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By Brandy Simms
BURTONSVILLE — Playing underneath the bright lights on Friday night, Quince Orchard Cougars’ Marquez Cooper ran wild against the Paint Branch Panthers.
Cooper, a junior running back who earned second team All-Sentinel honors last season, helped lead the Cougars to a 24-8 road victory over previously unbeaten Paint Branch.
The game between the storied Montgomery County high school football programs was broadcast locally on Montgomery College Television and streamed live on Facebook.
Cooper, who rushed for more than 200 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, played with a heavy heart Friday night.
Earlier in the week, Josh Snyder, a Northwest student-athlete who once wrestled with Cooper, died in a tragic car accident.
“We use to battle on the same wrestling team [and I used to] stay over his house,” said Cooper. “His family are real nice people. They do not deserve this.”
Cooper has also had to deal with the death of former Quince Orchard teammate Tyler Terry, who died in February after suffering cardiac arrest, and uncle Dominique Chase, a former Seneca Valley player who was struck and killed by a car in 2011.
“I’m hurt by his death,” Cooper said about Snyder, “my uncle’s death and Tyler’s death. Man, it’s just been a lot on me but I came out here and played for them – all of them.”
Cooper scored on a short touchdown run in the first quarter to help the Cougars jump out to a 7-0 lead with 4:26 remaining. He later scored on a 17-yard touchdown run to extend Quince Orchard’s lead to 24-0 with 5:06 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“He balled out today,” said Quince Orchard quarterback Brian Plummer. “I don’t know how he takes so much, hits after hits and still gets all these yards – it’s crazy.”
Cooper, who rushed for a season-high 243 yards on 31 carries, also gave a shout-out to Al’s Performance Institute (API), LLC and his offensive linemen including Logan Moyer, Damian Brunzell, Jack Williamson, Thomas DeCastro, Johnny Hodges, Max Bernard and Justin Moran along with fullback Ryan Jones.
“I just had to keep pushing, keep pushing,” Cooper explained afterward. “They were stacking a lot of people in the box and you just had to get your nose in there and get whatever you could get and that’s what I did.”
Quince Orchard (5-1) opened the 2018 campaign with victories over Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Blair and Clarksburg before suffering a loss to Bullis in Week 4.
Through six games this season, the Cougars have outscored their opponents, 265-42, including shutout victories over Bethesda-Chevy Chase (50-0) and Kennedy (69-0).
Defensively, the Cougars were led by linemen Dejon Robinson and Rashad Thomas along with linebacker Gerald Wade III and defensive back Aaron Green.
Plummer, only a sophomore, has been a godsend with the graduation of Doc Bonner, a three-year starter who guided the Gaithersburg public school to back-to-back 4A state final appearances over the last two seasons.
Plummer, a 6-foot-3, 180-pounder, ran the Quince Orchard offense to perfection and engineered the Cougars’ touchdown drives.
Quince Orchard wide receiver Chris Webb caught a tipped pass from Plummer for a touchdown to help the Cougars take a 14-0 lead right before halftime.
“He did an amazing job,” Cooper said about Plummer. “He came out here and surprised me.”
Meanwhile, Paint Branch (5-1) avoided the shutout when quarterback Norman Douglas connected with wide receiver Ishmael Agbodzah from 14 yards out and passed to running back Sam Doku for the two-point conversion with 3:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.