BURTONSVILLE – When the Paint Branch varsity football team gathered for the post-game team photo Friday night, several of the players posed with their hands depicting a zero.
That gesture is a privilege reserved for a team who just shut out its opponent. The Panthers did just that, blanking the visiting Trojans by a score of 26-0.
“Their defense did a great job, but we handed them too many points,” Gaithersburg Head Coach Kreg Kephart said. “When you play a good team, you can’t hand them 21 points and expect to have a shot.”
The Paint Branch defense harassed Gaithersburg junior quarterback Tyler Woodward and senior running back Chris Harris all evening.
Defenders swarmed Woodward every time he dropped back to pass, causing him to overthrow his targets on multiple occasions.
Harris met a brick wall every time he tried to run and finished with less than 40 yards on the ground.
While the Paint Branch defense made short work of Harris and Woodward, junior linebacker and second year starter Durell Nchami picked off the Paint Branch quarterback twice for touchdowns.
Nchami, who also plays tight end, showcased his offensive skills on an 18-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback JD Guerrero late in the second quarter.
“I was kind of nervous because I thought I was going to get tackled,” Nchami said. “The coaches put me in the right position to make plays.”
Guerrero made plays with his legs to give Paint Branch their first score of the night on a nine-yard run.
Senior kicker Bryant Hernandez missed the extra point.
Gaithersburg’s next possession featured Woodward under heavy defensive pressure.
Woodward’s pass didn’t reach its intended target as Nchami burst through the offensive line and ran the errant ball 72 yards for the first of his pick-six pair.
Hernandez’s extra point went wide right again.
As the Panthers entered the red zone a few possessions later, Guerrero made sure he threw the ball in Nchami’s hands for the 18 yard score.
This time, Panthers head coach Mike Nesmith opted to try for the two-point conversion and it worked. Guerrero’s quarterback sneak put Paint Branch up 20-0.
Gaithersburg’s interception right before time expired in the second quarter indicated how the evening was unfolding for the Trojans as senior defensive back Antwan Clipper picked off Guerrero at the five-yard line.
Unfortunately for Gaithersburg, the last few precious seconds had slipped off the game clock and the Trojans were unable to capitalize on Clipper’s interception.
The third quarter brought more of the same for Gaithersburg.
Nchami intercepted Woodward again on the Trojans’ first possession of the second half.
“He’s really come a long way from where he was. He entered as a freshman and now he’s taking another step as a junior and showing the type of player he is,” said Nesmith. “He can truly end up being a dominant football player.”
Nchami’s second pick six resulted in another 18 yard touchdown that seemed to spell the end for the Trojans. Guerrero aimed for sophomore wide receiver Ishmael Agbodzah for the two point conversion.
Gaithersburg senior defensive back Mike Largent put himself in the perfect position to break up the play.
Nesmith explained his players wanted to redeem themselves after losing the season opener to Whitman.
“We had a slow start on week one and we really dug ourselves a hole,” he said. “We have no margin for error. The guys are really focused on getting better every week.”
However, that doesn’t mean the victory against the Trojans came flawlessly.
Guerrero aired out a 60-yard pass to Agbodzah, who caught the ball at the goal line. At first, the referees ruled the catch a touchdown but later reversed the call.
A botched snap ensured the Panthers wouldn’t earn those points back.
With the win, Paint Branch improved to 2-1 and faces Kennedy next week.
The 1-2 Trojans host Walter Johnson.