For the fourth time in the last five years it comes to this: Northwest vs. Quince Orchard at the Cougar Dome for the 4A West regional title and a spot in the state semifinals.
And with the Cougars still stinging from losing the regionals on their home field to the Jaguars in 2013, 2014 and 2015—despite beating them in the regular season just as they did this season—for Coach John Kelley and QO this Friday’s rematch assumes added significance.
“This is our chance to get some redemption,” Kelley said.
QO qualified for regionals last Friday with a thoroughly convincing 62-0 victory over Einstein in the playoffs’ opening round, dominating the Titans just as they had in their 47-0 regular season victory.
Einstein actually had a promising start, getting two first downs on the game’s opening possession and about to notch a third, when QO linebacker Tre Wade wrestled the ball from an Einstein runner as he crossed midfield and barreled the opposite way for a touchdown and a 7-0 QO lead at 8:02 in the first quarter.
After that, the only drama left in the contest was who would score more touchdowns, QO’s offense or defense. The offense ended up with five, the defense three, and special teams had one, a punt return by Aaron Derwin who also had two interceptions and returned one of them 60 yards for a score.
“We came out and handled business like we should have,” said Kelley simply.
Marquez Cooper had two first quarter scoring runs, and Wade added a 4-yard touchdown in the second. Quarterback Doc Bonner and receiver Brendan McGonagle connected on a season-long 87-yard touchdown pass, their sixth scoring play this season of 40 yards or longer.
McGonagle and Bonner hooked up on a 53-yard scoring pass the previous week in QO’s 60-21 victory over Gaithersburg in the regular season finale, one of a career high five touchdown passes that Bonner tossed that night among his 292 yards in the air. Bryan Ramos, normally a defensive end but playing tight end with Johnny Hodges injured, had his first two TD catches of the year.
Bonner, who now holds QO’s career record for touchdown passes, said, “My connection with my wide receivers is amazing. During the offseason that’s all we worked on was just making sure we’d be able to pass the ball this year. … As a quarterback it’s a pleasure to be able to throw and trust your wide receivers and they trust you to put the ball where they can get it, and you just let it fly.”
The Cougars, 10-1, have three shutouts this season and will need a strong performance from their Black Paw defense to end the Jaguars’ run in regionals. QO beat Northwest 38-29 three weeks ago, but the Jaguars racked up 255 yards in the air. And as QO has learned three times before, regular season success means nothing at this stage.
Key to stopping Northwest’s explosive passing attack will be QO free safety Derwin, who had two interceptions in the first game, and secondary mates Nahiem Howell (pick six against Einstein), Ronnell Dennis Jr. (pick six against Gaithersburg), Seckret Murphy and Aaron Green.
“Free safety has been starting to click for me,” said Derwin, a senior who transferred to QO this year from Middletown High School and has four interceptions in the last three games. “I was in the middle of learning the position up until now, but now it’s all starting to click and come together.”
Kelley is looking forward to the showdown. “Honestly, I don’t think we played that well,” he said of QO’s performance in the first game. “It’ll be good to play them again.”
“Three years in a row we’ve lost on this field to them in the regional championship game. That does not sit well with me. That does not sit well with anyone in this program.”
His team got the message.
“It’s going to be a statement game,” said Bonner. “So we got to come out, do our jobs, play them even better than we did the last time we played them.”
“We’re all very aware of it,” said newcomer Derwin of the QO-NW history. “We don’t really think about what happened in the past as much as … we want to break that streak, that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Kickoff at the Cougar Dome on Friday, Nov. 17 is 7 p.m.