In the moments after Northwest's heartbreaking 13-6 loss to Linganore in the Class 3A semifinals last Friday, it was impossible for the Jaguars to find perspective. Even two days later it was tough to do.
But Coach Randy Trivers hopes that his players soon will be able look at their 2002 season as a whole -- and find some tonic for the sting left by their semifinal loss.
"I think in time, all these guys will be able to look back and be real proud of what they accomplished and look at the season fondly despite a disappointing ending," Trivers said.
The Jaguars' 2002 achievements included a victory over Germantown rival Seneca Valley, a 3A West Region title, a return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus and the first postseason victory in school history.
"Those are nice accomplishments, and I try to tell the kids that because their disappointment is tremendous," Trivers said. "I try to let them know how proud I am for what they've done and being so resilient to persevere with a lot of the injuries we had."
Injuries to players at nine starting positions contributed to the Jaguars' 1-2 start. As the players returned, however, Northwest began its run for the playoffs. The Jaguars tied a school record with seven straight victories by a combined 213-41 and shut out four teams along the way.
But as the Jaguars crept closer to their goal of a state title, they again began to lose key players.
Leading wide receiver Darren Brownlee broke his leg before Northwest's final regular season game. Another top receiving threat, Palestine Croswell, broke his ankle in Northwest's 19-7 quarterfinal playoff victory over Wilde Lake. Running back Chi Chi Mansaray was suspended for violating a team rule, linebacker Kelvin Davies became academically ineligible, and in the week before the Linganore game, center Cody Stewart's injured shoulder finally forced him to the sideline.
Northwest had to use its fullback, Chris Ropko, to fill in for Stewart against Linganore. Ropko had never played a game at center.
"We've been patching it up for a long time, trying to stop the bleeding," Trivers said. "It's tough, but that's part of the game. . . . I'm real proud of the guys, and I thought they played their hearts out on Friday."
Northwest, which finished the season 8-3, has gone 32-10 the past four seasons.
A Farewell to Seniors
Kreg Kephart sat in the corner of Gaithersburg's weight room, red-eyed and weary, a half-hour after the Trojans' season-ending, 26-14 loss to Sherwood in a Maryland 4A semifinal on Friday.
Kephart, Gaithersburg's third-year coach, spoke of missed opportunities and tackles, the injury to star running back Brian Porter and of missing the state final by one game for a second consecutive season. But it was not until Kephart spoke of the seniors who won't be back next season that he choked up.
"I'm proud of them," Kephart said.
There was Brian Bradford, the senior linebacker who led the team in tackles -- and hard work -- and volunteered to play fullback for the first time in two years after two players were injured. Bradford remained on the field well after the loss and later sat in the back room with his coaches watching a videotape of the loss.
There was Brian Porter, who missed the first two games with an ankle injury but still emerged as one of the area's top running backs by rushing for 1,380 yards and 16 touchdowns. He sprained his right ankle on the Trojans' third offensive play of the game and managed just five more carries.
There are many others Kephart will miss: senior Brandon Sharpe, who returned kickoffs for touchdowns in three straight games and rarely had a ball kicked toward him since; speedy wide receiver-defensive back Nate Anguita; lineman Josh Raysor (6-4, 315) and Andrew Michael (6-3, 205); and hard-working offensive-defensive lineman Eric McGlaughlin.
"I'm saddest for the seniors because it is their last high school game," Kephart said. "It's the end of a relationship. As a coach you really come to love your players, even when they [tick] you off. It's a like a son [ticking] you off.
" . . . They accomplished a lot."
After a season-opening loss to Magruder, the Trojans out-scored their opponents 260-138. Along the way, they knocked off previously undefeated Seneca Valley and Sherwood. The team featured a 1,000-yard passer (Jacobs) and rusher (Porter) for the first time since 1986. And the Trojans made their sixth straight state playoff appearance, tied for the longest current streak in Maryland.
More to Come
It did not take Damascus Coach Dan Makosy long to put the Hornets' 4A semifinal loss to Parkdale in the proper context.
Makosy said his team had plenty to be proud of, particularly because the Hornets had to play their final two games without their starting quarterback or running back and still held a fourth quarter lead before falling to Parkdale, 20-13.
Next season Damascus will have back the bulk of a team that finished 8-3 and placed third in the competitive Montgomery 4A.
"We mentioned that out on the field [after the game]," Makosy said. "This was an introduction to what we have coming up next year."
The Hornets' road to the postseason hardly was smooth, but it was full of pleasant surprises. Starting junior running back Jason Garey, who rushed for 1,019 yards last year, missed half of the season with a sprained ankle that never fully healed.
Junior fullback Sean Delaney stepped in his place after a history of being Garey's blocker. Delaney rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns on Sept. 20 against Wootton and finished the season with 1,069 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
Senior quarterback Pat Flynn missed the final three games of the season after dislocating his shoulder. In his place stepped junior Mike Moquin, who made his first start in the regular season finale against Churchill, a must-win for Damascus to reach the playoffs. Moquin threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score in a 21-0 victory. Moquin threw five touchdown passes in the playoffs.
"I don't know if there is anyone in the playoffs who could do what we did without our quarterback and running back," Makosy said.