In the summer of 2012, the Paint Branch football team didn’t have a weight room. While their old weightlifting room was being torn down, a new facility was still under construction.
So Coach Mike Nesmith and his staff brought a box of weights to an area outside Banneker Middle School, where the team lifted in the sweltering summer heat. It wasn’t the same, and the team lacked the necessary strength and endurance to succeed.
The Panthers lost four games in the fourth quarter en route to a disappointing 3-7 record.
“It was a nightmare,” Nesmith said. “We tried to make the most of it, play it up like jailhouse lifting, but it didn’t work out. We weren’t strong and teams were able to physically push us around.”
This past summer, Paint Branch got its a cozy new weight room. And through the first five games of the season, the new facility is paying dividends.
The Panthers used their hard-earned strength to bully Einstein in a 54-7 rout on Friday night in Kensington.
Quarterback Gaston Cooper threw for 280 yards and six touchdowns, including three to Javonn Curry, who finished with 131 receiving yards. They and the rest of Paint Branch’s starters rested in the second half, as the clock ran continuously and the reserves cruised to a 5-0 record on the season.
Einstein (2-2) couldn’t match Cooper’s strength or Curry’s speed. All of the hours that Paint Branch’s senior quarterback spent in the weight room over the summer were on display.
“It helps a lot, knowing that we can go into the weight room instead of just working out outside, with the heat just scorching down on us,” Cooper said. “We tried to do the best we could, but now we can really get after it in the weight room.”
However, those benefits were not merely limited to the offense. Paint Branch’s defense, which has allowed fewer than six points per game this season, didn’t allow a touchdown for the third time in five games.
Titans senior running back Khalil Wilson entered Friday night’s game with 809 rushing yards after averaging 19.9 yards per carry last week against Northwood. The Panthers’ first-string defense limited him to 37 yards on 17 carries in the first half.
Wilson finished with 110 yards on 24 carries after breaking a pair of long runs in the second half against Paint Branch’s reserves.
“We didn’t know what exactly to expect. We knew they had an outstanding running back, that they’ve been running up and down the field on people,” Nesmith said. “But we felt if we played well, we’d have a chance to stop what they do best. And that’s what we did.”
Einstein’s only points came on an interception return by Lorenzo Andaya, who leapt in front of a slant route and ran 30 yards to the end zone. But Curry outmuscled him for two other scores.
“Running my routes, knowing my reads,” Curry said. “Just playing the game.”