Playing in Paint Branch‘s spread offense, which is averaging over 42 points per game this season, requires a constant dialogue between quarterback Gaston Cooper and his center, Chris Young. But there was nothing to say on Friday night when the Panthers were in their own territory in the fourth quarter against Perry Hall in the Maryland 4A North region title game, and needed to convert a fourth and short. Behind Young, Cooper lunged forward and picked up a few yards for a first down. For a quarterback that has scored 57 touchdowns this season, it was a nondescript conversion; for Young, it was the play of the night.
That will be one of the plays Young remembers the most from the Panthers’ remarkable run this season, because it led to a touchdown and helped them take down Perry Hall 51-48. Paint Branch will meet Northwest (10-2) in the Maryland 4A state semifinals on Friday.
“My role on the offensive line, they’ve really given me a lot of leadership opportunities, being a three-year starter and two-year captain,” Young said. “I make a lot of protection calls.”
The 6-foot, 255-pound Young was almost moved to either right or left guard before this season, but center is his natural position. He is one of the team’s longest-tenured players (he was a part of Paint Branch’s playoff run in 2011 as a sophomore) – and he is also the man that lurks in the shadows while Cooper makes play calls. When that is happening, it’s Young who is making protection calls. With a hurry-up philosophy, the coaching staff often expects a snap before the defense is set. Working in concert is the result of a long-understanding of each other off the field, Young said, and a command of an offense that sometimes leaves its own players short of breath.
The results have been lethal for opposing teams — Paint Branch is well-known for long, exhausting drives (“Those 14-play, 93-yard drives,” as Young puts it) and has been one of the most prolific offenses in the area this fall. Cooper is nearing the 3,000-yard passing and 60-touchdown mark, while the running game came alive last week with a 132 yards from Johnny Littlejohn. Establishing a running game will be key against Northwest, said Young. The Jaguars handed the Panthers their only loss of the season back in October.
“I think we just have to be a lot more physical, especially up front,” Young said.
Young said his height is an issue in getting major college offers, although he has picked up considerable recruiting attention this fall. Towson has inquired about him as a fullback and linebacker. He is currently considering a collection of smaller-school options, such as Cornell, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Shepherd University and West Virginia Wesleyan.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 6
The number of state volleyball titles Loudoun County has won in the past seven years after beating Jamestown for the Virginia 4A championship this weekend.
— Langley turned in a dominant performance against First Colonial to claim the Virginia 6A volleyball championship Saturday.
— Suitland blocked a last-minute field goal to preserve its perfect record and advance to the Maryland 4A state semifinal with a win over DuVal Saturday.
PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND
VIDEOS FROM THE WEEKEND