BETHESDA – When Richard Montgomery High School received its football schedule before the 2019 season, the Rockets had no way of knowing that they would be playing three consecutive games against undefeated teams.
The first squad on that challenging three-game streak was Northwest High School, and the Jaguars escaped with a victory, handing the Rockets their first loss of the season. Week Five sent Richard Montgomery to Bethesda to face a team that was off to its best start in school history: the Walter Johnson Wildcats.
The Rockets bounced back from their Week Four loss, handing Walter Johnson its first loss of the season by a score of 41-34 on Oct. 4.
The high-scoring affair saw its fair share of highlight-reel plays as players from both teams delivered on the field.
Walter Johnson quarterback Josh Forburger displayed his tremendous chemistry with wide receiver Jose Cabrera III when he completed two long touchdowns to Cabrera, one in the first half and one in the second half.
Meanwhile, Richard Montgomery quarterback Kieran Chai-Onn proved he could produce under pressure as he rolled to his left and connected with a wide-open Xavier Ricks in the end zone for the first of two touchdowns for Ricks.
Rockets running back T’kai Ayoola had an uncharacteristic, mostly quiet game against Northwest the week before, but he amassed over 200 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against Walter Johnson.
“(T’Kai) definitely ran with extra passion this week, for sure,” said Richard Montgomery Head Coach Josh Klotz. “He played almost every snap really, the whole game, offense and defense.”
“My coaches told me from the jump that nobody wants to tackle me,” said Ayoola. “So I took that and I ran with it.”
Ayoola struck immediately on Richard Montgomery’s opening possession. When the senior failed to find an opening up the middle, he switched direction immediately and tore down the sidelines for a 60-yard touchdown.
Less than a minute later, the Rockets were up 14-0 after Forburger’s tipped pass landed into the arms of senior linebacker Shazali Audu. Audu reached the end zone untouched for a 42-yard pick-six.
Richard Montgomery (4-1) dropped 21 unanswered points on the Wildcats before Walter Johnson responded with Cabrera’s first touchdown. The Wildcats trailed by 14 at halftime, but Cabrera struck again in the third quarter off another long pass from Forburger.
While Wildcats running back Aaron Jones did not score a touchdown against Richard Montgomery, the junior helped set his teammates up for success by muscling through defenders and earning tough yards. Jones worked in tandem with Cabrera and wide receiver Kai Holloway to convert a fourth down and overcome two back-to-back sacks on Forburger.
Forburger capped off the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak; Holloway helped complete the two-point conversion.
Ayoola’s second touchdown late in the fourth quarter put the Rockets up by two scores again. However, a blocked extra point attempt left the game within reach for the Wildcats.
Forburger drove his team down the field with the help of Jones and Holloway. Richard Montgomery was penalized three times on Walter Johnson’s final drive; a costly pass interference call gave the Wildcats a first-and-goal on the 10-yard line. After wide receiver David Domingue’s ensuing touchdown pulled Walter Johnson within seven, the extra point attempt was blocked.
The Rockets recovered the onside kick with 31 seconds left to drop the Wildcats to 4-1.
“We feel like we’re a pretty good team and I think we proved that tonight as well,” said Walter Johnson Head Coach Larry Hurd. “I’m very proud of what we did offensively, but defensively we have to tackle the football better. We just went toe to toe with one of the best teams in Montgomery County.”
On Oct. 11, the Wildcats will travel to face winless Wootton High School.
The Rockets, on the other hand, are closing out their tough stretch of schedule with what may be their biggest challenge: they host the defending state champion, undefeated Quince Orchard. The Cougars have outscored their opponents 264-7 through Week Five.