It was after 7 this past Monday night and Kreg Kephart was just settling into the football office at Gaithersburg High School with his assistant coaches for a long night of watching a familiar foe on video.
Sherwood played on the television screen, the same team that Gaithersburg knocked off 13-10 in the second to last week of the regular season for the fifth straight time -- a win that all but ensured the Trojans the county and 4A West region titles.
Yet the familiarity and the winning streak did little to ease Kephart's mind.
The Gaithersburg-Sherwood rivalry has become one of Montgomery County's best, not only because of their annual close games -- Gaithersburg's past five victories have come by a total of 23 points -- but also for what has been at stake.
"Most of the time when we play each other there has been something on the line," said Kephart, who, in his third year as the Trojans head coach already boasts one state title. That championship came against Sherwood in 2000. "Both teams are traditionally some of the stronger teams in the county. It seems we have a habit of getting in each others way."
This season has proven no different. No. 6 Gaithersburg (9-1) hosts No. 11 Sherwood (9-1) tomorrow evening to determine which team returns to the 4A final. Gaithersburg won the regular season meeting, 13-10, behind senior Brian Porter's 215 yards and two touchdowns. Like so many of their games, this one too came down to the final play. A fourth and long desperation pass by Sherwood quarterback Bobby Sheahin was intercepted on a play Sherwood coaches believed could have been flagged for pass interference.
Gaithersburg and Sherwood enter tomorrow night's game with similarly balanced teams. Both teams mix a powerful running game with an accurate passing attack. Porter, after missing the first two games of the season, has rushed for 1,343 yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior quarterback John Jacobs, in his first year as the Trojans starter, became the first Gaithersburg quarterback to pass for over 1,000 yards since 1986. Sherwood counters with the senior backfield duo of Romeje Richards and Josh Twyman, who have combined for nearly 2,000 yards and senior quarterback Bobby Sheahin (868 yards, 8 TDs)
Last season, a Montgomery County team did not win a state title for the first time since 1990. However, Gaithersburg or Sherwood has reached the final a combined eight times during that span.
Among the series highlights: Gaithersburg sweeping Sherwood in 2000, including a 24-21 victory in the title game; Sherwood All Met Tyree Foreman's 52-yard fourth quarter run that gave the Warriors a 20-19 win in 1996; and a 1997 thriller in which Sherwood stopped Gaithersburg's two-point conversion attempt at the goal line in overtime for the win.
"Our kids really get fired up," Sherwood Coach Tom Crowell said. "I think they measure what kind of team they have each year with how they do against Gaithersburg or Seneca [Valley]."