After his team had dismantled Northwest 41-7 in Friday night’s Maryland 4A West region title game, Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini had no idea who his team would play in the state semifinal this week, but it didn’t matter. He still had last season’s state championship loss to Old Mill on his mind — and said that the entire community still had a bitter taste in its mouth from a game played nearly 12 months ago.

Word came down on Saturday that Quince Orchard would have to travel to No. 1 Westminster this Friday in order to get back to the title game. The matchup will pit perhaps the state’s best defense against one of Maryland’s most productive offenses in Westminster — which routed Sherwood 62-28 on Friday night, just seven days after beating Blake 51-7.

“When I found out [about the pairing against Westminster],” said linebacker Marcus Newby, “I knew they’re a passing team, and they have a really good quarterback Deryk Kern]. Also, I just thought we just have to come out to practice Monday and have a great week of practice.”

Seventh-ranked Quince Orchard has displayed last year’s runner-up trophy in its locker room all season as a reminder of what was blown in last year’s title game — and it got an early season reminder of its vulnerability in a loss to Seneca Valley. Since that point, the Cougars have not played in a close game, and the defense has put together a string of brilliant performances. Quince Orchard has outscored opponents 336-36 since that loss, and held Northwest’s Matty Callahan to just 59 yards passing in last week’s win. Newby was a difference maker — both physically and emotionally — he not only recorded eight tackles and a batted-down pass, but he was involved in nearly every play in the first half, delivering intimidating hits from sideline to sideline that played a part in Northwest eventually abandoning the run after the first quarter. The Jaguars trailed 35-0 at halftime and Callahan didn’t play in the second half.

“The biggest part was just being physical,” said Newby. “Watching film of Westminster, we have to be more physical than we were Friday.”

After finding out about its road trip this weekend, some of Quince Orchard’s seniors bid farewell to their home field — the “Cougar Dome” — on Twitter. Newby watched film of Westminster’s offense on Sunday afternoon — and believes that his defense can offset the disadvantage of playing on the road by getting after Kern and the Westminster offense with physicality. That is the way they can get back to the state championship game, he said.

“The way it happened last year, it was devastating,” said Newby, who is heading to Nebraska next fall. “We’re more hungry.”

Seneca Valley’s costly second half

No. 16 Seneca Valley raced out to a nine-point halftime lead on Urbana in Friday’s Maryland 3A West region final, and the advantage could have been even larger if not for a pair of missed field goals.

Those good feelings slipped away in a lackluster second half for the Screamin’ Eagles as the Hawks closed a 26-17 victory in Germantown with 20 unanswered points. It is the second straight season the region’s fourth-seeded team took the title after Thomas Johnson did it in 2011.

“All season we’ve been great in the second half, and ironically, we couldn’t get it going [after halftime] in this game, which was just bizarre to us,” Seneca Valley Coach Fred Kim said. “We’re still trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what happened.”

Seneca Valley (10-2) built its lead with a 17-point second quarter, but senior Travis Arthur’s 51-yard touchdown catch from junior Calvin Reighard late in the first half proved to be the team’s final points. While junior Chris Platt’s interception a few plays later gave the Eagles a chance to end the half with more points, the ensuing field goal missed and the rest of the game provided few highlights for the home team.

A week after eliminating top-seeded Damascus in overtime, Urbana (9-3) leaned heavily on sophomore Raekwon Gray to continue its surprising run. The running back finished with 221 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries for the Hawks, who will play at River Hill Friday in a state semifinal at 7 p.m.

Seneca Valley aided the comeback effort with a pair of turnovers early in the second half. An interception by Urbana junior Brandon Plante, who is the son of Seneca Valley offensive coordinator Bob Plante, led to Gray’s go-ahead 31-yard score in the third quarter, and Reighard also fumbled the ball away on the next drive.

“Our defense was out on the field the entire time [in the third quarter] and that killed us,” Kim said. “Good football teams take advantage of your mistakes, and we just couldn’t recover.”