Elite High School Football Teams Draw on Confidence to Rally for Wins

Quince Orchard, the winningest program in Montgomery County since 2005, had its latest comeback Friday against Clarksburg.
Quince Orchard, the winningest program in Montgomery County since 2005, had its latest comeback Friday against Clarksburg. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
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By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At first, it seems paradoxical: What do good teams know about playing from behind if they consistently win?

On the other hand, it makes sense; they win because they know how to, no matter the circumstance.

Such was the case for several of the area's top programs this past weekend. None perhaps was more stunning than No. 1 DeMatha rallying from a 21-3 fourth-quarter deficit against second-ranked Good Counsel to pull out a 24-21 victory.

"We refused to quit on each other and made plays," said Stags senior running back Marcus Coker, who rushed for 213 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns. "We had it in our minds we were going to win the game."

Perhaps it's because not only had DeMatha proved it, but the Stags had done so against the Falcons in past years. The two have met in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final the past five seasons; in four of those games, Good Counsel had led. The Stags also came back to beat the Falcons in the regular season in 2004 and '05, after trailing by at least 13 points both times.

"Sometimes when you have the lead, you tend to relax a little bit," DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said. "I don't know whether Good Counsel did that. But I liked our emotion."

Quince Orchard has made a habit of late-game comebacks in being the winningest program in Montgomery County since 2005, going 50-6. After his team erased a 14-point Clarksburg margin with less than four minutes to play before winning 34-28 in overtime, Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini cited improbable fourth-quarter comebacks against Damascus in 2006 and Arundel in the 2007 Maryland 4A final as a defining element of the program's identity.

"We don't stop to think about the situation; we don't have time to do that," Mencarini said when his team took over at its 15 with 7 minutes 45 seconds left and trailing 28-14. "We just know that we can win."

After going 17-15 the past three seasons, Robinson appears to be returning to the level it was at when the Rams went to the playoffs seven straight years and nine out of 10. Credit that, in part, to a pair of comeback victories. The Rams spotted T.C. Williams a 23-14 halftime lead in the season opener before scoring 22 unanswered to win, 36-23.

Last weekend, Robinson fell behind Chantilly 14-7 at halftime before scoring 21 straight en route to a 35-21 victory.

Before ending its 33-game losing streak in 2003, Osbourn had no idea about coming from behind. Over the past five years, however, the Eagles are 42-15 with two state final appearances and have the confidence they can come back at any time.

On Friday, after watching Loudoun Valley return a fumble 60 yards for a touchdown and falling behind 29-17 late in the third quarter, Osbourn closed the game with 22 unanswered points for a 39-29 victory. That included a pair of touchdowns accounted for by quarterback Thomas Keith, who had 313 total yards.

"In the past few years, I don't think we've been a team that gets down. I don't think that our kids get that feeling," Osbourn Coach Steve Schultze said. "Our kids respect what's happened in the last couple years and don't want to let the community down."

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