Sherwood vs QO, and Gaithersburg at QO
A lot has happened over the last two weeks in the world of what has been one of Maryland’s most successful public school varsity football teams for more than a decade. Two weeks ago, Quince Orchard traveled to Sherwood and emerged victorious after what first year QO Head Coach John Kelley rightfully predicted would be a “dogfight.” The final score was 20-14, QO.
Darnell Leslie is #81 at Monmouth, where he has been having a predictably big impact as a defensive lineman during the past couple of seasons. His final game with Quince Orchard was in the 2011 Maryland 4A State Championship, when he wore #55. During a bye week for Monmouth, he came to support QO. He emerged from the visitors’ locker room at Sherwood to remark how being there in that locker room with his old team brought back many profound memories.It was heartening to hear how a successful college athlete could honestly miss the unique trials and triumphs, and even mundane things that marked his high school football years.
Sherwood vs Quince Orchard 2014 turned out to be one of those competitive games that everyone involved dreads, due to agonizing suspense, yet loves at the same time because the entire ugly fight is a noble effort that proves the worthiness of both sides. Sherwood scored the first touchdown, which always helps to boost morale in a highly anticipated match-up. Quince Orchard answered with a touchdown. The “dogfight” was on. Eventually, one Sherwood player was ejected from the game for trying to throw a punch. I turned to Darnell Leslie when Sherwood had possession with plenty of time to score and take the lead back from QO in the 4th Quarter, “Doesn’t this remind you of a lot of your QO games?”
“When the game was close and either team could win? You don’t know what will happen?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered, flooded with memories of turning away for various final seconds, quietly conjuring up irrational prayers for God to pick one side in a mere high school game, and losing my voice from screeching for joy upon finding out the seemingly miraculous outcome had gone QO’s way, or being stunned into silence for long hours after the stadium lights had gone out.
“I hate those games!” he declared.
I had to agree with Leslie. Those games are tremendously stress inducing. But the intense games that test us as players, coaches, and fans, are the ones worth remembering. Win or lose, we can’t wait to either get back out on the field again, or support the teams we love from whatever vantage point we have. The blowouts between mismatched teams are boring by comparison. Lop-sided match-ups cannot possibly prove much of anything for the victors, though they undeniably serve some important purposes.
The rare Thursday night October 16th game between Sherwood and Quince Orchard gave Coach Dave Mencarini (Coach Mac) the opportunity to be on the sidelines with QO, the team he headed for the past 10 years before starting his first season as head coach at Urbana. The following night, 3A powerhouse Urbana, Coach Mac’s new team, would go on to beat reigning Maryland 2A State Champions Middletown, 34-7. At some point during the final moments of the 2014 nail-biter between Sherwood and Quince Orchard, I asked Coach Mac if he thought Sherwood was QO’s greatest rival over the past decade. He agreed that Sherwood and QO have been engaged in a fierce rivalry for years, but that rivalry is just one of many for QO.
“Sherwood, yes, But we’ve often faced big challenges in important games with Damascus, Seneca Valley, Northwest… those are all great rivalries for QO. And there have been others.”
Coach Mac was right again. That is just a partial list. QO has had countless intense, memorable games with all of the aforementioned MoCo teams, and many more. For instance, most QO players and fans can recall games over the past decade with Clarksburg or Churchill that were full of suspense from kick-off until the clock ran out or one last play determined the fates of two powerful teams.
Something occurred at Sherwood that will impact all of QO’s remaining games this season. Senior defensive tackle, Adam McLean, a Quince Orchard team captain and a Penn State commit, just received his Under-Armour All American jersey at his high school on October 13th. In the second half of a competitive battle with Sherwood three nights later, McLean had to leave the game, walking off the muddy field with a knee injury. Upon hearing that he would have to stay out for the duration of that harrowing game, he seemed to slide seamlessly into a new vital role. While moving around on crutches, his voice could be heard urging his teammates to keep their heads up on and off the field. To never give up. Other QO teammates have been exhibiting fine character in their daily lives and showing strong leadership, taking action on the field, playing with a lot of heart every season. But not all great leaders in hard-hitting sports like football can also lead with their voices.
A week had passed since Sherwood and McLean was out on the QO field with his team before their match-up with Gaithersburg, wearing his jersey without pads. He was alongside the Cougars during warm-ups, holding a football like one of the coaches, engaged in every way he could possibly be. He led them all in pre-game prayers, and gave rousing motivational talks whenever they were assembled in their huddles and Coach Kelley was through speaking.McLean had been speaking as a team captain in huddles all season, but his words carried more weight by week eight. He walked out to the coin-toss with the other three team captains, seniors who have helped to make QO football strong; Jason Heyn, Kyle Green, and Griffin Miller. At halftime, Gaithersburg was still shut-out and there was a running clock that led to a final score of QO 52 – Gaithersburg 8, so McLean wasn’t needed on the field that Friday night. But he encouraged those who stepped up to take his place, as well as those he’d happily played alongside for two seasons at Quince Orchard. Then he made sure to cheer on some teammates who got the rare chance to come off the sidelines to make varsity plays.
McLean found out that his knee injury will require surgery and that he will be confined to the sidelines for the rest of his senior season. This is a hard blow to him and his family, his team, his Coaches, and to QO fans everywhere. Watching an All-American like Adam McLean play is inspirational, even to rivals who can say they got the chance to go up against him before he went on to play D1 college football. On Saturday, November 1st, Quince Orchard will travel to meet up with the only team that beat them in the regular season last year. Two weeks after Northwest beat Quince Orchard in the play-offs, Northwest won the 2013 Maryland 4A State Championship. Quince Orchard has something to prove this year after returning only a few starters. McLean is one of them. QO’s roster is filled with a lot of determined, talented young men who are gearing up for their next formidable contest. QO doesn’t have home-field advantage this season, but it is only a short bus ride down the street to Northwest.
Final Score Quince Orchard HS 20 Sherwood HS 14
Final Score Quince Orchard HS 52 Gaithersburg HS 8
Story and Photos by Lisa Levenbach
All photos from the game can be viewed and purchased at https://mocodaily.smugmug.com/High-School-Sports/20142015-High-School-Sports/Football/10-16-2014-Sherwood-HS-vs/
All photos from the game can be viewed and purchased at https://mocodaily.smugmug.com/High-School-Sports/20142015-High-School-Sports/Football/10-24-2014-Quince-Orchard-HS/