Wootton senior Dean Spitz remembers the thrill as a freshman watching teammate Austin Schoenfeld pull in a last-second touchdown to beat Richard Montgomery. He remembers the come-from-behind 36-32 victory over the Rockets in 2014, and the disappointment of last year’s near-comeback 21-20 loss.
Each time the Patriots have squared off against their Rockville rivals, the game has been decided in the final minutes, and the teams could be in line for another fourth-quarter thriller Friday at Wootton.
The Patriots (2-1) and Rockets (3-0) are not only fighting for one of the four playoff spots in the competitive Maryland 4A West region, but they’re also Montgomery 4A North division foes.
“I treat it as a playoff going into the state championship game,” Richard Montgomery senior Zaire Mitchell-Paden said. “This team — they’re strong, they’re fast and mentally and physically they’re very good and I don’t want to take them lightly.”
Spitz, a running back and linebacker, is one of the few experienced players on a revamped roster; senior lineman Geoff Pisarra is the one returning full-time starter on offense. Junior quarterback Grant Saylor and a deep receiving corps led by sophomore Noelly Miller helped the Patriots to convincing victories over Kennedy and Springbrook, but the team struggled last week in a 52-13 loss to No. 10 Quince Orchard. Spitz, who has two rushing touchdowns this fall, said it was rough watching that game on film but that it served as a wake-up call.
“It did teach us a lesson,” Spitz said. “It really showed us that there’s a totally different level of competition out there that we have to be ready for.”
Richard Montgomery has picked up where it left off last year when it finished 9-2 to end a 10-year playoff drought after going 2-8 in 2014. Mitchell-Paden brings size and athleticism on both sides as a 6-foot-6 tight end and defensive lineman. He has become a primary receiving target (nine receptions, 181 yards) for junior quarterback Spencer Silverstein, while senior Ty Hebron has emerged as one Montgomery County’s top running backs.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us, mainly because we’re 3-0 and this is a group trying to break that streak,” Mitchell-Paden said. “I think if we just pay attention and keep working hard in practice and leave it all on the field, nobody will be ever to break that.”