Quince Orchard quarterback Matt Choi turned away on the final play of Friday night’s Maryland 4A semifinal against Westminster. The Owls trailed, 21-19, with 1.8 seconds remaining and were digging in for a 37-yard field goal attempt. Choi stood alone at the end of the Quince Orchard sideline, eyes closed.
He never saw the kick sail wide of the left upright. Choi’s teammates mobbed their quarterback to celebrate the win and a trip back to Baltimore for the 4A state final. Quince Orchard (12-1) will face the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between No. 12 Meade and No. 3 Wise in next Friday’s title game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Choi threw for 169 yards, rushed for another 91 and accounted for all three of Quince Orchard’s touchdowns as the 12th-ranked Cougars defeated the Owls on a blustery night at Ruby Field in Westminster.
After electing to go for the touchdown on a fourth and goal from the 3-yard line with just over a minute remaining, Choi threw an incomplete pass in the end zone, and Westminster (12-1) drove 77 yards behind the prolific arm of Deryk Kern, who spiked the ball with 1.8 seconds left to give his team a shot at the field goal. But the winning kick, which had plenty of distance, spun left in the wind.
“I couldn’t watch it. I didn’t want to see their offensive series, to be honest,” said Choi.
Kern (278 yards passing and two touchdowns) entered the evening with 60 touchdown passes and a reputation as one of the best players in Maryland. Westminster’s offense did not cross the 50-yard line until the 10-minute mark of the second quarter, and Quince Orchard took a 14-0 lead early with two short touchdown runs from Choi after the Owls turned the ball over twice and went three-and-out on their first three possessions.
But Kern found his rhythm. He hit Garrett Bean on a deep post pattern for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 14-7. Kern engineered another 70-yard scoring march on the ensuing possession.
A few minutes later, Jesse Binder picked Choi off at the Quince Orchard 35-yard line and returned it to the 2-yard line with just under four minutes left in the first half. Kern found Bradley Metcalf on a short slant moments later to put the Owls up, 19-14.
“We knew it was going to be a tough one,” said linebacker Marcus Newby, who had eight tackles, including four for a loss. “We had to come out in the second half and let it be our half.”
Choi did just that as he took over in the final two quarters. The converted wide receiver frustrated Westminster with his quarterback draws, and showed his throwing ability with an 83-yard touchdown bomb to Elliott Davis midway through the third. That score proved to be the difference before the frantic finish. Quince Orchard earned a chance for vindication after the Cougars collapsed in the state title game last December.
“All year, we said unfinished business. Because of last year,” Choi said. “We’re going to have to take care of our business.”