Seneca Valley Coach Terry Changuris said his team had one job to do last night against Quince Orchard: stop the devastating running duo of Kai Hebron and Ray Gray.
His No. 13 Screaming Eagles (6-1) did just that to defeat the visiting Cougars, 24-8, and place themselves in a strong position to claim a Maryland Class 4A playoff berth. Quince Orchard fell to 5-2.
"It really wasn't that difficult," Changuris said. "They didn't have a passing game so we really didn't have to respect their passing game too much. We just played the run."
Seneca Valley used its own ground game to set up big plays for quarterback J.C. Lee. The Screaming Eagles mounted a 12-play, 67-yard drive midway through the first quarter that culminated in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Brian Heyward. Seneca Valley ran the ball 10 times on the drive, with Melvin Brown and Randy Cook sharing the duty.
"We worked on a 'gut' drill all week in practice to get the ball up inside," Brown said. "They're an easy-trapping team so we planned on that."
In the second quarter, the Screaming Eagles again set up Quince Orchard's defense for the run before burning them with the pass. Brown and Cook each had runs up the middle leading to a Seneca Valley first down at the Cougars 19 with five minutes to go in the half. Lee then faked the handoff, rolled right and threw to a wide-open Bryan Blessing for a touchdown.
Seneca Valley made it 18-0 on Andy Leffler's 23-yard field goal just before the half.
Quince Orchard, as Changuris had guessed, could not move the ball in the air. But the Eagles would not let the Cougars move on the ground, either. Seneca Valley did not allow Hebron get to outside and held quarterback Vinnie Arianna to just 16 yards passing.
Hebron and Gray "were supposed to be the best backs in Montgomery County," Brown said. "But we just came into the game and didn't let them have that credit."
On the first play of the second half, Hebron finally turned the corner of the sweep and broke a 65-yard touchdown run. Arianna ran for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 18-8.
"We pumped ourselves up at halftime. We knew we had to," Hebron said. "After that play, I thought we had a new beginning and we would win it. It just didn't happen."
Seneca Valley responded with a 12-play, 65-yard drive to cap the scoring.