Quince Orchard standout linebacker-running back Bani Gbadyu was on the bench, his injured right elbow in a splint. Even though Gbadyu's Cougars led by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, host Gaithersburg seemed to have all the momentum, with the ball in good field position in a game that would give the winner a Maryland 4A West Region playoff berth.
The 17th-ranked Cougars, though, used the opportunity to prove they are more than a one-man team. Defensive end Henry Appuh made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage to stop Gaithersburg's series, and once Quince Orchard got the ball back, junior running back Ulysses Gaston helped the Cougars eat up much of the clock, and they held on for a 14-7 victory last night before 1,500 at John Harvill Stadium.
Gbadyu, who has committed to Louisiana State, finished with 129 yards on 24 carries, his 10-yard touchdown run giving Quince Orchard a 7-0 halftime lead. It was on his last carry, a sweep to the right, that Gbadyu was injured, and he lay on the field for 10 minutes while trainers attended to his arm.
"I tried to run over the dude, but he dipped and I landed on it," Gbadyu said, adding that he was certain he will be ready for the Cougars' regular season finale next Friday against Churchill. "I was trying to get back in, but [the coaches] wouldn't let me."
Gbadyu's injury came in the middle of a bizarre sequence of plays. Leading 14-0, Quince Orchard blocked a punt to set up first and goal from the 4, but a penalty backed the Cougars up. On third and goal from the 15, defensive end Darryl Jewell got through for a sack, forcing a fumble that linebacker Darrius Smith recovered. But on the play, Jewell injured his right leg and Smith separated his right shoulder. Two of the Trojans' top players, neither returned.
Once play resumed, Gaithersburg running back Dan Atwood broke a 59-yard run, but fumbled inside the 5-yard line. Quince Orchard had a chance to recover, but Trojans lineman Richard Phillips hustled down the field and pounced on the ball at the 1. That set up Rodney Mickens's touchdown on a quarterback sneak, making it 14-7 with nine minutes left.
Gbadyu was hurt on the following series and Mike Alvarado's punt return put Gaithersburg at the Quince Orchard 35. However, Appuh's big hit on first down pushed back the Trojans and they were unable to make a first down. With the victory, the Cougars (8-1, 5-0) clinched the region's second seed. Gaithersburg (6-3, 5-2) still can earn a playoff berth by beating No. 10 Sherwood on Friday.
"When Bani came out, we all were worried," said wide receiver Jewison Hurtault, who caught a 24-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to make it 14-0. "He's one of the leaders on our team, a big part of our team, a big part of our game plan. But it was a chance for other players to step up."