First-year Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini said defense would be the strength of his team this season, and after two games, it looks like that assessment was correct -- the Cougars have allowed just two touchdowns and have forced 10 turnovers.

Friday, in a 22-6 victory over Churchill, Quince Orchard came up with six turnovers -- including two interceptions by senior Jemayne Nowlin -- and sealed the game with a defensive score.

In the fourth quarter, with the Cougars guarding a 15-7 victory, Quince Orchard junior defensive end Bani Gbadyu forced a fumble with a sack, and senior Brendan Willard scooped it up and rambled 46 yards for a score.

"We practice that every day," Mencarini said. "We try not just to fall on it, but to scoop it up and score."

Offensively, senior running back Cameron George has led the Cougars. He rushed for 128 yards on 23 carries against Churchill and had two touchdowns, giving him six on the season.

"Cameron was a workhorse for us," Mencarini said. "By the middle of the third quarter, we were wearing them down pretty good. We don't have a lot of guys going both ways."

Don't Count Them Out

After its 31-15 loss to Seneca Valley on Friday, Gaithersburg is 0-2 for the first time since 1991. But the Trojans are not about to give up on the 2004 season.

"We were back in here Saturday morning, back here ready to go. There wasn't anybody late, wasn't anybody that wasn't here. The kids were ready to go," said Gaithersburg Coach Kreg Kephart. "Our only option is to get better, to fight, to keep hoping for success, and eventually it will come. Sooner or later we'll get this thing turned around. We've got too many good kids, and our program's too good."

The Trojans lost to Churchill in their opener, 14-13, partly because a low extra point was blocked. Against Seneca Valley, Kephart believes the game would have been much closer had it not been for several bounces -- like a fumble that popped into the hands of Seneca center Kevin Jenkins, who subsequently raced 22 yards for a score.

"We're a young team," said Kephart, who pointed out he has about 15 nonseniors playing significant time. "We lost one game by one point that we shouldn't have lost, and we got it handed to us defensively up there at Seneca. But as bad as we played, take two plays away, and we're right there. . . . It leads me to believe we're not as bad as people may think we are."

Clutch Performer

Jason Sprankle, Damascus

One of the few question marks this year for Maryland 4A champion Damascus, which had most of last year's players returning, was quarterback.

But there are no doubts now about the Hornets' signal-caller.

In just his second varsity start, Sprankle completed 14 of 19 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Swarmin' Hornets to a thrilling 29-22 come-from-behind victory over rival and Maryland 3A champion Linganore.

"The coaches told me before the game that I might have to step it up," said Sprankle, who completed 2 of 7 passes in his first start, the Hornets' 22-0 victory over Blake in their season opener. "They said Linganore would be keying on [All-Met running back Matt] Reidy, so we'd have to open it up."

Reidy was not only the focal point of the Linganore defense, he was less than 100 percent, with a sore knee and sore foot. So trailing, 14-0, early in the third quarter, normally run-oriented Damascus went to the pass.

Sprankle hit senior Travis Wertz (4 receptions for 50 yards) and sophomore Tom Cosgrove (7 for 96) to convert third downs, then slipped a pass to Wertz on a wide receiver screen for a 21-yard touchdown to bring the Hornets within 14-7.

After Linganore went up 22-7, Sprankle moved Damascus down the field again and capped the drive by rolling left and throwing on the run to junior Austin Bernardo for a 21-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. Damascus tied the game on a tough run by Reidy, and when the Hornets' defense stopped Linganore on fourth down, Sprankle took over again. With 2 minutes 27 seconds remaining, he drove the Hornets to the Linganore 30, then lofted a perfect pass to Cosgrove for the game-winning score.

"Jason Sprankle did a great job out there," said Damascus Coach Dan Makosy.

Damascus first-year quarterback Jason Sprankle guided the 4A champion Hornets to a comeback win over defending 3A champion Linganore on Friday night.