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The opening act of Friday’s Class 4A West Region football semifinal between Winston Churchill and Gaithersburg teased of a night of offensive fireworks.
But then the Churchill defense rewrote the script, shutting down Gaithersburg for most of the game and winning, 24-6, in Potomac. The second-seeded Bulldogs (10-1) advance to play top-seed Quince Orchard (11-0) next week.
“Defense played well, probably the best game we’ve played given the talent,” Churchill coach Joe Allen said.
Churchill took the opening kickoff and went 67 yards in four plays, scoring on a 21-yard run by quarterback Lansana Keita in one minute, 21 seconds.
It was Gaithersburg’s turn, and the Trojans’ gained 46 yards on their first play, an impressive Billy Brown catch between two Churchill defenders on the left sideline. Four plays later Gaithersburg had a first-and-goal at the Churchill 7-yard line.
That’s when the Bulldogs’ defense stopped the fireworks. Sam Edens had the first of Churchill’s 10 sacks to move Gaithersburg back to the 15. Then, Bret Sickels intercepted a Lincon Reyes pass at the 5 and returned it 37 yards, ending the threat.
“In practice, we’ve gone over that route, like running every time,” Sickels said. “I kind of saw it coming.”
The Bulldogs intercepted two other Reyes’ passes in the game, three if you count a two-point conversion attempt.
“We knew we had to play well to beat them, and we didn’t play well,” Gaithersburg coach Kreg Kephart said. “We went back to some of the things that hurt us earlier in the season when we lost a couple of opportunities.”
Keita led the Churchill offense, scoring all three of the Bulldogs’ touchdowns on runs of 21, 34, and two yards.
Gaithersburg’s two senior outside receivers — Brown and Simba Gwashavanhu — combined for 18 catches and 177 yards, but were kept out of the end zone for the most part.
The exception was Brown outjumping the defender and pulling down a 2-yard pass with one hand with 5:45 to go in the fourth quarter.
“These aren’t my words, but Billy is the best receiver in Maryland, public or private, and that’s from [coach] Dave Mencarini of Quince Orchard. And some fools don’t even want to put him on the Crab Bowl,” Kephart said.
Brown might have had another touchdown in the third quarter. From the Bulldogs’ 30, Reyes threw the ball to Brown in the end zone, who appeared to have it for the Trojan’s first score, but he dropped it after being hit by cornerback Dominique Williams.
The Trojans returned to that play call on the ensuing play, but this time safety Johnny Lee stepped in front of Brown for the interception.
“Our [defensive backs] take a lot of pride in getting picks and stopping receivers and we did just that today,” Lee said.
Winston Churchill 24, Gaithersburg 6
Gaithersburg (5-6) 0 0 0 6--6
Churchill (10-1) 7 10 0 7--24
C -- Lansana Keita 21 run (Sohrab Hoghoogh kick)
C -- Lansana Keita 34 run (Sohrab Hoghoogh kick)
C -- Nadim Elhage 41 FG
C -- Lansana Keita 2 run (Nadim Elhage kick)
G -- Billy Brown 2 pass from Lincon Reyes (pass failed)
RUSHING -- G: Larry Kpadehyea 7-44; Billy Brown 1-0; Steven Funk 2-(-17); Lincon Reyes 9-(-35). C: Lansana Keita 15-99; Curtis Kamara 14-62; Jaylen Rawlings 3-(-3).
PASSING -- G: Lincon Reyes 22-36-3-193; Steven Funk 3-6-0-37. C: Lansana Keita 6-13-1-115.
RECEIVING -- G: Billy Brown 9-117; Simba Gwashavanhu 9-60; Dominic Jefferson 6-43; Larry Kpadehyea 2-12; James Waddy 1-(-2). C: Dominique Williams 2-47; Quan Gill 2-46; Dillon Nussbaum 1-12; Aik Davis 1-10.