Cougars Beat Seneca Valley, Head to Damascus

The Cougars celebrate their come-from-behind win against Seneca Valley in the semi-final game.

By Mike Cuthbert and Julia Shapiro

In the first round of the playoffs, QO’s rematch with Seneca Valley looked a lot like the Sherwood game the week before: mistake after Cougar mistake, starting with a muff of a Screamin’ Eagle punt that gave Seneca Valley the ball at the QO 20. Bernard Wolley went untouched up the middle for 98 yards to take the lead, 6-0. Then Seneca Valley had an 18-yard burst and a field goal. QO was down, 15-0, and mental errors continued to mount.

Drew Murphy had a nightmare game, making poor decisions and even poorer throws short into coverage. Those decisions led to three interceptions, and it began to look like QO’s season end was inevitable.

Enter Mike Green, stage right. With 65 workmanlike yards in the first half, he had nothing spectacular established. Add 39 in the third quarter and 54 in the fourth and 57 from James McCallister, an unbreakable defense, an abandonment of the passing game and an interception by all-Met Alex Twine, and the Cougars emerged with another storybook finish to win, 19-15.

Several references were made to the 2007 State Championship game in which QO finished against Arundel in a similar fashion. Twine noticed some hanging heads on the sidelines at 15-0 and said the main challenge was to make them believe they could win.

“I guess that’s the sign of a good team, that you can play bad and win. I can’t say enough for the character of our kids,” said Head Coach Dave Mencarini. “Our physical strength won it for us. We found a way to get it done.”

At press time, the Cougars were scheduled to play next at Damascus on Nov. 19 for the regional title.

“They beat us on our home field,” said Green. “We just want to go up there and beat them on theirs.”

Prior to the playoff win, the Cougars finished the regular season on Nov. 5 with a 13-9 loss to Sherwood on the Warrior’s customary horrible field, leaving QO with an 8-2 record.

The game started and ended with mistakes, and in between there were enough QO miscues, penalties and sloppy play that the outstanding ones didn’t make a difference. The first Warrior play of the game found Mike Begley beating the Cougar secondary for a 41-yard touchdown from quarterback AJ Pignone, and the last play of the game, with under a minute to play, was a Sherwood punt on fourth and three. A touch foul on Sherwood’s punter gave the ball back to the Warriors for running into the kicker, and they ran out the clock.

Mencarini said, “We made bonehead plays, penalties, mistakes. Without even a few of them, you’re talking to the winning coach, not the loser.”

Defensively, QO shut down most of the Warrior running game but in the process proved vulnerable, as they have all year, to the pass. They gave up 177 yards through the air while gaining just 83 themselves. Green had another 100-yard plus game, but, as Twine said after the game: “It was so frustrating. We’d drive the ball down the field, then a penalty would stop us. And on defense one guy would make a mistake, and we paid for it.”

Twine had an exceptional game, setting the press box on fire with comments about his hits and his smarts while Marcus Newby got his share of comments as well with consistent hard tackles and two interceptions, one of them a highlight-reel leaping grab. QO scoring plays included their only TD, Mark Murphy to Tyrell Williams, and a field goal from Harry Long of 18 yards.