Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini knew that Friday night's game was going to come down to which team was better prepared, both mentally and physically. And he had spent the entire offseason ensuring his players were focused on being in the best physical shape possible.
So when the Cougars found themselves in the midst of a scoreless tie for most of the first half, the eighth-year coach didn't panic. He knew it was a matter of time before Sherwood was going to wear down and the Cougars would find a way to break the stalemate.
After nearly two quarters of scoreless football, began to take over with two quick scores to close out the first half followed by a third touchdown late in the third quarter that helped propel the host Cougars to a 23-6 win over the visiting Sherwood Warriors before an exuberant crowd at the Cougar Dome, in the season opener for both schools.
"It was a typical first game with both teams making some early mistakes," Mencarini said. "We just needed to relax, and I knew at some point we'd overtake them physically. I felt we were a better conditioned team. And I think that started to come through late in the first half. Our goal was to get them running sideline to sideline and wear them out. Their players started to get tired and we took advantage."
Quince Orchard's Mark Green, who rushed for 129 yards off 26 carries, including a 2-yard rushing touchdown with 2:12 left in the first half for the team's first touchdown, echoed his coach's comments.
"This was a tremendous win to kick off our season," Green said. "One key element for us was our conditioning. We stayed hydrated. We didn't cramp up and they did. And that was a big difference tonight."
Up 6-0 after Green's score late in the half, Quince Orchard forced a Sherwood punt that D'Andre Johnson returned 60 yards the other way for a touchdown to give the Cougars a 13-0 halftime lead.
"That was a huge play for us," Mencarini said. "Right before that, I told our kids, 'Nothing demoralizes an opponent like a special teams touchdown.' We work real hard at that stuff and D'Andre made a great play. You saw the momentum really shift after that play."
A Billy Plante (6-14, 86 yards) touchdown pass of 45 yards to Devin Haywood put the Cougars up 20-0 with 3:43 left in the third quarter. Sherwood managed to find the endzone early in the fourth quarter, thanks to a Jordan Larsen 18-yard score, but the extra point was blocked and they never really threatened again. A QO field goal with 6:39 left sealed the win for the Cougars.
Quince Orchard hosts Montgomery Blair next Friday.