It was eerily quiet along the Quince Orchard sideline as the third-ranked Cougars faced third-and-10 from their own 45-yard line. Less than two minutes remained, Quince Orchard trailed by two points and its quarterback had just thrown two consecutive incompletions.
So when offensive coordinator Josh Klotz called for a handoff to standout running back Mark Green, it was more about making a potential fourth-down play manageable and less about trying to get the ball down the field for a game-winning field goal.
“When you’re in fourth-and-10, you’re limited in what you can do,” Quince Orchard Coach Dave Mencarini said. “Fortunately, they dropped eight guys” into pass coverage.
Green, who is the Washington area’s 12th-leading rusher, had plenty of room and ran to the right for 18 yards. On the following snap, Klotz called for the same play and Green bounced off would-be tacklers for 13 yards. Then Green ran to the left for 17 yards.
Three plays, three handoffs and the Cougars were within range for Chris McPherson’s game-winning, 24-yard field goal that gave Quince Orchard a 23-21 victory over Churchill in the Maryland 4A West Region final this past Friday.
“This isn’t the only game we’ve said on the headset, ‘Let’s put the ball in the best player in Montgomery County’s hands,’ ” Mencarini said. “At that point and situation, when everyone is anticipating we were going to throw the ball, we needed to focus on moving the chains and what do we do best?
“You could feel the momentum swing [after the first run]. Mark showed a burst and acceleration.”
Quince Orchard (12-0) plays 12th-ranked C.H. Flowers (9-3) in a Maryland 4A semifinal on Friday.
Douglass was never supposed to make it this far.
The Eagles graduated 26 seniors from last year’s team that lost in the Maryland 2A South regional semifinals, and after a 2-2 start, they needed a six-game winning streak just to qualify for their ninth consecutive playoff berth.
They have continued to win in the postseason, and after a 40-20 victory at Glenelg on Friday, Douglass has advanced to its second state semifinal in the past three years and is two wins away from the first state title in school history.
“A lot of people wrote us off because we lost 26 seniors, but I knew we had some dynamic players coming back,” Douglass Coach J.C. Pinkney said. “We had a good nucleus, we just had to supplement that with guys who had to grow up fast.”
The Eagles’ offense has developed into one of the more dynamic units in the area, averaging 38.1 points per game during the eight-game winning streak.
In the win against Glenelg, junior wide receiver Paul Harris caught seven passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns from senior quarterback Taitor Reynolds, and senior running backs Josef Hinnant and Emmanuel Smith combined to rush for 173 yards on 23 carries.
Douglass will now travel to Kent Island (11-1) for a state semifinal on Friday night…
Elsewhere, Surrattsville (6-6) ended its season with a 50-6 loss to Dunbar-Baltimore (10-2) in the Maryland 1A South regional final.
The seven-time state champion Poets held the Hornets to 71 yards of total offense, denying them what would have been their first-ever state semifinal appearance.
Huntingtown is the last team standing from the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
The Hurricanes (11-1) advanced to the Maryland 3A state semifinals for the third consecutive year Friday night with a 32-7 win over Westlake (8-4); marking also the third consecutive season Huntingtown has eliminated Westlake from the postseason.
“I think this year it was the fact that we played them at home,” Huntingtown Coach Jerry Franks said. “It was a regional final, and we needed a win.”
Senior defensive back Julian Moorehead returned an interception 14 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and senior running back Davonte Fletcher continued his spectacular season (1,768 yards, 27 touchdowns) with 185 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
Huntingtown will now host Thomas Johnson (9-3) in a state semifinal on Friday night, hoping to reach the state final for the second time in three years after coming up one play short last season.
The Hurricanes allowed a one-yard touchdown run as time expired in a 15-14 loss at Franklin last year, a play that has been a constant source of motivation ever since.
“The kids have kept that in the back of their minds, and have worked hard to get back to this game,” Franks said. “I’m sure it will be discussed several times during the week, and now we’ve gotten to the point where we can do something about it.”
In the week leading up to Thomas Johnson’s regular season finale against Frederick, Coach Ben Wright informed the team that he will step down after the season. The Patriots downed the Cadets to grab the No. 4 seed in the Maryland 3A West playoffs and have continued gaining momentum with each passing week.
Thomas Johnson picked up its second straight playoff road win on Friday, beating Damascus, 42-6, to win its third region title in five seasons. The team, which features 22 seniors on its 32-player roster, advances to play at top-seeded Huntingtown in a Friday 3A semifinal.
“I told [the seniors] when I’m done coaching is when they’re done playing,” Wright said. “We’re going out together, and we all would like to keep going for two more weeks.”
Anderson, a running back, finished with 151 yards of total offense and two touchdowns, while Dahlgren threw for a score and ran for another after halftime. In the game’s final minute, junior Kadeem Gill added a 99-yard touchdown run.
Wright’s squad has turned up the intensity at the right time. The team won its first five games of the season before a three-game losing streak threatened its playoff hopes.
During its current four-game winning streak, Thomas Johnson — which is seeking its first state title since 1982 — has averaged more than 280 rushing yards per contest. The Patriots have been dominant, winning by an average of 30 points per game.
“I think when we were 5-3 and it looked like the season was going to be over in two weeks, it was like a slap in the face for these guys,” Wright said. “They realized, ‘Uh-oh, We better get rolling,’ and they’ve done a great job putting it all together.”