The Quince Orchard Cougars in their first three games this season have done everything expected of a football team with state championship aspirations.
They’ve dominated their opponents by a combined score of 150-20, including a shutout against Bethesda-Chevy Chase in their lightning-shortened opening game. They’ve scored on the ground, in the air, on special teams and on defense. And they’ve weathered the adversity of schedule changes, short preparation time and sloppy fields caused by the stormy September.
“They did what we wanted them to do,” said head coach John Kelley following QO’s 55-14 demolition of Clarksburg last Thursday at the Cougar Dome, a game that had been rescheduled from the usual Friday night because of concerns about Hurricane Florence.
This Friday, however, they face their toughest test of the season, venturing down Falls Road to confront private school power Bullis, who last year edged the Cougars, 42-41, in overtime in one of the most thrilling games ever played at the Cougar Dome.
“I told (the team) that’s our toughest game to date no doubt,” said Kelley. “They’re one of the toughest teams in the state.”
The Cougars attacked quickly against Clarksburg, who had entered the game 2-0. QO led 28-0 in the first quarter while Clarksburg had three three-and-outs and expanded their lead to 42-0 before Clarksburg recorded its first first down other than by penalty.
Shifty junior running back Marquez Cooper had three touchdowns on the ground while his back-up, speedy sophomore Jeremiah White, had two,
and together they tallied 289 yards rushing. Cooper now has 391 yards and seven touchdowns in his first three games, but modestly credited his blockers for his success.
“I’m just grateful that my O-line blocked the way they did, so I could run the ball,” said the 5’6” back after his career high 172 yards rushing the previous week in QO’s 45-6 triumph over playoff contender Blair.
Sophomore quarterback Brian Plummer opened the scoring at 9:14 of the first quarter on a well-timed 22-yard post pass to senior wideout Brendan McGonagle, followed two minutes later by a 46-yard hook-up with senior slot receiver Chris Webb, who caught a short flip in the flat and outran the defense to the end zone.
“His first two passes were touchdowns tonight, and he threw two pretty good balls,” said Kelley of Plummer, who went 5-9 for 78 yards and those two touchdowns, as well as an interception near the end of the first half. “That’s going to happen with a sophomore quarterback in a two minute situation,” said Kelley of the pick. “Just learn from it and grow from it.”
QO’s most unusual touchdown—and effusive scoring celebration—came when defensive lineman Steven Williams caught a shanked Clarksburg punt in the end zone with 6:18 left in the first half. The 280-pound junior happily circled out of the end zone and around his team’s bench before his teammates tackled him near the Red Army rooting section.
After the game Williams said the only other time he had scored in his life was on a quarterback sneak in eighth grade.
Williams is one of a six-man rotation on the defensive line that—though loaded with new faces including senior transfers Rashad Thomas, Dejon Robinson and Kevon Carter—has stifled opponents. “It keeps our energy high,” said Williams. “Because we rotate every three plays, so we don’t really come off the field tired.”
Senior linebacker Johnny Hodges, the defensive captain, loves his team’s effort and said the defense will get even better. “We’re still getting to know each other. We still have a lot of jelling to do.”
The Cougars will need their best effort to beat Bullis on Friday. Bullis is ranked 15th in the Washington Post top 20 while QO is seventh.
“We got to prepare for that,” said Plummer. “Focus, watch film, make the right reads.”
“I’m just looking forward to playing them again,” said Williams, who saw action in last season’s Bullis game. “I just hope this time there’ll be a better outcome for us.”
“Size doesn’t matter,” said senior Damian Brunzell, one of the somewhat undersized offensive linemen who has opened gaping holes for Cooper and QO’s talented running backs. “We just go into each week, each day, going hard so we can just dominate.”
“It’s going to be a heavyweight battle and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” said Kelley.