At 5 feet 8 and 155 pounds, Quince Orchard running back Ulysses Gaston pales in comparison to 6-1, 215-pound Bani Gbadyu when they line up in the backfield together. Maybe that would explain why Gaston has managed to quietly go about his business so successfully this season.
But with the LSU-bound Gbadyu limited by a deep thigh bruise last night against Richard Montgomery, Gaston made the most of his time in the spotlight. He carried the ball 21 times for 174 yards and a touchdown, leading the No. 15 Cougars to a 35-14 win in a Maryland 4A West Region semifinal.
"That's the thing about our program. We have guys all over who can fill in when we need them," Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini said. "I'm not surprised at all. We have two great running backs and [Gaston's] done it all year."
Quince Orchard (10-1), a team that hadn't won a playoff game since 1991, looked like a group of postseason regulars last night. The Cougars amassed 378 total yards of offense and never trailed.
"You always have to keep your composure and take it one game at a time," Gaston said. "But we also remember how we went 9-1 in 1991 and won the state championship. So we're hoping history is going to repeat itself."
Junior quarterback Pepper Coe did his part in lightening the workload of Gbadyu, who carried the ball 10 times for 32 yards and two touchdowns. Coe, coming off a career-high, five-touchdown performance in the regular season finale, completed 8 of 14 passes for 160 yards.
Coe's seven-yard scramble early in the third quarter kept alive what amounted to an 11-play drive that ended in a one-yard run by Gbadyu to put Quince Orchard up 28-7.
"They had just stopped us, and they started to get some life, and we had to do something on offense to put them away," Coe said.
Mencarini said it was the speed of Richard Montgomery (7-4) that concerned him most, and Rockets running back Kevon Calhoun showed why early on. He had 154 rushing yards on 20 carries, including 110 in the first half. His 23-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, a play on which he broke four tackles, tied the score at 7.
But the Cougars were able to keep Calhoun out of the end zone until midway through the fourth quarter, when Quince Orchard had the game secured.