By Harry Lichtman
POTOMAC — The first weekend in November was the last weekend of the regular season for Montgomery County high-school football. One of the matchups featured the Churchill Bulldogs (9-1), hosting the Walter Johnson Wildcats (4-6) on Senior Night and Homecoming. It was a back-and-forth affair, but the Bulldogs escaped with the 36-28 victory on a rainy and windy Friday night.
Right from the second play from scrimmage, it looked like Churchill would dominate the contest, as senior running back Patrick Richardson took the handoff and raced 89 yards all the way to the end zone. The two-point conversion made it 8-0 early on.
But the Wildcats kept the game competitive, with over a minute left in the first quarter when junior quarterback Josh Forburger connected with fellow junior Bryce Maith for the touchdown and extra point that cut the deficit to 8-7.
However, in the second quarter, Churchill responded when senior quarterback Michael Janis found fellow senior Nick Smyth in the end zone for the three-yard score, but the failed two-point conversion kept the score at 14-7.
“It was a big win,” said Janis. “They played us really well. Last regular season game, we finished a little sloppy, but we finished on a strong note with a win.”
The Bulldogs struck again nearly 80 seconds later when Richardson took the handoff and raced down the sideline for a 38-yard touchdown run, with the two-point conversion extending the lead to 22-7, with the possibility of a blowout.
However, WJ didn’t give up, because with 1:18 left in the first half, Forburger connected with sophomore running back Ian Griffin, who broke a tackle on his way to the end zone for the score. The two-point conversion was successful, thus cutting the deficit to 22-15.
But on the ensuing kickoff, senior Kadron Washington picked the ball off the ground and ran with it 80 yards down the field for the touchdown, which resulted in another two-point conversion – extending the Bulldogs’ lead to 28-15 at halftime.
Early in the third quarter, the Wildcats made it a one-score game yet again when Forburger hooked up with senior receiver Aidan Williams with the deficit at 28-22.
However, the Bulldogs responded with another touchdown on an Andrew Ha jet sweep, with yet another two-point conversion increasing the lead to 36-22.
The Wildcats then came back with Griffin scoring for the second time of the night, cutting the deficit to 36-28. At 4-6, Walter Johnson didn’t have much to play for, except play spoiler to Churchill’s hopes of hosting a playoff game.
From that moment on, it was turnovers galore, as Janis threw two costly interceptions, but the Bulldogs defense stepped up big time as they recovered two fumbles to secure the victory.
“It’s a great feeling to win, but it was a sloppy win,” said Churchill head coach Willie Williams. “WJ, no doubt, played a really great ball game. They came out and just played a wonderful game, and it was a good test for us.”
Larry Hurd’s Wildcats may be done, but the Bulldogs will be hosting their first playoff game since 2011 next Friday, Nov. 9, when they face the Northwest Jaguars, the only team they lost to this season.
“We can’t get complacent,” said Williams. “The guys just got to get healthy and the team needs to get better.”