Quince Orchard running back Kevin Joppy touched the football 35 times in last week’s Maryland 4A West region semifinal win over Clarksburg, which was an unusual commitment made by the Cougars considering no other player, including Joppy, had received more than 22 carries this season. It was more touches for Joppy than in wins over Gaithersburg, Sherwood and Bethesda Chevy Chase combined.
“My legs were fresh,” Joppy said. “I just went off.”
The payoff was enormous. The senior rushed for 231 yards and five touchdowns in the 42-21 win, with three of the scores coming in the first half to slam the door shut on an upset bid by the Coyotes. He showed range (Joppy dazzled with a 48-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter), but was most productive in the red zone, converting four scoring runs from three yards or closer. It was perhaps his best statistical game as a high school player, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Cougars (10-1), who are looking for steam heading into Friday’s rematch with Northwest (9-2) in the Maryland 4A West region final. The Jaguars upset Quince Orchard, 35-21, earlier this month.
“We’re just glad we’re getting our rematch. We’re ready, we’re prepared,” Joppy said. “It was a really tough loss. It was Senior Night. They ruined our perfect season. But after that, we came back hungry.”
Quince Orchard has been dominant since that defeat, beating Wootton 40-0 in the regular season finale before taking out Clarksburg last week, a game in which Quince Orchard scored 28 unanswered points after the Coyotes scored the first touchdown of the contest. The key against in Friday’s rematch, according to Joppy, will be “controlling the ball,” and thus the clock.
Northwest, meanwhile, enters Friday’s game as one of the hottest teams in the 4A playoffs. The Jaguars beat Gaithersburg 36-7 in last week’s West region semifinal, which was punctuated by big plays. Senior wide receiver Matt Watson caught two touchdown passes — of 58 and 85 yards — from sophomore quarterback Mark Pierce, and cornerback Rodney Snider had an 81-yard fumble return for a touchdown during a 29-0 run in the last three quarters.
“[Mark] has been a big part of our offense. We’re passing the ball a lot more now,”senior wide receiver Josh Gills said. “He’s getting the job done.”
The emergence of Pierce has been central to Northwest’s three-game winning streak, which started with the upset of Quince Orchard. He threw four touchdown passes in that game. In last week’s win over the Trojans, he replicated the feat with another four scoring tosses, with efficiency (9-of-14 for 300 yards). The last touchdown pass of the afternoon went to Gills, who was a starter on last season’s team that lost to Quince Orchard in the West region final.
The preparation for Friday’s game has resembled the build-up to the matchup with the Cougars three weeks ago, not one year ago, according to Gills.
“We’re a different team, we’re more focused than we were last year,” Gillis said. “And we’re staying humble in preparation for this game.”