On the first play from scrimmage in Monday night's 24-6 victory, McDonough junior quarterback Christion Ward handed off to A.J. Wallace, who left the Huntingtown defense grasping at air as he ran 38 yards for a touchdown.
After Huntingtown scored on the subsequent possession, McDonough took over at its 32. Again, Ward handed off to Wallace. Again, Wallace blasted through the line, this time hitting the right sideline in a 68-yard scoring run.
Who knew playing quarterback was this easy?
"We really like having A.J.," Ward said. "It takes a lot of pressure off everyone else, like if someone misses a block, we know A.J. can get past [the defense] anyway.
"But we have a problem sometimes depending on someone else if A.J. can't do it."
At the season's midpoint, McDonough is still trying to find its complete identity. The prevailing image is of one player -- the All-American wearing No. 5.
"The big thing has been that we need to play as a team," Wallace said.
Before the season, Rams Coach Dave Bradshaw said it was important for his team not to rely solely on Wallace. As tempting as it is to put the ball in Wallace's hands and watch him make magic, Bradshaw and his coaches knew that is no way to run a football team.
"Coach [Bradshaw] said that A.J. is good, but if all 11 aren't playing, we can't stop anyone," junior lineman D'Antray Dyson said. "It's impossible for one guy to do it. It has to be all 11."
Easier said than done. While battling a leg injury, Wallace was far from 100 percent for McDonough's season-opener against Chopticon. Once it became apparent to the Rams that Wallace couldn't bail them out of a second-half deficit, McDonough panicked and lost, 20-6.
"We worried, absolutely," Ward said.
Perhaps Monday's victory could serve as a springboard. Even though Bradshaw and his players were disappointed by what they called an incomplete performance -- the Rams seemed to relax as they started the second half with an 18-point lead -- their defense played its best game of the season. Dyson and senior Russell Bowie, the two ends, combined for seven sacks, and McDonough allowed only 12 yards rushing.
Wallace has carefully separated his busy college recruiting schedule, so as not to have it interfere with McDonough's season. In fact, he said he has played through injuries that might have kept him out otherwise because he feels a need to motivate the rest of the Rams to play to their potential.
Each Ram, in fact, is reminded of that potential with a purple wristband, much like the yellow ones made famous by seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. McDonough's bands read "Finish."
"It was a reminder to let everyone know that we could have gone further last year," said Wallace, whose team lost to Lackey in the Maryland 3A South Region semifinals, 10-3, their first playoff appearance since 1991.
This season, McDonough is in the 2A South region, where it is one of only five teams with a winning record. One of those other four -- Patuxent -- visits McDonough in two weeks.
"We still have a lot to do to get better," Bradshaw said. "I don't think anyone here feels satisfied yet."