In a season where everything had gone right, the Westminster football team had put itself in position to win its biggest game in years.
If the Owls could make a field goal on the game’s last play, they would defeat perennial power Quince Orchard and advance to their first state title game since 2005. But after 48 minutes of football, a missed field goal signaled the end of Westminster’s dream season.
Justin Cohen’s 37-yard field goal attempt veered just outside of the left upright, and Quince Orchard was finally able to celebrate a 21-19 win at Ruby Field that propelled the Cougars into the Class 4A state championship game for the second consecutive year.
The dramatic ending was fitting for two evenly-matched teams that battled for 48 minutes. Quince Orchard seemed to have the game in hand during its final offensive drive, which consumed five-and-a-half minutes and reached the Westminster 2-yard line.
But a goal-line stand kept Westminster in the game, and the Owl offense finally came alive after struggling for most of the second half. Starting at its own 2-yard line with just 1:19 remaining, the Owls began the march that nearly pulled out the win.
Senior quarterback Deryk Kern hit senior wide receiver Bradley Metcalf for a 14-yard gain, then followed with a nine-yard completion to Garrett Bean. Kern threw a short pass to Metcalf, who ran through several tacklers to gain 30 yards and put Westminster in Cougar territory at the 45-yard line.
On second down, Kern found Darius Clifton for a 19-yard gain, then hit his senior target again for a six-yard pickup to the Quince Orchard 20-yard line. With no time outs remaining, Westminster raced to the line and Kern spiked the ball with 1.8 seconds left. The snap and hold were perfect, and Cohen’s 37-yard field goal attempt had plenty of distance. But the kick was wide, and Quince Orchard escaped with the two-point win.
“We lost to one helluva football team,” said Westminster head coach Brad Wilson. “But our kids played their hearts out. That last drive said a lot about our football team.”
Westminster closed its best season in seven years with a 12-1 record. The Owls tied a school record for single-season victories, claimed their second consecutive county title, and won a regional championship for the first time since 2005.
Quince Orchard, which suffered a crushing 36-35 defeat to Old Mill in last year’s Class 4A final, improved to 12-1 and will meet either Meade or Henry Wise for the state championship next Friday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“Their defense worked very well together,” said Bean, who set a county receiving record on the game-ending march. “There were no busted coverages, and we had to nickel and dime them offensively. We were really moving on that last drive, and made a lot of good plays. But the mistakes and penalties just killed us tonight, and it just didn’t fall our way.”
Senior quarterback Matt Choi was a difference-maker for the Cougars. The 6-1, 185-pound signalcaller rushed 23 times for 115 yards, and his 83-yard touchdown pass to Elliott Davis midway through the third quarter sent Quince Orchard ahead to stay.
The Cougars dominated the first quarter. Led by Nebraska-bound senior linebacker Marcus Newby (a team-high seven tackles), Quince Orchard limited the explosive Owl offense to just one first down in the first 12 minutes of the game.
On the Cougars’ second possession, Choi scored from a yard out with 5:19 left in the opening quarter. The converted wide receiver doubled the lead early in the second quarter, capping a ten-play drive with a four-yard scoring run to give Quince Orchard a 14-0 advantage.
Faced with its largest deficit of the season, the Westminster offense finally got untracked. Kern completed four passes on the ensuing drive, including a perfect 41-yard strike to Bean for the Owls’ first touchdown.
Two-way standout Dan Johnson ran for a two-yard score with 3:34 left in the half to pull Westminster within one point, and the Owls took advantage of a Jesse Binder interception return to the Cougar five-yard line to record their third touchdown of the quarter. Kern rolled right, then stopped and hit Metcalf in the middle of the end zone for a four-yard score and a 19-14 halftime lead.
“We figured out what they were doing in coverages,” said Johnson. “We made the adjustments and started moving the ball.”
The defenses took over in the second half. Led by senior cornerback Brandon Somerville (team-high 11 tackles) and junior linebacker John Morrissey (six tackles), Westminster held Quince Orchard to just two first downs in the third quarter.
But the Cougars scored the only points of the second half, when Choi found Davis in single coverage on a deep sideline route and hit his speedy receiver for an 83-yard score at the 5:43 mark of the third quarter.
Both offenses struggled well into the final quarter. Starting from its own 28 with 6:41 remaining, Quince Orchard put together its only sustained drive of the second half. Choi carried 10 times during the visitors’ 13-play, clock-eating drive, which ended at the Westminster two-yard line when Choi’s pass to Kieran Gregory fell incomplete in the end zone.