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Prep Football: Owls to face stiff defensive challenge

From left, Westminster's Garrett Bean, Jimmy Lauer and Bradley Metcalf run onto the field after halftime during the Owls' game against Blake Nov. 9 in Westminster.
From left, Westminster's Garrett Bean, Jimmy Lauer and Bradley Metcalf run onto the field after halftime during the Owls' game against Blake Nov. 9 in Westminster. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

It typically doesn't take long for the Westminster football team to score points.

In last week's Class 4A North championship win over Sherwood, Owls quarterback Deryk Kern connected with Bradley Metcalf for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the game. This was not a rare occurrence for Westminster, which doesn't waste any time in getting ahead - and ahead by a lot.

The Owls (12-0) have outscored their opposition 173-10 in the first quarter and 374-59 in the first half of their 12 games this season. They trailed only once at halftime, against Martinsburg in Week 4.

However, scoring and getting out to be a big early lead might be a little more difficult Friday night against Quince Orchard in the Class 4A state semifinal.

The Cougars (11-1) have had a stingy defense all season long. The most points they've allowed in a game was 13, against Gaithersburg and Bethesda-Chevy Chase.

Quince Orchard shut out five different opponents and held seven teams below 10 points.

"They're a good football team, a good program," Westminster coach Brad Wilson said. "They're pretty good at what they do."

The Cougars are led on defense by Marcus Newby, a three-year starter who has committed to play at the University of Nebraska. The linebacker has recorded 107 tackles this season, 18 for a loss.

"He's fantastic. He's the best player that I've ever coached," Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini said. "He's by far the most productive and passionate football player I've ever been around."

Mencarini said he thinks it will be important to keep Westminster from breaking any big plays and minimize the yards the Owls are able to get after catches. Mencarini added that Newby exemplifies what their defense will have to accomplish.

"He's extremely great in space, which is going to be important Friday night," Mencarini said. "He's an excellent tackler. So he's a special player."

The Cougars' defense also features defensive ends Kieran Gregory and Andrew Ankrah, both third-year starters. Ankrah had five sacks this season and nine tackles for a loss, and is committed to play at James Madison University.

Gregory had 13 tackles for a loss and is committed to the University of Richmond. Mencarini said his defense, which allowed just 70 points all season, has led his team this season.

"The defense gets a lot of the credit, just like Westminster's offense," said Mencarini.

Westminster's offense will be the strongest the Cougars have faced all season. The Owls have scored a county-record 544 points this season.

Led by Kern's state-record 61 passing touchdowns, Westminster's high-powered offense has had tremendous success through the air, but Mencarini said he wants to first focus on stopping the Owls' rushing attack.

"When you play a team like Westminster, I think you can't take away everything. You've got to pick and choose," Mencarini said. "To me, their offense starts with the run game. ... If you don't do a good job of stopping the run game, it's just going to open everything else up."

While Quince Orchard's defense gets a lot of accolades, Mencarini said he is equally as impressed with his team's offense. Quarterback Matt Choi began the season as a wide receiver, but had to move to quarterback in Week 4 after an injury to the starter.

Choi has thrown for 787 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"Obviously when you get an injury to a kid who's a really good player, you have to shuffle the deck a little bit," Mencarini said. "He's a kid that can run and throw, and so we've kind of gone from one identity to another."

Mencarini also said running back Tyrell Williams (659 yards, 11 touchdowns) has been a big part of the team's success after the missing the first three games because of injury.

Still, Quince Orchard's top priority will most likely be trying to stop the Owls' offense. Mencarini said the key to the game will be limiting Westminster's big play abilities.

"We have to do our part," Mencarini said. "They're going to hit big plays. How many they hit is going to determine the outcome of the game.

"I'll take our chances with them completing a 5-yard ball and us doing a great job of leveraging the ball carrier [and] tackling."

Wilson said that while he has done his research on Quince Orchard, the most important thing for his team this week is to remain humble and play its own game.

"We might tweak this and tweak that," Wilson said. "At this point in time, you just do what you do."

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