The defending state champion Quince Orchard football team has reached the point in their season where their toughest competition is with themselves and the goal of each game is not just winning, but also getting better.
After winning their last two games by a combined score of 131-0, recording their third shutout, and raising their record to 4-0, however, one has to wonder how much better they can get.
“One thing I told our guys is we just have to continue to improve every week,” Coach John Kelley said after QO’s 67-0 victory over Gaithersburg two weeks ago at the Cougar Dome. “We can’t be the same football team week one that we are (now).”
Last Friday against Churchill the Cougars scored on the first play from scrimmage on Marquez Cooper’s 55-yard touchdown run, the first of his three touchdowns, en route to their 64-0 triumph.
They scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and an incredible six touchdowns in the second, capped off by Demeioun Robinson’s 25-yard fumble return in the final minute of the first half.
Junior quarterback Brian Plummer had a breakout game, tossing four touchdown passes, scoring on a six-yard run, and completing 14 passes in 16 attempts for 249 yards. He connected with senior Ryan Swigart on scoring passes of 45 and 33 yards, with senior Jalen Fraser for 15 yards, and with senior Steven Williams for three yards. Williams, a 290-pound defensive lineman, came in on offense in a play that the coaches were likely rehearsing for possible future use in big games down the road.
One week earlier against Gaithersburg, QO also ended the competitive portion of the game early, scoring on every offensive possession of the first half and adding three defensive touchdowns.
Cooper, a senior and committed to attend Kent State next year, again led the way with 252 yards rushing on only 11 carries and another three touchdowns. Junior cornerback Ryan Barnes scored on a 40-yard interception return and senior safety Larry Hackey had a 45-yard pick six, both in the second quarter.
“I just went out and did my job,” said Barnes after the game. “Got the interception and brought it back for the touchdown.”
Kelley said he liked that “the kids … challenge themselves to get better.”
Barnes acknowledged that as a first-year starter, “I had some big shoes to fill coming into the season and I feel like I’m working my way up to fill those shoes.”
Cooper, who met one personal goal earlier this season when he became QO’s all-time leading ground gainer, continued his quest to rush for 2,500 yards this season. So far he has gained 598 yards on 59 carries and has scored three touchdowns in each game.
Robinson, a junior, is one of the nation’s top recruits in his class, and scouting services have ranked him as the top linebacker. He has received offers from over 20 Division I schools so far, including last week from national powers Alabama and Georgia.
He spoke like the attacking edge rusher he is when he said his mindset is “Keep the foot on the gas and keep on going.”
Robinson smiled when asked about the history of his nickname, “Chop.”
“I was a fat baby,” he said. “When I came out I was 14 pounds. They called me Pork Chop. I got older, I just took off ‘Pork’ and became ‘Chop.’”
Kelley said that he and his staff have been using these games against lesser opponents “to keep improving on areas that we think as a coaching staff we need to improve on.”
One of those areas may have been the passing game, as they unleashed Plummer last week. He had gone 4-10 with two TDs and two interceptions the week before against Gaithersburg. But he had his best game of the season against Churchill.
QO is ranked third in the Washington Post rankings. Their next two games should get a little more competitive as they face Clarksburg (2-2) and Richard Montgomery (3-1). This Friday’s home game vs. Clarksburg is the Hall of Fame game, where QO will honor the first-ever class of inductees into the school’s new Athletic Hall of Fame.