GAITHERSBURG – Over the past decade, Quince Orchard High School and Northwest High School have been the premiere teams in Montgomery County’s 4A region, and most roads to the state championship have run either through their houses respectively.
The latest chapter of this rivalry featured two squads coming in undefeated, although the intensity came from the crowd who came to support both teams Oct. 25 at Quince Orchard’s Cougar Dome.
“I loved it; (the atmosphere) was electric tonight,” said junior defensive lineman Marcus Bradley. “Both of the stands and the track were packed tonight. It was great.”
The game itself surely did not disappoint, as both teams put up a valiant effort, but ultimately Quince Orchard pulled off its eleventh consecutive win over the Jaguars, holding on for a 17-7 victory.
The first half saw both offenses, who usually put up huge numbers, being shut-out. Quince Orchard, who relies heavily on their dominant ground game, could not get their all-star tailback Marquez Cooper going early, as he ran into a stout Jaguars defensive front. As for the Jaguars, they made a few plays but were largely unable to generate offense.
They had one opportunity in the first half and managed to get down to the red zone, but Quince Orchard’s stout defense stepped up, forcing a fumble which Bradley recovered at the goal line.
In the second half, Quince Orchard found a rhythm offensively, starting with a 42-yard pass from quarterback Brian Plummer to receiver Ryan Swiggart that set up the Cougars for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. On their next drive, Plummer completed a fourth-down pass to tight end Justin Moran, who rumbled for 19 yards. A few plays later, Cooper scored his first touchdown off a five-yard run to make a 10-point lead.
“We just needed some time to get the offensive line and the run game going,” said Cooper. “Once we did that in the second half, it was over from there.”
The Cougar defense continued its strong play, led up front by Bradley and edge-rusher Demeioun Robinson, who dominated Northwest’s offensive line with two sacks, two tackles for loss and a blocked punt at the end of the third quarter.
“We knew they had a couple of good receivers, so I had to get to the quarterback,” Robinson said. “We just kept the motor going and kept our foot on the gas.”
Not to be outshined by his teammate, Bradley came up in the fourth quarter as Northwest chose to go for it at midfield on fourth down instead of punting the ball away. The junior defensive lineman got past the blockers and took down Jaguars quarterback Jordan Morse for a huge sack to force the Jaguars to turn the ball over on downs.
“(The offensive lineman) kind of over-stepped me, so I gave him a move and got there,” Bradley said of his sack. “The quarterback tried to scramble away but I got a good grab of him and got the sack.”
With good field position and a 10-point lead, Quince Orchard called on Cooper to close the game as he had done so many times before, and he delivered, sprinting up the middle of the defense for a 40-yard touchdown.
The run, which extended the Cougar lead to 17-0, was his 83rd career rushing touchdown, which put him on top of the all-time touchdown-scoring list in Montgomery County’s history, according to school officials and Cooper. He also finished the game with over 160 yards rushing, pushing him up to fifth all-time in rush yards in the county’s history with over 4,100 yards.
However, the game was not over just yet, as Northwest would complete a big pass play to receiver Kaden Prather down to the Cougars’ 3-yard line, and tailback Ajahni Terry would punch it in to cut the lead down to 17-7 with just over five minutes remaining.
Northwest’s defense would step up on the following drive, forcing and recovering a Cooper fumble. However, the Quince Orchard defense stepped up as well on another crucial fourth down, forcing an incompletion to end the game.
“My defense played amazingly, and they’re the reason we won this game,” Cooper said. “It was a tough game and respect to them, but QO came out and got the win.”
With the latest chapter of this rivalry now complete, Quince Orchard knows that this is probably not the last they will see of Northwest.
“It’s just a regular-season win,” Bradley said. “We’ll probably see them again down the road.”
Northwest is now 7-1 and will return home to play Wootton High School on Nov. 1. Quince Orchard is now 8-0 and will take their undefeated record on the road against to take on a 7-1 Walter Johnson.