Weekend football report: Maryland
Monday, September 13, 2010; 5:23 PM
Montgomery County report
One of the most talent-rich pockets in the Washington area is northern Montgomery County, where Damascus, Seneca Valley, Gaithersburg, Northwest and Quince Orchard have each won state titles in the past decade. Somehow, though, the talent seems to have eluded one other school surrounded by those other four - Watkins Mill.
Now, however, the Wolverines may be on the verge of capitalizing on their fertile location. Behind senior Daniel Upson, Watkins Mill erased a fourth-quarter deficit to tie Blake, before defeating the Bengals in double-overtime, 28-21.
When Wolverines Coach Joe Rydzewski took over the program in 2008, he built from the junior varsity upward. This year's team is comprised of 25 returning players as well as those from last year's JV team that went 8-1.
"The last two years, if we're down 14-7 in the fourth quarter, we don't win that game," Rydzewski said "That shows what type of kids we have."
He certainly likes having a kid like Upson, a 6 feet 3, 200 pound senior who has caught three touchdown passes, including a 22-yarder to pull Watkins Mill even with Blake in the fourth quarter. He also intercepted his second pass of the season and recovered a second-half fumble to thwart a Blake drive. Quarterback Sam Taylor's 10-yard touchdown run in the second overtime proved to be the winning score.
It's far too early to say the Wolverines have turned a corner, but after winning its opener for the first time in more than a decade, it's easy to look ahead and wonder. Watkins Mill hasn't had a winning season since going 5-4 in 2002, but faces only one team that made the playoffs last season.
"There's no doubt the next three weeks are the most important weeks of the season for us," Rydzewski said. "They believe they can win now, so if they keep winning, who knows what might happen."
It wasn't all good news for No. 4 Damascus following its 27-23 victory at then-No. 6 Quince Orchard last Friday. Standout senior wide receiver Brandon Phelps (Virginia) missed the final three quarters with what Hornets Coach Eric Wallich called a strained hip flexor. Wallich said Phelps's return is not certain, but with Damascus facing 0-2 Blake Thursday, it would not be a surprise to see the Hornets rest him. Their next four opponents have each begun the season 2-0, starting with Seneca Valley, which visits on Sept. 24. The Cougars' loss was just their second in their last 35 regular-season games. They come back Thursday to host Whitman, which they narrowly beat, 24-20, last season. The last time Quince Orchard lost consecutive games was 2003, when Whitman and Damascus beat the Cougars on Oct. 4 and 10, respectively. ... Few players in Montgomery County are putting together as complete a season as Gaithersburg senior Zack Fetters. In last Friday's 26-13 victory over Wootton, Fetters threw for 115 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 110 yards and another score, and intercepted his third pass of the season. His teammate, senior defensive end Billy Brown, blocked his second punt in as many games last week, and also made 10 tackles. ... Einin is 2-0 for the second straight season, after junior Keith Gaye rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-8 victory over Kennedy. ... Bethesda-Chevy Chase began last season 0-5. Since then, the Barons have won seven of eight, including last Friday's 22-18 triumph at Paint Branch, in which they scored the game's final 22 points. Casey Cotting's 20-yard run in the final seconds clinched it. The Barons host winless Northwest this week.
Prince George's report
Just two weeks into the season, it is already quite clear that there is a significant gap between the haves and have-nots in Prince George's County football.
Of the 27 games played by Prince George's public school teams, 15 were decided by 20 or more points, with just eight decided by less than 10 points.
Many coaches think the lack of competitive games stems from the school system's policy that makes students ineligible to play sports if they failed a class in the previous marking period, even if they meet the minimum 2.0 grade-point average requirement.
With smaller rosters, a handful of schools were unable to field junior varsity squads this fall. That means younger players at those schools will not gain valuable experience. Also, with fewer opportunities to play, several coaches think those schools will have a harder time keeping students interested in football.