For a long time, Jonathan Holloway nearly ached with disappointment.
It started when Churchill's all-Met defensive end watched his team's bid for an unbeaten regular season, the Montgomery AA league title and a berth in the Maryland state football playoffs disappear with a 14-7 final-game defeat by archrival Springbrook.
"They ruined a perfect season for us and it took me four to five months to recover," said Holloway, a 6-foot-3 1/2, 210-pound senior. "I'm not a good loser. But they deserved to win; they outplayed us.
"I played jayvee my first year and we were undefeated. So, going into that game we were 18-0. I had never lost a high school game. That loss was painful and I was very anxious to repay them for that."
It took two sensational plays and two overtimes, but Holloway and his teammates got what they wanted last Saturday, when fifth-ranked Churchill beat 13th-ranked Springbrook, 21-20.
Mitchell Dove threw a 10-yard halfback option pass to TuTu Barnett to tie the game at 6 in the final minutes of regulation. That same play worked in overtime for the two-point conversion that sent the Bulldogs (9-1) to the state semifinals.
Churchill will play at 10th-ranked Annapolis (10-0) tonight at 7:30.
"I can't speak for everyone, but the Springbrook game was the big one for me," Holloway said. "Getting into the state playoffs is like dessert. But it was tough, frustrating because we kept driving the ball downfield and not scoring. I started thinking, 'Oh, here we go again.'
"But somehow I had confidence we'd pull it out. When we scored and went for the two-point conversion, I started laughing. My high school season had come down to one play."
Holloway, an exceptional player with outstanding speed (4.4), has had a good season despite teams running away from his side of the field.
Against Springbrook, "Jonathan played his usual, tough, consistent game," said Churchill Coach Fred Shepherd. "We anticipated they would run away from him, but, because teams have done that, my other defensive end, John Beck, has also had a great year. But Jonathan is a great player. And because of players like him, we have the best defense we've ever had here. We're big, quick and experienced."
The Bulldogs have given up only four field goals in regulation play, outscoring nine opponents, 166-12. Holloway leads the gang-tackling defense with nine sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked kick.
Jonathan's older brother Brian was an all-Met tackle at Churchill and a first-round NFL draft choice out of Stanford. Now he starts for the New England Patriots.
Like most younger brothers, Jonathan doesn't take kindly to the constant comparisons.
"Don't get me wrong. I love my brother deeply," said the younger Holloway, who might attend Stanford or Michigan. "But we're two different types of players, two different personalities. Brian was bigger, much stronger than I am. I rely more on technique and quickness. I'm more of a natural outside linebacker . . .
"He not only was a great player but he was an honors student. I had a double whammy against me . . . so, I've been constantly trying to be better than Brian. And, I'm confident I will be."
Is Jonathan Holloway interested in following his brother into the NFL?
"I refuse to even think that far ahead," he said. "You can't compare the world of high school football to the NFL. It's totally absurd to even consider such a thing. So many things can happen in four years. I plan to major in pre-med, maybe be a sports medicine doctor."
Churchill's defense will be tested tonight. Led by quarterback Jay Laramore and running back Jay Johnson, Annapolis features a big-play offense that has scored 307 points. In their last three games, the Panthers scored 148 points.
In other playoff games tonight, Oakland Mills (7-3) will be at Cambridge (10-0) at 7:30 in a Maryland Class B semifinal. Stuart (8-2) will play host to South Lakes (8-2) in a Virginia AAA Northern Region semifinal game at 8, Stonewall Jackson (9-0-1) hosts Halifax County (8-2) and Potomac (9-1) visits Pulaski (8-2) in AAA Northwestern regional games at 8.
Theodore Roosevelt High School will not have to participate in an Interhigh West playoff. Earlier this week, the Rough Riders were informed they would have to play Wilson after the Tigers (4-1 in the division) were awarded a forfeit victory over Coolidge.
Yesterday, however, Vinna Freeman, director of physical education and athletics in the Interhigh, said Roosevelt also has been awarded a forfeit victory over Coolidge, also due to the use of an ineligible player, and has been named division champion with a 5-0 record. Roosevelt lost to Coolidge last Friday, 12-0.
The Rough Riders still don't know their opponents in the Interhigh championship game. H.D. Woodson defeated Anacostia, 14-0, to win the East Division but Freeman is investigating allegations of an ineligible Woodson player.