Quince Orchard defense digs deep to escape Damascus

September 20, 2013

Quince Orchard defensive tackle Adam McLean was having a hard time finding his second wind Friday night against Damascus. The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder was one of the last players off the field after a stoppage of play in the middle of the fourth quarter, prompting the Cougars coaches to worry.

“I’m good! I’m good!” McLean said.

The blue chip recruit’s play was not only good Friday night — it also was enduring.

McLean made several key tackles for loss and the No. 3 Cougars’ defense held on when a 44-yard field goal sailed wide left in the final minute in a 7-6 victory over the No. 14 Swarmin’ Hornets in a Montgomery County nonleague game in Damascus.

“Even though I was tired, I had to fight. My brothers were out there fighting with me,” McLean said. “We had to bone up.”

No. 3 Cougars slip by the No. 14 Swarmin’ Hornets in low-scoring game led by defense. (Abigail Fazio/The Washington Post)

“Boning up” is the credo of Quince Orchard’s defense this fall, and the Cougars (3-0) showed little signs of being rattled Friday. Damascus (2-1), which competes in 3A, was just as game, just as physical as its 4A opponent and had the upper hand after quarterback Chase Williams converted a one-yard touchdown sneak after his defense forced an interception late in the first quarter.

But the extra point was blocked, and the Cougars took the lead several minutes later with a seven-play, 63-yard drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Kevin Joppy (108 yards rushing).

Joppy was the most electric offensive player on the field on a night when yards were at a premium. The defenses took over from there.

Damascus sacked quarterback Mike Murtaugh five times, including on a key third-down call inside the red zone with just under four minutes remaining. The Cougars turned the ball over on downs, and Damascus responded with a frantic 69-yard drive to the Cougars 28-yard line.

That set up a game-winning field goal attempt with just under a minute to play, and the Cougars brought an all-out blitz.

“I was just praying to God that he was going to miss it,” cornerback Elliott Davis said. “We affected the kicker’s comfortability.”

After the kick sailed left, Quince Orchard knew it had escaped.

The two teams entered the night having combined for 169 points in their respective 2-0 starts — but on this night that statistic was an afterthought. While the Quince Orchard sideline erupted, McLean took a knee on the field, trying to catch his breath. He was one of the last players to come off.

“We were in a dogfight,” McLean said. “Just the relentlessness of the defense kept us going.”

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