For Montgomery County football, the 2004 season was a glorious time.

There was the return of a legend, Al Thomas. After compiling a record of 188-37 and winning seven state titles at Seneca Valley and Damascus, he returned to the sidelines and led Sherwood to a 7-3 record just months removed from a difficult bout with cancer.

There was the emergence of precocious Sherwood sophomore quarterback Deontay Twyman, who engineered offensive coordinator Terry Changuris's offense to near perfection, throwing for 2,126 yards and 18 touchdowns.

There was the resurgence of several programs. Quince Orchard, under first-year coach Dave Mencarini; Richard Montgomery, fueled by All-Met Steve Weedon; and Churchill, boosted by soccer-player-turned-quarterback Nic Scrivens, all ended playoff droughts.

There was Poolesville's continued success under Larry Hurd -- the Falcons are 22-2 in his two seasons as head coach, with both losses coming to Baltimore power Dunbar. And there was Fred Kim's debut at Seneca Valley -- after replacing the legendary Changuris, Kim led the Screaming Eagles to a 9-1 regular season mark and a playoff berth.

But more than anyone or anything else, there was a player with unparalleled grit and a team with unstoppable weapons.

The player -- two-time All-Met running back Matt Reidy -- carried the Swarmin' Hornets, often quite literally, to the brink of a second consecutive Maryland 4A championship. In a 14-7 loss to Suitland in the 4A final, Reidy, as he did all season, rarely left the field. And as he had for the last two years, he continued to plow into the middle of the line of scrimmage, even though the opposing defense knew exactly where he was going.

Reidy had 135 yards in the final, but that number was insignificant to these: 3,593 yards in two seasons -- including 1,415 in eight playoff games -- two state finals and one state championship.

In the end, however, the year belonged to Northwest and its inexhaustible coach, Randy Trivers. The Jaguars went 13-1 and won the Maryland 3A championship to complete a stunning seven-year rise from infant program to state power.

Trivers was there all along. He started the program in 1998, when the school opened in Germantown with just freshmen, sophomores and juniors. But after a 2-8 rookie season, the Jaguars have gone 54-13.

"It's very hard for me to explain to anybody that hasn't walked in my shoes what it's taken in seven years for us to be where we are," Trivers said after the Jaguars' 14-9 victory over Lackey in the 3A final. "I told the kids there's no secret to success, there's no formula for success, it's about commitment and hard work."

In 2004, it was also about a stunning assemblage of talent. There was Virginia Tech-bound quarterback Ike Whitaker, the All-Met offensive player of the year, who was a three-year starter. There was diminutive All-Met Salim Koroma, a playmaker as a receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive back and kick returner. There was Penn State-bound wide receiver Darren Brownlee -- perhaps the most dependable Jaguar on both sides of the ball. There was bruising running back-linebacker Tony Nelson, explosive wide receiver Alphonzo Griffin and a defense that came through with its best performance in the year's biggest game -- the state championship.

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The fall proved particularly successful at Bethesda-Chevy Chase.

The Barons' field hockey team reclaimed its spot as the state's preeminent program by winning its 10th title in 11 years, and the school's girls' soccer team, a tight-knit group that had played together for nearly four years, took home its first championship.

B-CC's trophy case was already crowded with field hockey championships -- the team's run of nine straight state titles ended in 2003 -- but after struggling through a season of injuries, Barons Coach Amy Wood said none may have been as sweet as this season's.

"Best win ever," Wood said following the 2-1 overtime victory over Severna Park.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase girls' soccer coach Rob Kurtz had coached many of the varsity players since they were in middle school and said walking away with a state title was the perfect way to end their relationship.

"It's been a great experience coaching these girls," Kurtz said last fall after his team knocked off Centennial, 1-0. "We had a goal and to have a dream like that become a realty was a beautiful thing."

All-Met senior quarterback Ike Whitaker of Northwest celebrates a touchdown pass.Northwest Coach Randy Trivers coaches the Jaguars in last fall's Maryland 3A championship against Lackey. Northwest won, 14-9, giving the seven-year-old school its first title.Bethesda-Chevy Chase players celebrate the school's 10th field hockey state title in 11 years.