For a team that had just beaten its archrival in their annual gridiron rivalry game, the Quince Orchard Cougars enjoyed a relatively muted postgame celebration following their triumph last Friday over Northwest.
That’s because, with the season in its final regular season week and the playoffs approaching, the Cougars know they’re probably going to play the Jaguars again, and next time it will really matter.
QO topped Northwest 17-7 at the Cougar Dome, controlling the game in the second half after a scoreless first half. Demeioun Robinson, QO’s nationally recruited junior linebacker, dominated the second half with three sacks (four for the game) and a blocked punt, and senior running back Marquez Cooper scored two touchdowns to secure the win.
“Northwest—respect—they came out strong,” said Cooper. “But we needed time to adjust, so second half we came out ready and time to work and get the win.”
“I was proud of our kids,” said QO Coach John Kelley. “I thought we flew around really well on defense all night long. Those guys are very talented offensively, and I thought our kids did a great job.”
With the win, QO remained undefeated at 8-0, has now beaten the Jaguars five times in a row, and solidified both its no. 2 ranking in The Washington Post and its claim as the top team in Montgomery County.
More importantly, with a win this Friday at Walter Johnson, the Cougars can clinch the top seed in the upcoming state Division 4A playoffs and play all of their postseason games on the friendly turf of the Cougar Dome, up until the state finals in Annapolis.
So with their eyes on defending their state title, Kelley and his Cougars took the Northwest win in stride. The coach reminded his team after the game, “This is only a regular season game. The ones that matter, those come up later.”
Said Robinson succinctly about the Jaguars who, at 7-1, will also earn a high seed in the playoffs: “It don’t mean anything. We’re going to see them again.”
Northwest came out sharp. They got the opening kickoff, and their no-huddle offense advanced steadily downfield—including converting on a fourth-and-six fake punt and a fourth-and-three pass play. But seven minutes into the drive with first and goal on the five, the Cougars stuffed a running play, knocked the ball loose from the Jaguar back, and junior lineman Marcus Bradley recovered the fumble.
QO also missed some first half opportunities. A Larry Hackey interception on Northwest’s second possession gave the Cougars possession at the Jaguar 36, but they couldn’t move the ball. On the ensuing possession Bradley sacked Northwest QB Jordan Morse in the end zone for an apparent safety, but it was nullified on a defensive holding call. And QO junior quarterback Brian Plummer just missed connecting deep with senior receiver Ryan Swigart, who couldn’t corral a ball off his fingertips.
At halftime, Kelley “just told our kids it’s a four-quarter game. … We got to be able to finish. Whoever finishes is going to win.”
“First half we both started off slow,” Robinson said. In order to win, “we had to keep the intensity up. We just had to work.”
QO got the second half kickoff, and on a key third-and-12 Plummer went deep again to Swigart. This time the receiver made a tough catch in traffic and took the Cougars to the Northwest 18. Their drive stalled, but senior kicker Carson Burke crushed a 37-yard field to break the scoring drought and give QO a 3-0 lead with 8:51 in the quarter.
Then Robinson took over the next possession, tackling a Northwest ball carrier for a loss on one play, sacking Morse on the next, and then blocking the Jaguar punt.
“I can’t be blocked,” he said, which explains why major football programs like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Ohio State are interested in him.
QO got the ball near midfield and parlayed a swing pass to Cooper and a toss to tight end Justin Moran to get inside the 10.
A five-yard run by Cooper at the 2:23 mark gave QO a 10-0 lead, and released a blizzard of red confetti that the Red Army faithful had been holding until then.
The defensive storm continued in the fourth quarter, as a Robinson sack followed by a Bradley sack on fourth-and-7 gave QO the ball at the Northwest 40. On the next play Cooper burst through a huge hole and outran the Jaguars to up the lead to 17-0 with 7:08 left.
The Jaguars would score on a three-yard run by Ajahni Terry at the 5:12 mark, which was set up by a sensational catch by Kaden Prather. But this round of the Great Seneca Slugfest was over, the decision going to the Cougars.
“It was time to take over,” said Cooper, a Kent State University (Ohio) commit who gained 161 yards on 25 carries and became Montgomery County’s all-time leading touchdown scorer and fifth all-time rusher during the game.
“We had to come out with a lot more energy,” said Bradley, who has offers from Ohio State and Virginia, among others. “Attack them in a different way and just get the job done high level.”
Kelley liked how, for the second time this season against a top-tier opponent, his team fought through adversity.
“We had to do it week two against a tough Damascus team,” he said. “And that game was tied late in the fourth quarter 7-7. … We’ll fight you. Scrappy, and I think that’s important.”
And they fully expect a rematch with the Jaguars on their journey to repeat. Said Bradley: “We’ll probably see them down the road.”