Gaithersburg Trojans 21- Sherwood Warriors 20
MPSSAA 4A West Regional Finals
November 19, 2010
A.J. Pignone and Zach Fetters met in a line of handshakes after Fetters’ Gaithersburg Trojans (11-1) had upset Pignone’s Sherwood Warriors (10-2) on Sherwood’s home field. As the fans filed out of Caruso Memorial Stadium in Sandy Spring Fetters did the best to hide is ecstatic grin as Pignone choked back tears and as they parted Fetters screamed in joy as ran towards the South endzone while Pignone’s shoulders dropped and he slowly retreated to the North endzone, helmet dangling by his side.
Though their emotions differed drastically, the two captains’ play certainly did not. Pignone rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 108 yards and two more scores while Fetters ran for 103 yards and threw for 187 more and three touchdowns as the visiting Trojans avenged a week five loss to the Warriors with an impressive playoff win.
“He’s phenomenal,” Gaithersburg head coach Kregg Kephart said of Fetters afterward. “He’s the main cog in this engine and it doesn’t take a genius to see that. He can do so many things. He’s a great safety, he’s great quarterback and he’s a tough runner. I don’t like running him too much because I don’t want to get him beat up, but he’s got the will of a champion and a warrior and can will you to a victory if it’s at all possible.”
After an early Sherwood score and missed extra-point, Fetters led the Trojans on an 82-yard touchdown drive capped off when he found Sylvester Oni (six catches, 113 yards two touchdowns) in the back of the endzone on a fade route down the right sideline. After the point after, Gaithersburg had a 7-6 lead.
However to end the half Sherwood scored twice within 27 seconds and Warriors looked take a 20-7 lead going into the lockeroom. After Pignone connected with Danny Hunt from 16 yards out for the first touchdown with one minute remaining, Gaithersburg fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Sherwood regained possession. Three plays later with 33 seconds remaining Pignone found Jamal Merritt for a score.
The Gaithersburg offense took control with 29 seconds left which turned out to be just the right amount of time to generate some momentum. Starting at the Sherwood 44 yard-line, Fetters split the distance towards the endzone by connecting with Oni for 22 yards, then two plays later found Oni for another 22 yards, this time in pay dirt, as time expired.
“I have four amazing receivers,” Fetters said of Oni, Simba Gwashavamhu, Billy Brown and Kris Westpaul, who combined for 154 receiving yards, “something most quarterbacks don’t have. I have so much confidence in them. I can just get them the ball and let them do their thing.”
The Trojan defense did not allow the Sherwood offense inside the Gaithersburg 34 yard-line in the second half as the Warrior offense sputtered. Pignone misfired on 86-percent of his second half passes and Sherwood had even more special teams trouble. After missing an extra-point and field goal in the first half, it was the punt team that committed the second half errors. Punter Patrick Sumner booted a three-yard punt at first, though the Warrior defense held fast the resulting drive against Fetters and Co. However on the next Warrior punt the snap sailed over the head of Sumner for a 29-yard loss and the Trojans took over at the Sherwood 20 yard-line.
Gaithersburg capitalized on the field position quickly and two plays later was celebrating in the North endzone as they took the lead 21-20. Sherwood’s offense stalled the ensuing drive and kicked the ball back to the Trojans as they, led by Fetters of course, marched from their seven yard-line to the Sherwood five yard-line and took the remaining 8:17 off the clock. The game was over to the dismay of Pignone and the Warriors who had to watch as Regional Championship trophies were awarded to the Trojans at the 50 yard-line at the game’s conclusion.
“It’s a great win for us. It’s a great win for us not only because we redeemed ourselves from earlier in the year, but it’s a win that puts us back on the map for where we thought we should be,” said Kephart. “Gaithersburg has always been a football power, but this is the first time we’ve been to the playoffs in four or five years. This is a bit of redemption for us. The kids wanted this real bad. I wanted it. The school wanted it and it’s important.”