The east end zone at M&T Bank Stadium has been a place of misery for the Quince Orchard High School football team.
In last year’s 4A state final, Old Mill tailback Rob Chesson took a pitch during an overtime 2-point conversion attempt and weaved his way into the left side of the end zone to give the Patriots a thrilling, 36-35, comeback victory.
During Friday night’s 4A state championship game against Henry A. Wise, the Cougars saw their hopes for a third state crown and first since 2007 end when quarterback Matt Choi had his pass intercepted just outside the goal line with 30 seconds remaining to secure Wise’s 12-7 victory and its first state title.
“Last year, I was heartbroken. This year, I’m very frustrated because I feel that’s a game where we didn’t play our best,” Cougars coach Dave Mencarini said. “I’m proud of my kids. I told them after the game, ‘You know what, they won and we lost. The sun’s still going to come tomorrow. Your mom and dad are still going to love you and so am I.’
“It’s disappointing not being able to send these seniors out with a state championship, but it doesn’t diminish what they accomplished. It’s hard enough getting here once; getting here two years in a row says a lot about the kids. It’s a credit to our senior class who I’m going to miss terribly.”
Besides the proximity of the two losses, an improbable pass play also doomed the Cougars. Old Mill tied last year’s final and forced overtime on a 70-yard pass that seemed to hang up in the air like a punt and somehow got behind the Quince Orchard defense to Carl Chance, who raced the rest of the way for the score with 42 seconds remaining.
Wise, known much more for its running game, used a 23-yard touchdown pass from Isaiah Blackwood to 6-foot-5, 250-pound tight end Micah Till, who knocked Cougars defensive back D.J. Broxton to the ground and then jumped up to catch another slow-motion type pass for the 12-7 lead with 2 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the game. The Pumas had no passing yards in the first half.
“We had two guys back there. I don’t know what happened,” Cougars defensive end Kieran Gregory said. “Somehow they caught it and made a play and a credit to him. They made plays and we didn’t. It just came down to that.”
The disappointing loss, which included a 15-yard unsportsmanlike call that moved the ball from the Wise 15 yard-line to the 30 yard-line with about a minute to play, brought to a close the careers of numerous talented seniors, including hard-hitting linebackers Carlo St. Regis and Marcus Newby.
“It’s really frustrating,” St. Regis said. “We just have to take it for what it is and be proud of what we’ve done the last two years as a team, [but] it’s going to hurt. It’s brutal when you’re that close and we feel like we didn’t play our close game.”
The Cougars finished the season at 12-2 to post a two-year total of 25-3.
“It’s really painful. It’s sad,” Newby said. “I’m going to miss my seniors. I’ve been playing with them for four years. We overcame a lot. I love my seniors and my team.”
Here are the final standings for the Gazette sports staff’s picks of games this season:
Staff member Overall Back MC PG FC
1. Ken Sain 352-91 -- 137-52 142-30 81-19
2. James Peters 349-94 3 139-50 139-33 79-21
3. Travis Mewhirter 345-98 7 144-45 142-30 76-24
4. Dan Feldman 342-101 10 136-53 143-29 73-27
5. Jennifer Beekman 338-105 14 136-53 134-38 77-23
6. Kent Zakour 336-107 16 140-49 127-45 75-25
7. Nick Cammarota 325-118 27 128-61 125-47 78-22