GAITHERSBURG – When a high school football team wins a state title, the following season carries with it a certain level of pressure and expectations. Nobody wants to lose, least of all a defending state champion.
Quince Orchard High School has a title to defend and a claim to stake as the best team in Montgomery County. Wootton High School was first on the list to feel the wrath of the 2019 Cougars when the two teams met on Sept. 6.
Quince Orchard scored quickly and often, and that prolific offense, combined with a tough, hard-hitting defense, resulted in a lopsided scoreboard at the end of the game. Proof of the resounding victory glowed brightly at the corner of Wootton’s home turf: 56-0.
The Patriots might have hosted the game, but it was not a home-field advantage for Wootton (0-1) in Week One. Quince Orchard’s defense might as well have been a brick wall as the Patriots never made it into Cougars territory and finally reached midfield in one of the very last plays of the fourth quarter.
The Cougars, however, picked up right where they had left off in 2018. Senior running back and Kent State University commit Marquez Cooper zigzagged all over the field as he tallied three touchdowns in the first half alone. Wootton defenders tried valiantly to ground and tackle Cooper, but the senior juked away from his opponents and made them miss.
Four other Cougars found the end zone against Wootton. Wide receiver Ryan Swigart previously played for Good Counsel High School, but his first regular-season game in a Quince Orchard uniform was a successful one. Swigart and quarterback Brian Plummer appeared to be on the same page, as Plummer connected with his new receiver for two touchdowns.
“I thought (Quince Orchard) was a better fit for me,” said Swigart, of his decision to transfer schools. “We had a good performance tonight. My quarterback, Brian Plummer, and I have been working all week, and we just put a show on tonight.”
However, it was not just the Quince Orchard offense that put on a show against the Patriots. Senior defensive back Charles Bell VI and junior linebacker Demeioun Robinson led a hungry defense that kept Wootton firmly in its territory for the entirety of the game. Bell, a Syracuse University commit, burst past Wootton’s offensive line and hassled quarterback Kyler Hamlin. Robinson blocked a pair of Patriots’ punts and even caught a pass for a two-point conversion on Cooper’s first touchdown of the game.
“We prepared to run up the score on Wootton, but I’m happy my team came out here and executed,” said Bell. “We knew we were going to perform to perfection this week.”
Despite the game getting out of hand early on, Wootton sophomore running back Raymond Williams and senior receiver Larry Feldman continued to fight to get the ball down the field.
The Patriots also converted a fourth down and four on their own 42-yard line when sophomore receiver Justin McGraw caught Hamlin’s pass and kept his feet in bounds with a Cougars defender at his heels.
The second half started with a running clock, but the Quince Orchard offensive onslaught continued. Junior running back Jeremiah White replaced Cooper in the backfield and contributed a 3-yard touchdown just a few minutes into the third quarter.
The tenacious Patriots kept plugging away until the game clock struck zero; Wootton even tried a special play, in which Feldman lobbed a long pass to the end zone, but the ball did not land in the arms of its intended target.
Unlike Quince Orchard (1-0), Wootton’s team is comprised primarily of underclassmen. According to Williams, that inexperience contributed to the loss.
“We’re very young. There’s a lot of new faces, and it’s their first year playing football,” said Williams. “We didn’t play hard. We didn’t try hard.”
The Patriots will have the opportunity to get their first win on Sept. 13 when they face 0-1 Walt Whitman High School. The Vikings also suffered a lopsided defeat in Week One against Northwest High School.
Meanwhile, Quince Orchard is scheduled to host Damascus on the same day. The Swarmin’ Hornets will enter the Cougar Dome with an 0-1 record after forfeiting their first game against Rockville High School due to a violation of state rules for an offseason practice.
“We’re just getting started. This is just Week One,” said Swigart. “We wanted to come out and start strong so we can finish strong.”