Quince Orchard senior Connor Tilton was one of the last players to leave the Cougars practice field Wednesday, staying behind to lift logs and run around old tires with the rest of his defensive lineman teammates.
The extra work came just 48 hours before the third-ranked Cougars were set to face No. 14 Damascus Friday, which is likely to be the best matchup in Montgomery County this season. Both teams have stars at the skill positions. Running back Kevin Joppy has been dynamic for Quince Orchard (2-0), and wide receiver Jalen Christian has helped lead a Swarmin’ Hornets (2-0) offense to score 92 points in two games.
But Tilton, the only returning starter on Quince Orchard’s defensive line, is fine with lurking in the shadows. At 6-f00t-2 and a burly 235 pounds, he represents everything Quince Orchard’s defense must be against one of the area’s most talented teams Friday: rugged and physical. The defense has given up just seven points in wins over Clarksburg and Whitman.
“It’s pretty awesome that we’ve only allowed seven points, but I mean it’s still kinda bad that they scored. I mean obviously the defense, you’re trying not to let them score at all, so seven points is a little disappointing,” Tilton said.
One of Quince Orchard’s toughest tasks Friday will be handling the junior Christian, who is one of the best skill players in area. He has already scored three different ways in wins over Einstein and Northwood: a 75-yard punt return, a 15-yard run, a 37-yard catch. Quarterback Chase Williams has been productive in limited time, throwing for 202 yards and four touchdowns (he’s missed on just five throws), while running back Jake Funk leads the team with 178 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Funk is averaging 25.4 yards per carry.
The Cougars’ best defense? It may be there offense. Joppy has been electric through two games: 224 yards on 25 carries, four catches for 36 yards and four touchdowns, and quarterback Mike Murtaugh (446 yards and seven touchdowns) has marked the return of a prolific passing game for the Cougars. Quince Orchard’s two best senior college prospects, wide receivers Elliott Davis and Malcolm Brown have combined for 260 yards receiving and five touchdowns.
“We have to start as fast as we can,” said Brown. “We know they’re a really good team. But we plan to do our best to try and spread them out and do different things, try to confuse them a little bit.”
Damascus finds itself in a rare spot, considered an underdog.
“It’s motivation for us to come out and play harder, to get the win,” Damascus left tackle Chris Whalen said.
Williams said he’s “fine with the place we’re at,” adding he can’t recall too many times where his team has been picked to lose.
Despite the youth filling out the 2013 roster, the Swarmin’ Hornets have posted 92 points in two games. Quince Orchard will be a tougher test as the Cougars are looking to remain the team to beat in Montgomery County.
“We’re going to have to play mistake-free and need a couple of bounces to go our way,” Damascus Coach Eric Wallich said. “We have no reason to fear QO. We’ll be a hard team to beat too.”
With both schools located less than three miles apart from each other, the Seneca Valley and Northwest rivalry can be considered a backyard brawl for bragging rights of Germantown.
At stake each season is the King’s Trophy, the prize the winning team has claimed since 2001. The series between the teams began in 1999, with Northwest taking three of the first five games, and holding the King’s Trophy in two of the first three years of its existence (2002, 2003).
Of late, Seneca Valley has assumed control of the series, winning eight of the past nine meetings.
Northwest Coach Mike Neubeiser, in his third season, is hoping to reverse Seneca Valley’s recent ownership of the rivalry.
“Being competitive, making it a good game and hopefully winning would be huge for our program,” Neubeiser said. “It would establish us as one of the better teams in Montgomery County.”
The last time the Jaguars beat the Screaming Eagles was in 2006, in a 21-19 thriller.
Even though Seneca Valley has won the last six games, Screaming Eagles Coach Fred Kim places a lot of importance on this annual matchup.
“That’s the game we mark on the calendar that we absolutely want to win and it’s the same for them,” Kim said.
New starting running back for Wheaton
Sims, a sophomore, saw more playing time Monday due to an ankle injury to senior Joshua Jones. But Sims’s emergence is something Wheaton Coach Ernest Williams felt would eventually happen.
“We’ve always seen the potential he had,” Williams said. “We’ve always known what he was capable of but hadn’t put it all together. It was one of those things where it just clicked for him in that moment.”
Jones will still see reps at running back, Williams said, but will also work in as a receiver.
“Being able to move Jones outside and run some jet sweeps and catch some bubble screens should allow us to open up the offense,” Williams said.
The Knights visit Watkins Mill this Friday night for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.