As Damascus began its final drive Friday night, players on Quince Orchard’s sideline grouped around senior running back Marquez Cooper and embraced their star.
Quince Orchard leaned on Cooper all of last season, and in the No. 3 Cougars’ early-season test against No. 8 Damascus on Friday, the senior ran through another milestone. He scored all three of Quince Orchard’s touchdowns and broke the school’s career rushing record in the Cougars’ 21-7 win in Gaithersburg.
“That’s my dog,” Quince Orchard defensive back Charles Bell said of Cooper, who now has 3,480 career rushing yards. “I know he’s going to eat every time he touches the ball.”
Friday’s bout featured a pair of Montgomery County powers. Quince Orchard (2-0) has won 10 or more games in all but one season since 2005 and claimed last year’s Maryland 4A championship. Damascus (0-2), which forfeited its first game this year after holding an illegal practice, had suffered just one Montgomery County loss since 2011 entering this season. That defeat came against Quince Orchard in 2013.
Damascus had won its previous three meetings against Quince Orchard, but the teams hadn’t played since 2016.
Though Quince Orchard played hungry last season after falling in the 2016 and 2017 Maryland 4A title games, the Cougars now are defending champions and perhaps Maryland’s top public school team.
Quince Orchard returned plenty of talent from last season, including Cooper, who rushed for 2,021 yards and 38 touchdowns as a junior. But for a quarter and a half Friday, Quince Orchard and Damascus couldn’t capitalize on drives.
A defensive play led to the game’s first score.
Midway through the second quarter, Bell intercepted a Damascus pass, and Cooper ran in a five-yard touchdown moments later.
“Charles Bell is a baller,” said Cooper, who finished with 172 rushing yards Friday.
Damascus tied the game midway through the third quarter on running back Chris Shaw’s 51-yard run. But Quince Orchard eventually wore down the Damascus defense. The Cougars put together an eight-play drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run from Cooper with 3:01 remaining.
“He made plays when he needed to make plays,” Quince Orchard Coach John Kelley said of Cooper, who has committed to play at Kent State next year.
After Cooper’s touchdown, Quince Orchard recovered an onside kick. Moments later, Cooper caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Plummer.
With the Cougars’ victory sealed, Cooper stood in the end zone and threw his arms into the air as a packed crowd cheered at Quince Orchard High. Damascus was one of the only top county teams Cooper hadn’t beaten, making Friday’s victory even more special for him.