McDonough 28,

La Plata 14

The McDonough football program made a huge leap forward with its 28-14 triumph at rival La Plata on Friday night, and qualifying for the playoffs was just part of it.

The Rams improved to 8-2 and secured a berth in the postseason for the first time since 1991, ending the longest playoff drought of the five schools in Charles County. But perhaps more telling about how far the program has come was the Rams' reaction to their milestone -- no dancing, no Gatorade bath for Coach Dave Bradshaw, no celebration of any kind. There was only the demand that they must work harder to prepare for their Maryland 3A South Region first-round game.

"I think it shows how high the expectations are here," senior quarterback Cory Yates said. "We're a little down because we expected more than we got tonight."

Against La Plata (4-6), the Rams lost two fumbles, dropped several passes, missed tackles, committed nine penalties for 56 yards and were pushed around at times on the line of scrimmage.

"I'm happy that you won," Bradshaw told his team after the game, "but I'm not happy with the performance."

Still, good teams win games even when they do not play their best, and that is what the Rams did Friday. They got touchdowns from their defense and special teams and solid performances from their top playmakers. Junior running back A.J. Wallace rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries and caught two passes for 42 yards and one touchdown. Yates, meanwhile, completed eight of 17 pass attempts for 148 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His 49-yard strike to senior Mike Lucero (four receptions, 88 yards) late in the third quarter gave the Rams a comfortable 26-14 advantage.

La Plata appeared as if it would have its way with McDonough early. The Warriors kicked off to start the game, held the Rams to three plays, zero yards and a punt, and then needed just four running plays to go 64 yards for a touchdown. Senior running back Travis McConnell (15 carries, 107 yards) scored on a 37-yard burst over right tackle, and Brad Lyon's extra point made it 7-0.

McDonough, however, answered on the next play. Senior Dominic Carter took the ensuing kickoff and raced 84 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but late in the first quarter the Rams took a lead they would not relinquish when senior Marcus Lawton picked off a pass and returned it 31 yards for a score.

The Rams took advantage of another La Plata special teams miscue to score on the last play of the first half. McDonough's defense limited the Warriors to three plays and a zero-yard punt, and with one second to play took over at the La Plata 32-yard line. Yates lofted a pass into the end zone, which Wallace caught off a deflection to give McDonough a 19-7 lead at the half.