BALTIMORE — For the second straight season, Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini gathered his players on the field at M&T Bank Stadium following the Maryland 4A football final while another team celebrated with the championship trophy in the state’s largest classification. But after Friday’s 12-7 loss to third-ranked Wise in a game the Cougars led for more than 20 minutes, the emotions of the meeting were not as familiar for the ninth-year coach.
“I’m very frustrated,” Mencarini said. “Last year I was heartbroken. This year, I’m very frustrated because I felt like that was a game where we didn’t play our best.”
Throughout the season, Mencarini made sure his team remembered the feeling after coming up just short against Old Mill last December. The previously unbeaten Cougars had battled the Patriots into overtime, falling 36-35 when 2011 All-Met Offensive Player of the Year Rob Chesson scored the game-winning two-point conversion.
This time around, No. 6 Quince Orchard (12-2) lost starting quarterback Mike Murtaugh in the third week of the season and dropped a regular season game to Seneca Valley, but the Cougars stayed on track to earn another chance at their third state title and first since 2007.
On Friday, the Gaithersburg school’s large student contingent, the “Red Army,” stood behind a sign urging the team, “Let’s Finish Business,” and Quince Orchard had its chances against a Wise team that had won each of its first 13 games by at least three scores.
Paced by a season-high 182 rushing yards from senior Tyrell Williams, the Cougars held a one-point lead for much of the second half but missed several opportunities to extend the lead. Their title hopes suddenly depended on a comeback when Wise junior Micah Till hauled in a touchdown catch from junior Isaiah Black with 2 minutes 14 seconds left.
Senior Matt Choi, who moved from wide receiver to quarterback when Murtaugh went down, led the offense deep into Wise territory on the team’s final drive before an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that Mencarini called “stupid” and an interception ended the threat.
“We made dumb mistakes, penalties, and I don’t know, we just weren’t crisp today,” said Choi, who finished 6-of-14 passing for 58 yards and the interception. “It’s not just one person. It was all 11 people not on the same page.”