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Quince Orchard’s Dave Mencarini motivates his team; Wise’s Isaiah Black proves efficient

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In preparation for Westminster in the Maryland 4A semifinal last week, Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini sent a series of motivational tweets out to his followers, which include a number of his players. In one tweet, he referred to the Owls and their offensive juggernaut as the “Dream Team,” and his program as the “Other Team.”

It was a simple device used to inspire his team, which hardly needed it. The Cougars (12-1) played with a chip on their shoulder in Friday night’s 21-19 win, especially in the second half, holding their opponent scoreless after Westminster had reeled off three touchdowns in as many possessions at the end of the first half to secure a 19-14 lead. The Owls’ prolific quarterback, Deryk Kern, was intercepted twice in the game, which in itself was a rare occurrence, and he struggled to get comfortable against a Quince Orchard front four that played its best game of the season — a front that also stood tall on Westminster’s final play of the game, a 37-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left as time expired.

The win secured Quince Orchard a place in Friday’s 4A title game at M&T Bank Stadium against Wise (13-0), which beat Meade 40-0 Saturday to advance. The Cougars could be facing another “Dream Team” this week in the third-ranked Pumas, who have dismantled their opponents this season. Wise has pitched eight shutouts, and its closest margin of victory this season was a 28-7 win over Eleanor Roosevelt three weeks ago.

“They have great athletes. They are a great program,” said Quince Orchard quarterback Matt Choi. “I don’t know if some players, it hasn’t hit them that we’re going back to M&T,” said Choi. “I think there’s going be a new energy . . . I’m getting all of these texts from like former players, like, that are saying, “ ‘Live it up.’ ”

Kern finished with 279 yards passing, and he certainly looked the more classic passer of the two quarterbacks on the field Friday night. But on a night when Quince Orchard running back Tyrell Williams struggled to find his footing, Quince Orchard quarterback Matt Choi picked up the slack — leading the team in rushing (91 yards, two touchdowns) to complement his 169 yards passing.

Choi looked unorthodox on many plays under center, including on a number of roll-outs when he would have the option of either running or pulling up to throw. That style allowed wide receiver Elliott Davis to get behind the Westminster defense on one play in the middle of the third quarter, and Choi found him on an 83-yard bomb that provided the winning score.

“[Kern is] probably one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen play high school football,” said Choi. “It took a little pressure off me . . . I felt in control of the game.”

Wise’s Black gets it done

Junior Isaiah Black hasn’t been asked to pass often during Wise’s playoff run, but the quarterback’s efficient play has helped deliver the Pumas to their third state final appearance in four years.

Black completed six of 10 attempts for 94 yards and two touchdowns in Saturday’s 40-0 win over Meade. In three playoff victories, he’s made teams pay for loading up to stop Wise’s ground game, connecting on 10 of 16 passes for 207 yards and four scores.

“Everybody puts like 100 people in the box and plays zero coverage, and [Meade] did the same thing we’ve seen,” Coach DaLawn Parrish said. “Eventually, you’re going to get burned.”

Wise (13-0) prefers to pound the football, wearing down opposing defenses with its massive offensive line. The Pumas average nearly 250 rushing yards per game, but Parrish trusts Black to make plays downfield with his arm, too.

The quarterback has 919 passing yards this season with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which came in a 39-0 win over Eleanor Roosevelt on Sept. 15. He also logs time at safety and is tied for the team lead with four interceptions.

Black completed both of his passes that counted for touchdowns in the team’s 41-6 win over Suitland in the Maryland 4A South final on Nov. 17. He also drew a pass interference call in the end zone on his other attempt.

On Saturday, Meade (10-3) limited Wise’s ground attack for most of the game. Senior Chase Powell, the team’s leading rusher, averaged less than two yards per carry until breaking a 19-yard touchdown on his final attempt.

Instead Black jump-started the offense with a pair of first-half scores. The quarterback found senior Kenneth Scott-Kelow down the seam for a 25-yard touchdown on third and long early in the second quarter.

Later in the period, 6-foot-5 junior tight end Micah Till pulled down a jump ball in the end zone for a 22-yard score. Seven of Till’s 10 catches this season have gone for touchdowns.

“Those guys bring out our passing game,” said senior D’Angelo Niler, who had eight tackles including a sack in the team’s eighth shutout of the season. “All the sudden, it’s not just our running game you have to worry about. When one thing gets shut down, another rises up.”

Related: Quince Orchard bests Westminster, heads to state final Wise defeats Meade to head to state championship Maryland state playoff brackets Recruit Watch: See what offers the area’s top players have

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