Sherwood Survives, Clinches Home Field

By: Jacob Bogage
Sherwood Warriors 13- Quince Orchard Cougars 9

OLNEY, MD - This highly anticipated matchup of two one-loss teams in Sandy Spring did not disappoint. The Quince Orchard Cougars (8-2) came to visit their cross county rivals, the Sherwood Warriors (9-1), in a game that would determine playoff seeding and home-field advantage; and after a game like this, it's hard to believe that only playoff seeding and home-field advantage were on the line.

"I can't believe it happened like that," senior quarterback A.J. Pignone (9-17, 156 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown) said of his senior night, a night that saw the lead swing back and forth and kickers take center stage.
The Warriors got off to a quick start offensively, when on their first play from scrimmage Pignone found senior wide-out Michael Begley 41-yards down field for a score. But the Warrior offense would soon sputter and the Cougars were on the attack.

QO drove 64-yards in ten plays, averaging a little over six yards per play in that span, before senior quarterback Drew Murphy found Tyrell Williams in the back of the endzone for a touchdown. However, kicker Harry Long shanked the extra point attempt and Sherwood kept the lead... for now.

After two Warrior drives went three-and-out, Long knocked a 17-yard kick straight through the uprights to give the Cougars a 9-7 lead that would survive four minutes until Sherwood kicker Jake Ryder hit from 32-yards to give the Warriors a one point lead at the half.

Sherwood's offense could not pick up any momentum to begin the second half however, and in their first two drives Pignone threw two interceptions, both to sophomore standout Marcus Newbie.

Sherwood head coach Marc Thomas debated benching Pignone on senior night in favor of sophomore Jordan Larsen, but though better of it, and left Pignone in to "atone for some sins." Luckily the Warrior defense bailed him out, twice forcing QO to punt the ball back to the anemic Sherwood offense. After racking up 120 first half rushing yards, the Cougars gained merely 55 rushing yards in the second half. The Cougars, who average 30.8 points per game, were held to a season low of nine.

"I'm so proud of our guys," said Thomas. "We came in and talked to them at half time and the defense responded. We could have possibly scored a touchdown there in the second half, but we had a couple interceptions that hurt us. I'm so proud of the defense. We had a goal-line stand to end the first half. I don't know the last time we did that. I'm very proud of them."

Late in the third quarter Ryder tacked on another field goal to give the Warriors a 13-9 lead, but with 9:23 remaining in regulation the Cougars had more than enough time to engineer a go-ahead scoring drive. After nine plays and 62 yard the QO offense stalled and faced a fourth and six at the Sherwood 18-yard line. Senior defensive end Lance Toomer brought pressure from the left and Murphy was forced out of the pocket and made a running throw into double coverage that fell incomplete.

Sherwood took over with 4:44 left and did not give the ball back to Cougars, who would eventually nail their own coffin shut. On fourth and two from the QO 38-yard line and 55 seconds remaining, the Warriors lined up to punt and the Cougars sent the house to block it, but got there too late. They ran into Sherwood punter Patrick Sumner and the penalty resulted in a Warrior first down. Pignone took two knees and the game was in the books. The No. 2 Sherwood Warriors survived a test from the No. 4 QO Cougars of the GamedayMD Power Poll.

"It was a good night for us," said Pignone. "We were excited for this game. We were more pumped up than we've been all year for this game. It's a huge rivalry for us. To have QO come here, with the rivalry that exists after the State Championship game a couple years ago, to come out here with the great fans, to do it on senior night and have or seniors starting; it means a lot to get it rolling like this for the playoffs."