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Poolesville rallies to beat Walter Johnson, Sherwood finds a featured back

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As the losses piled up last fall, Poolesville quarterback Kirby Carmack wondered why his team couldn’t catch a break. The Falcons lost five games in 2011 before finally pulling out their first win.

Looking back, Carmack, now a senior, remembers a team that dealt with the disappointment week after week because it hadn’t yet learned how to win. Those memories make its current run all the more satisfying.

Poolesville won its third straight game on Friday, erasing a two-touchdown deficit in the final quarter to beat Walter Johnson in overtime, 35-28. Carmack threw four touchdown passes — including the five-yard game-winner to senior C.J. Lee in the extra period — to lift the Falcons to their seventh win in nine games, dating back to last season.

“We all wanted to win so badly, but we were all calm at the same time,” Carmack said. “We were nervous in some moments like when we needed the two-point conversion [at the end of regulation], but we knew we could do it and we had to do it, and then we just kind of did it.”

One of two Maryland 2A schools in Montgomery County, Poolesville (3-1) made just enough plays down the stretch on Friday to win its second game against a larger 4A opponent this season. With about five minutes left, Walter Johnson (2-2) led 28-20 and was driving for the game-sealing score when senior Che Caballero forced a fumble and junior Sean Parker fell on it.

Senior Nikolay Henze (137 rushing yards on 26 carries) scored a touchdown with about two minutes left and Carmack then hit junior Cody Zinsser for the game-tying two-point conversion. Poolesville started overtime with a touchdown, and Walter Johnson couldn’t get in the end zone, ending the game on a botched snap on fourth and goal from the Poolesville 1-yard line.

“They were just kicking our butts,” Poolesville Coach Will Gant said, “and there in the fourth quarter, we found a way to put together a rally.”

The season has turned quickly for Poolesville, which came into the season with high hopes after closing last year with four wins in its final five games. The Falcons trailed Watkins Mill by 35 points in the first half of their opener on the way to a 42-14 loss.

Poolesville hasn’t qualified for the state playoffs since 2005, but its current three-game winning streak has the team well-positioned in the Maryland 2A West field. Though Williamsport of Washington County claimed the region’s final postseason berth last season with five wins, Gant thinks it will take six to extend the season this time around.

“We never take the winning feeling for granted because last year we didn’t have it that much,” Carmack said. “We’re not getting overly cocky. We’re still working hard. We always know things can change, and the season can go completely wrong pretty quickly.”

Vines emerges for Sherwood

Sherwood senior Moses Vines has emerged as one of the most productive running backs in Montgomery County this season, but his effectiveness in three consecutive Warrior wins only came after he corrected a hitch in his running style.

Vines was contained by Quince Orchard’s defense in the season opener, a performance that Sherwood’s coaching staff attributed to both the No. 3 Cougars’ ability to stop the run and Vines’s tendency to run upright. It was only after he tweaked his form and lowered his pad-level that Sherwood began to reap the benefits from Vines, who has rushed for 322 yards and seven touchdowns in three straight wins over Blake, Gaithersburg and Blair.

I just had to work on it a little bit. I was nervous the first game, when we played QO, because it was a real big game,” Vines said. “That’s why I was running high.”

Vines has scored at least two touchdowns in three of four games this season, and Sherwood Coach Mike Bonavia is relying on his new featured back to carry the Warriors in an offense that doesn’t necessarily prioritize the pass. He gained 88 yards on just eight carries and scored two touchdowns in limited action during last week’s 44-0 rout of Blair.

Bonavia calls Vines one of the fastest players on the roster, so he will try to use Vines at cornerback this week to neutralize a pass-happy Damascus offense that has scored at least 35 points in each of its four wins this season.

“I love playing defense. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get a win this week,” said Vines, who is expecting to receive more college interest in the coming weeks. “I’ll play cornerback, linebacker, safety – I play it all. I think I can help on both offense and defense.”

Around the county

Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini used creativity in his ailing backfield in last week’s 24-10 win over Northwest, moving wide receiver Matt Choi to tailback. The move materialized in the Cougars’ favor, as Choi led the team in rushing with 91 yards on 12 carries. Defensively, Marcus Newby led the Cougars (4-0) with 11 tackles and a blocked field goal...

After two straight losses, Gaithersburg (2-2) rebounded with a 31-0 win over Magruder (1-3). Solomon Vault rushed for 155 yards and three touchdowns in the win… Blake (2-2) beat Paint Branch, 7-3, on Friday, handing the Panthers (2-2) their second consecutive loss. Stefan Sigwalt passed for 117 yards to lead Blake, which held Paint Branch quarterback Gaston Cooper to just 30 yards passing. Paint Branch was penalized 12 times for 90 yards in the loss…

Watkins Mill converted a field goal with 20 seconds left to beat Clarksburg (0-4) 10-8, and Kennedy (0-4) also remained winless with a 39-18 loss to Bethesda-Chevy Chase. ...

Whitman (2-2) posted its second consecutive shutout on Friday, blanking Springbrook, 10-0. The young Vikings struggled through the first two weeks of the season, especially offensively. After being outscored 48-12 in a pair of losses, the team has rallied behind its defense. Junior Zac Morton has provided the offensive spark, topping the 100-yard rushing mark in both wins. He is currently the second-leading rusher among county public school players with 418 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the season.

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