GATHERSBURG – The Quince Orchard High School football team beat Walter Johnson High School by 40 points when they met during the regular season on Nov. 1.
In their second meeting on Nov. 15, with much higher stakes, history repeated itself as Walter Johnson’s valiant effort was not enough to dethrone the defending state champions. The Cougars (11-0) once again defeated the Wildcats, 56-21, to advance to the state quarterfinal round of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A playoffs.
In life, three things are certain: death, taxes, and Marquez Cooper having a dominant game running the football. However, against the Wildcats, it took the Quince Orchard tailback time to warm up, as he fumbled the ball on the game’s opening possession, allowing Walter Johnson to collect the loose ball for the turnover.
However, on the next drive, it took Cooper just one play—a 55-yard run in which he broke multiple tackle attempts by the Walter Johnson defense—to redeem himself and to give Quince Orchard the 7-0 lead. The next drive was the same story; on one play, Cooper exploded; this time 61 yards to the end zone, extending the Cougars’ lead
“I was upset about that (turnover) for the rest of the night,” the senior tailback said. “I just had to go off.”
Walter Johnson (8-2), in spite of what the scoreboard indicated, put up an admirable effort, particularly in the first half. Following Cooper’s first touchdown run, the Wildcats tied the game with a 34-yard score through the air. However, their defense surrendered scores on three consecutive drives—including Cooper’s third rushing touchdown of the half—to extend their deficit to 28-7.
Walter Johnson had a chance down at the Cougars’ goal line to cut into the lead, but they ultimately came up short on four downs. The Wildcats ended the second quarter with a strong two-minute drill, with quarterback Josh Forburger sneaking into the end zone from a yard out as time expired to make the score 28-14 at halftime.
“I really felt like we did a lot of things that nobody else could do,” Walter Johnson Head Coach Larry Hurd said. “We were inside their 20-yard line twice and should’ve scored. I felt like we did an excellent job game planning, but they get paid to do that too, and they did a good job.”
“We had a lot of defensive errors,” said Quince Orchard defensive back Larry Hackey. “But we’ve got to get back in the lab and fix them (this week).
While the first half was all about big plays and quick-striking offense, the second half saw the Cougars take a more methodical approach, by giving their senior tailback a heavy workload and grinding out the clock. But the scoring was not done; Ryan Allie converted an 11-yard score, and quarterback Ryan Plummer threw his second touchdown pass to fullback Ryan Jones. The junior quarterback then avoided a sack in the fourth quarter before running the ball in himself from 17 yards out. Cooper also scored his fourth and final touchdown of the night to seal the deal.
“We knew (at halftime) that it was just time to come out and play Quince Orchard football, and that’s what we did in the second half,” Cooper said. “We came out here and we didn’t take them seriously, so we have to put our foot on the gas the rest of the way.”
As for the Quince Orchard defense, they struggled at times to keep the Wildcats in check throughout the second half. For example, Walter Johnson tailback Aaron Jones sprinted down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
However, there were moments where the Cougars’ defense showed its dominance. The defensive line, led by Deimioun Robinson, was in the backfield virtually all night long, as they also forced multiple turnovers, including an interception by Hackey in the third, which he returned to the 26-yard line.
“I love these guys; they were on the quarterback all night,” Hackey said of his teammates. “You’ve got to make plays to help the quarterback and the offense out.”
With a win, the top-seeded Cougars now turn their attention to Arundel High School, but they know they will need to play much better than they did against Walter Johnson.
“Practice makes perfect,” said Hackey. “We’ve got to work hard; we’ve got to want it.”
“We played a solid game, but it wasn’t playoff-worthy,” said Cooper. “We’ve just (got to) keep doing what we do, and everybody keeps working hard.”
As for Walter Johnson, a historic season, in which they made the playoffs and won a game for the first time in school history, is now over. But Hurd said there were nothing but positives to take away from this season.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids from where we came, and not many people wanted to give Walter Johnson much credit, but they saw tonight we’re a good football team,” Hurd said. “What I’ll remember most about this season was how awesome our seniors were, and how they really laid the foundation in the last two seasons for the building of a good program.”