Wootton’s uptempo offense faces test against Gaithersburg’s stingy defense

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)
October 3, 2013

Gaithersburg’s defense has been dominant thus far.

Through four games, the Trojans have held teams to an average of five points per game.

A lot of that can be attributed to Gaithersburg’s starting defensive line, which features Avery Taylor, Kamonte Carter, Anthony Combs and Tinashe Gwashavamhu. They’ve put pressure on quarterbacks and hurried them into mistakes.

This Friday’s game against Wootton could be different.

Gaithersburg Coach Kreg Kephart is concerned about the Patriots’ uptempo offense, which features passing plays designed to get the ball to receivers quick.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the weekend of football in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Wootton quarterback Sam Ellis has thrown for 1,324 yards and 13 touchdowns this year. Rattling him has been a tough task for each of the Patriots’ opponents.

“When he’s pressured, he keeps his cool,” Kephart said. “He’s elusive, squirts out of the pocket and finds open people. He has a talented array of receivers.”

At the same time, Wootton Coach Tyree Spinner is aware of the problems Gaithersburg presents up front. Spinner understands this will be his offensive line’s greatest challenge at the midway point of the season.

“The whole thing about going against a great defensive line is we have to convince our offensive line they’re just as good, which I do really believe they’re as good,” Spinner said.

Though Gaithersburg has been able to generate pressure with four linemen this season, Kephart said it will be on the Gaithersburg secondary to hold up in coverage. With Wootton receiver Trevon Diggs demanding double teams, defenses have mostly played zone against the Patriots. Entering Friday’s game, Spinner expects more of the same.

“If someone plays us man, we’re smiling,” he said.

Gaithersburg’s defense will be the first true test for Wootton this season. Wootton’s offense is by far the most formidable Gaithersburg will have faced.

Whichever side has a deciding edge will remain a mystery until kickoff.

“I’m not how sure how successful we’ll be defending them,” Kephart said. “I’ll probably be able to tell you at about 8:30 or 9 o’clock Friday night.”

Trojans running back Solomon Vault practiced in full pads for the first time in nearly two weeks Wednesday, and said he will decide after Thursday’s practice if his injured leg is ready to go in Friday.

“I’m day-to-day, but I can definitely see a difference, definitely getting better,” Vault said, adding that he took some contact during the practice.

Vault missed last week’s 24-6 win over Northwest after hyperextending his knee and tearing a muscle in his calf on September 20 against Clarksburg, he said. In the three games he has played this season, Vault has been dynamic in helping Gaithersburg to a 4-0 start. He’s accounted for over 400 total yards on offense and seven touchdowns, and also returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score in the 24-7 win over the Coyotes.

Gaithersburg’s offense rallied around quarterback Nick Decarlo during last week’s key win over Northwest, as the senior threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns — and Vault has recently noted that the offensive line is starting to look more cohesive. The Trojans stayed committed to the run last week without Vault, running 31 times between Decarlo and running back Xaviyer Mosley combined.

“I was proud of my team out there,” Vault said. “We’re going through a tough stretch right now.”

Vault said he has been doing the “little things” to get his leg back in shape the past two weeks — including taking salt baths and getting massages.

Vault, who is headed to Northwestern next fall, notified the coaches there after his injury. The Wildcats checked on their recruit last week, when Northwestern quarterbacks coach Bob Heffner paid a visit to Vault at one of Gaithersburg’s practices.

“I’m thinking long term. I’m not going to risk anything,” Vault said. “Of course I want to be out there with my friends. . . . I have to be smart about it.”

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.
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