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Cougars Dig Deep to Win Title

Quince Orchard's Travis Hawkins races past Arundel's John Holland for the Cougars' go-ahead touchdown in the Maryland 4A Championship on Friday night. Top-ranked Quince Orchard rallied from a 23-7, fourth quarter deficit to edge No. 3 Arundel, 36-30, and claim the state title.
Quince Orchard's Travis Hawkins races past Arundel's John Holland for the Cougars' go-ahead touchdown in the Maryland 4A Championship on Friday night. Top-ranked Quince Orchard rallied from a 23-7, fourth quarter deficit to edge No. 3 Arundel, 36-30, and claim the state title. (Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

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By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 7, 2007; 10:39 PM

BALTIMORE, Dec. 7 -- Travis Hawkins lined up split wide to the right and went through the checklist of things he needed to score the state-championship-clinching touchdown. Single coverage? Check. Arundel's other 10 defenders packed into the box? Check? Did quarterback Jaron Morrison^ see all that, too?

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"I looked at Jaron and our eyes met," Hawkins said. "He knew I could beat my man. I saw there was nobody in the middle of the field, and he just hit me with a beautiful pass."

Hawkins ran a post pattern, Morrison's pass hit him squarely 20 yards down the middle of the field and no one could catch Quince Orchard's fastest player as he broke 78 yards for the go-ahead score with 90 seconds left in Quince Orchard's 36-30 victory over Arundel in the Maryland 4A Final before 5,500 at M&T Bank Stadium.

"In the huddle," Morrison said, "I was telling the guys that this is for the state championship right here. I saw the middle of the field wide - open and no one is going to catch Travis."

The play highlighted a stunning fourth quarter, during which Quince Orchard (14-0^ ) scored 29 points to erase a 16-point deficit and claim the school's second state title. After its offense was stagnant for much of the night, Quince Orchard exploded for four touchdowns in the game's final 7 minutes 13 seconds.

"I don't know how you guys did it," Cougars Coach Dave Mencarini told his players in their post -game huddle on the field. "This is unbelievable what you did."

After Arundel (13-1 ) took a 23-7 lead late in the third quarter on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Nick Elko to Brandon Johnson-Farrell, the Cougars broke some big plays and took advantage of a drastic change in game plan by Arundel to score quickly.

All season, the Wildcats threw so frequently with a no-huddle offense that they broke nearly every state passing record. In the first half, Elko attempted 35 passes. Once Arundel went ahead, though, the Wildcats stuck with the no-huddle, but changed the focus of their attack to the run. It didn't work.

Elko threw just six passes in the first 18 minutes of the second half.

"We just went off strategy," said Elko, who was 35 of 53 for 294 yards, three 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. "We tried to run and eat some clock and that's not what we do. It definitely hurt us."

Thomas Addison (18 carries for a season-high 224 yards) brought the Cougars back with scoring runs of 28 and 85 yards in less than two minutes. Quince Orchard scored on the two-point conversions after each touchdown to tie it at 23 with 5:32 left.

Quince Orchard forced Arundel to punt on the ensuing possession, and the Cougars were pinned back at their own 10. Morrison's three-yard run on third down gave Quince Orchard a first down on the 22, and set up the clinching touchdown. Mencarini called the play to isolate Hawkins and hoped he could use his game-breaking speed.

"That was something we had seen earlier in the game that was there," Mencarini said.

After Arundel threw four straight incomplete passes, Addison ran for his third touchdown of the quarter, a 43-yarder, as the Cougars tried to run out the clock. Arundel scored one more time with seven seconds left -- a 12-yard pass from Elko to Johnson-Farrell -- but was unable to recover the onside kick.


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