootton wide receiver Trevon Diggs chose to attend public school instead of following in his brother Stefon's footsteps at powerhouse Good Counsel. (Nathan Bickell for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

While Gaithersburg’s defense allowed double digits in points for the first time this fall, Friday’s performance was still a strong one from one of the area’s best. The defense needed to step upwith star running back and Northwestern recruit Solomon Vault still dealing with a leg injury from earlier this season. Vault played, but he was limited to just two carries for eight yards.

Filling in for Vault were Xaviyer Mosley and Zavae Johnson, who combined for 121 yards on 26 carries while the defense took care of the rest.

“We have a special emphasis on defense,” Barnes said. “Last year there were too many points given up. This year, we’re going to keep it low.”

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