Football Night in Montgomery
I’m really looking forward to Thursday’s Sherwood-Paint Branch game, if, for no other reason, the winner should make for a pretty good story.
Paint Branch last made the postseason in 2000, as the programs in the southern part of Montgomery County have struggled, for the most part, this decade to keep up with those up north. Damascus, Northwest, Quince Orchard, Seneca Valley, and Sherwood have won state titles in the past seven years. Panthers Coach Mike Nesmith, who played at Seneca Valley and was the offensive coordinator at Quince Orchard before taking over in 2007, has brought Paint Branch close his first two seasons.
In 2007, the Panthers were 7-2 (two losses to Sherwood and Seneca Valley) heading into the final week of that season, needing a victory to get into the playoffs; they lost to Damascus, which ended up winning the Maryland 3A title. Last year, Paint Branch faced Damascus again on the final weekend with the winner getting a playoff berth. Damascus eked out a 24-21 triumph.
While a victory here would guarantee Paint Branch nothing but a 3-0 record, it would provide the Panthers with the confidence that they can hang with the top programs in the county. What’s more, now that they are in Class 4A this season, the competition for one of the West Region’s four playoff spots isn’t nearly as cutthroat as it is in the 3A West.
On the other sideline, Sherwood is showing what it means to be a winning program. Seventeen of the 22 starting spots from last year’s team have graduated. Also gone is the most successful coach in Maryland history, Al Thomas, for whom the Warriors were his third different school to win a state title – his eighth championship overall. Yet with plenty of unproven talent, and a rookie head coach (Pat Cilento, who knows a thing or two about winning titles at Sherwood), Sherwood hasn’t lost a step. The Warriors, with no returning starting skill-position players, have scored 104 points in their first two games. They have gotten production from people who have come up through the program, like junior quarterback A.J. Pignone and junior wide receiver-linebacker Jamal Merritt, but have also been spurred by junior running back Cyrus Britt, who transferred from Carroll.
The third week should also give a good indication of whether the county’s nine 2-0 teams (Churchill, Clarksburg, Einstein, Paint Branch, Quince Orchard, Rockville, Sherwood, Springbrook and Whitman) are legitimate threats this season, or if they caught a couple of good weeks where either their opponent was weak or having an off-night.
Besides the Sherwood-Paint Branch game, the Quince Orchard-Whitman is the other county game pitting undefeateds. Quince Orchard is a very well-coached team, and seldom suffers from lack of focus. This week will test that. The Cougars need to get up again at Whitman, which is trying to start 3-0 for the first time since 2004. Quince Orchard has defeated the Vikings five straight times, including 47-6 last year.
I’m also keeping an eye on Springbrook, which hosts 0-2 Wootton. The Blue Devils have looked very sharp their first two games, beating Blake and Northwest by a combined 56-14, as junior running back Devon Pestano has rushed for 297 yards and six touchdowns. Wootton, coming off its first playoff appearance since 1991, knows that without a win here, even seven straight victories to end the season may not be enough for another berth. Meantime, the Patriots’ hurry-up no-huddle offense will be a good test for a Springbrook defense that hasn’t allowed much so far.
Posted by: MKadyman | September 17, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse
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