Quince Orchard's season ended on the Damascus 13-yard line Friday night, as Pepper Coe's final attempt to preserve the Cougars' playoff life was intercepted in the end zone by Tommy Cosgrove with less than 30 seconds left.
That final play symbolized just how close the No. 12 Cougars (10-2) were to their ultimate goal. In their first region football final in more than a decade, they played the area's top-ranked team as well as any team had this season, losing 21-14. Now, Quince Orchard can only look to its promising future.
The pieces are in place for the Cougars to again challenge for a state title next season. They lose one of the area's top players in linebacker Bani Gbadyu -- who has verbally committed to play for LSU -- but return seven starters on both sides of the ball. At the top of that list is Coe, who nearly willed his team into overtime against Damascus on Friday.
Coe completed 14 of 26 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown against the Swarmin' Hornets, marching his team downfield on the final drive. For the season, he was 108 of 179 with 21 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Not bad for a player who had to fight for the starting job during spring practice.
"Bani was out of this world as far as what he did for this football team," Coach Dave Mencarini said. "But I tell you, that quarterback carried us. I would take him over any of the other quarterbacks out there. There are a lot of great ones out there, but this kid is special and he's one I'm going to ride and die with."
The season continued a remarkable revival for the program that began with Fred Kim in 2002 and continued when Mencarini took over last season. Quince Orchard's only two losses were to Damascus. A year after ending an 11-year playoff drought, the Cougars won their first playoff game since 1991. The next step is pretty clear: a state title.
"That's kind of the next evolution for the program -- getting over this hurdle, making sure we finished what we started," Mencarini said. "We expect to be back to where we were the year before and we expect to win that game. All the great teams want to be in that situation."
Seneca, Poolesville Fall Short
Though just in his second season as coach for the state's most successful football program, Fred Kim has quickly adopted Seneca Valley's high expectations when it comes to winning.
So upon finishing one win shy of reaching the 3A semifinals in the school's 22nd trip to the postseason, Kim found it hard to find a silver lining.
"I'm very disappointed that we didn't win a region title," said Kim, whose Screamin' Eagles fell to Westminster, 38-20, in the 3A West Final on Friday. "The ultimate goal is always to win a state title. There are only four happy teams at the end of the season."
Seneca Valley should be in good position to make another run next season as it brings back a core of talented players led by junior running back Shawn Perry. Perry finishes the season rushing for 1,396 yards and 21 touchdowns. He totaled 163 yards and two scores against Westminster despite cracking a rib in the first half. He left the game on a stretcher before halftime but returned in the second half to score his second touchdown.
"He's a warrior," Kim said.
Another successful season also came to a close in disappointingly familiar fashion for Poolesville. For the third consecutive year, the Falcons were eliminated by Dunbar (Balt.) in the 1A South final, 46-7.
Poolesville has lost just four games in the past three seasons -- three coming to Dunbar. Senior running back Jared Christman finished with 1,747 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.