Richard Montgomery senior Gabe Gomez’s touchdown run lifts the Rockets past the Trojans, 28-21. (Video by Brandon Martin for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Fighting back tears, Richard Montgomery senior Gabe Gomez stood on a hill overlooking John J. Harvill Stadium with his Rockets helmet in hand. Minutes earlier, the 5-foot-6 running back had helped the team capture its first playoff berth in 10 years and a 28-21 road win over Gaithersburg with a 15-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.

“I can see it now, man,” Gomez said while looking at the field. “I thought [the defender] had me.”

Gomez, who entered the game third on the team’s running back depth chart, rushed for 77 yards on 16 carries with starter senior Jhordan Green battling a nagging injury. He hadn’t received much playing time until this year, riding the bench as his team slogged through consecutive 2-8 campaigns.

In February, the rising seniors called a meeting. They were tired of losing. Combined with one year on junior varsity, they had compiled seven total wins, senior Daniel Alexander said. So they decided to start lifting every day and to mimic high-pressure situations at the end of every practice.

“They did all sorts of crazy stuff,” third-year Coach Joshua Klotz said. “They’d try to see who could do the most dips, hold push-up position for the longest, throw medicine balls the farthest.”

And with history on the line, the Rockets (8-1, 4-1 Montgomery 4A North) were tested. After Gomez scored the game-winner, Gaithersburg (5-4, 2-2) had several opportunities down the stretch. With less than two minutes remaining, the Trojans appeared to seal with the win with a fourth-down stop. Klotz turned to his team and tossed his headset to the sky.

A pass-interference call delayed the celebration, though, giving Gaithersburg a fresh set of downs and forcing the coach to retrieve his headset.

Yet the defense held strong again and forced the Trojans into another turnover on downs. On fourth down, Gaithersburg senior quarterback Carlin Bason had senior Denzel Dalton open down the right sideline. Dalton leaped for the high-arcing pass but came down empty-handed.

Several of his Gaithersburg teammates, with their playoff hopes damaged, lay sprawled on the turf for a few moments. Sophomore Spencer Silverstein took a knee, and the clock ran out. The Rockets ran over to their student section, shouting “playoffs!”

Klotz hugged junior Zaire Mitchell. He hugged his wife. Soon his team cleared the field and made way to the team bus to continue the celebration.