GAITHERSBURG – Paint Branch senior quarterback Armani Ceballos tossed three touchdowns Friday night to lead the Panthers’ varsity football team to a 21-13 road win over Gaithersburg at John Harvill Stadium.
The win kept the Panthers’ perfect record (3-0) intact and helped avenge a one-point loss to Gaithersburg last season.
Paint Branch featured a balanced three-pronged attack with Ceballos at quarterback along with running backs Cedric Content and Justin Hockaday and a wide receiving corps that boasts JD Guerrero, Ivan Nnadi and Jovaun Wheeler.
Ceballos beamed with confidence when asked about his team’s balanced offense.
“That’s what we do,” he said. “That’s what we’re known for. We’re Paint Branch.”
However, Paint Branch head coach Mike Nesmith expressed displeasure in his team’s execution throughout the game and described the Panthers’ performance as “sloppy.”
“We didn’t play anywhere close to our standard,” said Nesmith. “If we could have played a great game and executed well and won 21-13, I’d be pleased but to play the way we did and make the mistakes the way that we did across the board I was very disappointed.”
Paint Branch first scored with 6:26 remaining in the first quarter when Ceballos connected with Nnadi on a 41-yard touchdown.
However, Gaithersburg (1-2) evened the score in the second quarter when Denzel Dalton caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Johnathan Lyles Jr. with 6:50 left in the period. Lyles took a lateral from quarterback Carlin Bason before spotting Dalton for the score.
Several Gaithersburg defensive stands highlighted the game, including a standout performance from two-way starter and team captain Marqel Simpkins, who kept the Trojans in the game.
The Paint Branch defense recovered a Bason fumble deep in Gaithersburg territory and converted moments later when Ceballos found wide receiver Evin Dickerson from nine yards out with 4:26 left in the third period.
Bason tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Lyles with 8:49 left in the fourth quarter but the extra point sailed wide left and the Trojans trailed, 14-13, before Ceballos connected with Nnadi from 19 yards out with 6:37 remaining in the contest.
After being shutout 27-0 by Northwest in the season opener, the Trojans bounced back in Week 2 with a 28-7 win over Watkins Mill. Gaithersburg came up short against a talented Paint Branch team but has shown signs of improvement.
“We get better and better each week,” said Simpkins, a senior running back and linebacker. “We definitely got better.”
Meanwhile, Ceballos said the win over Gaithersburg would help the team’s confidence.
“We’re going to keep winning,” said Ceballos.