It seems like the honors and accolades haven’t stopped for the Quince Orchard football team ever since they won the school’s first state championship in 11 years on Nov. 30 with their thrilling 40-33 triumph over North Point in the Maryland 4A title game.
In the past six weeks, they’ve been introduced on-field as state champions at a Baltimore Ravens home game, honored by a national high school sports website as one of the top football teams in the country, recognized on ESPN, had a day proclaimed in their honor by the City of Gaithersburg, saw their head coach selected as high school football Coach of the Year by the Washington Post, and had numerous players receive all-state, all-Met and all-county honors.
“It means a lot to our program and it is great to get recognition for our accomplishments,” QO Athletic Director Jeff Rabberman said of the various awards. “There is a tremendous amount of pride in the athletic program at our school, but this piece (state championship) has been missing for a while. We broke through and now the sky is the limit.”
Recently during halftime of QO’s boys’ basketball game against Northwest, representatives of national high school sports website MaxPreps and the Army National Guard presented Head Coach John Kelley and the team with a trophy commemorating their selection to the MaxPreps Tour of Champions. A team must win a state championship and be highly ranked in the MaxPreps national rankings to receive the award. For football, only 50 of the country’s best are invited.
“It’s a huge honor for our program,” Kelley said of the MaxPreps award. “It says a lot about the hard work our kids put in.”
QO finished their season 13-1, winning their last 10 games, and were ranked sixth in Maryland by MaxPreps and 132nd nationwide. The Washington Post ranked the Cougars fourth in their season-ending poll of the top teams in the DC/MD/VA area, making them the top-ranked public school team.
The Post selected Kelley as Coach of the Year, noting that “(in) his fifth year as head coach at Quince Orchard, Kelley led the Cougars to a one-loss season and the third state title in program history” after making it to the state finals in each of the past two seasons.
Kelley said the honor is “great,” but “I’m more happy about the fact that we won a state championship as a team.”
The Post also named senior linebacker/tight end Johnny Hodges to its first team defense. Senior offensive tackle Logan Moyer was named to the Post’s second team offense, and junior running back Marquez Cooper and senior linebacker Aaron Green received honorable mention. Cooper, who ran for over 2,000 yards and scored 39 touchdowns, was also selected first-team all-state by USA Today.
Fifteen Cougars were selected for allcounty teams, starting with Cooper and Hodges. Cooper was named Most Valuable Player of both the 2018 Coaches 4A All-MoCoFootball Team and the AllMoCoFootball Team announced by the popular MoCoFootball website, while Hodges was chosen as Defensive Player of the Year on both teams.
Other Cougars receiving recognition were
- Green – Coaches 1st team defense; MoCoFootball 1st team defense.
- Moyer – Coaches 1st team offense; MoCoFootball 1st team offense.
- Linebacker/returner Charles Bell – Coaches 1st team defense; MoCoFootball 1st team special teams.
- Offensive lineman John Williamson – Coaches 1st team offense; MoCoFootball 2nd team offense.
- Defensive Lineman Rashaud Thomas – Coaches 2nd team defense; MoCoFootball 2nd team defense.
- Defensive back Ronnell Dennis – Coaches 2nd team defense; MoCoFootball 2nd team defense.
- Wide Receiver Chris Webb – Coaches 2nd team offense; MoCoFootball honorable mention.
- Offensive lineman Mark Echeverria – Coaches 2nd team offense; MoCoFootball honorable mention.
- Tight End Max Bernard – Coaches 2nd team offense.
- Quarterback Brian Plummer – MoCoFootball honorable mention.
- Defensive lineman Demeioun Robinson – MoCoFootball honorable mention.
- Linebacker Tre Wade – MoCoFootball honorable mention.
- Defensive back Nahiem Howell – MoCoFootball honorable mention.
The state championship has also raised the profile of QO student-athletes aspiring to play football in college. Cooper (junior) recently received scholarship offers from Kent State University and the University of Massachusetts, Bell (junior) received one from the University of Pittsburgh, Robinson (sophomore) one from Rutgers University, and wide receiver Brendan McGonagle (senior) from St. Anselm’s.
Moyer committed during the season to Washington & Lee University and Hodges to play lacrosse at the U.S. Naval Academy. Green has decommitted from the University of Delaware to consider other offers.
Postseason tributes for the Cougars began just a few days after they won the state crown when viewers of the “Pardon the Interruption” television program on ESPN saw a QO helmet and jersey displayed on the set behind the program’s hosts, Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon. One of the program’s assistant directors, Bonnie Berko, is a former QO parent and invited the coaches and Rabberman to the studio to watch the show and bring a helmet and a jersey.
The jersey they chose was no surprise: No. 6, belonging to former QO football star Tyler Terry, who died last February and in whose memory the team dedicated their championship season.
Most recently, City of Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman presented a proclamation to the team at its annual banquet on Jan. 6, declaring that day Maryland State Champion Quince Orchard Football Day.
“Things like the Ravens game, that was fun,” Kelley said. “The MaxPreps team award—us being recognized nationally—that’s something we’re never going to forget.”
But Kelley and his team aren’t resting on their laurels. With the start of the new year, returning team members are back in the weight room several times a week to begin their offseason training program.
“Yep, we’re back to work,” said Kelley, anticipating the challenge that will come next season with defending a state championship. “We’ve got a big target on our backs.”